At the age of five, he sold candies at a counter in front of his home on Tariq Road in Karachi; at eight, he remembers, he sold flag-printed badges in August and earned a good profit. When he was 13, he founded his first company, ‘Pakistan Computers’ in Pakistan and by the age of 16, when in high school, he created ‘Commodore Computer Accessories’, including voice digitizers, modems and speed increasers.
Now, at 41, he runs over 50 ventures in the US, Europe, UAE, Malaysia and Pakistan, but he calls himself retired at 38 and spends most of his time to create a poverty-free planet.
Meet Rehan Allahwala, the motivational speaker and preacher of entrepreneur culture, who has set a goal of creating one million entrepreneurs in Pakistan to reduce and eradicate poverty from the country. “Poverty is a mindset, and be tackled with positivity; positive feelings, positive work, and positive human interaction,” he told Daily Times in an interview.
Positive feelings are hard to come by, as our brains and social settings are more conducive to negative feelings. But to Rehan, setting high, near impossible goals and then launching a ceaseless struggle to achieve them leaves no time for being negative. He spreads positivity through his speeches, books, videos, a newspaper (he runs a weekly named ‘Khushkhabri’), online resources and social media. Facebook has recognized and verified him as the Only Business Person in Pakistan among the 20 others Facebook verified people in Pakistan.
“Quran explains how large beings are created just from a very small Nutfa and how huge giant trees grow from one small seed,” he says about his mission. “Similarly, ideas are also like this, but they take time and persistence to come true,” he says. He tries to sow the seeds of ideas and positivity through technology, internet and mobile phones. Rehan neither went to college nor to university to study after his high schooling. However, he developed expertise in the field of international marketing, collaboration, networking, VOIP, ERP systems, CRM systems architecture, and social media. His company started off as a VoIP device sales company in United States in 1999 and today is making applications that impacts millions of lives around the world.
His other venture offers phone service from 50+ countries around the world. The numbers can be taken and then directed to any regular phone or mobile number, anywhere in the world. “I love to connect people via social media, as it amplifies their work, and collectively we can all eradicate poverty from this world,” he says. “First I thought I’m crazy, but when Bill Gates announced last year that there will be no poverty left by 2035, I took a deep breath, that now people can maybe understand what I’m working towards,” he adds.
He says that he met a man from the Northern Area and introduced him to the internet and computers, and now that man is a skilled programmer and has friends from all over the world, which allows him to think much bigger than his own village, The Global Village. Rehan, with more than 700,000 fans on his Facebook page, often introduces skilled people on his page asking his followers to make the most of the person. He asks the people to add at least 10 people from each country and learn something from them. At a gathering, a girl of class 10 complained to him about her poor English skills. He added her to some old people from America and other English speaking countries that were ready to teach her English.
“I believe every one of us has a potential to teach other; this makes a learning eco system as we all can learn from each other and teach each other,” he says.
Once he installed huge billboards on Karachi roads introducing Sir Richard Branson, an English businessman and investor. He is best known as the founder of ‘Virgin Group’, which comprises more than 440 companies. The message on the billboard was to follow Branson on Facebook or reach him through a free SMS and in return the billionaire entrepreneur will send them an inspirational SMS daily. Through stickers, billboards and social media campaigns, he asks the people to follow on social media Bill Gates, Tony Fernendas, Shaikh Mohammad, and Mahatir Muhammad and get connected with them through SMS.
The power of Internet and social media, according to him, in Pakistan has not been realised and used to its capacity, and he called it “Kufraan–i-Naimat” not to use but abuse the power of internet. When demonstrators rampaged through Pakistan’s streets in 2012 over a blasphemous video, Rehan launched a campaign through billboards and stickers to connect the Pakistanis with US Barak Obama to register their anger over the video. He says that Pakistan can surpass Sir Branson if his dream to create one million entrepreneurs is realised. To combat illiteracy, he started school which offers lessons in Basic English and Urdu alphabets through mobile phones and teachers are showbiz and sports celebrities.
“The video lessons, full of reinforcement, are delivered by celebrities that make the personalized learning very interesting,” he says. Rehan tries to reach more and more celebrities to get the video lessons delivered. “If Katrina Kaif, Bill Gates and Shahid Afridi teach us something, we’ll listen to them with a great interest,” he says. The 500-strong video school can be downloaded from any mobile phone shop or from the Internet. He says that it is heartening to note that the school has benefited people across the country, especially in war-torn Swat and some Fata areas.
As veteran to 70 countries, he says, he has concluded that only words are not enough to motivate other people to positivity. He himself cleans the toilets of his office once a week. He says seeing me, now other staffers, and he has more than 700 staffers in his projects, also clean toilet once a week or month.