Local Skill, Global Reach: Exclusive Interview with luxury shoe shop Markhor

If you've visited cities in Pakistan you will know this is a place where the atmosphere is full of tradition AND technology. Young people are full of knowledge and energy in the digital industries... and out of this environment comes a very cool startup: Markhor, an ecommerce business for hand made leather shoes, connecting global fashion buyers' demand with local artisans' supply.

In this exclusive interview with Markhor Co-Founder Waqas Ali, we discover the innovation and challenges behind this ecommerce success story.

pair of brown leather shoes by Markhor

"Markhor is a men's shoe brand that combines indigenous craftsmanship with modern design. The team conceptualize, designs and manufactures its own line of shoes by working closely with some of the most skilled craftsmen. "

 

How did Markhor start up?

Markhor is built on the idea of connecting the craftsmen directly with the people who value their art.

The company originated when its founders Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali met with a group of craftsmen in the local village council of their hometown of Okara. Everything in that workshop was literally being handcrafted.

We learned that some of the most well-known luxury brands work with craftsmen in developing countries like Pakistan, India and Vietnam but rarely mentions the origin of their products. To change this they started working on the idea of Markhor. The team researched the history of leather shoemaking and acquired an appreciation for subcontinent craftsmanship which led them to explore the traditional techniques used in their production.

With creativity at its core and vibrant storytelling in the DNA, Markhor aims for the highest level of quality and attention to every single detail of the customer experience.

What factors contributed to your early success?

We are fortunate enough to work with great craftsmen who have preserved centuries old shoemaking techniques to this day — despite the industrial revolution. We also have an awesome design and storytelling team.

We were backed by a couple of early customers in the very beginning. Last year we got successfully funded by Kickstarter and Y-Combinator.

We were supported by ideas as well. Every Kickstarter backer recommended us one book to read: books on creativity, ideas, business and building a culture on trust.

Shoe design workbench showing illustrations and a shoe model being measured

Markhor has in-house designers working with traditional shoemakers locally

What's your brand focus?

Our focus in on craftsmanship. It’s the one thing that will not change. It’s our hallmark.

It gets interesting how technology is more than a linchpin for our business. Markhor is in business of giving meaningful experience to our community, this is where technology plays a major role. We use eCommerce to tell our story, show and sell our shoes and more importantly to communicate with our customers.

Rehmat, shoemaker

"Our focus in on craftsmanship"

Is it easy to run this kind of business in Pakistan?

Our centuries old craftsmanship and heritage is our unfair advantage!

Disadvantages? ...Lots of administrative friction that comes with operating a luxury brand from Pakistan, and costs associated with removing that friction.

Has it been hard keeping up with demand?

In our early days (though we are still a very young brand), we didn’t build systems for logistics and quality control. Everything was done manually in a very unscalable way. Now our small team has placed few systems to work for us to ensure timely delivery and direct personal support for every customer.

Though we don’t have any particular quality control officer in team. This is because everyone in team is responsible to maintain or exceed the Markhor quality standards. Quality is more of a culture at Markhor than just being a parameter.

Markhor team members inspect a shoe at the workshop

"Quality is more of a culture at Markhor than just being a parameter"

What's your marketing focus?

Our growth so far have been mostly organic. Our existing customers are our favorite bet for growth. But we are exploring more content marketing.

What's next for Markhor?

We are currently working on our new men's shoes collections. In fact in two weeks we are introducing a new design and in three colors.

Plans for women collection are next after that!

leg and foot view of a model wearing Markhor brown leather shoes

Too popular with the "modern gentleman" - new lines are coming soon and women's shoes on the back burner!

Will people be able to buy Markhor shoes with Bitcoin?

Yes, you can buy using Bitcoin right now 😀

 

KnowledgePower George: THANKS Waqas for sharing the Markhor story and more power to both your technicians and your artisans!


 

Markhor logo featuring

Yes, that's a markhor: capra falconeri, indigenous to northern and central Pakistan

All About Markhor

  • Location: Offices in both San Francisco and Lahore. Currently we are working with two workshops located in Lahore and Okara, Pakistan
  • Team: We have design team of 2 people, a community manager, a shoe expert who heads the team of craftsmen and one guy for shipping and logistics. All of us work closely with our craftsmen.
  • Core strengths: Craftsmanship, design and storytelling.
  • Clientele: Our customer is a modern gentleman who appreciates great craftsmanship and attention to details.  So far we have been able to ship shoes in 40 countries.

Website: http://themarkhor.com

Social Media:

Press Contact: hello [at] themarkhor.com

All photos in this article Copyright 2015 Markhor.


 

Thank you for reading this non-sponsored partner interview for the KnowledgePower Digital Marketing Strategy blog. Copyright 2015 KnowledgePower Ltd.

KnowledgePower is a Digital Marketing agency in the UK specializing in PPC management for SMEs. We are experienced in helping UK and global ecommerce businesses with software design and marketing.