In the summer of 2015, Ommer Amer, a then-budding writer from Wah was searching for a publisher for his first novel, The Forbidden Story. However, at that time, quality Pakistani publishers were almost non-existent. Disappointed by the lack of a proper platform to launch and market his book, Ommer decided to do something about the matter. With the help of 2 friends, Hafsa Idrees and Tahniat Saba, Ommer Amer founded Daastan—a self-publishing platform that would give access to all Pakistani writers to get their written word out into the world. And thus, we began our “daastan”.
Team Daastan has a dream—to help writers monetize their work, earn from their talent and grow Pakistan’s literary space. At a time where a large number of people, especially the youth, is tech oriented, the best way to thrive was through the internet. Ommer and his team turned to Plan9 and the startup was incubated in one of its 2015 batches. After a six-month incubation period, it took off and soared to greater heights. We went through a roller coaster of experiences—some good, some bad and some absolutely mind-blowing! (Like when we bagged the 2nd prize on an international platform)
Operating under Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Plan9 is Pakistan’s first tech startup incubator that started in September 2012. A business incubator works as a catalyst between dedicated and enthusiastic groups with unique ideas and help them to start their businesses. It provides funds from interested investors and services including office space and training.
Plan9 is one of its kind; providing its selected candidates (picked twice every year from a pool of 15 groups) with training from its experienced board, working space with computers, internet access, and even electricity so that Pakistan’s power shortage does not become a hurdle for budding startups. It has launched 130+ tech startups in Pakistan, with a vision of each business making a mark on international levels. The startups by Plan9 are gross valued at $70 million and they have raised a gross investment of $2.5 million
PITB’s tech incubator is led by founder, Dr. Umar Saif who
is also Chairman, PITB alongside Nabeel A. Qadeer, Director Entrepreneurship
and Enterprise Development, PITB.
Daastan upon its Graduation from Plan9
Since it’s incubation, Daastan has surpassed the expectations of many. Shortly after its graduation from Plan9, Daastan arranged a massive caused based letter writing campaign. Students from different schools and UET Taxila wrote letters to the Army. At the Brand Launch of Daastan in Arfa Technology ParkMughees Anwar and Rutaba Yaqub spoke as guest speakers. By the end of 2015, we had organized a number of important literary events such as the Daastan Literary Fest.
2016 was a roller coaster year for Daastan! Filled with endless work despite night and day, we organized out first ever big scale competition, The Stories Untold Season 1. Luckily, we received an overwhelming response. Soon, Daastan launched Qissa—Pakistan’s first self-publishing digital platform, enabling writers from all over the world to publish their books with a few clicks! Qissa garnered appreciation from writers and businesses alike and revolutionized self-publishing as we know it. But that’s not all! Team Daastan kept breaking through barriers by launching its very own Literary Fellowship which would bring together literary activists from all over Pakistan.
Today, Daastan is the biggest self-publishing house in Pakistan. We are working towards the betterment of the country by increasing readership and bringing the works of previously unpublished authors to light. We have helped writers monetize their work, turned passions into careers. Our team has held worldwide competitions, launched businesses, made a space in the media and much more. From one person’s dream, we have transformed into an army of readers and writerswith an unshakable will to rejuvenate literature in Pakistan.
Since its inception, Daastan has had a very positive history with Telenor’s different initiatives for entrepreneurs and startups. Daastan was selected as a part of the Telenor Velocity business accelerator program in the year of 2016. We had the opportunity to closely work with telenor throughout the course of the year that followed. Since then, we have been featured multiple times on social media channels of Telenor’s programs for our different achievements.
Telenor Youth Forum:
In August 2018, the sixth edition of Telenor Youth Forum was held in Islamabad. This initiative was held in collaboration with theNobel Peace Center, bringing together smart minds from all over the world to develop digital solutions that curb inequalities, and empower societies. The Youth Forum focuses on encouraging ideas that have high social impact and which support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forth by the UN for international development. Winners of Telenor Youth Forum include renowned figures. Saad Hamid, a digital evangelist, Fatima Rizwan, founder of TechJuice.com, Haroon Yasin, founder of Orenda & receiver of Queen’s Young Leaders Award and Sajawal Waseem are a few names.
Our Journey Through the Forum:
Over 3500 participants with unique ideas applied for the top spot in the platform. Daastan’s founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Amer’s presentation talked about a severe dearth of opportunities for the citizens of our country to showcase their work. The presentation showcased Daastan’s efforts in building a digital infrastructure for the literary industry of Pakistan. With Daastan’s digital portal Qissa, and its newly launched mobile app Daastan Nama, the company had been successful in reaching hundreds of creatives. Through these platforms, Daastan helped creatives bring their work forward to be shared with the world. Daastan was ranked top 10 in the competition, and was featured on many of Telenor’s platforms for its achievement.
