Yasin Paracha (Team A Ventures) at Startup Grind

Yasin Paracha started his career in 1992, spending a year in the family owned Trading and Logistics business, and exploring new opportunities. After completing his MBA, Yasin started his first business project and proceeded to set up a small Stuffed Toy manufacturing and export business in EPZ, Karachi. Ziqi Toys is still the only producer of Stuffed Toys in Pakistan, exporting to Germany and other markets, as well as, distributing the same child safe and international standard toys within Pakistan, and is being managed by a trained and experienced team. A major step in his career took place in 2004, when he entered the retail sector. Yasin is the Founder and Managing Director of Team A Ventures, established in 2004 as a retail franchise business representing renowned international high street brands, starting with the franchise for Mothercare Plc. The company has grown rapidly in the last 8 years, in terms of like for like growth, brand portfolio and infrastructure. At present the company represents eight brands, including, Mothercare, Next, Debenhams, Timberland, Accessorize, Monsoon, Crocs and Early Learning Centre, and manages more than 80,000 sft. of prime retail space across 35+ stores and a team of over 350 people. The company continues to focus on training of sales force to enhance customer experience, strengthening supply chain to ensure quick warehouse to shop and shop to floor availability of stock, and employing retail tool and data systems to ensure that customer expectations are met. Yasin holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the London School of Economics and a Master of Business Administration degree from Clark University, Massachusetts.

Accessorize – Monsoon Children reopen together

International label Accessorize & Monsoon Children reopened their outlet collectively in Dolmen Mall Clifton, Karachi on 21st of March 2015.

The re-opening ceremony was accompanied by the launch of the Accessorize – MONSOON Children Spring Summer 2015 collections.

Cherry on top: 20% discount for the entire day was given!

Boho chic jewelry and contemporarily delicate accents were spotted in Accessorize section, whereas Monsoon Children featured pretty prints on sheer fabrics and adorable tiny shoes for the little ones.

Banking on history, British brands thrive in Pakistan

Banking on history, British brands thrive in Pakistan: Karachi’s Dolmen City Mall is a large, plush building that would not be out of place in Dubai. Heavily fortified with security guards, the interior is impressive, with its cavernous corridors and gleaming marble floor – a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the city’s other shopping areas.

Newly arrived from London earlier this year, Karachi residents were insistent that I must see this wonderful new addition to the city. When I did, it was something of a home from home. In addition to high end local clothing brands were a whole plethora of foreign stores, from Mango, to Next, to the Body Shop. Many (though not all) of these are British imports.

The latest to open its doors was Debenhams, stalwart of the British high street, which this year became the first international department store in Pakistan with its branch in Dolmen. It joins other UK brands such as Next, Early Learning Centre, Accessorize and Monsoon.

So what is behind the influx of foreign stores to Karachi’s high streets? Internationally, Pakistan is not viewed as an obvious market for retail brands due to security concerns – both real and perceived – and the attendant difficulties of doing business.

However, the numbers tell a different story. The retail sector is one of the fastest-growing in Pakistan, and is expected to grow at a rate of 7 per cent per year until 2015. To give some indication of the growth it has already seen in recent years, compare the market value in 2006 – £19124.1 million – with 2010, when it had increased to £26541.2 million.

Yasin Paracha runs Team A Ventures, the company which holds the franchises for UK brands Debenhams, Next, Early Learning Centre, Accessorize, and Mothercare. He explains that the historic ties between the two countries means that British brands have instant recognition in Pakistan.

“People in our target market are used to travelling to London frequently,” he says – many people will have visited the UK as tourists, students, or on family or business visits.

Indeed, the growth of this target market – young, urban, and with significant disposable income – is crucial to increased retail operations in Pakistan. The urbanized middle classes are a steadily growing group.

Of Pakistan’s 180-million strong population, around 55 million live in cities such as Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad. Consumerism is on the up, fuelled by a recent boom in consumer banking and the media industry, and encouraged by ever-increasing investment from both local and foreign chains. Traditionally, many people in this target market have preferred to do much of their shopping abroad, meaning that they are already predisposed to foreign brands.

But what about the security risks for new businesses? Karachi, in particular, is home to outbreaks of sectarian and ethnic violence, terrorist attacks, and a high instance of crime including extortion rackets.

“Of course it’s a concern for new investors,” says Paracha. “On the surface of it, a lot of brands are hesitant, but when they first make the trip to Pakistan, they are reassured because they realise that the things on the ground are very different from what they see in the media.”

However, the situation cannot be ignored. “One has to be cautious,” Paracha continues. “You can’t go into a very aggressive expansion because you can’t deny the security issue, especially in some cities. But so far we have not had a major negative impact on our operations.”

