Why the decision to launch Boksha?
FF: We noticed a gap in the market where there was no platform exclusively serving independent fashion designers, which is a growing segment regionally. Kamal, Yahya and myself have known each other for more than 10 years, and even though we have no creative backgrounds, our diverse professional experiences each brought a different prospective to the business. Given the unique nature of the independent designer market, we decided to build the technology infrastructure from scratch to fit the needs of the business and allow it to grow and scale. We were also strongly driven by Boksha’s social [goal], which is to help empower youth in the region to pursue their creative skills as a means of living.
Where does the name come from?
FF: The name ‘Boksha’ is derived from an Arab Gulf dialect referring to the piece of fabric traditionally used as a carrier by female merchants to hold their garments. The merchants would place their Boksha on the ground and showcase their items for sale at the marketplace. The name resonates strongly with what Boksha’s goals and values are such as women empowerment and showcasing unique items that each have a personal story.
What makes Boksha different from the many fashion websites in the UAE?
FF: The first thing that makes us unique is that we don’t showcase global brands on our website. We are exclusively catering to independent fashion designers. If you want something edgy and unique, then you should shop on Boksha. The second is that there aren’t many websites that provide custom-made items for its shoppers as most of their items are ready-made. More than 50 percent of our customers order custom-made items. This is very important for the categories we have such as abayas, kaftans and travel wear.
Do you find the UAE e-commerce retail market too saturated? Is it too small to hold so many fashion websites?
FF: I think we will start seeing consolidation (as we have seen in sectors such as banking, real estate etc.) in online retail in the UAE and the rest of the region. Brand loyalty online is more difficult as consumers are mainly looking for a good deal, hence I expect more buyouts in the coming years. However, in our case, we believe we are positioned uniquely in the market, serving a unique customer which in our opinion is underserved.
How do you deal with competition?
FF: We try not to focus on competition. If we worried about them too much, we wouldn’t have started the business in the first place. Given we are a marketplace, we serve two customers: our designers and our shoppers. We channel our focus and efforts into serving them better and expanding our range of services, hence building up our own competitive advantage.
How has Boksha been performing so far? Can you share some figures?
FF: We launched the website in January 2018 with seven designers. Today, we have more than 170 designers registered, and more than 2,500 items to shop from. We ship to over 11 countries worldwide including the GCC, US, Australia, France and UK.
Boksha’s social [goal] is to help empower youth in the region to pursue their creative skills as a means of living
A major initiative we launched last week is the wardrobe. This is a unique concept we’ve introduced, where inspirational women within the community are chosen to be our ambassadors by selecting items within the portal that they believe represent their style. This initiative has received many positive responses as the designers feel supported and encouraged by the ambassadors and in turn the ambassadors feel part of the vibrant community within Boksha. Also, we are looking forward to launching our app.
What are your main challenges, and how are you tackling them?
FF: We have big plans for Boksha but capital has been limited as we have been self-funded. Hence, we are going out for seed funding to invest into marketing, development and recruitment. Our target is to raise $1m.
What are your expansion plans for Boksha?
FF: The UAE was proof of concept for us. We are currently only onboarding UAE-based designers. [But]Boksha is a technology platform and hence our plan is to expand and open up to designers regionally. Once we close our seed round, we plan to expand into the GCC.
What is your vision for Boksha and what do you see it growing into?
FF: We don’t only see Boksha as an online website, rather, we see it as a hub for independent fashion designers. We offer many offline services today to our designers as we look to support them in what they do so they can focus on what they do best: designing. Our vision is to grow Boksha into the leading independent fashion designer destination in the region.
If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently with the business?
FF: We try to think forward and not look back. You need to act fast in the current environment we are in today. You can’t take your time in making decisions, so you’re likely to make mistakes along the way. We’re also building something new, and you need to have the courage to test out new things. As long as you learn from your mistakes, and don’t do anything catastrophic, you should be good to go.
What is the best entrepreneurial advice you’ve ever been given?
FF: Just do it. People worry too much about acting on their ideas. In the end, it is all about execution, no matter how many competitors are out there.
We noticed a gap in the market where there was no platform exclusively serving independent fashion designers, which is a growing segment regionally. Kamal, Yahya and myself have no creative backgrounds, our diverse professional experiences each brought a different prospective to the business. Given the unique nature of the independent designer market, we decided to build the technology infrastructure from scratch to fit the needs of the business and allow it to grow and scale.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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