• Home
  • Media
  • Tax Blog
  • My Journey with Apna Tax: A true story, with a few tweaks to protect the innocent

My Journey with Apna Tax: A true story, with a few tweaks to protect the innocent

If you’re a middle-class professional, a “journey” is a struggle to balance your travel plans with your budget, your family’s preferences and your (dwindling) vacation days.  But there’s another journey, the one taking you out of safe employment (banking!) and into something more unorthodox (i.e. more risky):  the leap into the unknown is 1% adrenaline and 99% rude awakenings.  More about this later.

Not too long ago, I found myself as a newly-minted management consultant “advising” a fintech startup during the early days of the pandemic.  In a series of unlikely events, I was soon the first employee of said startup, with the imposing title of Chief Operating Officer, an ever-evolving job description and the simple task of getting more people to file their income tax returns… “simple” in a country of over 200 million, with around 3 million registered tax filers.  Imagine all that “upside potential”… how hard could it be?

Be patient:  everything takes longer than it ought to

Rude awakening no. 1:  When you’re accustomed to working for long-established market-leading banks, you enjoy a bit of bargaining power.  No surprise – this is not the case for startups, no matter how enthusiastic or persistent or worthy.  Suddenly it’s a struggle to get an appointment.  Close friends, social acquaintances, former colleagues and complete strangers are all quite happy to prioritize other things.  Still, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that huge effort goes into hitting each milestone, and the world operates on its own schedule, not yours.  The rewards lie in the distance, after you pass through several learning curves.

Understanding consumer behavior:  art, science or black magic?

Rude awakening no. 2:  Your deep analytical insights and creative messaging are no match for consumer indifference.  And in the case of this particular startup, a lot of our early prospects seemed to prefer death to taxes!  So in the best traditions of early stage startups, we went back to the drawing board to redraw, rewrite and reprogram – and hopefully get some kind of attention. 

And slowly and steadily, the responses have come and the one thing every paying customer has had in common is that our products and services have aligned with very specific pain points.  Every client interaction provides a fresh learning opportunity, and some of my favorite “aha!” moments included speaking to a struggling chef, a social startup founder, an upper-middle-class housewife and a panicked retiree.  The voice of the customer matters.

Top ten things I’ve added to my CV during the pandemic

Rude awakening no. 3:  Your “fancy” credentials from a previous life will only take you so far.  So, apart from the odd useful skill I brought with me, I acquired plenty of new ones on the job:  Hardware procurement; Logistics (i.e. delivering the procured hardware); Legal documentation preparation and review; UI and UX testing; Elevator pitch delivery (intermediate level); Vendor management; Intellectual property management; Social media content creation; Writing press releases; and of course… Preparing personal income tax returns! 

And as we push ahead toward our ambitious goals, I’m planning to add plenty of new lines to the CV.

My lightbulb moment

This startup was born out of another (fairly famous) person’s lightbulb moment; the “eureka” moment for me was a small and very personal experience.  In the midst of frantic activity at the end of last tax season, I had to find time to prepare my own return.  Naturally, I had full access to our brilliant new tax app, whose every pixel and process I’d already tested dozens of times.  It led to the realization that we had actually built something that solved several real-world problems of my own, complete with access to world-class guidance and advice.  I could not have anticipated the peace of mind that followed my first self-filed online tax return, and I’m prone to spontaneous evangelizing as a result!

Company culture

To put it succinctly (one of our co-founders’ favorite words), our culture is evolving.  We’ve used equal parts improvisation, inspiration and fight-or-flight response, always as a team and always with brutal candor.  Early in the proceedings, an unnamed colleague did let it slip that I was nowhere near the kind of COO the company needed (he may have softened his stance since then).

I would be the first to admit this all sounds a bit chaotic and unstructured.  We do want to resist, for now, a command-and-control structure (let’s wait till our headcount crosses into double digits).  Our core team members wear many hats and often have shared or overlapping responsibilities.  This has provided us with many many accidental discoveries and a few self-corrections – I’ll even use that overused term “synergy.” 

Personally, I was most surprised by the fact that experience is far less important when building a team than I’d assumed.  Nothing beats the motivation to solve problems, and the willingness to learn new things in the process.

The secret ingredient of our culture is the camaraderie of our tightly knit group, which has endured everything that it encountered I’m happy to say.

