MS. KANWAL CHEEMA
Evovle: You have a very interesting profile when we look at your career journey. We are observing a working woman who has made her mark in corpo-rate sector at such a young age and is driving switch towards the unconventional ways of business. Please our readers with your jour-ney so far?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: I started my career at Cisco as an Associate System Engineer in Am-sterdam. That was a very interesting experience because we were 130 people from almost 59 different countries. Cisco is a multinational com-pany where I worked for 15 years in multiple roles, regions, and verticals. Most recently I was a Global Account Director based out of Sydney. I then became part of the founding team of a tech startup in the Silicon Valley where we raised $33.5 million in Series A funding. There, I looked after global business development and marketing.
The reason I live in Pakistan is because of my passion project My Impact Meter. It is a social enterprise and its very close to my heart. It is a central digital platform for an individual to facili-tate and track social philanthropic impact. While I was working in Sydney, I did my Executive MBA from University of New South Wales and while at it, I also did a degree in Social Impact. I became painfully aware of the gaps in this sector, and I felt that technology was the only solution to fill those gaps. This became my calling my quest in life and thats when I moved back to Pakistan to start My Impact Meter.
Evovle: What do you consider as your greatest achievement in life and what is your ultimate goal?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: My greatest achievement the one that turned my life around, was the dis-covery of self – my core beliefs, and the internal forces that shaped my life. Life of this universe is billions of years and a persons life compared to that is negligible – were like dots that disappear as soon as we appear. I wanted my dot to linger-to fade slowly after I die. I was able to conscious-ly re-program myself into the person I wanted to be as opposed to the person I was by default.
I started to internalize this discovery and started designing my life and becoming in control of my-self. I realized my time in this world is finite and must be maximized and the different facets in life must be balanced. I said no to big career break-throughs and opportunities after this discovery the ones that werent aligned to my ultimate goal.
My ultimate passion is to contribute towards cre-ating a just and prosperous world where it is prof-itable to be good. I want to create a new measure of success that ensures that a persons success is not only based on their level of monetary wealth, their education, and their title but it also based on the impact that they create in this world. Eventu-ally, I want companies and countries to be also be measured based on their impact not just their wealth. And thats why I returned to Pakistan and founded My Impact Meter.
Evovle: That is a very ambitious goal. How do you get the courage to have this kind of an ambitious goal?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: What gives me the cour-age to have such a big goal is rooted in my theo-logical belief which goes like this: I believe that the universe can be divided into two distinct parts: The Creation and The Creator. The cre-ation has a beginning and an end and cannot be infinite. The Creator, on the other hand, is limitless and infinite. I used to rely upon the creation but found myself bounded by the limits of that particular creation. Within the realms of creation lie my own health, abilities, skills, time, money etc. These resources could definitely be used as a means to an end, but they cannot be fully relied upon because of their limitations. However, when I started putting my complete trust in the Creator, I felt I had the potential to be limitless.
Making the Creator my core and putting my trust in Him, I have been able to let go of my in-securities. I have developed an enormous bility to take risks and have been able to defeat the fear of failure. I consider this to be an invaluable asset in my quest for making a difference.
Evovle: As we know the conceptualization is as significant as brands identity itself. How did you come up with the name My Impact Meter?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: Right now, a persons suc-cess is based on the assets of the person, his/her degrees, his/her titles etc. I wanted to create a new secular measure of success based on the impact that one creates in the world. I wanted to be able to measure a persons Net Impact Worth too rather than just Net Worth and that is essential-ly a persons Impact Meter, hence the name My Impact Meter.
Evovle: So what is My Impact Meter and how does it work?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: My Impact Meter is an app it is a central digital platform to facilitate and track social philanthropic Impact. Our main customer segment is the donor, who is called Im-pactor on the platform. Anyone who wants to do-nate and then track their donations and measure their impact can download the app from google playstore or Apple Appstore.
It is like a mall of NGOs so you can donate to your favorite NGOs through the app. It is also an Ecosystem of Impact Services: You can add beneficiaries (these are deserving people who we call Impactees) or you can choose impactees that have been verified by NGOs. You can then gift grocery or education vouchers to them. Once you gift the service, the impactee gets a tracking ID on their phone. The Impactee can show the tracking ID at any supported grocery store or school near where they live and get the gifted service. The commercial service provider (Impact supplier) gets paid through the app. By ensuring that the impactee gets the service and not the cash, you get the reliability and assurance that your money is being used for what it was intended.
You get Impact credits for every donation you make, hence Impact Meter. You also get badges and levels based on the impact credits you have. So, you can keep setting a higher bar for your-self. It is also a social media of impact so you create your profile and just like you add friends on Facebook, you can add other impactors as Impact buddies. Impactors can see each others impact activity, overall impact and can share ben-eficiaries with each other.
