Shayaan Tahir is an inveterate cyber entrepreneur. He is a graduate in accounting and finance from London School of Economics. Shayaan is founder of premier e-commerce website homeshopping.pk and under his dynamic leadership the website has garnered immense reputation countrywide and has offline footprints as well in major cities. He is high-spirited, passionate and a gifted entrepreneur who is well cognizant with the pitfalls and tides of cyber market. Technology Times had an opportunity to converse with Shayaan recently
Briefly tell us about yourself, your career highlights, and interests?
Shayaan Tahir: I have done my graduation in Banking and Finance from London School of Economics; it was an external programme and I didnt go actually to London due to launching of my startup business at an early age. I am also a commercial pilot but due to scarcity of job opportunities I didn’t get chance to pursue aviation industry as career and finally ended up starting my own venture Home Shopping Network (HSN) in 2008 that has grown big since then.
How did you get idea of an online business?
The ideas keep coming to mind in large number to an entrepreneur on day to day basis but few ideas remain glued to one’s self and stirs him to start mulling about its implementation the next day. As far as HSN idea is concerned, I knew straight away that its going to work as I was well aware that number of internet users was growing at a rapid pace at that time.
Although I faced much of the passive remarks initially from different people claiming that online business idea was impracticable in Pakistan etc. but it didn’t stop me because I was crystal clear in my approach and once I started there was no looking back.
I had examples of Amazon.com in United States and I wanted to replicate the same model in Pakistan at a small scale, I bid for it and my optimism and far sightedness played key role in taking HSN to the level it attains today and it will penetrate in more fragments of the society extending the scope of online shopping in Pakistan.
What are your major achievements in business?
I scaled up a business from a $100 to a business of over $20million and we have over 65 employees now and HSN is growing at a tracer bullet pace as e-commerce grows in Pakistan. I deem it my accomplishment to upsize a business from scratch to an e-commerce giant and the journey has been full of challenges where I had strong nerves to tackle them may be due to commercial pilot background on a lighter note.
It is pertinent to mention here that HSN ended up being top 7 OMNI retailers of the world declared by World Retailers Congress in 2013 and that was a humongous achievement as it was the first time a brand from Pakistan origin made it that far. HSN is one of the very few retailers of the world that has offline presence as well and right now we are operating four stores at prime locations in different cities.
How much weight age you give to consumer behavior in case of online shopping?
The consumer behavior is an important aspect which any entrepreneur can’t afford to neglect. Its not a labyrinth or a complicated thing to work out; in our case HSN has kept it simple to maximize the convenience of the customers. We build relationships with our customers, take feedbacks from them and try to improve day by day and due to that the networking of our venture has been increasing at fast pace as a customer soon becomes a marketer due to competitive prices, good quality, and easy payment terms etc.
There is high transaction security in Pakistan and people are hesitant to make online payments. What solution you find to address this problem?
This is where HSN took lead from other online shopping platforms. Initially we thought that people will be making payments to us through credit cards like Amazon.com customers do but soon we realized that there was no online credit card processing facility available in Pakistan that time and we came up with the idea of cash on delivery which was convenient for customers as well.
We worked out with the courier companies and get ourselves engaged to sort out things. The cash on delivery is such a convenient offering that plays a major role in winning the customer’s trust as they can physically check the product quality before they make payments. I will add bit more to it that it is not just Pakistan where cash on delivery has played part in surfacing trust of customers on e-commerce but actually it is the whole region of subcontinent and Asia where this trend is on rise.
What is the room of online business or e-retailing in Pakistan? Is it the right time to start an online business?
Pakistan has a retail market of $48 billion whereas e-commerce market is just a paltry $40-50 million that constitutes just a peanut size share in the overall retail market. The growing number of internet users and Smartphone in palm of every single person the e-commerce market certainly has bright prospects in Pakistan. There is a huge room of growth and it is the apt time to step into the cyber space and cash in with broad product range or start off as niche player and cater to specific products.
How do you see rising trend of cyber entrepreneurship in Pakistan?
It is like fresh breath of the air and indeed a great sight that youth is engaging in productive ventures which are not only bringing social convenience by offering online solutions to their daily life problems whether it be shopping, cinema ticket booking, job hunting or any other but also giving them self empowerment satisfaction because a lot of human resource in Pakistan earlier on get wasted in search of jobs and unemployment rusted their abilities. But now, the entrepreneurship has motivated people to define new avenues for themselves and reach the top. This is really a great sign and I hope it will continue to rise.
How much innovation plays part in success of an online business?
There are two approaches to startup an online business. One can follow an existing venture and try to replicate it and the other is to take the challenge and go for innovation. The innovation definitely clicks people but at the same time its risky as well as you are not sure whether it will be embraced by your target market or not. Anyhow, both have their pros and it is the ability of an entrepreneur to maximize the pluses and quash the negatives. The execution is more important as one should commit to that extent what could be met.
What is your advice for upcoming cyber entrepreneurs?
Youngsters must be aware that it might be easier to create an e-commerce site but it has the same dynamics as any other business. To successfully operate an online business requires time, money and psychological investments. You have to go through several thick and thin patches but perseverance, dedication and timely decisions can escalate your business to great deal.
Without SandT promotion our country cant progress and Technology Times is beholding this slogan being a forerunner newspaper in Sci-Tech. What are your views about it?
This is highly appreciable work as I have rarely found a Pakistani SandT based newspaper before. Technology Times is a doing justice to its motive of science popularization and it is the unprecedented sort of publishing medium that is up for SandT awareness amongst masses which is really a commendable job.
Your message for our readers?
The youth`s ambition must be clear; they should know what they have to become and put serious efforts as it is said if there is a will there’s way. There is no shortcut to success and it takes an extra mile to achieve your objectives. I’d like to suggest everyone here to get comfortable doing what makes you uncomfortable, there are no shortcuts to the success – no matter whatever you do, challenge yourself.