Going to the cinema to watch a movie is a lot of fun. But the fun begins once you’re seated in your chosen space, complete with a box of popcorn and a soda. Before that, it’s mostly an inconvenience. From finding out what’s showing at the various screens across the city and the show timings, to actually buying a ticket, and that too, for the seat you want. Buying bus tickets is also a cumbersome affair. Which service goes where, what time, what seat – it’s an endless hassle.
But for a young man named Faizan Aslam, this was an opportunity. And in 2013, he launched his second startup, called Bookme.pk, which at its most basic, was an online platform for booking both cinema and bus tickets. Today, it has expanded to a huge API network with top telecommunication companies on board, and is using facilities like Easypaisa to make it accessible for the non-tech savvy majority. With 14 banks on board, and vending machines to be deployed soon, Bookme.pk is on a roll.
But it didn’t come easy. “I had started a software service startup in my hometown of Sahiwal back in 2009,” says Aslam. “But in 2013, a major client went bankrupt and our business came to a grinding halt.”
Soon enough, Aslam found himself waiting in line at the cinema. And that’s where it came to him – a startup that did away with this unnecessary waste of time.
Around about the same time, Plan9, one of the country’s leading startup incubators was receiving applications for its third cycle of incubation. Aslam applied and was accepted. “I brought my entire team to Plan9 and they gave us a space to live and work in 24/7 – Coming to Lahore and specifically to Plan9 gave me the exposure to the next level of entrepreneurship.”
After its six month incubation at Plan9, bookme.pk spent another six being accelerated over at PlanX. Today, it has operations in all major cities of the country and has even branched out internationally. “Taking our startup to Myanmar has given us a lot of confidence,” says Aslam. “We now know we can handle different countries simultaneously – there is no stopping us now.”
In 2015, Bookme.pk managed to get funding both locally and internationally, $50,000 in January from a Turkish company and another $250,000 in June from a local investor. And while Aslam is happy with the entrepreneurial ecosystem in general, he feels that local investors need to have some interest and faith in the startup community. Otherwise, he warns, “all these efforts and passion of young entrepreneurs will be in vain.”