Tune.pk is Pakistan’s biggest homegrown video sharing website run by individuals all residing in Pakistan and – as they proudly proclaim – none of them have dual nationalities. The website has been growing steadily and now boasts a user base of greater than 25,000 who have combined to upload more than 200,000 videos which results in approximately 650,000 visitors each day. These are hugely promising numbers and set a nice precedent for aspiring technopreneurs.
PakStarted got in touch with the CEO of Tune.pk, Arslan Hassan, to listen to their story and how its establishing its presence in the technology startup sector in Pakistan.
PakStarted: How did you come up with the idea of starting Tune.pk? When did you start working on the site and when did you launch it for public?
Arslan: Back in the end of 2007, when both Youtube and Facebook were yet to take off in Pakistan, we had thought of setting up our own website tune.pk. It was around the end of December when I finished working on ClipBucket version 1.0 - the platform upon which Tune.pk stands. We were not able to make it run successfully initially as not many people were interested in watching videos online at the time nor did we have enough capital for better infrastructure. But we kept updating it and re-launching every year and in the end of 2012 when there was no Youtube, Tune.pk made its first big impact.
PakStarted: Tell us about tools and technologies that you have used to come up with Tune.pk.
Arslan: It took us almost five years to fully acquire skills needed to run a video sharing website and we highly encourage using open-source projects as we did for Tune.pk. We chose ClipBucket v2.6 as the underlying platform, used PHP and MySQL for the application, caching using Memcache, Elasticsearch for search and Redis for stats. We also implemented static caching for embedding and relied on FFmpeg and MP4Box for encoding videos. This was running on CentOS.
PakStarted: There are lots of video sharing websites on the internet. Tell us about how and why you started tune.pk and what differentiates it from the rest?
Arslan: We consider other video sharing websites as competitors and we are always looking for a weakness. Tune.pk is different from other similar websites because we believe all religions deserve respect, and therefore would not allow any content which would ridicule and/or make fun of any religion – something where we feel a giant such as YouTube has failed.
Even though our development is a bit slow, we are looking to introduce geo-level trending videos specifically for Pakistan. This means you will be able to see what videos are trending for Karachi, Lahore and so on.
Our revenue system is taking time but our payment terms will be better than others and we will always respect our Publishers.
Ultimately though, we strongly believe that if you have a good service, you are always in with a chance to win. That is why we have made sure that our video streaming service is better than many others.
And by the way, our first and last slogan will always be “Tuning Pakistan Worldwide”.
PakStarted: What operational and administrative challenges did you face while trying to establish tune.pk?
Arslan: Honestly speaking, our experience in the past 8 months is worth much more than the experience of the last 4 years as it was the first time we had so much traffic on our website and we had to make sure everything is up and running. Luckily, our team was able to handle everything on time.
Our first challenge was to optimize Tune.pk enough to handle millions of users a day. Initially, we had no idea how to do that. During the first month, the servers had to be rebooted during peak times. In order to fix this issue, we decided to optimize the code, installed caching and separated all the services like embedding, statistics and so on. This allowed us to deliver a far more smoother experience.
The second challenge we had was to make sure our streaming is smooth for users and is running on all devices. It took us around four months to find the best location for streaming in Pakistan, and now we now have around 12 streaming servers out fo which eight are as front end and the other four act as archive servers.
Throughout, Electricity has been a major problem.
From a coding perspective, since we had already been working on ClipBucket from past many years, therefore it was not very difficult for us to get Tune.pk up and running as everything that you see on Tune.pk was already available in ClipBucket, and all that we had to do was to optimize code for higher traffic.
PakStarted: How did you go about forming a team and what is the current team composition?
Arslan: Tune.pk was founded by me and my big brother, Jahanzeb Hassan. My big brother is actually the one who encouraged me to make the product and backed me at every step.
