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Wheeling into Leadership: Yumna Ahmed's Unstoppable Drive at ezBike!

Wheeling into Leadership: Yumna Ahmed's Unstoppable Drive at ezBike!

Nani PK |

By Nyle Omar Mian

Meet Yumna Ahmed, the sassy go-getter Chief of Business at ezBike, a force to be reckoned with in Pakistan’s startup space. Yumna's journey began at the age of 16 with an HR training at Abbott Laboratories, setting the stage for her remarkable career. Surrounded by influential women bosses, she imbibed the virtues of headstrong determination and straightforwardness.

Armed with a major in advertising, Yumna pursued her MS while navigating the challenges of full-term pregnancy, welcoming her first child alongside her thesis submission. Throughout this demanding period, her husband stood as a solid pillar of support, taking on household responsibilities to allow her to build her career - a rare scenario even in the Pakistani context!

Yumna's life has been a whirlwind of achievements, from entering grade 1 at the tender age of 5 to working her first job at 16, graduating at 21, and becoming a mother of two at 25. A perpetual sense of urgency has fueled her journey, propelling her through various roles in business development, growth, marketing, retail, and HR.

As a founding member and current CBO at ezBike, Yumna oversees Business Ops and People strategy. Undeterred by a constant need for progress, she's now transitioning towards a full-time Ops and new ventures role, eagerly anticipating the challenges ahead.

This new series of interviews by Nani aims to shed the spotlight on amazing Pakistani women who share their insights about work, motherhood, and more, providing a platform for their stories to inspire and empower.


 What has your journey with ezBike been like so far Yumna?

ezBike has now become my identity. I sometimes still can't believe that we started from a small cramped up office fresh out of NIC in peak Covid! I strongly believe in the founders and their determination to make this work and I think their grit is what got us through during tough times. We launched electric scooters in a market where electric-run 2-wheelers was an alien concept. This was back in 2020. And the response we got was really overwhelming.

I still remember when we first launched and we are all on the road with our fleet, everyone would stop and ask us; “kitne ki hai?” We felt like roadside vendors selling hot cakes! It took us a while to help people understand the process regarding how they could use the app to pay for the rides. From traveling from markaz to markaz and metro to metro our team of 8-10 core team members are now a fully functioning assembly facility with a capacity of 20,000 vehicles, annually! When you are an early stage startup, it's your core team that builds for the years to come. I am so proud of our engineers, operators, growth hackers, founding members and all my teammates who helped build a dream that later on became a reality. We have done it all from sweeping floors and making sure our vehicles are clean and well-maintained, to filling in for each other, from working in extreme weather conditions in Ramadan to putting in weekends.
There is a mechanic in all of us at ezBike! We have all, at some point, fixed a scooter or gotten a puncture filled.

As a woman in a leadership position, what challenges have you faced in the workplace and how have you overcome them?

We recently had this client who would address me as “khatoon” in a very demeaning way. They made sure that I know that they don’t want to deal with a woman and would say things like; “Hum sirf owners se baat karte hain,” “Khatoon apko kia pata aapki jitni umer hai utna mera tajarba hai” etc. They would ask me technical questions about our scooters and the battery charging mechanism (perhaps assuming I wouldn't know about the technicalities) and just when I would respond, they would ask another question cutting me off.

You meet misogynistic people like this every day. You learn to deal with them and work amongst them. I previously worked as a Zonal Area Manager at Airlift; we had 50 odd workers and almost 100 riders at each warehouse. I looked after 5 warehouses. I learned a lot about my own strength and my thresholds during that time. It takes a certain level of crazy patience to deal with riders and factory workers. They would do strikes, have multiple issues with petrol prices and payouts and what not. My warehouses were the only ones in the region to have peaceful sit-ins. I remember this one time when petrol prices increased overnight and the next day the riders were protesting not to pick orders until their payouts were increased. I calmly held my ground  and addressed them after which things carried out smoothly. This was my formula to calm them down, and I believe this works in every situation and can be applied to life in general while dealing with people and difficult situations:

- Pause and listen
- Process the situation at hand
- Acknowledge it
- Respond with known facts

- Be empathetic
- Define next action steps
- Keep your word and follow through

- Follow-up to see progress/change.

Did you have mentors or role models who supported you in your career journey? How important is mentorship for women aiming for leadership roles?

I have had women bosses very early on in my career. I have seen them having babies and acing work without breaking a sweat. I am also a firm believer that women and girls today need to find inner strength to deal with things and to grow. Growth and success doesn't come easy and no one is going to walk you through it.

My dad was my biggest role model growing up, he was a doctor and had physical disabilities. He worked two jobs to provide us a comfortable living. I am grateful to him for teaching me everything in life from changing my own car tires, getting the chicken cut from the street side vendor, to dealing with difficult men and people. Growing up I realized he isn’t going to be there forever to save me from things so I had to do a lot of saving myself. I lost him at the age of 19.

Women are unbelievably strong creatures. We are wired differently. We don’t realize our own strength until it’s tested. And a lot of this comes from within only. If you believe you can do something, nothing in the world can stop you from doing it. We can build careers alongside running our homes and looking after our kids. We build teams differently as well. And we sure do a darn great job at it.

I don’t believe that having mentors, especially for women, is a must. It could be life-changing for many regardless of their gender. But the first step to grow into something is to believe in yourself. Be your own mentor. Give yourself a pep talk. Read books, talk to people and observe other people’s journeys. Take that first step and the rest will follow.


What advice would you give to young women starting their careers, especially those aspiring to enter leadership roles in the business world?

Step out of your comfort zone. Do things you are not qualified to do. Take initiatives and don't be afraid of falling face down. Leave the bechari mentality behind. And you will find yourself climbing up the ladder very quickly.

The tech and startup industries are often perceived as male-dominated. How can women challenge and overcome stereotypes in these industries?

I think your work speaks for itself. There is no better way to break and overcome gender stereotypes other than doing GREAT work. Work so hard on yourself and your growth that nothing else matters. Also, it’s extremely important to say things as they are and without hesitance. I think women who speak their mind go very far. And women who tend to shy away from difficult conversations like a salary negotiation, changing roles, claiming your rightful place, sticking to your idea, letting others take credit for your work etc., are usually the ones who stay stuck in a loop where employers and the industry then exploit them because of their gender.

I am a startup generalist and I have had men question my ability all the time. And when they do, my response to them simply is “watch me.”

What's the best piece of advice you ever received during your career?

Build a bullshit filter.’ This helps in identifying in the first 5 mins of conversation if the lead/partnership is worth exploring, if the candidate has the right attitude and is worth hiring, are we equipped to do the task, is the idea big enough to cause a ripple, and is your team ready to take on more. 


1 comment

Ma Sha Allah
Keep it up ❤

Talat Tafseer,

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