Teenager plans online business empire

Anas Hameed, 17, is already harnessing the power of the internet to take his first steps on the road to becoming a self-made millionaire.

ABU DHABI // He is just 17 and recently took his A-levels, but Anas Hameed is already harnessing the power of the internet to take his first steps on the road to becoming a self-made millionaire.

It is a month since Anas launched an online division of Luxury Flowers, a chain of 12 florists in Dubai and Sharjah. So far, he has been investing his time heavily in taking orders and marketing his business. But in hard cash, he has spent a mere US$10 (Dh36.7) for the right to register anasflowers.shopmarkaz.com as a going concern online. And whenever the site makes a sale - there have been only one or two a week so far - Anas takes a 15 per cent cut.

Anas, who is from Pakistan, attended several high schools before completing his secondary education with private tutors. He has applied to several schools to study business and administration but does not yet know where he will go. "I want to study as much as possible, but also work for myself," he said. "You never become a millionaire if you work for someone else." He dreams of gaining an MBA from Harvard University and ultimately, making it onto Forbes' annual list of the world's richest people. "Now it is much easier than generations before me, because we have the internet," he said.

"There is so much potential to make money online." The web is launching a new generation of like-minded businessmen, said Mehdhi Hassan, the president of the Pakistan Business Council. "The internet is having a significant impact. There is a shift now. Young people fresh out of college are no longer waiting for employers. "They are getting more active, not simply within their own field but in anything they can put value to.

"How successful people are is another matter, but the issue of using the internet in business is contagious. It is catching on." Anas' brainchild was to identify an established business for which he could set up an online outlet, hitting on Luxury Flowers for his first venture, as it is owned by a family friend. Although there are already flower shops selling their goods online, he is not aware of anyone doing it in the same way.

Starting a business online was "so easy", said Anas. "Much easier than I thought it would be." And Anas is certainly not resting on his laurels. His next venture is to set up an online shop to sell imported iPhones and iPads. "There is a huge market for them in the UAE at the moment," he said. "It's not set up yet, but we are hoping to do this in the very near future. We hope they can go for a high price and it will be a success." Anas gained some early encouragement at a private session with an online entrepreneur, Amir Anzur, who used to work at Abu Dhabi Education Council.

"If you understand how the internet can help you, then you can make money," said Mr Anzur, 33, a British Pakistani. "Few people in this region appreciate its power." Mr Anzur, who moved to Dubai in 2007 to work for the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, and later founded the Dubai-based Webpreneur University, will hold his first weekend group seminar later this month. Another of his proteges, Shirley Roeloffze, 63, a South African motivational speaker, was hired three years ago by the Abu Dhabi Government to coach hundreds of its senior managers.

In recent weeks she has transferred her own business online - at minimal cost - after advice from Mr Anzur. "I am not someone who has ever used social media," she said. "I don't want to tell the world what I am doing every day. "But I realised the huge marketing significance of programmes like LinkedIn and Facebook. It was transforming." aseaman@thenational.ae