Two Entrepreneurs Revolutionize Islamabad’s Fashion Retail Business

We got a chance to speak to two entrepreneurs about their journey towards bringing a fashion retail revolution.

Balaaj Saeed is a Business Graduate with Majors in Marketing and Management from the American University, UAE. He has had the opportunity to make himself useful in the extremely unique as well as the niche nature of his family business of antiques, arts and crafts through both on-ground and on-line channels of retail. This has given him enough insight and experience to be well aware of the challenges as well as opportunities attached to the retail sector.

By virtue of working with international auction houses and participating in various exhibitions and trunk shows abroad, he has gained considerable international exposure which not only helps him keep abreast of global trends but also gets him to travel the world.

Marrya Balaaj is a Social Sciences Graduate with Majors in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has had a diversified portfolio, from being an active participant in her family business of property development to conceiving, developing and successfully running an e-commerce based business of sourcing international luxury brands from across the world for Pakistan.

Her inclination towards voluntary and CSR related initiatives has led her to explore her creative skills and has made her realise her potential in Media Sciences as well. It’s no surprise that her natural flair leads her to the high-end fashion industry as an obvious career choice. 

What inspired you to launch your business?

It was during our own wedding preparations that we had to make trips out of Islamabad to Lahore and Karachi to get our wardrobes in order, not because we lack options in Islamabad, but because we had previously envisioned what we wanted, and none of those preferred brands had any presence in Islamabad. Having experienced it first hand, we saw an opportunity and a gap in the market and decided to create a new kind of space that would be different from what the market currently has.

As a result, the idea of The Corridor took shape. A one-stop-shop, ‘boutique-within-a-boutique’ for fashion retail along the lines of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, of course on a much smaller scale.

What has been your biggest challenge as a startup and how have you met this challenge?

Every business has its challenges, especially when you build something that hasn’t been done before. In creating The Corridor, there were a number of obstacles that repeatedly surfaced. We would say the biggest challenge was explaining the Islamabad market scope to the designers we met with. Unfortunately, our city is viewed with a massive misconception of lacking buyers and interest, and though that may have been the case many years ago, we have received a monstrous amount of support from locals, those who know us personally and especially otherwise, which enforced out the belief that the concept would be successful. Aside from that, setting up operations and technicalities as a small team handling a project on this scale has been testing, but we have managed to iron out all the kinks as we are now approaching the day of our launch.

What is the most exciting thing on the horizon for your business?

We make it a point to accept each piece of advice and suggestions that we receive from our future customers and truly believe that the experience of shopping at The Corridor should be as intimate and personal as possible. We want our customers to get the feel of shopping at the designers’ studio here in Islamabad, and are currently working on a technology to make that connection as effortless as possible.

Where do you envision your company in 5-10 years?

As we mentioned earlier, the opinions of our customers come first, and we hope to learn from and grow with them. Therefore it would be wrong of us to envision exactly how the store will be running in the coming years, but one thing’s for certain: we will always be innovative in our techniques, and out strategies will always have a spark of creativity in them. Our goal is to provide a unique experience for our customers, always.

What was the biggest risk that you took and how did it work out for you?

The biggest and probably the only risk factor to this whole operation was taking the leap and staying true to the vision. There were countless times in the beginning where we were in a cloud of uncertainty and doubt, but being patient in our belief and focus always made it easier.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners?

The two most important components to a startup, we feel, is the dream and the team. Stay focused towards your vision, and trust, unconditionally, the people you build the business with. Also, you should never be afraid to seek help and advice from people who have more knowledge on a subject than you.

Keep a lookout for updates and be a part of The Corridor opening its doors to the public for the first time this month.

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