Salman Lakhani

CEO of Cubix

Salman Lakhani is the founder and CEO of Cubix, a full-stack product development company. Born and raised in Karachi, Salman had a keen interest in Computing, a major he would eventually graduate in through the University of Staffordshire.
Belonging to a Gujrati family, traditionally known for being business-minded by birth, Salman instinctively knew he was destined to be an entrepreneur. Initially, he held key positions at prominent technology companies in Karachi, but before long, he established Cubix, in 2008. From that point onward, Salman looked to work diligently and patiently with his traditional business sense driving his business.
Salman’s areas of focus include product strategy, eCommerce, and user experience, and he is skilled in mobile app development. His’s journey to serial entrepreneurship is marked pivots and incredible success. But Cubix, his ultimate success, is his primary focus with its physical presence in Florida, Karachi, and Dubai.

Where did the idea for Cubix come from?

I have been in this industry for the past 20 years. For the first 4 to 5 years, I worked for companies that were primarily in the US. I knew there was a difference between the US market and the Pakistani market. I know the Pakistani culture well, and I had the experience of working with US customers too. Apart from this, there were some other factors too. And so, I was able to come up with a solution for US customers. They are looking for talent, and Pakistan is full of talent. I then proceeded to develop a platform through which we could serve US customers with development services.

We started small.

What do you mean by family business?

Apart from this, I also belong to a business family within the Gujrati community that is known for business; I saw my family members engaged in various types of businesses, often running medium or small-sized businesses. And we Gujratis feel proud that we are engaged in business in one way or another. They may not have been running huge companies, but they always had something going, even if it was small. I have seen my dad doing business. I have seen my grandma doing business. I have seen my mom doing business. So, business is something tha

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There are three things for business and for spending a good productive day: Plan your day, execute that plan, and at the end of the day, examine what you have planned and executed to see whether or not you have achieved your goals.
If you plan, you can execute. If you execute without a plan, it’s difficult to assess your progress since you’ll have nothing to check your progress against. It’s these three things. You must make a good plan, and it’s not necessary that you fulfill that plan, but you do have to form a plan, preferably in the form of a to-do list. If you achieve your tasks, you can move forward with tomorrow’s tasks. If there are tasks remaining from the current day’s plan, you can push them forward to tomorrow. Planning is important for me, even for a date.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Discussion, brainstorming, and execution. You must brainstorm with the people you believe can give your productive advice. Do discuss with all your stakeholders. For me, what is an idea? It’s a solution. That’s it. There is nothing like an idea, by the way.

Being an entrepreneur, I believe that an entrepreneur provides a solution to a problem. And to do this, you need to have good people in your team. You speak to different stakeholders. Brainstorm and do your homework. If you have done your homework right, there will still be a chance of failure, and obviously, there will be a probability of failure.

It is great that you are fortunate and you’re are successful because of your right decisions, but please do not ever believe that all your decisions will be right. Also, do not take the risk of taking a wrong decision as well, because you are going to learn, one way or another. And that’s how we bring things to life; discuss with people, discuss with stakeholders.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I love innovation, by the way. I love the way things are going, and I think that I am very lucky to come into this century because this is an innovation century where things are moving pretty fast, and we are able to take advantage of the latest trends and technologies.

One technology that is going to change the course of life is blockchain tech. It will change how our health system work. It will change how our governments work. It’s going to change how our economy works. It will change everything, including how the software works. And so I look forward to it. I am not talking about cryptocurrency or anything in particular, but I am talking about everything about the blockchain as a concept. It has been 5 or 6 years now, and I look forward to what it’s going to do. And a lot of things are going to change in the next year or two.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Never give up. And if you fail at something and have a tendency to pivot your idea and not give up, you’re good. I believe these are the two qualities I have. It’s not that I have not seen barriers; I have seen them so many times, and I always try to fix my things and pivot the idea from wherever we started. Because, you know, you make plans, you try to execute them, but it’s not necessary they will work out the way you want. Because see, the world is changing, we have seen the Covid 19 situation.

We never thought of it. So, there are a lot of companies out there, a lot of people have been out of their jobs, the revenues went down, and even countries have their economies in a different shape. We have heard of so many airlines going down. So, if you know how to pivot from this or whatever thing, you can make or take advantage of the situation.

This is exactly what we did.