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In the May of 2018, Preston University Islamabad organized its 6th successive national Inter University business plan competition called “Preston Entrepreneurial Challenge”. They opened gates to almost a hundred students from all across Pakistan to bring their innovative idea to the forefront. The teams that applied for the prestigious award included private university students, as well as public universities, to ensure fair chance to exhibit their product or idea. Out of 237 entries, only 31 were selected for the grand finale. Selected teams were invited to the university. The event had various challenges so that one clear winner could rise to the top. Daastan stood singular among all, and was awarded Preston University’s first ever Startup Cup.
Daastan Stands Tall
The purpose of this event was to provide a platform to the rising entrepreneurs of our country. It was a great opportuniy for participants to exhibit their ideas to the most expert minds in the domain so they could provide technical guidance to them. Daastan pitched Qissa to the jury members from both private sectors such as SA Consulting Private Limited and government sector, like Ignite. The contest was sponsored by more than ten different brands and businesses. The chief guest of the competition wasPresident Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Amir Waheed, and the event was organized under the distinguished leadership of Mr. Shuja Humayun, the Director Entrepreneurship at Preston University.
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Having scaled the platform of Qissa to a considerable level, and upgraded it significantly to amp up its technology, Daastan started turning heads in the big communities. Within 3 months of the launch of Qissa, Daastan surpassed 10,000 likes on Facebook, its message reaching the nooks and crannies of Pakistan. With our team members being invited to high level events as speakers, and media coverage that had us tuning to one or another channel on a frequent basis to catch news related to us, it was high time that Daastan and Qissa Self-Publishing received recognition at esteemed platforms.
Connected Pakistan Conference:
The first such acknowledgement came as a nomination for the Best StartUp Award, being held at the Connected Pakistan Conference. The individuals who nominated us for the award remained unspecified, and even our Founder Mr. Syed Ommer Amer was left surprised when he received their invitation for the occasion which was to be held in Comsats, Abbottabad. This was the second time this conference of tech enthusiasts was being held, where dignitaries from various communities were invited and spoke to the crowd present. The highlight of the event was Daastan winning the Best Startup Award in the conference, which the company shared with very few notable startups present within the crowd. The conference was attended by a delegation from Daastan, consisting of Mr. Syed Ommer Amer, Founder and Mr. Nauman Shahid, MD.
SATHA Innovation Award:
The second award came from an even more prestigious source. An international firm by the name of South Asian Triple Helix Foundationawarded Daastan a SATHA Innovation Award to applaud the effort that the team had made to help Daastan spread its wings, and the positive impact it had created on the lives of all those associated with the company. Along with being a symbol of hope and home to innovation, Daastan was serving as fuel for the dying embers of the literary industry. The award was received by Syed Ommer Ammer, who was accompanied by Ms. Spugmai Alee Khattak, serving as Literary Critic in Daastan.
Over the course of 2016, along with developing its businesses and improving by leaps and bounds, Daastan also had the opportunity to launch “Daastan Freelance Writers”. It was a closed beta version wing of the company providing content solutions to clients who required professionally written content that spoke for itself. This was among Daastan’s various innovative initiatives targeted to revolutionize and therefore make easier the process of writers earning a livelihood for themselves through paid writing gigs, and thus gaining financial independence through their writings. At its peak, this wing had over 70 writers working on a daily basis, who had a combined skill set of 20 plus genres. On average, Daastan Freelance Writing Wing generated almost 5,000 words daily, for more than 5 clients.
Eventually, Daastan had the privilege of signing a contract with Startup.pk. A firm which aims to empower entrepreneurs much like ourselves and provide them with a platform to build their skills, knowledge, exchange opportunities, resourceful connections, and mentoring and training services which eventually helps them scale and build strong entrepreneurial thinking as well as linkages in the industry.
Daastan’s Partnership with Startup.pk:
Daastan’s involvement with Startup.pk ensured its own advancement, as its writers started gaining exposure and became a direct part of Pakistan’s start-up culture, which not only encouraged their entrepreneurial thinking and innovation but also groomed them and their writing skills into becoming more professional, refined, and diverse. Daastan encourages all of its writers into joining its professional team, and makes certain that all those with fine-tuned capabilities are revealed to the world and their talents exhibited in relevant areas. The directors have over time realized that not everyone wants to write stories; many writers simply require an avenue which will provide them with paid work.
How can you become a part of the team?
To cater to this, the executives decided to strengthen their freelance platform to provide more of such opportunities to local writers. To join, you can simply sign up on Qissa – all you only need to have the strong will to showcase your abilities, followed by the capacity to work and make sure you are seen for all your potential. Daastan’s partnership with Startup.pk is neither the first, nor will it be the last of its kind, as we are constantly striving to bring bigger and better opportunities to our team. If you own a business, and require quality content solutions, talk to us of your needs by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contacting us through our website and we will be sure to whip up writings customized to your requirements.