Hafiz Sarwari is a 27 years old Afghan youth, who has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Kabul Polytechnic University. Same as other graduate youth, Hafiz who was also looking for a job, but he could not find an interesting job to start a career. Hafiz had to find a job to gain some money and carry on his personal and family life, therefore, with having a bachelor’s degree in hand, he applied to a Call Center Agent position in one of the telecommunication companies. After four months, Hafiz could not continue with the company as he thought he was not made for the job. When he resigned from the position, he and his family faced lots of financial problems. He had three brothers who were jobless and as Hafiz was the oldest brother in the family had the major responsibility. He decided to open a small grocery shop in the Khushal Khan part of Kabul. After a few months and hard work, the shop had more customers and Hafiz’s business was growing as he moved to a larger place and started a supermarket.
While Hafiz was busy with his supermarket, the online markets were also growing fast in Kabul. One day, Hafiz and his brother were thinking of starting an online market. They were not sure about it as no one was buying grocery materials online. Hafiz created a Facebook account and named it Mandawee Online. He downloaded a photo from the internet and with some modification in Photoshop he created a logo for his idea.
Hafiz started with an idea, he had nothing in hand. As he says: “This was the very first step of our journey after researching some very basic things about online shopping and e-commerce posted some products and rates very unprofessionally. In that time, we had no proper delivery system even an agent, no proper internet, no branding, nothing was professional and nothing was ready to deliver the orders even in good quality service because we didn’t know what to do.”
After posting a few basic photos of their products, they got an order. Hafiz could not believe it, it was an order of 70,000 AFN right after the first post. The team decided to deliver the order, but they were not sure if the order is real as it was too hard to believe receiving such an order after the first post. In the meantime, they did not have all the ordered items in the shop. Hafiz says: “We called the customer and told him of sending some flour and rice but you must pay half of the total amount in advance as this is the first deal with you and there are trust issues. The customer paid the advance and fortunately, after delivering the rice and flour at first we found that they were living in our neighborhood, then we delivered the list in two days.”
After that, Hafiz was thinking about expanding his business. He believed this is working and was dreaming to operate like other online stores abroad. The wanted to develop their online business, but they did not have the technical knowledge for it.
Hafiz says: “One day I attended an event and the agenda was about Startups in Afghanistan. That event inspired me a lot because it was the first time that I knew that there is word by the name of the entrepreneur. My journey of entrepreneurship was started and still, there were a lot of things I need to know, but I was not missing such sessions anymore. Then one day in an event, few colleagues were speaking about Business Incubation and how to start a new business. I got interested to attend the program. I applied with my new grocery online market idea and was accepted by the program after an interview.”
Before joining the program, Hafiz changed his idea name to Sawda and registered the domain Sawda.af.
Hafiz says: “After participating in the business incubation program I learned a lot and those lessons were priceless. The professionalism of my journey started from there and at that time we had 1-7 orders/week, but still, we were working as hard as possible and as smart as possible. I learned a lot about branding, service, quality of service, marketing plan, business plan, and a lot more. These six months of the Bright Future Program-Business Incubation was a life-changing journey for me, and I want to thank Bright Future team for helping me to do this.”
As the business was growing, Hafiz thought the social media account is not enough for the business and there is a need for more options to explore. They decided to develop a website and an application for Sawfa.af but they did not have enough resources to do so.
Hafiz says:” now we are in that pathway to make the NEW GENERATION OF MANDAWEE with a professional service like a professional company. We renewed branding and made a marketing plan, business plan and now we have a mobile application and website that will launch very soon. After one year of research and lessons, we started to work pro in June/10/2019. In this short period of time which is about two months, we have more than 20 orders per day and the customers are increasing every day.
Sawda.af’s goal is to have at least 200 orders/day by the end of the year. The business is hiring new employees every month and is increasing the delivery of bikes, rickshaws, and trucks.
In the end, Hafiz says that he is thankful from Allah and then from Bright Future Program Afghanistan for making his dream come true. He adds that there is a big need for expansion of such programs in Kabul and other provinces as well.