LAHORE: Electronic commerce – or e-commerce as it is commonly known as – has become a popular sales avenue for retailers worldwide, providing them with robust markets for goods beyond their geographical reach. However, even as more and more consumers around the globe purchase a wide range of items online, Pakistan still seems to be struggling in making its presence felt on the worldwide web.
Perhaps belatedly, 2012 saw Pakistan’s first luxury brand go online, when the Labels E-Store opened up for online customers. The Express Tribune talked to the people behind the project to find out what took them so long to take the initiative
“No one here thinks out of the box,” Zahir Rahimtoola, the mastermind behind Labels, tells The Express Tribune. “There is a lack of awareness regarding our designers in the international market. We do not have serious buyers coming in for our Fashion Weeks, and a number of fake websites which keep popping up everywhere has really held us back,” he added.
Rahimtoola went on to explain how it is really difficult to establish the authenticity of a product online, adding that people will buy through websites only when there is sufficient awareness regarding the different brands out there.
“I have always wanted to have an e-store, but there are a lot of issues one has to deal with in Pakistan,” explains Sania Maskatiya, a popular name in the female apparel industry. “It is a very new concept here, and it will take time for people to start trusting it. As a designer, one needs to keep in mind that you need to have a large selection of merchandise available at all times; and since outfits are expensive, the cost-benefit aspect of the business just doesn’t add up. Labels is a great place to start for me, because Zahir has such a strong command
over his team. They have made it very easy to handle only the
production side of things.”
“My label is looking at going into e-commerce,” says Feeha Jamshed, who runs an eponymously-titled business. “However, you need to be financially sound or in partnership with someone to be an e-commerce venture.” She explains that retailers need massive inventories if they want to take a fashion brand to a global market. “But retail is where the money is at, and that is something Pakistanis have yet to understand.”
Nomi Ansari, another bestselling designer featured on the Labels E-Store, talks about the lack of reliable labour to work with. “It is very difficult to have a strong team here. A lot of money transactions are involved, and you cannot know everyone’s motives,” says Ansari. “Frankly, our diaspora community has had bad experiences with fake e-stores. There have been instances in which customers have been delivered rip-offs.”
“You need a lot of capital to start your own store, especially an e-store,” he says, echoing Feeha. “Especially for bespoke gowns, we do not have enough efficient workers who can create merchandise that is ready on time.”
“For a self-made designer, this is too expensive an investment decision to make.”
Khadijah Shah, of Elan fame, favours taking things slow. “I don’t like rushing into things. For me, right now, it is easy to deal with the orders coming in from Labels,” says Khadijah. “We have been operating online via Facebook, so we know how long it takes to deliver. However, it is important to understand that bespoke pieces are still easier to deliver, but to have a ready inventory of prêt wear is difficult business. It requires extensive labour, but we are building up our stock slowly so that we can be in a better position when we start out on a venture like this.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2013.
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