What keeps me up at night

There are plenty of “generic” concerns to obsess over - How do we future-proof our products and services? How do we keep our team cohesive? How do we adapt to changing conditions? How do we retain our bootstrapped independence?  But nothing trumps complacency.

Complacency is our no. 1 enemy.  Bootstrapping means you sharpen your survival instincts every day, and it can be comforting to allow yourself to ease off the gas in a given area.  This is deadly:  we might congratulate ourselves for behaving like an innovative and disruptive startup, and meanwhile our competitors are running away with market share. 

We rely on each other to keep from falling into that trap.

How my perspective has evolved

In contrast to my earlier life in the predictable and well-established world of banking, I have recently been through multiple instances of “character building.”  I wasn’t prepared for the extent of personal development that’s required in startup life, as you’re always operating well outside your (presumed) comfort zone.  Adapting to and dealing with ambiguity is a must, and you’ll end up with less of a “discomfort zone” as a result.

Another evolutionary change is the emergence of a resilient, Zen-like calm in the face of big challenges.  I’ve gotten used to hearing the word “no” and the sound of closing doors.  As it turns out, some of the most receptive, supportive encounters I’ve had were with other startups.

What’s next

We include words like “democratize”, “transform” and “revolutionize” in our literature – and we definitely believe in our mission.  Big things are right around the corner.  Watch this space!

Comments powered by CComment

Digital Tax Services (Pvt.) Ltd
Mezzanine - II, Faiyaz Center, 3-A SMCHS, Shahrah-e-Faisal, Karachi, Pakistan
Tel: +92 (0) 304 11 12 829 [+92 (0) 304 11 12 TAX] 

Copyright © 2021 Digital Tax Services (Pvt.) Ltd.

Privacy PolicyTerms of Service

DTSL Privacy Policy

This website, http://apna-tax.com (the "Website") is owned and controlled by Digital Tax Services (Private) Limited ("DTSL").

By visiting the Website, you accept and agree to the practices described in this privacy policy (the "Privacy Policy"). This Privacy Policy explains how and why we use your personal data when you visit our Website. DTSL respects the privacy of visitors/surfers/ users and clients to its Website and advises all users and clients to read and understand our Privacy Policy. DTSL reserves the right to amend the Privacy Policy in accordance with the terms hereunder.

When you visit this Website, DTSL may collect personal data about you by asking you to provide the data directly or may gather and analyse information regarding usage of this Website by you, including domain name, the number of hits, the pages visited by you, previous/subsequent sites visited and length of user session. DTSL is committed to safeguarding all data collected hereunder and will only use such data for the purposes set forth in this Privacy Policy in respect of the Website.

Cookie Policy

Our Website uses cookies.  A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers that we put on your computer if you agree.These cookies allow us to distinguish you from other users of the Website and helps us provide you with a good experience when you browse our Website and also allow us to improve our Website.  We use cookies to provide anonymised tracking data to third party applications.

You may at any time disable cookies on our Website.  This may be done by disabling cookies on your browser.  If you do not disable cookies on our Website, we will assume you have agreed to the use of cookies on our Website as described in this Privacy Policy.

Collecting Personal Information

DTSL collects and uses only personal information and data about individuals that is necessary to conduct its regular business.Where our processing of your personal data is based on your consent, you have the right to withdraw your consent at any time. If you do decide to withdraw your consent we will stop processing your personal data for that purpose, unless there is another lawful basis we can rely on – in which case, we will let you know. Your withdrawal of your consent won’t impact any of our processing up to that point.

We may collect, use store and transfer the following types of personal information/ data about you which includes but is not limited to:

  • contact information (name, title, address, email and telephone numbers);
  • identity information (date of birth, gender, marital status).

Using Client Information

DTSL may use personally identifiable data collected through our Website to:

  • Contact users/clients regarding products and services offered by DTSL (provided you have not opted out of receiving such communication).
  • Enhance users’ experience.
  • Improve the effectiveness of the Website and of our marketing efforts.

Use it for the purpose of research analysis, advertising, sales, marketing, including to producing statistical research and reports.

