Monday, June 17, 2024

From Silicon Valley to Skardu: A Journey of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Sitting on the floor of a village house in Shigar Valley, Pakistan, collecting the 40+ thumbprints from the joint owners to finalize the purchase of a 48 Kanal plot of land on a cold winter day, was a far cry from the plush chairs and negotiating tables of Silicon Valley. But it was a vital step in our journey in launching our new startup – a luxury resort in Skardu valley.

The Startup Founder’s Dilemma is a familiar concept, whether you’re developing software or designing a resort. It’s crucial to ascertain whether you’re building a solution in search of a problem or genuinely addressing a need. After the upheaval of COVID-19, we recognized a real need for travel opportunities within Pakistan’s beautiful northern areas that would pull in Pakistanis as well as international travelers.

After all, 14 of the world’s 8000-meter peaks lie within Pakistan, which is already a huge attraction for international mountain climbers and adventure seekers. But even those travelers coming for less strenuous pursuits needed a base to enjoy their sightseeing, and there were not many options available in the area. Seeing and experiencing this need firsthand prompted us to delve into the hospitality industry without having any prior background – our backgrounds were primarily in EdTech and MedTech. But we felt that this was just another problem that could be solved with a strong execution strategy.

Over the years, we have traveled to remote places around the globe like Patagonia, Alaska, and Africa. We started in our late 20’s by camping and staying at budget motels. As we grew older and our buying power grew, we still sought adventure in off-the-beaten track locales, but with a little more comfort – hot showers, good beds, and good food. Drawing from all those experiences, we knew we wanted to develop a product for the high-end market – to surprise guests with luxury and service even in the most isolated location.

After looking at multiple locations in the northern areas, we set our sights on obtaining land near Skardu, an area with a huge influx of tourists in the summer, a shortage of rooms, and the added advantage of an international airport. Having an emotional connection to the product played a pivotal role in our decision making process. We were building a solution for our own problem and banking on the fact that this was also a problem that other travelers experienced.

Falling in love with the landscape was both a blessing and a challenge. We chose one of the most challenging terrains to build on, defying conventional wisdom. We could have easily. accepted a longer build time as perfectly reasonable for the environment we were working in.

However, we understood the importance of opportunity cost—a concept often overlooked in Pakistan. Missing the important summer season would be a much higher cost for us than spending extra in the short term to finish the project. So we pushed our architect and contractor and hired workers to work in multiple shifts to ensure completion by May 2023. At every step, we evaluated how to expedite the process by parallelizing work, leveraging our experience in our startups. The importance of having a dedicated and trusted team on the ground was invaluable as we traveled back and forth from the US to GB almost every other month.

Collaborating with local architects, Archoholics, injected fresh ideas into our project. Being from Gilgit Baltistan, they could blend the local and traditional architectural features with a modern aesthetic. We also employed local labor, local craftsmen and women, and used local materials to ensure that we uplifted the local economy with our project. We are proud to say that our resort is about 98% made in Pakistan. There are very few things that we imported.

The journey from Silicon Valley to Skardu exemplifies the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Whether in tech or hospitality, success is born from vision, perseverance, and the courage to pursue your dreams against all odds. As we continue to grow and evolve, we remain committed to providing our guests with an unforgettable experience at Khoj—a testament to the power of determination and the pursuit of excellence. We hope to inspire others to build and invest in Pakistan, so that we can turn the problems and roadblocks into opportunity and growth.

The authors are founders of Khoj Resorts, and seasoned tech entrepreneurs currently based in the US.

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