“Hooglu doesn’t mean anything. It just struck my mind,” says Zaid. A word without meaning that’s now become a business without boundaries. Tasavur Mushtaq reports on a teenager’s online venture—that’s become a first in Kashmir.
He claims to be an average student. But for him, education has been beyond the four walls of a classroom. Zaid Ajaz, 18, has learned the intricate details of computers and website development on his own. “Self learning is always the best learning,” he suggests. That “self learning” helped him develop professional websites—Zaid states he has already created 200 of them, and has earned some good money as a result. Today, he is the man behind something new in the virtual world for Kashmir—a classifieds website. Hooglu.com is Zaid’s brainchild, and he’s labeled it as ‘Kashmir valley’s local buy and sell community.’
Coding, web design, management and site operations—Zaid has done it all at Hooglu, a website he launched in May 2011. The classifieds website provides a platform to individuals and enterprises to buy and sell their products. So far, the response has been largely positive. In just a few months, Zaid has managed to have almost all the big shots of business as his clients. His base is around 1200 establishments.
The website is a joint venture between Zaid and his friend Shazan Chowdhry, an MBA degree holder from London who takes care of the marketing aspects. The site’s beta version now has some upgrades—it’s integrated with Google Maps to help users locate the product, and it’s also integrated with Facebook so users can advertise easily. “I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible,” says Zaid.
He’s also trying to make the decision to advertise on Hooglu simple for prospective clients. For businesses, he charges Rs. 500 per year as registration fee, and then the enterprises can load as many ads as possible—with just one going up on the website at a time. There is also a provision of being on the featured list of ads for 15 days—for which clients would have to pay Rs. 250.
Tech savvy Zaid has a few other projects under his belt. He was the main person behind branding for G-Kashmir, when the Internet giant Google visited Kashmir for an event in partnership with Mercy Corps Kashmir. “I handled the entire package of branding for them,” says Zaid.
Zaid has recently appeared in the 12th board exams. While still in school, he created a blog related to technology called KashTech. The blog focuses on tech news and views about products and services from Microsoft, Apple, Linux and Google. KashTech brings daily freeware, tips and tricks to save time, solve problems and improve productivity. “This is linking Kashmir with the web,” says Zaid about the blog.
Today, Zaid says he is moving well financially, thanks to the websites he has developed, and of course Hooglu. He rides a bike with pride, saying “I bought this bike with the money I made from my passion.” Hooglu has generated enough revenue to sustain its current operations, and Zaid says he has already recovered the investment he made in developing the website.
Zaid’s plans don’t end here. He aims to expand Hooglu to reach users beyond the Kashmir valley. Armed with creativity and confidence, he believes the websites he develops—including the classifieds one—are dynamic and highly secure. “I don’t develop the ordinary,” he says.