Maintaining and Protecting Client Information

DTSL recognizes that the proper use and safeguarding of personal information is an important responsibility. DTSL makes every effort to ensure that clients’ personal information is properly usedand safeguarded with industry standard security measures (as required by applicable data protection laws) and to protect your personal data from unlawful or unauthorised processing and accidental loss, destruction or damage.DTSL stores and manages clients’ personal information, endeavouring to keep it current and accurate, whilst employing appropriate security measures and safeguards to prevent data leakages.

DTSL also maintains necessary supervision and oversight of resources deployed on the Website who handle personal information.


Disclosure of Information

DTSL may disclose information that it has collected from clients to affiliates and business partners who may use the information for the purposes outlined above and/ or to carry out certain business functions for DTSL and we may disclose your personal data to these parties so that they can perform such functions. DTSL may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data, based on information collected from users, to investors and potential partners. Finally, DTSL may transfer information collected in connection with a sale of our products and services.  Other than the foregoing, DTSL does NOT disclose personal information to third parties without clients’ consent, unless compelled by law to do so.

Before we disclose your personal data to other people, we will make sure that they have appropriate security standards in place to make sure your personal data is protected and we will enter into a written contract imposing appropriate security standards on them. Examples of these third party service providers include service providers and/or sub-contractors, such as our information technology support, back up and server hosting providers.

Duration of Data Retention

We will retain and hold your personal information/ data during the period of your relationship with us and thereafter for as long as  is necessary for the purposes of conducting our business.  The length of time for which we retain personal information/ data depends on the purposes for which we collected and use it and/or as required to comply with applicable laws.

Third Party Sites

While using the Website, you may, from time to time, encounter hypertext links to the pages of organizations not directly affiliated with DTSL, websites of our partner networks and/ or advertisers. If you follow a link to any of these websites, please note that DTSL does not control the content or information practices of any external organizations and is not responsible for the content and/ or privacy standard. All visitors/ customers are recommended to review the privacy statements of these third party sites/organizations​​​​​​​ before submitting any personal data to these websites.


DTSL reserves the right to amend and modify this Privacy Policy or any part thereof at any time, taking into account new developments in information technology, evolving standards and practices and any other relevant factors. Through these efforts, we aim to improve management of clients’ personal information in a more efficient manner. Any changes to the Privacy Policy will become effective when the revised Privacy Policy is posted on and/ or updated on theWebsite. Your continued use of the Website after such notice constitutes your consent to the amendments/ modification.

We encourage visitors/clients to periodically review our Website for any updates / changes to this Privacy Policy.

DTSL Website Terms of Use

Any use of www.apna-tax.com (this "Website") is governed by the following disclaimer. By using or accessing this Website, visitors to this Website consent to and agree to be bound by the following:


The terms of this disclaimer (hereinafter referred to as "Disclaimer") apply to this Website which Website belongs to Digital Tax Services (Private) Limited ("DTSL"), whose principal place of business is located at 202 Q Block 2, PECHS, Karachi, Pakistan.

By accessing and using this Website and / or using the information provided on or via this Website you agree to be bound by this Disclaimer. In the event of any conflict between the terms and conditions of specific products and services that are offered by DTSL and this Disclaimer, the conditions specific to such products and services shall prevail.​

Use of this Website

The information provided on or via this Website should not be used as a substitute for any form of advice. Any decisions based on the information provided through this Website are to be made by the user at their own risk.
Although DTSL attempts to provide accurate, complete and up-to-date information, which has been obtained from sources that are considered reliable. DTSL makes no representations and disclaims all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind to you or any third party, including, but not limited to, representations and warranties regarding accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose or as to whether the information provided on or via this Website is accurate, complete or up-to-date. DTSL assumes no responsibility for the consequences of any errors or omissions.

No opinion, advice or statement of DTSL, or any affiliate, or their respective suppliers, agents members, officers, directors, employees, representatives, whether made on this Website or otherwise, shall create any warranty. You assume total responsibility and risk for your use of this Website and your reliance thereon.

DTSL controls and maintains this Website from Pakistan and makes no representation that the information provided on or via this Website is appropriate or available for use in other countries. If you use this Website from other countries, you are responsible for compliance with applicable local laws.

DTSL does not represent or warrant that this Website will function without any error or service interruption(s).

Use of this Website in a manner that may hinder the use of other users, that can or may endanger / jeopardize the functioning of this Website and/or affect the information provided on or via this Website or the underlying software, is not permitted.