Last year, we had a similar situation where we suddenly faced this Covid situation, and what we did is we started pitching fixed-sized projects into outsourced resources. This model attracted a lot of people to invest because they were paying a hell of a lot, and apparently, they were not allowed to open their offices. So their resources had to work remotely anyway. We offered them the same thing at maybe half the price. That’s what I see; if you know how to pivot, you can make things better for yourself and the overall industry as well.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Do anything; sleep more, be confident, and this is a precious time, the times we are living in; tomorrow, you might be busy with a lot of things. Be confident in whatever you are doing, even if you are playing or doing anything, just be confident, play hard, sleep well.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

There are a lot of things I can give you. In the west, if I am going to say that I am stuck in traffic for hours on Sharah-e-Faisal, Karachi, nobody is going to believe me. Similarly, if in Pakistan, I am going to say that I was in the US, they honored me, they allowed me to speak at the Startup Grind, I didn’t see any discrimination being a Pakistani or being a Muslim, they won’t believe me. These both are facts\

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Hire smart people, hire people smarter than yourself. That’s my mantra if you want to get success – number one. And number two, if you are building any product for any business, make sure, and this is how I do this, and this is how it works in the real world.

Make sure you make the prototype, build a minimum viable product, an MVP, go to the market, test it, and then you can publish it as a commercial launch or whatever plans there are. That’s how I do it. That’s how I did it. We are still between the launch of a couple of our products, and we have built our mvp around it. We are going to launch the product in maybe about a month or two.

And the whole idea is to launch these products to people, check their feedback, implement them and then go for a commercial launch. That’s what I always do, and that’s what I recommend to everyone. Also, always hire the best people. If the cost is high, still get the best people around you. They will give you the best advice and take you somewhere.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

It’s a simple business strategy, and there are two things that I know personally that really matter; building processes, which I did when I was building this company. I am not saying I built micro-processes, but more of the macro processes; the role of the sales team, the marketing team, and the production, the role of the operations, and these things – the macro processes. And once these processes are done, you know how important a process is.

A process is very important for me and for building any business. If you can make the right process, the next thing that every CEO or every entrepreneur should have is the ability to motivate and inspire their people. He is not a leader who cannot inspire his people. I am not saying that I am going to inspire the nation or everyone in the company for that matter, but generally, if you can speak and speak from your heart, your message is going to reach where it’s supposed to reach.

And if you cannot speak, if you cannot talk to your people, then trust me, it will be a very different environment and a very isolated environment. People will think, even if you are taking the right decision for them, they won’t believe it, because you have to explain you have to talk, you have to interact, and those are the two things that I have done a lot; making the processes and talking to my people.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

If you ask me, it was trust. I trust people, and so, apparently, I trusted few people in my entire professional career, and I believe that happened to be a wrong direction, maybe, and I can tell you one thing more; I still do trust, and I find it easy to trust anyone. That’s maybe in my nature, but sometimes too much trust can put you in a bad spot. It happened to me 3 or 4 times.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

For any entrepreneur, the simple advice will be to look around yourself, find a problem and see if you can get a solution for that even if you belong to an agriculture family, if you see there are problems like we have in Pakistan, backward areas, villages, that don’t have the technology and they don’t even have machines for agriculture.

You being an entrepreneur seeing these problems, you can come up with a solution. We have seen so many people out there in Pakistan, especially in the Thar area. We have seen that people who are without electricity have started using green technology, with solar panels and whatnot. These are the things that are going to change everything for the entrepreneur himself and the people there too. And if you see any problem around you, try to resolve that. That’s all that entrepreneurship is.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Dinner with my wife. A date that we recently had.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

It is basically Gsuite; I can’t spend my day without spreadsheets, presentations – the entire Gsuite and Gmail. This is a very integral part of my professional life. And G suite, it is.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking.
I read this because of my keen interest in mathematics and physics. This book is for those who wish to explore the mindset of the most prominent men of science and for those who want to discover the questions they ask in their quest for answers. This book will not disappoint you.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is from APJ Abdul Kalam: “A dream is not the thing you see in your sleep – it is that thing that doesn’t let you sleep.” So, I believe in this quote, and I think everyone should put this in front of their table. And this is a statement that has always inspired me.

Key Learnings:

  • Things that bring ideas to life: Discussions, brainstorming, and execution. You must brainstorm with the people you believe can give your productive advice.
  • One technology that is going to change the course of life: Blockchain tech.
  • A habit that makes you productive as an entrepreneur: Never give up. And if you fail at something and have a tendency to pivot your idea and not give up, you’re good.
  • Entrepreneurial advice: Hire smart people, hire people smarter than yourself.
  • A strategy that has helped you grow your business: Building processes, and communicating with my people.