The visible success of household names like Debenhams and Next in Pakistan is likely t encourage other British brands to see the country as a potentially viable market. In addition to this, there is a concerted drive from the UK government to encourage British investment in Pakistan, due to a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries.

The UK Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green visited Pakistan earlier this year and said that businesses had to shed their prejudices about the country, saying: “Pakistan is a good place for British business to invest”.

According to the British High Commission, there are already over 100 British companies operating in Pakistan in various sectors.

“Pakistan has the potential to be the primary target for all British brands who want to benefit from this relatively untapped market due to its historic and modern links,” says a spokeswoman for the British High Commission. “There is a huge potential for opportunities for UK retail sector companies in Pakistan due to increasing disposable incomes.”

Talks are underway with many more foreign brands, so it seems that the influx is only just beginning. As Paracha says: “Regionally, Pakistan is the only untapped market left.”

With companies worldwide – not just in Britain – wising up to the opportunity, it appears that it will not stay that way for long.

New store: It’s Monsoon season in Lahore, Pakistan

LAHORE: Team A Ventures — leading international brand retailer in Pakistan — proudly opens a second outlet of UK brand Monsoon at Mall 1 in Lahore, following a successful launch in Karachi.

Keeping its focus intact on high-quality fabric and elegant cuts, this award-winning fashion brand maintains its position in the higher-end bracket in the list of expensive high-street brands in London — leaving behind popular labels such as H&M, Zara and Miss Selfridge.

Also the parent company of well-known brand Accessorize, Monsoon has successfully made its way to the top of Lahori shopaholics’ list of stores to raid this season. “As a brand, it focuses on the working woman,” states Anushka Paracha, owner of Monsoon, Pakistan. “This is primarily why the cuts are conservative and wearable, specifically in Pakistan.”

Paracha speaks to The Express Tribune about Monsoon’s target market: “Generally our target audience includes women of the ages 25 and above, along with new mothers [with one child]. However our clientele so far includes women between the ages of 30 to 40 — I feel this age group has the buying power; the ability to afford this expensive apparel.”

In a suppressive society like Pakistan, there is a large gap in the fashion world and the practical world. Women abroad might prefer shorter hemlines in their dresses and enjoy wearing skirts but this is not the norm in our country — especially for those shopping at western outlets on a regular basis. Wearability is a crucial element when it comes to fashion and cannot be ignored by brand retailers while bringing western brands to the east.

Alina Qureshi of Studio Avant Garde (a team of international PR specialists) also present at the launch, comments on the brand’s success: “Surprisingly the brand has been very successful in Karachi despite being a little pricey — people are buying our products regardless.”

“Although they haven’t brought as many accessories and products as one would have hoped, people are still enjoying their [limited] stock,” she continues. “The 20 per cent opening-discount is definitely pushing people to shop here.”

This new outlet may be small in size with a limited stock, but the franchisee still hasn’t failed to provide Lahore with a taste of different segments and collections from the international brand — from the trendy ‘Monsoon Fusion’ collection to the adorable ‘Children’ apparel, the store has a tad bit of everything.

“I loved the store and the clothes,” says a young customer Zara Bandial. “There is more awareness amongst people these days [of international brands and western fashion]. Therefore, such stores will do well in Lahore.”

Debenhams opens store in Pakistan

The retailer signed a franchise agreement with Team A Ventures to open the store which is situated in Dolmen Mall in Karachi. Team A Ventures also represents a number of other British retailers in the country including Mothercare, Early Learning Centre, Next, Monsoon and Accessorize.

Debenhams said it would consider expanding into other major cities in Pakistan if it were able find suitable store sites to lease. Lucy Haine, senior business manager at Debenhams International, told The National on Sunday: “There’s a highly affluent middle class which is growing in Pakistan, and we have also got a strong franchise partner.”

Adnan Hamid, the general manager of Debenhams in Pakistan added: “The fashion market has been expanding for the last four to five years and there are strong local brands in the market.

“There are so many people travelling from Pakistan to the UK. There are people coming into the store saying, ‘We used to go to the UK or Dubai to shop in Debenhams’.”

The Karachi store will use the same branding as in the UK and sell the same range of merchandise.