We may suspend, withdraw, discontinue or change all or any part of our Website at any time without notice to you. We will not be liable if for any reason our Website are unavailable at any time for any period. You are responsible for any arrangements necessary for you to have access to our Website. You are responsible to ensure that all persons who access our Website through your internet connection are also aware of these terms of use, and that they comply with them.

By using our Website, you confirm that you accept the terms of use of the Website and that you agree to comply with them. If you do not agree to these terms of use, you must refrain from using our Website and/ or availing any service that is provided under this Website.

These terms of use also refer to our Privacy Policy, which applies to your use of our Website.

You may use our Website only for lawful purposes. You must not use our Website: (i) in any way that breaches any applicable local, national laws, rules and regulations; (ii) in any way that is unlawful or fraudulent, or has any unlawful or fraudulent purpose or effect; (iii) in any manner that is offensive or abusive; (iv) to transmit, or procure the sending of, any unsolicited or unauthorised advertising or promotional material or any other form of similar solicitation (spam); and (v) to gain unauthorized access, interfere with, damage or disrupt by any means our Website, network, software and/ or servers on which our Website is hosted.

Intellectual Property

DTSL, or the relevant owner, retains all rights (including copyrights, trademarks, patents, conceptual property rights as well as any other intellectual property rights) in relation to all information provided on or via this Website (including all texts, graphics and logos). You may not copy, download, publish, distribute or reproduce any of the information contained on this Website in any form without the prior written consent of DTSL or the appropriate consent of the owner. However, you may print and/or download information contained on this Website for your own personal use. Creation or copies of links to DTSL Websites are not permitted without the prior written consent of DTSL​​​​.Marks identifying third parties are owned or licensed by those third parties or their associated companies. Nothing in these terms of use in any way confers on you any licence or right under any trade marks, names or logos.

You may not use any of our proprietary marks or information displayed on our Website or any other marketing materials. You must not use any part of the content on our Website for commercial purposes without obtaining a licence to do so from us or our licensors. If you print off, copy or download any part of our Website in breach of these terms, your right to use our Website will cease immediately and you must, at our option, return or destroy any copies of the materials you have made.

Communication Online

Messages that you send to DTSL by e-mail may not be secure. DTSL recommends that you do not send any confidential information to DTSL by email. If you choose to send any messages to DTSL via email, you accept the risk that they may be intercepted, misused and/or modified by a third party.

Exclusion of Liability

Neither DTSL nor any of its agents or subcontractors shall be liable for any direct, indirect, special, incidental, consequential, punitive, or exemplary damages, including loss of profits (even if DTSL is advised of the possibility thereof) arising in any way from, including but not limited to, (i) any defects, viruses or any other malfunctions caused to any equipment or other software in connection with access or use of this Website, (ii) the information provided on or via this Website, (iii) the interception, modification or misuse of information transmitted to DTSL or transmitted to you, (iv) the functioning or non-availability of this Website, (v) the misuse of this Website, (vi) the loss of data, (vii) downloading or use of any software made available by this Website, or (viii) claims of third parties in connection with the use of this Website. The exclusion of liability is also made for the benefit of directors and employees of DTSL. The foregoing shall apply regardless of whether a claim arises in contract, tort, (including negligence) breach of statutory duty, strict liability or otherwise​.

In addition, we will not be liable or responsible for any delay or failure to perform any of the obligations due to events or other matter that are beyond or reasonable control.

Please note that we only provide our services through our Website for users who wish to file their taxes in Pakistan through us.

Applicable Law

This Website and its Disclaimer shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Pakistan. All disputes arising out of or in connection with this Disclaimer shall be submitted to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Pakistan


DTSL reserves the right to change the information provided on or via this Website, including the terms of this Disclaimer, at any time and without notice. It is recommended that you review the information provided on or via this Website, including the terms of this Disclaimer, periodically for changes.​The revised terms will be effective, and will be binding on you from the date that they are posted on our Website.If you continue to use our Website and/or avail our services, you will be deemed to have accepted the amended terms.We may update our Website from time to time and may change the content at any time. We do not guarantee that our Website or any other content that we provide on our Website will always be up to date at any given time and error or omission free.

All content on this site is Copyright 2021 Digital Tax Services (Pvt) Ltd.​