Zaineb Hashmi, Founder and CEO, Dergi, a digital lifestyle magazine, reveals in this interview how Dergi began and the challenges of being an entrepreneur.
1. What is the story behind DERGI?
It was my dream since I was a little girl to have a business of my own; something that incorporates two or three categories. Growing up, I explored my options. While studying, I started working at the age of 17. I worked in various multi-national companies. I was introduced to blogging at the age of 22. I wanted to write. I am a writer and a poetess. Did I mention that earlier? I worked with Isloo Times. I interviewed various celebrities. I wanted to try a different approach to the typical interviews. I introduced what you can call as BIOGRAPHICAL ARTICLES on well-known people. I interviewed them, talked about their achievements and let them be who they are. This approach became quite popular. The celebrities felt comfortable and the audience loved reading about their favorite superstars. All the experimentation with my writing styles proved successful.
I worked with PakMediaRevolution.net (PMR) after Isloo times. I will never forget how these two platforms believed in my work and gave me creative freedom, not to forget, a platform to do my thing. This, PLATFORM is very important, you see. We don’t have enough of these here. This was my inspiration behind launching DERGI. My sister, Safina Hashmi is the brains behind this venture along with me. Without her support and talent, it was unlikely to move forward with such a huge project. My mother believed in me and my dreams since I first started talking about DERGI. In fact, the name DERGI is chosen by my mother. My brother, Saleh Hashmi has been with me at every step of the way. My father is a businessman himself and has let me do my thing too.
I had a few aims when it came to launching DERGI:
• Creating a positive image of our country by showcasing the talent we have here
• Provide a platform to our talented youth by giving them the creative freedom
• Mental issues awareness
• Hunting talent and promoting it
• Revival of literature
All of these factors combined asked for a company to be brought into existence. We give creative freedom to our team members. We have several poets and writers onboard. Our magazine incorporates media and literature together.
2. What do you want to achieve with DERGI?
DERGI is a movement. It is a legacy. It is a message that is supposed to resonate throughout the centuries. It will not die with me. It will keep on going. I want all of the aims mentioned earlier to fulfill by making a difference in our society and the world overall.
3. Tell us about the team comprising DERGI and their responsibilities?
The team members working full time are;
- Chief Operating Officer/ Co-Owner: Safina Hashmi
- Director of Sponsorships and Outreach: Jaffar Shah
- Director of Events and Productions: Saleh Hashmi
- Head of Productions: Maddah Zaineb
- Photography collaborations: Ali Yawer
- Designing: Abdul Momen
All of these wonderful people are responsible for playing with creativity.
4. How important is compelling content for online magazines?
No matter what business it is, we have to give people what they want, right? How can you expect your work to make a mark if it doesn’t resonate with the people?
5. Challenges are part of an entrepreneur’s life. What were the challenges you faced when launching DERGI?
OOOOF. LOL. The fear of taking a risk, the fear of your business going down the drain, the fear of getting rejected by the market; all of these combined with the constant struggle made it quite difficult for us to pursue. But we never gave up; we continued to work and launched it. We launched it on September 15, 2017, online. We ran it for 3 months and held a soft launch event in December 2017. The event was a success as everyone that mattered to me was there. My mom was proud of me and my sister for launching it successfully. In fact, she organized the whole setup. We faced a lot of challenges physically and digitally but we dived in deep. The main problem with support is that you don’t get it sincerely. People around you discourage you but you got to use your magic.
6. Where do you see yourself and DERGI five years down the road?
I see myself walking the red carpet of LUX STYLE AWARDS haha 😛 just kidding. I see myself and DERGI spreading the positivity to a much larger audience on a global level.
7. What is the process of content generation at DERGI?
Our writers focus on the latest news and literature. As I told you earlier that my team has the advantage of creative freedom. We generate content keeping in mind the latest trends that are circling the world. The designers generate the images and our social media team creates the captions.
8. What has been the defining moment in your career?
For me, it was when I saw that people can relate to my work. The message that I am working so hard to spread is finally making a difference.
9. What kind of competition did you face and how did you overcome it?
In my field, there is nothing but competition. It is something that can be overcome easily. I learned that its all about how you take your competition to be. A healthy approach is much needed. We, at DERGI are very growth-oriented. We provide PR to the events and our clients too. So you see, we have a lot of competitors in the field. Most of them are very senior to me. I have a very good professional relationship with all of them and learned a lot. The only way to overcome competition is to be unique in your approach.
10. Your message for the aspiring entrepreneurs of Pakistan?
Everyone will tell you that focus on your success. I ask, can you be successful if you are not mentally relaxed? I urge all the aspiring entrepreneurs to NEVER GIVE UP. No matter how much tired you are, no matter how much criticism and setbacks you face. Giving up should not be an option for you. However, form a habit to take breaks in between to charge yourselves. It is imperative to take care of yourself to spread the message.