After our first release, we moved into an office and gradually formed a team. I am currently leading the development and design teams, Jahanzeb looks after the financial stuff and resource management, Muneeb Janjua is the person responsible for our mobile apps, Shahzaib Mushtaq takes care of our servers while Zunair is our webadmin. We also have Danish who joined us at a later stage as our Marketing Manager. Besides these fellows, we’ve got Fawaz Tahir who has helped me a lot as a developer by adding awesome features in ClipBucket. Finally, we’ve got Ruman and Zomail who take care of the testing.
PakStarted: How are you guys monitoring privacy and stopping piracy on Tune.pk?
Arslan: This might scare some people but the reality is that privacy does not exist on the internet.
We keep removing stuff that we think that is not suitable for the audience OR has content which should be kept private. However, we realise that once any content is deleted from Tune.pk, it will be available somewhere else.
We intend to introduce guidelines for our community that will instruct users on how to become a better community, what to upload, how to share and how to report.
As far as piracy is concerned, I don’t think it can be stopped. As I said earlier, even if Tune.pk removes any content, it is bound to show up on some other website. We instead came up with the idea of channelizing copyrighted content so that at the end of the day the one who actually owns the content has everything. An example of this is our partnership with HumTV. Whenever someone uploads their content, instead of deleting it, we just push it to their account. The reason they agreed on this is because they also realise that piracy cannot be stopped, but based on our channelizing strategy, they are able to retain ownership and control over any content uploaded which belongs to them.
Unfortunately, the same method was rejected by media outlets in Hollywood and Bollywood, so we have no choice but to delete videos as soon as we receive an email from them. In addition to this, we are also working on an auto-copyright detection system which would use the title of the video to search the database for any matches. If a match is found with a copyrighted content, it will be flagged immediately as well as automatically reported for violation of the piracy rule.
PakStarted: Tell us about the existing user base of Tune.pk and what kind of engagement it drives?
Arslan: We have around 30,000 ( around 60% of which are males) registered users who can upload, rate videos, create playlists and subscribe to other users. They can also report videos if they find them offensive or whatever the reason they choose.
There are features in the pipeline such as profiling / PM / posts and so on which are not yet available as the development team is still working on them, but these are the big social features that will be available in a month or two.
PakStarted: Is Tune.pk a completely web-based entity or do you guys have some sort of office space?
PakStarted: What does the future hold for Tune.pk?
Arslan: We are ready for 3G and we believe that if we keep working hard, Tune.pk will be on top in 6 ~ 8 months in Pakistan. Tune.pk will not just be a video sharing website, but it will be way bigger!
What you see now is roughly about 20% of our full plan.
PakStarted: What is your opinion about running a technology oriented business and investment opportunities in Pakistan? Are there enough opportunities here for newcomers?
Arslan: It is tough to run a business in Pakistan, especially when we still have to deal with power outages. On top of that, we’re still lagging behind in terms of online payments as there are a lot of restrictions from other countries/services.
Unfortunately, not many people want to invest on your ideas so its just you, your passion and your dedication. Although Pakistan is full of opportunities for everyone, problem is many give up easily. In an environment such as Pakistan’s, it is imperative that you believe in yourself and the product/service you are developing. This combined with the ability to keep on working, might just be enough to help you to reach the promised land.
PakStarted: How do you think technological innovation can help and contribute towards Pakistan’s progress as a nation?
Arslan: I think will really help Pakistan to grow and become better. We can build our own platforms so that we do not have to rely on other countries and agree on their terms. China is an excellent example in this case.
Technology lets you connect and understand, and possesses the power to change mindset of masses.
PakStarted: What is your take on the entrepreneurial spirit in younger generation of Pakistan?
Arslan: We sincerely believe that Allah helps those, who help themselves. This tells us that unless we’re willing to take responsibility of our country and contribute towards its progress, Pakistan will remain handicapped. Pakistan needs its youth to step up and drive the progress of the nation through its entrepreneurial spirit.
PakStarted: What advice you want to give to other aspiring entrepreneurs of Pakistan?
Arslan: Never, ever, ever, quit on your dreams. If you want to make a car, aim for an airplane and expect a bicycle. You will definitely end up with something good!
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