It was the beginning of the year that would mark the turn of the century. I was a second year MBA student at Columbia, sharing a conference room with a first year who had just moved to New York from the valley. We shared a seat each at the Integrity Board Club and I don’t even remember what I was doing on Alta Vista, when he spoke up. “You should try Google”, “Here let me show you.”
And that was that, 10 years ago. Then Faiz Mian (ala Fast) sent me an invite for Gmail, with its gigabit storage and the option to lock in email@example.com and there was no turning back. As it is, I was earning my living through researching exotic financial concepts and topics through Google and running training workshops on them across Pakistan and the Middle East on them. In more ways than one Google was a mentor; a partner and reliable resource that I could count on to dig the dirt out on most things financials.
But today something happened that left that first name gigabit storage Gmail invite far behind.
You have to go see to understand why I am so happy and bubbly today. I have been trying to do what we did today at the above link for the last 10 years. The ability to sell legit copy righted locally produced digital media from a country that is not the US of A without giving up an arm or a leg or killing someone across the table on the other side.
On and off I would get started and then get bogged down in details, logistics and absurdities. Just before Avicena, venture number one shut down, I made a last ditch effort to get started with Paypal to see if we could salvage something from the wreckage of our Californian adventure. But we went under faster than Paypal could respond. And as I found out with many other Paypal users, the minute you moved back home to Pakistan, Paypal disowned you with a vengeance. Your pedigree, your credit history, your Ivy League MBA, your million dollar business plan, everything was over ruled by an IP address originating from Pakistan. I had to scratch plan number one.
About four year ago, right about this time, when the Blue Screen of Death first came out, we tried to move the book as an electronic copy. It was an enormous effort that started with Amazon and ended at Lightening Speed. The book sold all of 14 copies for a net receipt of about 220 dollars that Lightening Speed still owes to us. To their credit they tried to pay it a number of times but because of my non-US presence and their non-Pakistani support, the money is still sitting somewhere in their suspense account. A few months later Amazon kicked LS out as a vendor and the book went off Amazon’s inventory. Scratch plan number two.
Last year in spring, I applied for a merchant account with a local bank in Pakistan so that I could fulfill all those credit card orders that were going to bang down my door as soon as we started selling Pakistan Risk Review online. The local bank took a year to approve the application and then told us we couldn’t process the card without the card being physically present. So much so for overseas online transactions…Scratch plan number three.
A few months ago, somehow Badar Khushnood and I were booked to speak at the same event. We missed each other but exchanged notes on meeting the next time he was in town. Then I ran into a little hitch with Adsense on my personal Learning Corporate Finance and Oilinsights blogs and howled and in came Badar to the rescue. Yesterday Jehan and Yusuf invited Badar, me and as yet an unnamed CEO, soon to be acquired, by an un-named but exciting international suitor for lunch. Badar made a subtle pitch for Google Check out after hearing about my troubled past with online payment platforms and my search for a solution that would help sell Desi content online.
From the point that we spoke yesterday at our lunch meeting, it took me all of 45 minutes to figure Google Checkout out (I am not that smart, it really is that simple). It took another 30 minutes to setup the directory structure to support electronic downloads, about an hour to remember and document all the combinations and their passwords and another 15 minutes to generate and post the code to the buy now page on the Alchemy domain.
With a total investment of 120 minutes, I now have a Google checkout store that allows me to sell my content online. Obviously there are a number of major caveats. You need to have some necessary logistics sorted out (like figuring out how to get an acceptable bank account) before you could really try this at home. But just the fact that after stressing out for the last two weeks trying to figure out on collection and payment issues and asking everyone to help me setup a Paypal account, a gentle nudge from Badar Khushnood was all that it took to fix a 10 year old itch.
Thank you Badar and Thank you Google. Sign me up for your fan page.