Get a handle on it: Rent your branded dreams

The market for renting branded items is booming in the West, but will it do well in Pakistan?.

Saadia Qamar July 14, 2013
The market for renting branded items is booming in the West, but will it do well in Pakistan?.


You have your heart set on that new, metallic silver Alexander McQueen knuckle clasp snakeskin clutch, priced at about $2,300. But your limited salary is a nasty reminder that you can’t buy it for the next year, even if you save religiously.

What if you didn’t have to spend $2,300 on your shiny arm candy, and could have it for an entire month for just $200? If this sounds too good to be true, pinch yourself. The concept of renting hand bags, shoes, jewellery and dresses is not new to the West. The industry is booming.

Designer handbag rental companies Bag Borrow Or Steal Inc, Rent the Runway,, and are a few amongst several in the  rental market that allow consumers to get their hands on designer wear they can’t afford to buy. The industry of rental goods seems to work very well in the West, but would it do the same in Pakistan?

Accessories designer Mahin Hussain thinks it’s a great idea. “I’d be interested [in the business venture],” she says. “It’s a great marketing idea and basking tool,” she adds. “It’s a different approach to advertising a product but yes, [I would] lend bags. I see no harm in doing it.”

But fashion designer Shehla Chatoor begs to differ. “This will not click in the Pakistani market for several reasons,” she says. “I don’t think people will wear clothes that have been worn by others. They will not be caught dead in a store renting outfits.”

Size, she feels, is another issue. “You can’t alter a rented outfit and everyone wants customised outfits.” Shehla also points out that designer wear is expensive and for any investor, it would be a capital-intensive project; the risk of specific trends becoming obsolete will also be an issue.

But there are some who are brave enough to test the market. Based in Lahore, 21-year-old student Imran Bhatti is introducing this business in Pakistan for the first time. He had heard of people using rented watches abroad and thought it would be a profitable venture here. “Only a few people buy expensive watches; some really want to splurge but can’t. So this idea will definitely appeal to them,” says the young entrepreneur. “Our target market would be the youth and the brand conscious who want to enjoy such accessories.”

Bhatti and his friends Hasan Mansoor, Hamza Javed, Saad Shamsi and Shubkhaiz Javed — students of Entrepreneurship at the University of Central Punjab — were told to come up with a new business idea and Rent a Watch was the end result.

This is how it works

If the desired watch is worth Rs90,000, the borrower has to pay that amount (for security purposes) plus an additional amount (10% of the price of the watch ie Rs9,000 in this case). However, by the end of the month, only 10% would be deducted and the remaining amount (Rs90,000) would be returned to the borrower.

His collection of watches includes brands such as Tag Heuer, Mont Blanc, Rolex and Mega, along with several others which will be rented out at their current market prices starting from Rs8,000 and going up to Rs150,000. A single watch can be rented out for a minimum of 15 days up to several months.

“For now, it’s only watches. However, we will introduce more [products] like bags, belts and other branded items later,” says Bhatti. “Nobody has introduced this in Pakistan before; internationally, Steal the Time and Borrowed Times Watches are profitable ventures.” He is confident that there is a demand for rented watches in Pakistan.

With a base in Lahore, the online service, which opens end July, will be available countrywide.

Socialite Neshmia Ahmed, however, points out at one very obvious risk. “There are so many robberies in Pakistan. Thieves they take away your wallets and watches in the first attempt,” she says. “A lot of funky [cheaper] watches are available and people enjoy wearing them because there’s no risk of losing them.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.

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