Meeting People at Obama's Summit: Junaid Iqbal and David Nabti
GOOD recently attended President Obama's Summit on Entrepreneurship, an event designed to spur business collaboration between Muslim-majority countries and the United States. We met some interesting new people there. We conclude our coverage with these two profiles.
WHO HE IS: Pakistan's Donald Trump?
WHAT HE DOES: Heads a financial products distribution company
WHAT HE ALSO DOES: Transform Pakistani financial media
WHAT HE NEEDS: An hour slot and a cricket bat
Junaid Iqbal was working at an energy trader in the United States when, on a visit home to Pakistan, some investors approached him with an offer to transform Pakistan's financial world by launching the first-ever Pakistani markets television show. He left his job in the States and took to watching a lot of Bloomberg and CNBC—but he had a problem from the get-go.
“We could not use any English terms. So we had to literally invent almost a whole set of vocabulary terms,” says Iqbal, who worked to develop a financial lingo that didn't exist in Pakistan. “In a country that is not massively educated, and especially not financially savvy, when you're talking about stocks and bonds and markets, people really don't understand what's all about.”
Iqbal says that he came up with words to signify bullish and bearish markets. “We're just trying to explain to people in a simple language,” he says. “What a share is. What a stock is. Coming up with a translation for an IPO.”
At first, he didn't even know if the show was resonating with Pakistanis. “At that time, we could not do live TV out of Pakistan, so we had to do this show out of Dubai,” he explains. “Media laws were still opening up then—this was in 2004—and now we have one of the most free medias in the world, I'd say.”
Three months after the launch, he got the “street feedback” he was looking for. A day after he returned to Pakistan from Dubai, a broker invited him out for lunch at the Karachi exchange. Iqbal was greeted by more than a hundred market players, who applauded him upon his entrance.
Iqbal went on to work on Pakistan's version of Power Lunch for CNBC Asia. He says that show had a massive impact on financial journalism in Pakistan—and a significant place in Pakistani society.
“In countries where the judicial system is still in the stages of development,” says Iqbal, “economic justice really doesn't exist in full force. In the end, the enterprise is the one that will suffer. What financial journalism does is allow us to red flag [abuses].”
Iqbal now serves as the CEO of BMA Financial, a financial products distribution company, but he's not quite out of the media game entirely. The producers behind Afghan Idol and Afghan Apprentice recently approached him about hosting a Pakistani Apprentice. He also prepared a pilot for a Pakistani version of Mad Money.
“I would have been the Jim Kramer of Pakistan,” he says. Smashing stuff with a cricket bat? “Absolutely.”
WHO HE IS: David Munir Nabti
WHAT HE DOES: Teach new media skills at the local level in Beirut
WHAT HE HAS THAT YOU DON'T: A school bus
David Munir Nabti, is cooler and more casual than the investors and market analysts whizzing around the summit. Crucially, he isn't one for buzzwords or flash—an asset, given that he works to help entrepreneurial newcomers get their ideas off the ground.
Through Karage, his new media school, Nabti hosts workshops in Lebanon on everything from new Web products to journalistic ethics to writing schools. The goal is to improve the visibility and outreach skills of entrepreneurs looking to reach new audiences, improve their market pitch, or engage in plain old-fashioned citizen journalism.
What does every new media education initiative require? A vintage 1964 Lebanese school bus, of course. “People keep asking, 'Why do you want to buy a bus?' Why not? It's so damn cool!” Nabti exudes.
We flip through Nabti's cellphone pictures of the bus, which looks like it could have been plucked straight from a surf-rock Bendali Family music video. But I press him: Why do you need a bus to use Twitter?
“You don't need a bus to use Twitter at all. Except in some places, people aren't using Twitter. A lot of young people—even young people at good universities in Lebanon, universities where they use English as the language of instruction—they don't even know what Twitter is,” says Nabti. “It's crazy.”
Though lots of Lebanese, especially young people, do go online, what they do on the Web is extremely limited, he explains. Though people throughout Lebanon and across the Lebanese diaspora use Facebook to stay connected, for example, relatively few users venture much further.
“They're not curious and browsing for new content. They're not exploring different blogs,” he says. “They're definitely not browsing for cool YouTube videos because if you have a five-minute YouTube video, it will take you 10 minutes to load it and watch it.”
The bus, then, is a pre-media approach to spreading the word about new media. By traveling to areas where exposure to the Internet is limited—but places where technology centers or Internet cafes exist—Nabti thinks the exposure will outlast his stop in town.
“We want something that's fun and that will be quicker and easier for us. Something that will hype people up on creating content and citizen journalism and creativity. Plus,” he adds, “we get a bus.”
See all of GOOD's coverage of the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship here.