Sixteen years old Raffay Ansari is not a new name in the world of IT and Entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Raffay is a self taught programmer, a well-earning freelancer and a master of several languages.  He is the youngest intern at Plan9 and also serves as the Vice President of Technology at two firms, Rekky and Findr.

Rekky is a personalized and exclusive yelp  for foodies. I am working as a vice president of Technology at Rekky. It is one of my notable achievements that Rekky has over 10,000 registered users. Whereas Findr is an upcoming surprise.

We got an opportunity of having a talk with Raffay Let us see what he has to say

I have been able to achieve so much at such a young age because of the support of my family. They encouraged me to come out of my shell.
Q: Hi Raffay, please tell us something about your family?

A: Well, I have a pretty cool family. We are four siblings, my mother is a professional baker while my father is a consultant at sugar firms.

Q: We heard you hacked the app “TapTalk” at the Plan9 Launchpad event, can you remember that day?

A: Yeah, I did that. I reverse engineered the app within 15 minutes and downloaded their whole database. All of the experts sitting there were surprised.

TapTalk is a global android app that allows users to instantly exchange photo and video messages with their friends and family. Raffay reverse engineered the app and hacked it within a few minutes at the Plan9 Launchpad event.

Q: But why did you do that?

A: I did that because at the event, the “TapTalk” officials were claiming that their app is very secure, I wanted to show them that it’s not so I simply hacked it.

Q: Was that a proud moment? What did your parents say about it?

A: Yes, that was a very proud moment. My parents were a little afraid of me that I have started hacking. But I do it as a side project now, for recreational purposes only.

Raffay Ansari learnt coding from free online courses, mainly from Code Academy. His parents were first reluctant to encourage him to pursue this activity but soon his passion convinced them.

Q: What are your activities these days?

A: Besides serving  at Rekky and Findr, I provide technical assistance to startups at Plan9. Also, I am working on two startup ideas ; Odyssi and Skadana.Odyssi is a drag and drop website builder, with a few tweaks and workarounds, the user will be able to use his CMS to build a website and/or manage it. While Skadana is Pakistan’s first music record label and artist promoting agency. At Skadana we will be releasing, marketing and promoting music.

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Raffay working at Plan9.

Q: This is wonderful. Where do all these innovative ideas come from?

A: I believe in spirituality. They give me motivation and are a reason behind my innovative ideas.

Raffay suffers from a rare disease called Ataxia in which a person loses control over his bodily movements.
Q: In our discussion before the interview you told us about the disease, Ataxia, that you are suffering from. How has it affected you and are there any particular social challenges that you have to face because of this?

A: Yes, I’m suffering from this disease. Ataxia involves a lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movement. As a result, I cannot sleep for more than 2-4 hours each day. But I take it completely positive. I find extra time for learning coding and have been able to achieve much more than my age fellows. The disease has actually made me learn a lot of things. I feel I can learn from people much quicker.

Q: How do you spend your free time?

A: I watch documentaries and read useful stuff. I pick up high level university books, that even most graduates cannot understand, and study these books to grab the knowledge.  Recently, I watched a documentary on Steve Jobs.

Q: Do you idealize Steve Jobs?

A: Yes, no doubt! I admire him as a role model. He has this weird aura around him and constantly reminds me of how perfect one should be.

Q: Do you believe in perfectionism? Do you think it’s possible in a country like ours where people just run from their duties and fear responsibilities?

A: I desire perfectionism because I think it’s possible in my field. What I am doing now, I know I’m doing it perfectly.

Q: You are working with people who are nearly double your age. Has the “age factor” ever influenced your work? Did any of the people hesitate to give you work becasuse they thought you were young?

A: All of the companies, that I have worked for, have always appreciated my work. They sign me for their projects because I deliver them quality work. I am doing things that are alien to many elder people in the tech industry.

Raffay Ansari has been featured at various platform. He was the winner of “Ideas Extreme” held at FAST University (Lahore) and recently he also delivered a TEDx talk at UET (Lahore).

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Raffay while delivering the TEDx Talk at UET Lahore

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I have many plans for future. Sometimes I think of going for a dual degree in Business and Technology and sometimes I think of becoming a school dropout and joining Silicon Valley. 

Q: Why would you want to be a school dropout?

A: Because the pedagogy system of the Pakistani schools is way behind. A lot of universities still teach old programming languages. People can easily do online courses now and therefore learn for free. I don’t really see the point of paying 70k plus taxes for more tension, stress and depression.

To sum it up, here is my favorite lyric from the song One Headlight – The Wallflowers:

Well this place is old
It feels just like a beat up truck
I turn the engine, but the engine doesn’t turn
Well it smells of cheap wine & cigarettes
This place is always such a mess
Sometimes I think I’d like to watch it burn

 

Q: Would you like to thank anyone who helped you in your journey?

A: Yes I would especially like to thank two people; My Uncle, Mr.Farrukh  who equipped me with tech skills and shared his wisdom along the way and my mentor, Nabeel A. Qadeer, who has been more of a big brother and helped me reach these milestones. I wouldn’t have accomplished so much without him.

Raffay believes that the reason behind success is the curiosity to learn, the desire to know oneself and the coming out of one’s comfort zone.

Thankyou Raffay. We wish Raffay goodluck for his future plans and hope that he continues to make Pakistan proud with his exceptional tech skills.

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About the author

Saneea Imran

Saneea loves to discover and document the booming startup culture in Pakistan. She freelances with Daastan and likes to talk about public health, nutrition and lifestyles.

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