Up Close and Personal with Pakistani-Canadian CEO Muneeb Mushtaq

We got a chance to sit down and have a chat with the super successful Pakistani-Canadian entrepreneur Muneeb Mushtaq about life, family, business, and so much more. The young tech tycoon is a founder of three tech business ventures and has managed to achieve so much in such little time. Currently, he is the co-founder and CEO of AIRZAI, headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

What was your inspiration to start your own tech company, and what keeps you motivated?
Muneeb Mushtaq: The inspiration was simple. We saw a problem that existed when we started our 1 st tech company which was a online marketing company. Back in 2010, Small businesses didn’t have access to the right marketing solutions, which made us try it out and see where we can take it. The same goes for the second company AskForTask – where we realized that there were classified websites, but there was no robust way to hire people who can do your daily errands. Now, with our third and latest company Airzai, it was that same inspiration – we saw there isn’t a smart indoor fragrance solution, so we started out with Airzai. And now within Airzai, our new category Airzai Care is catering to the current coronavirus pandemic situation because we saw that there isn’t a particular Air and Surface Disinfectant made from all natural ingredients that is reliable and trustworthy to disinfect your homes. So, you can
say that it was always about the need of the market and the gap that existed, and figuring out what to do to fill that gap.

What made you start your own business instead of getting a corporate job?
Muneeb Mushtaq: Having the opportunity to do something on your own is much more exciting to me than getting a corporate job. It’s good to get some initial experience first and understand how the real world works, but as soon as you get the opportunity, you should go ahead and start something on your own. From there, give yourself time – 2 years, 3 years, see how far you can take it. In case it totally fails, or it doesn’t go anywhere – the corporate job is always there. I am still against that though, I think you should continue to build things, not give up, and eventually, something will hit.

Running your own business at such a young age, how do you maintain your work-life balance?
Muneeb Mushtaq: The thing is when you’re starting a business; there is no work-life balance. The company that you’re starting needs to be part of your life; you can’t treat it as work. When you’re starting off, and thinking that hey this is what I want to build, you need to immerse yourself and dedicate your time to it. Then there comes the point where you realize you’ve gotten it to a point where you can trust your team with it, and that’s where you start looking at the work-life balance. So, being at that level now, I try to make sure I dedicate my time to my family, my hobbies, things I enjoy, like working out, and balancing it with the amount of work I am putting in.

Starting from scratch is never easy – but not everyone dares to do so. Was there any point in
your journey where you felt like you wanted to quit?
Muneeb Mushtaq: Everybody has the urge to quit, and it seems like the easiest thing to do whenever you’re faced with a challenge or a hurdle in any startup, project, or business that you’ve invested it. Though, as much as it seems like the easiest thing to do, the worst thing about quitting is that you only realize what you’ve done after you do it – the regret comes in, and you feel that ‘oh, I shouldn’t have given up’. So, the key is to program yourself not to give up, and the success would only come if you don’t. Just your head down and keep working hard.

With the current situation in the world – how have you been steering clear of negativity and
continuing your work?
Muneeb Mushtaq: It is a challenging time we are going through right now, and as much as people are talking about hustling and all that right now, the biggest thing currently, in my opinion, is to survive. If you are healthy, you have food on the table; you’re already in a better position than a lot of people in the world. In my opinion, there are two ways to look at things. You can either let yourself be grounded by negative thoughts thinking about every bad thing that has been happening and start getting anxious and stressed out, or you can take it as a time when you can work on something interesting and pick up that one project, one idea you always wanted to work on and see how far you can take it. The same happened with me personally as I was challenged from our business perspective and rather than waiting for the storm to clear, our team worked on a new project and ended up launching AIRZAI Care line of
products that is not only helping people protect themselves from COVID-19 but also protecting front line health workers.

Do you believe there is a potential to build a fast-growing tech company in Pakistan?
Muneeb Mushtaq: This is one of my favorite questions to answer, because I am a big advocate of the amount of potential Pakistan has just from the talent perspective to the resources we have, and how far we can take things. So, in my opinion, absolutely. There is a massive opportunity and potential to be explored and discovered in Pakistan. It’s just a matter of some systematic changes that we need to bring in to the DNA of the whole economy, and it starts with one step at a time. I think it is high time we start doing that, and our leaders start to take action on this so we can actually start making progress.

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What are your plans regarding the tech-scene in Pakistan?
Muneeb Mushtaq: I am very passionate about the potential Pakistan has, my roots are from here, and I am very proud to be a Pakistani even though I’ve been a citizen of Canada as well for a long time. I have some very exciting plans that I am currently assessing. I have been in touch with multiple tech leaders and CEOs in Pakistan, and I am having active conversations with them, trying to figure out the best way to build up to the potential that Pakistan has. I am really excited about a couple of plans and initiatives that we are looking to roll out very soon.

If so, will you be planning to move back here?
Muneeb Mushtaq: That’s a very interesting question, and like I said before that I am very passionate about the potential that Pakistan carries. I want to get involved in things, help build the tech scene there, and grow it. But, I am a firm believer in balancing between the things that you control, and something that you embrace that happen to you. As much as I love living in Canada, Pakistan is my home as well, and I am always open to what the future holds. So, let’s see what happens.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs like yourself who want to follow in your
Muneeb Mushtaq: One piece of advice that I can give to any inspiring young entrepreneur is, that right
now is the time to get started. Stop pondering, stop waiting, stop looking at the perfect thing, or for the ideal time, if you have made up your mind, if you know it carries a potential, and you have that gut feeling, start today. Not tomorrow, not later, but right now. The sooner you start, the faster you can start making progress towards what you want to build. So, in a nutshell, one piece of advice is to start now.

For people looking to follow your journey, how and where can they follow you?
Muneeb Mushtaq: Yes, of course, my handle is @muneebmushtaq across all social media platforms. Morever, we recently uploaded a website as well, https://muneebmushtaq.com/ where we upload a lot of other helpful resources and my contributions on different platforms.

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