Recently, ProPakistani got a chance to sit down with Muneeb Maayr, the co-founder of Daraz.pk, one of the most popular online stores in Pakistan. Previously, he founded SNL Pakistan, a company that specializes in data collection for the financial services sector.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What has your journey to become the co-founder of one of Pakistan’s most recognizable online shopping store been like?
I went to the University of Virginia for college after which I moved to New York and did my stint in investment banking. Soon after, I headed back to Pakistan to take up the start-up route, employing around 600 hundred analysts performing data analysis on US equities. I sold my operational stake in the summer of 2012 and joined Berlin-based Rocket Internet’s venture Daraz.pk.
Heading Daraz.pk has been the most fulfilling experience thus far. It’s a growing startup, every day we take massive decisions – it’s not a typical company set-up where the same things keep happening for days, weeks and months, but in fact, every day is a new day and we keep growing and evolving as a company – being a part of this is invigorating to say the least.
What made you decide to move back to Pakistan and start your own business?
Business Process Outsourcing was a nascent industry and there were opportunities for wage arbitrage between the United States and Pakistan when I first launched my BPO.
What was your motivation behind establishing an e-commerce store in Pakistan?
Ecommerce is massive worldwide. 3G and 4G technologies with the help of tech-savvy millennials will be game changers in the true sense. E-commerce in Pakistan has reached a turning point and it’s only a matter of months before we see a massive boom in the industry. Every mobile in the country will in the future be internet enabled, so that’s 120 million users – do we need any more motivation?
Moreover, interestingly, the ecommerce revolution will essentially be fueled by people in distant cities who are aware of the latest trends and gadgets and have the purchasing power but don’t have access to contemporary offerings – these people are our motivation.
You’ve scaled Daraz.pk incredibly quickly. What’s your secret?
Daraz.pk is the number one destination for online shopping and product search in the country. It has marked its territory and has defined its goals to be the leading one-stop shopping destination for all lifestyle needs. We believe in end-to-end fulfillment. With thousands of products, 24/7 access, superior search and browse technology, we offer customers a riveting retail experience. Our customer will always have far more options for a certain product on our website than any other mall or e-store in the country.
We strongly believe in engaging with the consumers and interacting with them on social media platforms. Thinking of each customer as a person and not just a number is what forms the basis of our brand ethos.
We ensure that we provide our customers with the best of delivery services possible. We offer free shipping and a 7-day free return policy – that’s a first in Pakistan! A satisfied customer is a returning customer and the success of our business is in a recurring customer base. We work relentlessly towards making sure a customer trusts our brand.
We have been the pioneers of various services in the industry. For example, recently, we piloted the mPOS services, enabling customers to pay through debit and credit cards, at their doorstep, upon delivery. Also, I feel it’s worth mentioning that in our relentless effort to create a great last-mile experience, we recently launched an app for our website as well, bringing top notch local and international brands at the fingertips of our customers.
This focus brings with it a tremendous passion which helps us retain our position as the leading online shopping destination in the country.
What were the biggest challenges in establishing an e-commerce business in Pakistan?
There are a series of challenges ranging from low broadband penetration to a lack of prepayment facilities. As far as low broadband penetration is concerned, nationwide influx of affordable smartphones and mobile internet packages seems to be bridging the gap considerably, however, poor infrastructure is still a problem. Then there is prepayment. The use of visa enabled debit and credit cards is a norm in developed nations while penetration is scarce in Pakistan. Hence, you have to offer cash on delivery which is operationally cumbersome.
What are the biggest hurdles to foreign investment in Pakistan, in your opinion?
Well, Daraz.pk is entirely funded with foreign investment. We have direct investment from Qatar-based telecommunication company Ooredoo and Berlin- based Rocket Internet is our parent company. We feel that if you set up organized companies and show traction, foreign investment comes in – in fact global investors are looking for opportunities to invest in companies that have exhibited success and can show that in numbers.
What are your expansion plans for Daraz? Do you have plans to launch any other ventures?
To become Alibaba’s Tmall for Pakistan. Alibaba is the search engine, the advertiser and also the marketplace platform for brands to sell to, an entire ecosystem, which is why they are where they are. Similarly, whenever someone wants to purchase something, Daraz should be their go-to destination to not only buy the product but also look it up – the way things are going, we aren’t far from achieving that.
Besides that, speaking of long-term plans, as far as ecommerce is concerned, it’s just a matter of a decade before the entire world economy will be fully integrated. I think in 10 years there will be cross-border economic activity at an unmatched level. We have to execute business models that will change the scope of the current economy.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs in the country?
Good entrepreneurs have enquiring minds. Don’t try to be a know it all, if you don’t know something, ask, if you still don’t get it, ask again. Knowledge is imperative, that’s the main thing that will get you through. Many people hide behind jargon to make something sound more complicated than it actually is, don’t let those around you come in your way. Be receptive to taking risks and making big decisions.
Enjoy what you do, taking pleasure in your work can prove to be your biggest asset.