Evolve: You have served in diverse habitat with multifaceted roles over the past years in Technology, marketing and consulting firms; please share your views about people, and the companies you have experienced so far?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: Ill try to summarize a few quick learnings. When I started my career in Amsterdam, there were people from 59 different countries in my cohort. I learned that although people are from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, intrinsically they are very simi-lar. They experience pain, love, happiness in very similar ways.
When I came to Pakistan, I was the only woman in Cisco Pakistan and the only woman engineer in the Cisco Middle East and Africa region at the time. Whatever wrong I did, everyone knew (laughs). There were very few women engineers especially in the field of networking in the region and I remember I had to do CCIE (which is a very tough Cisco certification) just to prove that I am technical, and I know my stuff! Thankfully, times have changed and now I see a lot more women in tech! However, there is still a bit of an unconscious bias when it comes to women in tech and that has to change.
As part of OPEN, we have started initiatives to create programs for budding entrepreneurs from Pakistan. One of the programs is OPEN Startup Connect started first by the OPEN Silicon Val-ley Chapter. As part of this program, we connect startups from Pakistan to investors and mentors in the Silicon Valley and we even take some of them to the valley for a 14 day trip.
Evovle: You have initiated company Alplaar Consulting, a company that deals with B2B Sales, marketing and partnership strategy. Inyour perspective, how far it is successful in making a mark among the rest?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: That is a company through which I and my team provide consulting servic-es to some multinationals and global companies around the world. We also provide consultancy to VC backed tech startups. It is important to me be-cause it funds My Impact Meter.
We provide consultancy related to B2B tech sales and marketing – how to build a viable sales strat-egy, sales process and close multi-million-dollar deals. Moreover, we help in building a global channel strategy and design the channel program.
Evovle: As we all know that you are an emi-nent edition to CEO CLUBS WORLDWIDE Pakistan Chapter. How do you cope with this recognition and how would you disburse your expertise over the subsequent years?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: I am happy to be part of the CEO clubs Worldwide and I think it is an amazing platform to network, meet and learn from some of the best CEOs from around the world. It is also a very good platform to create new business opportunities and avenues and ex-pand ones business to a global level. I am very excited to contribute in any way and I appericiate this network in Pakistan and in the region.
Evovle: Is there a particular kind of project that you would really like to create/make in IT Sector, but havent been able to do yet?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: Honestly, my passion now is My Impact Metet. If I can digitalize charity and bring transparency, trust, visibility, equitability, and simplicity to it at a global level, I will consider this an achievement. And if Im able to create a new motivation system that rewards individuals, companies and countries and meas-ures their success based on the impact that they are creating and the good that they are doing, then I will have achieved my lifes goal.
Evovle: Do you think Pakistan lacks in pro-viding to its economy whether its business opportunities or IT Sector, which hinders our economy to flourish?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: There are so many things that Pakistan can improve to increase investor confidence. I have had the chance to speak with Pakistani origin founders and businessmen from all over the world and some of the themes and recommendations are repeated over and over.
There are the obvious ones like the law-and-order situation, the instability, the economic unpredict-ability etc. But then there are some specific ones as well especially as they pertain to the IT and Tech industry because lets face it thats where the real buck is in the future. Pakistan needs to have consistency in its policies especially the ones related to tax, repatriation of funds etc. IT industry had a tax holiday till 2025 but then, when the government changed, a tax regime was imposed.
Also, policies around foreign currency retention for investment coming into Pakistan are not conducive to attracting investment. Because of foreign exchange unpredictability and rupee being in a constant down-ward spiral, not being able to retain foreign curren-cy means a significant portion of the value of the investment is lost within days. Furthermore, there is no single window operation for businesses and tech startups and dealing with multiple government authorities is quite cumbersome. Lastly, when the interest rate is in the north of 15%, why would I want to take a risk and invest when I can earn 15% just by keeping my money in the bank? Of course, keeping money in the bank doesnt help either because the inflation rate is north of 30%.
I know Ive painted a bleak picture above but then again Pakistan does have a lot of opportunity as well given that we have the 6th youngest population in the world. Also, the smartphone penetration in Pakistan is quite remarkable. Plus we are a nascent, unsatu-rated market at the moment, so innovative ideas to create simplicity and frictionless experiences for the population leveraging technology can most definitely work in Pakistan. The government just needs to be more supportive and create a safe and reliable envi-ronment and policy which is conducive to innovation, investment, and entrepreneurship.
Evovle: What are your thoughts on print media around the globe and what would you like to say to the readers of Evolve Business Publication?
Ms. Kanwal Cheema: As much as I love to snuggle with a book and still enjoy the paper and ink mag-azines and books, there is no denying that digital media has really started to dominate. I would urge that Evolve Business Publication should also have a strong digital presence.