Don’t we all love stories of underdogs who overcome enormous odds, rise up the ranks and make it big? That is exactly what the founders of Markhor did. They identified an opportunity in a small town of Pakistan, exploited it and presented an awesome product to the world.
Previously known as Hometown shoes, Markhor sells products made in Pakistan, around the globe.
Markhor is a subsidiary of Hometown Shoes and while the company continues to be Hometown, the brand name has changed. This was to allow the founders to venture into the manufacture of products other than shoes.
“Our new and upcoming product line is aimed at international consumers who demand a very high quality of product and we wanted a name and brand that was coherent with this quality. Our products continue to be handmade, from premium leather by our artisan craftsmen, in Pakistan. Our new accessories include, cardholders and technology cases, all of which match our footwear to provide a suite of lifestyle products for the modern gentleman.” – Asim, Markhor Team Member
The company markets high quality traditional Pakistani shoes such as the Peshawari chappal to clients in a number of different countries.
While helping project a more positive image of Pakistan to the world, it is also employing hundreds of local artisans and encouraging the cottage industry.
The footwear and other accessories marketed under this brand name are handcrafted and custom-made in Pakistan. These are all leather products and intended to cater to a male clientele. The miscellaneous products on offer can also be customized to your particular needs.
The Background Story
It all started in 2010 when an undergraduate student in a university in Lahore went on vacation to his hometown in rural Punjab. Waqas Ali, the CEO of Markhor belongs to a small town of Punjab. During his visit, he met with a local artisan who, along with a small group of associates, made fine quality handmade shoes but was increasingly getting worried due to a progressive decline in business. This was a group that had been in the trade for several generations and wanted to keep it going strong.
Waqas realized that there was an opportunity to build something upon what he had seen in his hometown. He kept mulling over the idea as he went back to college and soon decided to follow in the footsteps of some of the most famous entrepreneurs of our times and quit college. This decision was not an easy one for the budding entrepreneur – which he soon realized – but the adversity only made him stronger.
He was joined by his team mate (Sidra) and they founded the company.
“The image the world sees of Pakistan are difficult ones, but the country is also home to over 1 million craftsmen. Our craftsmen have been shaping leatherfor generations, standing the test of time. Our goal is to keep that art form alive for many more generations to come.” – Waqas Ali
Markhor was started on a shoestring budget (no pun intended); the founders knew that they would need capital to achieve their business goals. They started seeking funding and were finally able to secure a seed fund of $10,000 from P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) Social Innovation Fund. This was the break they sorely needed. Once they had the money, they took care of the procurement they needed and went into production.
Markhor has already started gaining recognition and support not only form its customers but also from organizations. It was featured as an ‘Innovation Hero’ in Google and Punjab Government’s ‘Innovation Campaign’, launched in August, 2012. In addition to this, Waqas Ali has been selected as an Acumen Fund Pakistan Fellow, which is a prestigious leadership program to empower new leaders of Pakistan.
Markhor has done something else too, which was not planned. It introduced a small town shoemaker and his colleagues to the communication technologies that are changing the world today.
“Hussain, who once was anti-Facebook, now uses an Android Phone, laptop, email and has a Facebook account.”
What’s in Store?
So, now you know what the brand is all about. Lets see what is in their store.
Shoes: First and foremost, they sell fine quality, exquisite, hand-crafted leather shoes in various designs and colors.
Chappals: If you think that our traditional footwear is admired only by the locals, you are in for a nice surprise. The company has taken the traditional Peshawari Chappal and its many variations such as Quetta chappal, Kaptaan style, Go East etc., and put them on the feet of the people of many nations and ethnicity, who wear them with casual attire and use them as summer shoes instead of sandals.
Made-to-Order: The customers, who are looking for a more personalized experience, can have their desired footwear made-to-order. They can choose a design from the existing collection and have it customized with the leather of their choice and the color they fancy.
New arrivals: Customized cardholders, technology cases and wallets will soon be on offer.
The Markhor website has a very clean and crisp look with a simple layout and easy-to-follow navigation. The product detail page has just the right amount of information and the checkout process is simple and convenient. The down-to-earth CEO blog adds a human touch to the business and tells a compelling story.
Markhor is a part of a rapidly growing community of entrepreneurs in Pakistan. These are the people who start with just an idea and next to nothing in terms of resources, but with dedication and perseverance, they are achieving what many just dream about. The founders of Markhor recently made an appearance on the show “Har Pakistani Mein Chupa Hai Ek Hero” hosted on Samaa TV. Watch the interview to hear the inspiring story firsthand.
It is easy to complain about all the things that are wrong with Pakistan but when it comes to making our contribution to correct these wrongs, most people don’t go beyond lip service. The least we can do is to support the efforts of people like Waqas and businesses like Markhor.