Debenhams among British invasion of Karachi’s high street

British high street stores are flocking to the sprawling, chaotic megacity of Karachi eager to cash in on a growing middle class with money to spend, according to ministers and business leaders.
Debenhams is the latest household name to enter the market and will become Pakistan’s first international department store when it opens next month.
It means braving a city notorious for corruption, power cuts, strikes, extortion rackets and repeated bouts of bitter ethnic violence.
The rewards more than make up for the risks, according to Yasin Paracha, the man behind Team A Ventures, which is the franchisee for five British stores which have already opened their doors.
“British brands have a great name in Pakistan,” he said reeling off some of the recent successes. “Mothercare and Next already have tremendous awareness here.”
He added that Karachi was home to a rich jet set suspicious of Pakistani stores and who shopped instead in London, Paris or Dubai.
The British invasion is being backed by David Cameron’s government, which is committed to increasing trade between Pakistan and the UK to £2.5bn each year by 2015.
Ministers have flitted back and forth emphasising the close historical ties between the two countries, the one million-strong Pakistani community in Britain and an opportunity for struggling brands such as Mothercare – which announced a £103m annual loss last month – to find areas of growth while high streets at home remain in the doldrums.
Although Karachi’s 18 million population and its status as Pakistan’s commercial capital make it an attractive destination for British companies, the city’s volatile mix of ethnic, criminal and political rivalries also leads to frequent violent convulsions.
In April, hundreds of families fled the densely populated area of Lyari as security forces conducted a sweep of drug dealers and criminal gangs, turning the area into an urban battlefield.
More than 20 people died in four days.
The city is also thought to Mr Paracha said he worked with expats and the British High Commission to give advice to companies thinking of opening in Pakistan.
“We can’t deny that there’s a security situation here but life does continue,” he said.
Lord Green, the Trade and Investment minister, visited the city earlier this year as part of a push to encourage British companies to invest.
He said businesses had to shed their prejudices about Pakistan and remember that emerging markets all brought their own risks – and potential profits.
“This is a large market and a growing market,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“There’s a burgeoning middle class. One hundred million people have mobile phones here and there is all of the obvious appetite for branded retail goods that you see in every other emerging market here too, so there’s a lot to work on.”
The new stores – including Crabtree and Evelyn which opened in March – are clustered together in Dolmen City Mall, offering a haven of air-conditioned Britishness away from the hurly-burly of the Karachi streets.
A spokeswoman for Debenhams said the company had done extensive market research before deciding to open in Karachi.
“International brands in Pakistan in general are performing strongly and we have no current security concerns,” she said.

There’s no business like the fashion business

KARACHI: Of the brands that made a splash at the recently held Fashion Pakistan Week 3 were the British retail brands Next, Monsoon and Accessorize, making a mark for actually encapsulating the event’s central theme of ‘high street fashion’.

With quality, style savvy clothing for women, men and children, the shows demonstrated that the days when these local variants of international brands would just pass their season’s old wares to Pakistan are gone.

However, with Debenhams slated to open its doors to aficionados in Karachi by June this year and other international popular brands like Mango and Nine West also making inroads into the Pakistani retail market, one wonders if the local market is large enough to absorb these brands whose average price point often hits a quarter of the salary of many of the urban working class professionals.

“Oh for sure. It hasn’t even started,” exclaims Yasin Paracha, Managing Director for Team A Ventures, the group responsible for bringing in Mothercare, Next, Monsoon, Accessorize and now Debenhams to the country. “Pakistan is by far the largest untapped market in the region,” asserts Paracha, stating that they haven’t even begun catering to the gargantuan appetite that exists for retail in Karachi alone, which has a population of over 18 million people.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” seconds Quiz Clothing’s Aftab Arshad, who, within a year’s time, has opened up two outlets in Lahore and has now set his sight set on Islamabad and Karachi. Although Quiz is generally perceived as a ‘party clothes’ brand which houses slinky and risque attire, it has still managed to carve its niche here. Arshad claims, “We doubled our imports last year and that goes to show that there is a huge demand here.” Clearly then, the market is booming and even if it’s the upper 10% that is being targeted, in a population of over 180 million people, the numbers are still enticing.

More Press Releases

Meanwhile, UK-based publication The Independent recently cited that the UK seeks to increase trade with Pakistan from £1.9 billion to £2.5 billion in the next three years. With British parliamentarians Lord Green and Baroness Warsi in attendance at the Debenhams launch press conference in January this year and with the British Council pooling in resources with Fashion Pakistan Week, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the UK is taking a greater interest in Pakistan vis-a-vis fashion and lifestyle, along with trade. “It gave us a huge high,” confesses Paracha with reference to Green and Warsi’s visit to Karachi.

Foreign vs local brands

Yet, the question remains: how will local retail brands such as Crossroads, Outfitters, Stoneage and others fare with foreign competition? “Crossroads and Khaadi have progressed heavily,” says Paracha. “The others have to push up their game too. Due to increasing competition, international brands will raise the standards for modern retail in Pakistan. This will create a healthy mix that will increase choices for consumers.” He cites Mothercare’s example and how after its advent in 2005, this untapped avenue for retail shot up with other local variants producing quality children’s wear.

