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Pehla Qadam | Ambreen Asif Qureshi | Interview

‘Pehla Qadam’ means first step. Pehla Qadam is an indigenous entrepreneurship training program for youth (aged 17 – 30 years) belonging to the marginalized communities in Karachi, Pakistan. A pilot project was held from June 10 till June 21, 2014. Twenty-one youngsters (11 girls and 10 boys) were trained on the very basics of business start up. At the end they presented their business ideas individually or in group before leading business men and technocrats. After that micro credit was provided to them to establish their businesses. i-genius caught up with Ambreen Asif Qureshi ahead of our Opportunity Pakistan Conference in Lahore, Pakistan.


i-genius: Why did you set up Pehla Qadam?
Ambreen Asif Qureshi: My son has been working as a Teach for Pakistan fellow at a school at a low income area. I came to know that many students left school because they had to do odd jobs from morning till night to earn for their families. I decided to help them establish their own small business, provided they continue studying.
i-genius: What makes a good candidate for a project manager?
Ambreen: A born leader, who sets, implements and evaluates SMART objectives; is quick to grasp ground realities and adjust accordingly, is a good listener, adheres to timelines, is open, has practical experience of project management, is fair and transparent
i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration?
Ambreen: My father.i-genius: In what way is the work you do related to social enterprise?
Ambreen: The project is for out of school youth (aged 17 till 25 years) from marginalized and at-risk communities. The objective is to build their capacity to earn an honest living for themselves and their families.
i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up Pehla Qadam?

Ambreen: Major hindrance was access to the girls interested in starting their own business. They never had the opportunity to discuss/ share their ideas with anyone. Secondly, I had very less amount, which I wanted to use only for seed money. I discussed the idea with the Trust managing a school in that area. They let us use the premises, free of cost.
i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow Pehla Qadam? 
Ambreen: Raising money to be given as seed money. I contacted my students and friends, who then pooled in. It was not a big amount but enough to help 10 business set ups at Rs 20000/ on an average. Training was provided by me, my son, and three colleagues, free of cost.
i-genius: Why is entrepreneurship training important?
Ambreen: These were young people we were dealing with, who do not have much education or exposure. I thought it mandatory that they be given very specific training on basic modules. So we designed modules which were Short, Small and Specific.
i-genius: How do you measure the impact of these business start ups?
Ambreen: Each participant has been attached with a volunteer (University students) who keep a check on them for initial three to four months.
i-genius: What future plans do you have?
Ambreen: I don’t have much funds left with me. But we all would try to hold at least one such event, every year. As well as provide training to other groups
i-genius: What is your favourite motto in life?
Ambreen: To bring genuine smiles to all whom I come in contact with.
i-genius: What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Ambreen: “Stop wasting your time and doling out your hard earned income amongst these losers” (they meant the poor students I helped enrolled in school or start their business)
i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project?
Ambreen: Keep up your chin. At least you’ll be able to say ‘I did my bit’!
This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!


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