Updated: Jun 8
Interviewer: Anumta Tariq
COVID-19 gave rise to many small businesses. Despite being a huge pain to the world, it gave people the chance and time to start their own business and follow their dreams. To have some insights about starting a business and rise of business during the time of corona, I take this opportunity to interview Khishar Sadaf; a young entrepreneur who runs her business of bookish merchandise under the name of Bookish Props.
Q. Please give a brief introduction of yourself.
I am Khishar Sadaf from Lahore. I did M.Phil. in English literature. I am working as a part time lecturer. I am an avid reader. I am a big time foodie. I love mountains, hiking and going on adventurous tours.
Q. What ignited the idea of this business?
I always wanted to do my own business. I started my professional career as a lecturer in 2015 to earn some money to start my business as I didn’t want to ask my parents to invest in me anymore. I wanted to do it on my own. But soon I got stuck in full time job and couldn’t get the time to work on any business idea properly. But then I got married in late 2019 and I moved to Lahore. I quit my full time job because I was fed up of the routine and wanted to focus on my new life. I thought of switching my career where I had more control over my time and what I do. I tried freelancing but didn’t enjoy it much.
I wanted to do something more, something creative and exciting. Amidst this Covid Pandemic happened and I was spending a lot of time at home and on social Media. I realized that there’s a potential market in bookish merchandise. We do not have many bookish businesses and the ones we have do not offer more diversity. Especially I could not find the things I wanted. So it gave me my business idea to make stuff that I want and to share it with other book lovers as well.
Q. What was the initial reaction of social media followers on your idea to launch a business on Urdu literature?
Everyone was very excited. People who knew me through my book blog were really supportive. I was not only bringing products based on Urdu literature but some of the products were really unique as well. Like no one was offering eastern clothing based on literature. You can find bookish T-shirts available but not “Kameez”. I do not wear t-shirts everywhere and I knew majority of girls in Pakistan prefer Kameez or Kurta over T-shirts. And when I announced that I will launch a kameez collection everyone loved the idea.
Q. Have you ever found it difficult to search for people who would be interested and work for the revival of urdu language?
No, fortunately majority of Pakistanis read Urdu books. It was easy to find the audience who loves Urdu literature and read Urdu books. There are some other amazing platforms where people are already working on revival of Urdu Literature and they promote Urdu language and literature. My products are just another little effort in this ongoing movement.
As far people for work are concerned. My team is my family. I come from a house where reading books is not an alien concept. Everyone loves reading and they all were really excited to work with me. In fact, my chachu helped me with the poetry for my first Kameez collection. He suggested this poem. My sister is my designer. I gave her the idea and she made this amazing design for it. My younger sisters did the modeling for me. My Amma helped me buy the fabric as she is extremely good at it. My husband, though, is not a book lover, but he believed in me and encouraged me to go for it. He travels with me to other cities for product production. I turn to him for business advice as well. So it is all a family effort Alhumdulillah.
Q. Did your business face any major decline due to the trying nature of pandemic?
I actually started my business during Covid pandemic. Because I knew everyone is going for online shopping now due to lock down. I won’t say any major decline but yeah there are some difficulties to get things done in a certain time limit due to limitations of smart lock down.
Q. How did you manage to keep the business running when all the markets were shut down in the lockdown?
I brain stormed the ideas and worked on them during complete lock down. As soon the market opened I started working on the production. As I said earlier work gets delayed but safety of everyone matters too. So I don’t panic or complain. I focus my energies on pre-production process and learning about entrepreneurship during complete lock down.
Q. Have you faced any kind of hindrances while being a female entrepreneur?
Fortunately, I didn’t face any hindrances because of my gender. I believe People treat females with more respect and are willing to fully cooperate. They listen to our custom demands and try their best to accommodate in whatever way they can.
In fact, I am facing more hindrances because of being in a new city than being a female. I knew about all the markets and places in Faisalabad and I knew I could go everywhere on my own easily. But here in Lahore I am not familiar with market place, I do not know any reliable vendors. And yes being a female I am afraid of exploring a new city on my own. In Lahore I go everywhere with my husband. But he has his own job and is free only on weekends and the markets are closed then. That’s the major difficulty for me as an entrepreneur.
Q. Businesses that are not well-established often receive unnecessary backlash from customers and social media users in general, have you ever encountered such a thing in any aspect of your business?
Alhumdulilah I have been very lucky in this regard. People knew me through book blog and all my followers supported me. Though I have a really small Insta-family but whenever I launch any product all of them share it and support me. My clients also loved the products as I do not compromise on the quality. I put a lot of effort in everything from quality to packaging to pricing and I get the reward through satisfied clients.
Q. Winding up the interview, I would like to ask in your opinion, what is the scope of Entrepreneurship in Pakistan, and what is lacking in the society that is preventing the youth from achieving their dreams?
I believe this is the high time for entrepreneurship in Pakistan. E-commerce is blooming and it’s gonna explode In.Sha.Allah. Due to Covid pandemic everyone is turning to digital platforms and there are a lot of opportunities and potential for new businesses.
In my opinion it’s the lack of motivation and hard work. Our youth admires the life on screen and fantasize about becoming rich and popular overnight. They do not realize that everyone who has achieved something is not because they got everything served on a silver platter, but because of their hard work and consistency. They believed in themselves, their dreams and worked hard to achieve them. They went through the whole process of progression. Focus on the process and journey and you can achieve whatever you want.