MISSED your favourite band’s concert because you didn’t know about it until after everything was done and dusted? Is a reputed theatre group finally touring your city but don’t know where to buy the tickets from? What if there was a one-stop shop where you could find all the information and do bookings for events? That’s exactly what Happening.pk, a startup from Karachi, is offering.
Happening is a discovery portal for events where you can check what’s going in your city and stay in the know. Just download the app (or go to the website), sign up, choose your interests – ranging from concerts to workshops – and see all that’s taking place around you. You can filter by category, time period and the city. No more flipping through the newspaper (to the four people who still read them) to find what your town is up to.
The portal also lets you buy tickets for the listed events there and then, using a simple form asking for some details. At the moment, they don’t have any online payment channel integrated so all tickets are paid through cash on delivery (CoD).
That’s not all though. The startup also has a B2B segment for organisers who can view ticket sales and attendance – via a dedicated app – in addition to instantly managing electronic check-ins via system-generated QR codes.
The startup was founded in 2014 by Faizan Laghari. However, he sidelined it to focus on his other company Forrun. “A few months after founding Happening, I ventured into logistics business to essentially manage the former’s cash on delivery needs but very early on, we got major clients like Foodpanda and EatOye and soon after raised money from Arpatech Ventures. Then I felt more responsibility towards Forrun and went slow on the other one,” he recalls.
“By late 2016, I pulled myself out of that and joined TCS as the Chief Disruption Officer, managing their Hazir service as well as e-commerce operations. But then we slowly started reviving Happening and a few months ago, I left my job to pursue this and also founded rnnr – a sister company looking after the logistics needs of the ticketing business, along with catering to the general B2B segment,” Faizan adds.
The local ticketing space is largely catered by booking platforms such as the likes of EasyTickets and Bookme.pk. Even though primarily focused on cinema and bus reservations, both companies do offer events ticketing and have a handful of clients too.
The industry is also manned by the global giant Eventbrite – a New York-listed company which allows users to browse, create and promote events and has a market capitalisation of over one and a half billion dollars – which has some takers here in the major cities, even if largely for free entry.
In that backdrop, how does Happening stack up against both the local and foreign rivals? “You can think of us as the Eventbrite of Pakistan where people can create events and manage their own ticketing, requiring only approval from our end. As compared to the local startups in this business, the key difference is digitisation on the backend which lets organisers do check-ins seamlessly through their app plus the cash on delivery option, which is the primary mode of transaction,” Laghari explains. Meanwhile the discovery part is barely untapped by anyone else.
As for the business model, Happening charges a commission to the organiser on each booking made through its portal, plus a flat convenience fee to the end customer which helps plug the cost of despatch, logistics and other services. To this day, the startup has been internally funded and the CEO has no plans to external monetary support for it either.
“Happening doesn’t have a fixed cost as such so we aren’t really seeking any injection here but our sister logistics service, rnnr, does have an in-house fleet for which we definitely do need money in order to survive,” says Laghari.
How strange does it sound that even in 2019 – when the flag bearers of tech ecosystem have been speaking of a boom in the sector for a while now – we have a ticketing company depending on CoD? Shouldn’t the process be seamless where I can just pay online and get my reservations through email?
“The event organisers are still not open to this… even with QR codes, many are not yet comfortable and prefer physical tickets so we end up delivering them anyhow,” the CEO says. Meanwhile, the lack of penetration severely limits the usage of digital payment channels – not exceeding eight per cent according to Faizan – makes CoD the primary mode, thus necessitating the need for a reliable logistics partner – the in-house rnnr in this case.
So the right formula seems to be in place already but whether Happening will continue grabbing the focus remains to be seen.
The writer is member of staff:
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2019