Punjab Information Technology Board sitting quietly in Arfa Software Technology Park, spaced high above in the heart of Lahore is striding a plush step in the footwear market for men. Fashion did seem to be nodding towards the heavy masculine wallets, but little did we know that a high end luxury brand of it would emerge from Pakistan – one that will proudly sometimes hand deliver, hand crafted shoes from Okara/Lahore to buyers in Europe and North America! And all with the help of a website and not a single outlet. Log on, choose, place the order, and receive! E-commerce has sure started cheering fashion in style!
Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali are the dedicated and smart heads working in parallel to a winning team running this exceptionally smart incubation plan by Plan9. And just then, the story gets better – Mr. Ali is a Forman Christian College drop out, Sidra Qasim is a graduate in Economics who got an opportunity to leave her hometown, Okara in 2010 for better opportunities in work through a job placement on Rozee.pk, and their lead craftsman (now passed on) was an impeccably skilled shoemaker in Okara. When the heads and the hands met, art found shape in leather, and together they broke walls to reach the international market.
Markhor, for its concept and vigour is the perfect story for us to expand on the philosophy of AGAYBARHO!
Writes: Nosherwan Khan
Suave with Support
Craftsmanship is an art that defines the ultimate quality of a product. To be able to identify and harness superior craft is what makes or breaks a brand, and it is with this philosophy that Markhor was birthed back in 2012. Today, Markhor has developed into a brand that pushes the boundaries of Pakistanís leather industry to new heights. Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim recently sat down with the AgayBarho! team to share their story, and gave us a bit of insight on the lessons they learnt in developing a progressive brand set to conquer the world. Letís read their story of evolution in their own words.
“The story starts back in 2010, when we were working on our first start-up involving digital media operations for some small and medium-sized businesses, and were exposed to the power of the internet.
We learnt tons of things about internet marketing, social media and community building. Later when we founded Markhor, the agency experience came in handy, especially on the design and experience part. During the same time, we met with a group of craftsmen in our local village, and found out that though they were making some very good quality shoes, but were unable to connect with the right customers. Initially, we wanted to help them sell their shoes online, but soon realized that in order to take their art to the next level, we would have to start a separate company. Unfortunately, we couldnít start at that time ñ our resources had stretched thin because our digital media start-up was struggling as well. However, we struggled harder to give shape to our vision, and with the help of several grants and some savings, we finally gave birth to Markhor in 2012. That was when we took off.
In the early days of any brand, the product drives everything. So having a great product was a must; without it, we could not survive in the long run. On top of that, we wanted to make sure that every customer went through a meaningful experience while interacting with our brand. Everything, including the design, pricing, shopping experience, and customer service needed to be aligned and enabled to represent what the brand would stand for. We believe that with our focus, Markhorís work will help the productivity of the leather industry in our country. Our mission is to change the way luxury consumers look at the label, ëMade in Pakistaní or products made in any other developing country. And once we do that, it will create a huge shift, and will open doors for many industries.
Highway to Evolution
As for lessons, we learnt at every point, especially when we were proved wrong. One of the biggest lessons learnt during our fellowship at Acumen was why itís worth doing something that is very difficult for a bigger purpose. High morale, imagination, leadership, and humility were the lessons imparted to us there. It was definitely a profound experience! So, when we look for a team member, we are looking for someone who can make things happen, without regards to the situation and resource. In a start-up, most of the time one is on a rollercoaster ride, which means each team member must have the ability to adapt to business changes.
Recently we also tied the knot. We believe there is no manual that tells you the things to take care of when working with a partner who overlaps professional and personal life. The fact that that we have been working together for several years does help though. We get along pretty well. We believe, it is important to communicate openly, and respect each otherís opinions and intelligence.”
As the inspiring duo moves on towards a new chapter in their life, so does the business they have built out of their dreams, and nurtured with a vision for tomorrow. AGAYBARHO! hopes that our nation will continue to produce such luminaries for the future as well.
visit www.themarkhor.com to experience and buy our very own luxury product!
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