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$200 Million in Revenue Catering to the Bottom of the Pyramid: Issa Asad, CEO of Q Link Wireless (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Jan 30th 2018

Sramana Mitra: How did you get around those limitations?

Issa Asad: I turned around and I started working with some of them. I said, “If I print my own cards and make my own brand, then I would only have to pay for usage.” I went to the carriers and I made contracts with them. I would only pay for the usage. I was able to take $10,000 and instead of only buying 500 $20 cards, I was able to buy cards for five cents and I was able to go to a lot more stores because I only had to pay for the cost of printing.

Not until that card was actually used, did I figure out that I would incur a bill which meant it will help my cash. I was able to sell the cards outright – $20 card for a discounted price of $14. I had $14 for a cost of five cents.

Sramana Mitra: What timeframe are we talking about when all this is happening?

Issa Asad: It took place from 1997 until 2000 – three years.

Sramana Mitra: What happened in 2000?

Issa Asad: I figured out, “If I’m printing these cards, how do I turn this into a nationwide thing?” I figured out how to get agents like myself throughout the country. I went out to a company and said, “Is there a way to track the usage of cards so I can make other agents like me throughout the country?”

I partnered with a couple of companies, but it didn’t work out. I really failed. I realized that the companies you partnered with for software weren’t as good as they say they were. Then I said, “Let me figure out how to bring somebody in to help me write this code.” I figured out biggest failures were always depending on somebody else. The minute you start you depending on third-party companies who do something for a lot of people, you can’t get that customization that you may or may not need, especially for ideas that haven’t existed yet. It’s different when you go out to a Salesforce and they do lead generation.

I hired my first developer and he wrote the code based on my logic. That was able to take me to a new level. Now I was able to put out phone cards and give credit to people. That was all based on me being able to pay for usage rather than pay for the full value of the card. That helped me establish a business that grew from two people to almost 250 employees. That was from 2000 to 2004. I went from a business that was operating from the garage in my house to a business that was operating out of a 20,000 foot office.

Sramana Mitra: What kind of revenue level were you operating at at this point in 2004?

Issa Asad: I was about a little bit shy of $50 million a year.

Sramana Mitra: The entire company was bootstrapped? You went up to $50 million with bootstrap strategies?

Issa Asad: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: No outside investment?

Issa Asad: No outside investment. I tried looking, but I just couldn’t.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do in 2004 then?

Issa Asad: In 2004, I realized that technology was coming. I tried to figure out how to sell these things differently. How do I not have to worry about going to every single store. Then I realized that as you have these agents throughout the country, you have to go the store. You have to always have inventory and point of sale material.

I developed a machine called iPrepay which was a touchscreen kiosk. That enabled me to deliver the minutes or the PIN via electronic distribution through a kiosk. That way, I had no inventory in the store. I would put the machine in the store and I would be able to carry 200 to 400 products in one device instead of having to worry about how to hang them up. I put out almost 35,000 of these units throughout the country.

This segment is part 2 in the series : $200 Million in Revenue Catering to the Bottom of the Pyramid: Issa Asad, CEO of Q Link Wireless
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