Imran Mujahid holds a degree in Commerce from Punjab, Pakistan. He is an entrepreneur who has been running a retail business in the field of wrist watches, wall clocks, table locks and all kinds of watch accessories for the last 18 years under a firm working in the retail business of wrist watches. However, in 2012, the name of the firm was changed to 7-Star Watches. Recently, he has also added jewellery and some special products like sun glasses for the customers who want fashion at a low cost. He regularly works with vendors to develop a culture that is fertile for innovation and growth. In this sit down with, Imran sheds light on Pakistan’s luxury and fashion lifestyle with a focus on wrist watches and wall clocks.
Let’s begin with a little bit of the company background?
Imran Mujahid: Our Company has been in the business of retail and repair service of wrist watches for the past seventy years (1947). We started out with few brands- Camy, Favour leuba, west end etc. In 2012, the name of the company was changed to 7-Star Watches and then we added various brands on our outlet such as Tissot, Calvin Klein, Seiko, Casio, Royal London, Raymond Weil, Rolex, Armani, Citizen etc. We recently also started retailing Daniel Klein watches and sunglasses at our outlet. To date, we are one of the largest retailers of watches in the country.
When we started out in 2012 the retail business was an unregulated mess, both from the perspective of business and the government. Everybody was doing whatever they wanted; there was no regulated pricing. We have made quite a few changes in the retail segment in terms of getting people to a hassle free buying. At that time there was no ease for the customer on buying a product. Only a few gibberish alphabets or digits written on the tags. Only the retailers knew that an A stands for this and a B stands for that. That gibberish helped them sell the item at various prices depending on what their assessment of what the customer was willing to pay. 7-Star Watches changed this style of business by putting the price tags on every product not only on the physical stores as well as on the online website to help its customers to buy a right product at the right price.
Later, the mall culture began everywhere in Pakistan that was a very positive development in the retailing sector. As an economic structure, the mall has changed the landscape of marketing of lifestyle, luxury and leisure goods. However there is another thinking in masses that this culture is also damaging the business of a small entrepreneur.
On one side, because of these malls, the retailing is becoming a bit more organized. But on the other hand it is consistently damaging the small trader.
Are you currently into importing, wholesale or retailing?
We are into retail only. We only retail our products through a network of online sales and we also retail ourselves, although only 25 percent of our business is retail and 75 percent is still wholesaling but we still believe that the policies of the government are still not favorable for the wholesale business yet.
A few years back, nobody was willing to take a risk to open a retail store in a mall. If you had a shop in an old bazar, you thought of it as the end of the universe. Most mall stores started with years of losses, and if you are single point retailer, you can’t bear a loss because retail mentality in general is about how many sales you can make in day. But being a little more open minded we chose to have an alternate way of sales and that is online sales to grow our business with a relatively smaller working capital.
We took a long-term view thinking that standards need to be set in this regard. It was also kept in mind that the reach of the product is necessary to all Pakistan. Today people are travelling across the world and they see the environment where these products are being sold abroad with a display, window decorations, shop signs. So, it was felt necessary to provide our customers a beautiful and comfortable environment for shopping. All of that gives customers a level of confidence that they are buying a right product from the right place.
Which of the watch brands you retail is the hottest in Pakistan?
In luxury products, it’s about the marketing, and about your image. A watch is not just a time telling machine. It’s a piece of jewelry which is why some people will swear by one brand, others will swear by others. Still, Rolex and Rado are probably the best brands in the country not only for us but across the country. On the next level Tissot, Seiko, Citizen and Casio are giving very tough time to other competitors.
What’s your pulse reading of the retail industry in Pakistan?
Pakistan’s market today is now offering consumers a lot of options in every field. Even in relatively smaller cities, such as Faisalabad, customers are getting aware of the up-coming products by the social media marketing which is offering a lot of choices and encouraging consumers to buy the latest products at the lowest prices. If a consumer in Gujranwala or Faisalabad wanted a luxury item seven years ago, he’d think of buying it when he’d go to Lahore or Karachi. Now he can get it in his own city. Online sales also help grow the economy by triggering impulse purchases that in turn drives the economy.
Has e-commerce affected your business in any way?
Online is the future. There are two kinds of purchase behaviors when it comes to online – one is ‘research online purchase offline’ and the other is ‘research offline purchase online’. Now research offline means that somebody comes to my shop sees the product works out the price then goes online and buys the product from a well known online store like 7star.pk because of the standard rates as our online prices are the same as offline prices. We are a part of this change and feel that a major portion of our counter sales in the future will be replaced by online sales.
Another way behavior of the customer is that for every 100 people who come online, let say 70 people make a reservation and out of those 50 people turn up to the store and eventually 25 people out of those do buy the watches they reserved. So that’s a nice hybrid model we use here at home which is growing day by day. Pakistan is a very big country having a population of 220 million people. In the present situation of growing usage of internet, it is believed that the online buying and selling culture is about to take off.