While one can always argue that the target audience for these brands is the jet set crowd that typically shops in Dubai or London every summer, Arshad is quick to point out, “We bring in new stock at Quiz every two weeks and not many travel with such frequency.” Even Paracha echoes the same, stating, “We try to price our products as competitively as possible and our company is projecting persistent growth.”

Launch event: A UK brand arrives

A press conference marking the launch of the UK-based department store Debenhams in Karachi’s harbour front saw Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment for the UK; Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, UK Cabinet Minister; The British Deputy High Commissioner and Director UK Trade and Investment Francis Campbell; Adnan Hamid, a GM for Debenhams in Pakistan; Yasir Paracha (MD) and Iqbal Paracha (Chairman) of Team A Ventures addressing the media and invitees recently.

The UK ministers focused on the promotion of Pakistan as a good place for British business to invest. A lot of good is bound to come out of this enterprise given the recession-like atmosphere prevailing in Pakistan.

According to a communication and the details given at the moot, the British retail company will be housed in a 27,000 sq foot store that is set to open in April and will be Pakistan’s first international department store to join other British brands in Pakistan such as Next, Mothercare, Accessorise and Monsoon which already have a presence here.

Earlier at the press conference, Lord Green reiterated the UK government’s commitment to build on the bilateral trade relationship between both the countries, encouraging more British companies to consider Pakistan as an investment destination. “This store (Debenhams) represents further progress towards our goal of increasing the UK Pounds 1.9bn worth of trade that already flows between our two countries every year,” he said.
“UK retail companies are up there with the best in the world, so I hope that many more will look to invest in and create jobs in Pakistan,” added the UK-born Baroness Sayeeda Warsi whose parents migrated there from Bewal, Gujar Khan.

The British Deputy High Commissioner and Director UK Trade and Investment Francis Campbell dubbed Pakistan as a relatively untapped market and said, “Pakistan has the potential to be the primary target for all British brands who want to benefit from it.” He added that it will join other British brands such as Next, Mothercare, Early Learning Centre, Accessorise and Monsoon who are already targeting the country’s emerging urban and middle classes.

Adnan Hamid said the retail store has a portfolio of internationally renowned fashion designers with 65 franchises around the world, and is here to change lifestyles.

Brand new Debenhams to open in April at Dolmen Mall

KARACHI: It will take another four months for UK department store Debenhams to open its doors for customers in Karachi but excitement has already surrounded the international retailer.

On Thursday, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint and Cabinet Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi descended on the city for the store’s media launch.

They didn’t mind the makeshift arrangement made for the ceremony on the top floor of the Harbour Front building, which also houses a mall.

“This is going to be huge for our market,” said Yasin Paracha, the managing director of Team A Ventures, the company bringing the franchise to Pakistan. “It seems like an expensive store but we have done our homework and there is an appetite for brands.”

At present, it is hard to say what the store will look like. The space, spread over 27,000 square feet, is still under construction. But Debenhams will market at least eight of its in-house brands in Pakistan besides other known names.

The store was originally slated to be inaugurated in 2009 but it was delayed due to a lack of space, Paracha said.

The fact that other brands such as Next and Monsoon are doing well in the country suggests that Debenhams has a market, he said. “A lot of people also shop while they travel to other countries. That is the clientele we specifically want to attract.”

The store will open up some time in April. The price strategy for the market will not be different from what customers pay in the UK or any of its 65 franchises around the world.

Betty Jackson, John Rocha and Pineapple are some of the brands that people will find in Karachi. Paracha said more stores will be opened up in other cities.

Green said some of the largest British high-end brands were interested in doing business in the country. “We are working towards doubling the flow of trade between Pakistan and England.”

Next adds Pakistan to its overseas collection

Pakistani consumers will have another British high street name to add to their shopping lists when Next arrives in Lahore later this week.

Next has struck a deal with Team A Ventures, a Pakistani retail franchise specialist, to open a chain of stores in cities around the country, with the first due to open its doors on Friday.

The store will be managed by Saulat Ali, a young Pakistani-Briton who worked for Debenhams in its Oxford Street store for five years. It will sell Next’s existing range of menswear, womenswear and childrenswear, and, if successful, will be rapidly followed by other openings.

Next, which trades from more than 550 stores, nearly 20pc of which are overseas franchises, also has shops in the Indian cities of New Delhi and Calcutta.

Team A Ventures, which also owns the Mothercare franchise in Pakistan, is part of the Gulsons Group, a conglomerate involved in freight forwarding, shipping, trading, travel, communication and manufacturing.