Founder Profile

Zaf Rahaman: Owner, Founder & formerly a one-man show...

My mother had a saying ‘I heard better birds sing’, when I used to tell her of my lofty plans, and this one wasn’t lofty, yet truer words have never been spoken. When I started Forward Multimedia, the goal was to get out of the hard physical work of poultry farming— yes poultry farming!

I was born and raised in Trinidad, and believe it or not, I grew up in my parent’s poultry and meat business. Also believe it or not, it was my father who printed the very first plastic bag with the word ‘Halal’ in Trinidad & Tobago for processed poultry, long before Arawak and Nutrina.

I grew up in a predominantly Muslim environment and family so I was indoctrinated into Islam at an early age, which I’m thankful for. In primary school (Lengua Islamia TIA), I seemed to have a good enough brain to secure a place in the Standard 5 ‘A’ class, which, as you know, was the class to prepare students with the ability to pass for a five-year school in what was then known as the Common Entrance exam (now SEA).

At that time, Presentation College San Fernando was the coveted secondary school of choice, so my parents put that first, and Naparima College second. St. Stephen’s College (Princes Town) was third and Cowen Hamilton (Moruga) rounded out the fourth. My mother’s thinking was that if I didn’t make the marks for the five-year schools, then I’ll be automatically placed in Princes Town Junior Secondary, so no need to put a three-year school choice. Yes, the stigma of ‘Junior Sec’ goes back a long way.

But I didn’t pass for either of my first two choices, I passed for St. Stephen’s College, while my smarter friends passed for ‘Prez’. I started off well in school but eventually slacked off by the time I was in Form 3. I blame Atari for launching the first video games that I exchanged with my classmates. When came time to choose subjects for CXC ‘O’ Levels (now CSEC), my parents chose the science track for me; and what did I know about education? So sciences it was… you know Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Lawd I hated it. I was lost in Physics class the very first day and don’t talk about Chemistry. I just couldn’t make it and dropped all three subjects and sat only the remaining five. Obviously there was nothing to do for the then A Levels (now CAPE), so my parents put me on a one semester intensive study at a private school to do Principles of Accounts and Principles of Business, and in the few short months till next exams (which I sat at Princes Town Senior Comprehensive- now Princes Town West Secondary), these subjects I got!

Though I was accepted for A Levels at Princes Town Senior Comprehensive, I had to go to Barrackpore Senior Comprehensive (now Barrackpore West Secondary), as my younger brother was already attending there. There I did Maths, Economics and Accounting.

Following A Levels I had no plans nor clue what to do. With my parents in business, the popular trend was the very new and growing School of Accounting and Management (SAM’s) in St. Augustine, and there I really ended up. I had always been an underachiever, never ‘living up to my potential’ (so my mother and teachers said), so it was unexpected to catch the attention of SAM’s principal when he came to class saying “who is Zaffar Rahaman”. It was because I had scored the highest mark in our first Cost Accounting class test.

Being suddenly smart I continued to excel, ultimately being offered to teach Accounting at the school as a Junior Lecturer for a short time as I quickly switched to teaching Cost & Management Accounting which continued for a few years.

From business and accounting to family business… to marriage… to baby… then New York… then website design…

Fast forward over a colorful events that I won’t bore you with, except the part that led me to moving to New York in 2000 with my wife and one year old son (who grew up to be who you know as Riyality Studio today). One day in New York a friend asked me to help build a website since I ‘knew about computers’. Never mind that I didn’t know about computers any more than the next guy, but I figured I would still try to help.

It seemed my friend had bought a DIY web package from Go Daddy called ‘Website Tonight’ which was their website builder at the time. I started using the builder but found that it was limiting because I couldn’t layout elements easily. Obviously website builders then were not as sophisticated as now. What made it frustrating was that I was comparing to the ease of designing a page that I learned from Microsoft Publisher. In Publisher you can easily layout a page with rows columns, text and images, group them, and move them around.

So I began to look for ways for more control and realized that I had to use the website code called HTML. That started me on my quest for website knowledge, where I learnt more about the language of the web and the way websites work.

The first websites I used to do were static sites, i.e. any changes to the pages had to be made in the coding then re-uploaded to the server. I found Adobe’s Dreamweaver website building software and began to use it.

Google searching for coding info led me to a blogger in California who became my mentor in the very earlies. He advised me to try WordPress but after I did my first test installation I gave up as I couldn’t understand anything. That same WordPress dashboard I couldn’t make head or tails of then gives me so much comfort today.

Eventually I gave it another try by building the website of the company I was working for and that’s when it slowly started to make sense. The rest, as they say, is history… and here I am today. ♦♦♦