Learn the art of gifting from the founder of Tohfay.com and Urban Forest

As co-founder of Tohfay.com, Shahzad Qureshi has been facilitating the exchange of gifts from Pakistanis abroad to their loved ones for over 15 years. Now, he has a gift for his country: a series of locally sustainable forests, nestled in between the concrete jungles of Pakistan.

Watch our interview with this unique entrepreneur to learn how Qureshi and his co-founders built Tohfay.com; how an unusual request sparked a new idea (01:39), growing forests within cities (03:12), investing in the environment (06:16), and his thoughts on cleaning up Pakistan (07:15).

The project, titled ‘Urban Forest,’ uses tree plantation methods developed by well-known Japanese botanist, Dr. Akira Miyawaki, to create dense natural forests in urban areas, with installations currently setup and blooming in Lahore and Karachi. The ‘Miyawaki’ method, as it is known, is characterised by its biodiversity, rapid growth, and low long-term maintenance, including water conservation.

Qureshi is a textile engineer by profession and had spent 15 years in the industry before launching Tohfay.com, with the initial idea of making it easier for Pakistanis abroad to gift local handicrafts to their friends. Soon, they realised that the reverse order of business (gifts from Pakistanis abroad back into the country) was much more in demand, and Tohfay gained popularity as an e-commerce portal.

An unusual request from a client also led Qureshi to launch ‘Mamoo in Pakistan’ – a concierge service for Pakistanis abroad to execute any task in Pakistan – as long as it’s legal. This could mean anything from having official documents attested to organising an event, such as a birthday party or wedding celebration.

For Qureshi, the single most pressing concern is climate change. Hence, caring for the environment is less about passion and more of a necessity borne of inaction.

“How much money have we spent killing this planet?”

Initially, Qureshi received a “lukewarm response” from the corporate sector with respect to Urban Forest. He then went to the public to secure funds, and as a result, Urban Forest now has a vibrant community of concerned citizens backing up the effort.

He is, however, optimistic about progress within the environmental sector, because of a new government which has expressed concern on the subject of climate change in the past and understands the long-term benefits of forests.

Qureshi is currently reading the Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

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