If you are the type that prefers personalised gift items over those that though heavy on the wallet say very little, chances are you have come smack in the face of a dead end in the local market. There are very few options for the Pakistani gift shopper.
Varah Musavvir, an enterprising young textile design student at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture (IVSAA), realised this gap in the market and set out to launch Firefly — a home-based business that one of her customers described as the “Hallmark” of Pakistan.
One year since its launch, Firefly has grown to heights Musavvir says she had never imagined before. The project started randomly in March 2010 when she was doodling habitually and came up with a design and idea for a wallet card. A few sifts through the pages of her prized journal after which her brand is named and a few doodles later, Musavvir had come up with the character Sue that adorns some of her designs and cards along with taglines and quotes she had written in her journal herself. The next step was to post pictures on Facebook and tag her friends and voila — orders started coming in.
Firefly offers a variety of products ranging from wallet cards on PVC (a concept unique to Pakistan), key chains on PVC, notebooks, bookmarks, digital CD printing, laptop skins, scrap books and other papercraft.
“I like coming up with my own messages and taglines on my products,” says Musavvir. “I have seen what is already available and I didn’t want to just take that. I wanted Firefly to be my own. It’s funny that people can automatically relate to a lot of what I write and make. They see that it is heartfelt because they see that it is coming from someone who has probably gone through or seen it all. They can click with it, so they usually don’t ask me to change it.”
But when people do want customisations, Musavvir is ready to make them at an added price. Sometimes people ask for personalised messages and text or a personalised look to the characters or a different colour. And part of the reason behind her success is that Musavvir can cater to all of these requests.
Musavvir does not have a creative department or an operations director. She runs the business alone with a little help from her younger brother and manages to balance it along with her studies. Orders are received via email, sent out and picked up in batches from her trusted printer twice a week and subsequently picked up from her college where the gatekeeper helps handout the orders.
“When I started, it was just friends, then it was friends of friends and then friends of friends of friends and then I just lost track,” she says. Firefly’s Facebook page now has over 1,500 fans. “Till now, it has been solely marketed through Facebook. I did have invitations to school melas etc, so that was a bit of added publicity but most of it has been marketed online. I have also had bulk orders when friends ordered stuff for their organisations or for fundraising. Firefly goes like hotcakes for fundraising because people can put their logos on them or their personalised messages on them.”
Customers often come up with their own innovative ideas for customisations or ways of presenting the gifts. Firefly has also seen orders from abroad — from the United States and United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
In the future, when she has more time, Musavvir plans on expanding Firefly into textiles. She envisions Firefly to become a complete collection of gift items.
“Firefly is not just a business, it’s not just a brand,” she says. “It’s something that is spontaneous and part of my journal. It’s just what I like doing. Like a firefly, it glows wherever it goes. It is about spreading smiles.”
Like its slogan (The forecast is whimsical, with a chance of rainbows), Firefly is an attempt to add the essential dose of optimism we often find missing in our lives.
Items available at Firefly
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2011.