Want to start a business? Here is an idea – and I will be your first customer…

It happens to me many times a week. Sitting with friends or family, every now and then they would ask “What business should we get in to?” The answer would all depend on my mood. If I feeling like yakking, I’d throw many ideas back at them (depending upon their background skills, and how much money they want to invest). Sometimes, I just stay quiet.
Of late, an idea has been boiling over… data-vaults. Ever since we started work on our data-center, I have quietly been working in parallel to establish a reliable data-vault in Pakistan. Data-vaulting is sometimes mistaken to the commonly referred phrase as “online-backup”. Online backup happens to be one of a facets of data-vaulting. In its simplest of terms, data-vaulting simply implies a commercial service where data (off-site/backup, etc.) resides. In Pakistan, such a service commercially is not yet offered. Why? I really cannot answer, but I feel the issue may be of privacy, confidence, neutrality, etc. Somehow we feel more secure in zipping our files and uploading them to ancillary Google Mail accounts or with X-Drive and the likes, rather than storing it locally. It is definitely an issue of trust and educating the end-user on the myriad of options available.

I digressed, I want to come back to the business idea. If a commercial data-vaulting service would be available in Pakistan (InshahAllah it will be soon). Then the most logical business to get into is scanning and digital archiving. Before you lose interest and cite that already many such companies exist – then at the risk of boring you further, allow me to highlight some important points:

– Data-scanning & archiving companies do exist – can you name one immediately right on the top of your head? You probably cannot! I can’t either
– Such scanning companies simply do not market or brand themselves
The companies that I do know of, specialize in large scale, and are fixated on the financial sector-
– Small & Medium Businesses – who caters to them?
– Daily scanning service (i.e. pick up say 200 or so sheets, scan them, tag them and return them) – such services are not available
– In-house / in-sourcing – having someone to come in – scan, tag, file and go – such service options again are not available

Most of the time – companies simply require a ‘scan’ that is “tagged” correctly. OCR is really a waste-of-time and money. Today – a huge variety of planetary, flat-bed, book, and paper-feed scanners exist that can make PDFs of scanned images, tagging and emailing very easy – why isn’t someone capitalizing on this?

Each year – in my small company, we have to file away – 1000s of pages, usually between 40-80 box files. I wish I could have this scanned. Why doesn’t someone do this for a price that is low (yet profitable)?

If some company were to set rates like these below – I promise I will be your first customer:

0-10 pages: Rs. 5/page
11-50 pages: Rs 4/page
51-500 pages: Rs. 3/page
500-1000 pages: Rs 2.50/page
1000+ pages Rs. 2/page

This is for scanned file only.

For Tagging & PDF creation – you can add Rs. 1 to the rate. With camera based scanners like say Atiz or other planetary scanners, the scanning process is mere seconds with a high-resolution image thrown out.

The process should be simple, at the end-of the day, we seal everything in a courier bag, which is then transported to the scanning facility. Next day, you scan, tag and upload the file and send the papers back to us. Yes, there will be an additional cost for online storage, but that will be minuscule considering how economical digital storage is.

I can almost guarantee 1,000 pages per day of business just by thinking how much our company and some other small businesses I know can use this.

I hope someone who reads this – would genuinely pursue this idea. If you need any additional help/guidance from the research work I have done on this, by all means contact me.

This page was last updated on January 26, 2009.

21 thoughts on “Want to start a business? Here is an idea – and I will be your first customer…”

  1. No – this has nothing to do with cloud computing. Albeit – the Cloud is an amazing concept, are businesses in Pakistan ready to pay for it? A little too early to tell.

  2. Great Idea — the minute I read it – I was screaming YES thats definitely needed – ran to the Atiz website ;) LOLim really glad to see you lead an initiative for the data center – I believe you are on the cutting edge to capture many businesses in Pakistan.

    Somehow you need the data vault unapproachable by eager agencey wala – rest is safe – if you can convince your client that the data is lock proof safe [naturally everything legal] then you will be better positioned . I believe that could be one loop that might keep customers away – but I cant be sure, since im only speculating

  3. @Teeth Maestro: The data vault is encrypted. We do NOT hold the encryption keys. Only the client does. If the client loses the encryption keys, we cannot open the data. However, with each setup there is a key recovery mechanism that is ONLY know to the client. We are not part nor parcel of it.

  4. Sorry for the double. Our data-vault would be at an undisclosed location and NOT even in our office premises. Connectivity to the data-vault is through 2 fiber connections (known only to me and very very few members of my team) and high-speed radio link. Physical access to data-vault is only restricted to two people, myself and one other person. Physical access inside the vault – requires two people to be physically present to unlock the door at the undisclosed facility.

  5. Agencies don’t need an encryption keys to capture the machines :-)

    undisclosed location

    Faisal, how come something would be hidden if it’s on network? I didn’t understand at all. Can you please elaborate. can’t one locate your data center via IP or you are talking something else?

  6. @PeterMCycle – Sadly – you’re missing the point. That website refers to a company that specializes in archival – physical archival. They will probably not cater to SMB (Small and Medium Businesses) Sector. What I am proposing above is something that will cater to small businesses.@Adnan: No – you cannot locate it via IP. As the IP pool belongs to us. We link from our main site to the vault site via wireless (for backups) and VPN from a a large bunch of dedicated DSL and cable lines. When/what you will ping/trace route will return information only pertinent to our network and cannot make sense to you.

  7. I am ready to do this I have knowledge/ experience on both hardware/software to do so I just nee documents to scan I can offer very attractive rates for any continues flow of documents up A3 size color/mono

  8. dear brother, we are Insha Allah soon into this business….so u dont have to get worry about it man…..

    Insha Allah we work for small firms..we have a great setup in islamabad, and i invite all of you to come and visit our setup..

    we started business in january 2008 and MashaAllah we did a business of more than 30 millions…..

    we are in phase of expansion and our next step is digitization.

    we started from 5 people in february 2008, and now we are 30+ officials in HQ and we are working in 21 locations of Azad Jammu And Kashmir and 43 locations in Punjab…

    our next step is digitization and next milestone would be MYSTRY SHOPPING BUSINESS

    ___________Best RegardsRaza Ali03444444121051-2851117-8051-2250418-9Extn: 106

  9. brother hardware of book scanning is toooooo muuuucccchhhhh expensive….manual scanners ranges in millions

    and automatic scanner is also toooo muuuccchhhhh ecpensive.

    i offer to get quote from any foreign company about heavy duty scanners which scan pages at 600 or 300 dpi

    and scan more than 10 pages in a minut :-)

    u r surprised that heavy duty scanner cost u in millions

    this business is not a cuppy cake :-) thats why pakistani market is still short inn..

    only OCR software that converts images into words is in .5 million :-)

    ___________Best RegardsRaza Ali03444444121051-2851117-8051-2250418-9Extn: 106

  10. Arresting suggestion! I visited your page by accident actually was searching on some other thing and bookmarked it for now. I would like to know your contact details and little info about your field of specialization / work. Please contact me through email. Thanks

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