Lunch with Shayan Tahir, Founder of Homeshopping.pk
Homeshopping.pk is a renowned name when it comes to ecommerce in Pakistan. People in the country recognize the name and have, over the time, come to trust the brand value that is associated with it. As a result, homeshopping.pk has become one of the largest online shopping websites in the country, especially for gadgets.
The website gets almost 1000 orders and more than 15,000 visits per day, majority of whom are returning customers. Homeshopping.pk now houses more than 50,000 products.
The one man behind the company, Shayan Tahir, was only 21 years old when he came up with the idea, developed the website. With no startup capital, Shayan has made Homeshopping.pk a huge name in the industry in a just a few short years.
TechJuice Team (Fatima and Asjad) met with Shayan Tahir on lunch to find out more about him and how homeshopping.pk came to be. We asked lots of questions and got some really interesting answers. Read on to find out!
Shayan, tell us a little about yourself. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur and start your own business?
I will be honest and start with a plain answer: no. Entrepreneurship or my own business weren’t even close to the dreams I had for my life. I had actually wanted to be a pilot.
Shayan gives a small pause to allow the revelation to sink in.
My father was a pilot and like any young boy, I wanted to follow his footsteps but life apparently had other plans. He lost his job and suddenly there was a financial crisis. As a son, I had to come forward and help. So I gave up day dreaming, went ahead and got a job at a call centre. Luckily for me, I was good at sales, natural aptitude you know! [grins] Soon I was earning more than the COO of a local multinational IT Company.
How did Homeshopping.pk start?
What happened next was kind of inevitable. I got bored with the job and quit. The idea for homeshopping.pk came to me very unexpectedly. Actually, I wanted to get an iPod but at that time it wasn’t available in Pakistan. There was this Chinese website selling a decent replica which I bought but what struck me at the time was that there were probably quite a few others like me who didn’t have an easy access to their favourite gadgets.
I ended up selling replica iPods for LootMar.pk and I got a customer, Maria, I still remember her name, after three whole months. I delivered the package myself. Those days were tough: importing gadgets and dealing with Customs was a pain. I had to work very hard but eventually it all started paying off: Homeshopping.pk was launched, people started buying from the site and we started getting great reviews.
For a company trying to make its name in the market, impressions matter. What steps did you have to take to make Homeshopping.pk a brand?
When we starting growing, there was a need for an office. If something exists only on the web, people find it hard to believe in. Besides we needed a place to operate. I started working from an office in Toheed Centre but that didn’t work out well: the business wasn’t getting the due attention. I then decided to relocate the office to Zamzama, even though I had to pay a big chunk of money in rent every month. However, the area was commercial and what my business needed at that point. Once we were in the right place, we started getting the attention from people.
Homeshopping.pk is growing every day. How many orders do you get per day on average?
Homeshopping.pk is doing quite well. We get almost 1000 orders per day and it may surprise you to know that there are many regular customers from far flung areas like Cheecha Watni and Wahari. The fact that we are able to reach out to so many customers is really encouraging.
Did you ever get any external assistance for your startup or is Homeshopping.pk a fruit of your sole labours?
When I started with the business, I knew I had to make it come true. I trusted myself, my abilities and my instincts. Perhaps because I really believed in the idea, I never applied for any external funding or assistance. There were no acquisition offers in the starting years. It was just me, toiling away. So yes, I can proudly say that I have built this business from the scratch with a lot of hard work.
What are your future plans for Homeshopping.pk?
There is a good news for Smartphone users: we are planning to launch an Android application very soon. We are just waiting for 3G services and then we are good to go. Green Bag Grocery Service is another idea we are working on. Under this service, items of everyday use will be delivered within two hours to your doorstep. Initially the service will be limited to Karachi but we plan to expand to Lahore and Islamabad as well.
As a successful entrepreneur, what do you have to say about the bussing trend towards entrepreneurship in Pakistan?
Its high time people in Pakistan starting coming up with their own business ideas. God knows our economy is in dire need of a boost. I think supporting local businesses is very important. I try to do my part by funding and at times acquiring small businesses.
Have you acquired any businesses recently?
As a matter of fact, yes, we acquired Vortex Accessories, a small startup from Islamabad that deals in mobile accessories. There have been five other acquisitions and we have spent around 6 to 10 lac rupees per acquisition.
Homeshopping.pk houses some really expensive gadgets. Is there a fixed method through which the prices are determined?
We try to get the best of the gadgets to our customers. Sometimes that involves buying them off sites like eBay where biding makes products, especially those which have been launched recently, quite expensive. We try to charge a price that we feel is justified and of course our customers appreciate the fact that we bring them the latest products before the rest.
Some people face problems in getting their gadgets delivered on time. Why is that?
Actually we have moved our headquarters to Dubai. Sometimes the shipment gets late and people face problems. We usually make it up to our customers by waiving off delivery charges. That works like a charm.
Recently, there have been DDOS attacks on the website. People are concerned about the security. How are you dealing with the issue?
There are a few stock providers who very deliberately caused the attacks. We are now thinking of setting up an in-house software development team to manage the website.
What is the current number of employees that are working for Homeshopping.pk?
Our team currently consists of about 55-58 people but I am in Lahore to hire more developers.
What is the next big step for Homeshopping.pk?
We want to bring imported cars to the online shopping market and sell them to our customers. We are also planning to start sending out Catalogues to our customers so that they don’t need to access internet for buying a device. They will have to check the catalogue and order, that’s all. We hope we can reach out to the customers who don’t frequently use internet.
Who inspires you?
Jeff Bezos of Amazon, hands down. The guy is amazing.
Your favourite brand?
I am an Apple fan boy through and through. I am a proud owner of an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook. Go Apple!
One thing that would make your life easier?
I am so glad you asked that question! I wish the courier companies would let the customers check their orders before dropping off the package. It would solve so many problems.
One trick you learned in your business?
Opening outlets helps an online shopping company a great deal. Customers want to get their hands on gadgets before buying them and if you give them the opportunity, they love it! You will be amazed to know that we almost doubled our sales in cities where we opened our outlets.