What does one do when you have a desire to start a business but only Rs.2000 in your wallet? If they are true entrepreneurs, they make it happen.
The journey started back in 2015 when 2 friends found themselves with just Rs.2000 in their pockets and a desire for greatness. They knew that ECommerce was the next big thing coming to Pakistan, so, they spent all their savings on purchasing a domain by the name of dealskpk.com only to realize they now needed a product to sell and what better product to sell than a local craft; Peshawari Chappal. The great thing about entrepreneurs with a plan is that they do not let such small details as not having a product hinder them. So, out they went on a hunt for a vendor that would trust them enough to let them sell their product on credit.
Convincing a shopkeeper to give you his products is like asking him to give you his hard earned money for free. Thus, the two went door to door explaining their ecommerce idea to traditional businessmen who were happy with their trade as it was. After many ‘No’s and door slamming, they finally found solace at ‘Khan’s Chappal’ who, like a true risk taker, gave them one pair of chappal with the grand net worth of Rs.600 only.
The two set out to creating a Facebook page to spread the word and officially launch their website. After much effort and the first sale they started to get more trust of their vendor and as luck would have it the word spread. Now more owners were willing to work with the duo to boost their sales. Trust is the foundation for strong relations and business. Eventually they would get products on credit worth Rs.1.5 million. It seemed that the dark days were over.
That is when the two decided to sit down and ideate the future of their website. They understood that it was only a matter of time before someone else would also come forward to build an ecommerce platform of Peshawari Chappal and eventually the competition would drive down the profit margins. This strategy was simply not sustainable and this was also not the ultimate goal with which they had launched their business. So, they started asking the customers what more they wanted from the product.
Customers pointed out that they found it difficult to gift the shoes due to the inconsistency in the finished product along with the poor quality of the materials used to make it. Finding better quality leather, in Pakistan, was easy enough but maintaining the standards meant learning about the craft of making a shoe.
The feedback led to the creation of the brand Bera. Named after the famous tree of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, known to survive in the harshest of conditions and still bear fruit, just like the two that would make the impossible happen with their dedication.
Empowered with the knowledge of the customers need’s, the two started meeting local artisans to discuss the detailing of the product. But knowing what you want doesn’t often lead to getting what you want. Explaining quality to the artisans was an extremely challenging task as the artisans believed that they understood quality and the new fangled ideas of the Bera Founders were nothing but gimmickry. Sure enough Jahangir and Rashid faced new rejections left and right. Exhausted but determined they set out to explain the concept of quality to those that would listen. After many failed prototypes (failed design, poor materials from supplier etc) they finally made the perfect shoe. The Bera Chappal had the right material, it had the feel and it sat right on the feet.
Now all they needed was guidance on how to further build the business, how to turn their small startup into a viable, scalable business? After trying different programs with little to no results, the pressure on the two started to rise. The products were doing reasonably well but they still lacked the skills to scale their business and Bera continued to operate on a very small scale.
With another leap of faith, the two enrolled for the first cohort of NIC Peshawar’s acceleration program. With their acceptance came the guidance from mentors that led to their success. Mr. Sayyed Ahmad Masud helped build a brand identity and create customer traction, Mr. Adnan Faisal taught them how to manage their finances and Mr. Murtaza Zaidi, Director NIC Peshawar was their moral support and guiding light throughout these turbulent times.
With the guidance from their mentors the two went on to create 4 different designs in 3 different colors and captured a market that no one knew existed. A timeless classic was reinvented, the creators weretrue disruptors and they solved a problem that no one knew existed. Bera has managed to create a Chappal that has quickly gained an ardent fan following and the sales continue to grow as customers continue to buy the chappals not just for themselves but as treasured gift item as well. It goes to show that determination and self belief are the crucial factors that can be a difference between a success and a failure.
The Bera story is an inspiration for all those who believe in carving out a future for themselves. For those who are determined that nothing will stop them from achieving their dreams. Who look at obstacles as challenges to be conquered or opportunities to be explored and exploited.
The Bera journey continues with the Founders raising the bar ever higher and continuously experimenting and improving their quality, product offering and customer experience. Theirs is a journey of excellence,and not just their customers but even investors have flocked to the brand. They have just received a significant investment that now values Bera at US 1 million dollars, an amazing valuation for a brand that is among the first from KPK to prove that value and worth are not location based.
Does the dream end here? “No, this is just the beginning; we have so much planned for Bera. The brand itself won’t let us stop here!” – says Mr. Jehangir in his interview with Startupdotpk. Guess we will have to stay tuned to see the future of Bera ourselves.