is a craftsman and takes pride to call "working with glass"
his ancestral professional. Born and raised in Lahore he came to Karachi
in 1979 to continue working in his chosen profession — "glass
framing, photo framing as well as its use in buildings." In 1983,
he proceeded to Saudi Arabia and stayed there for next seven years
remaining associated with his ancestral profession. On his return to
Karachi in 1990, he diversified his professional portfolio and opened a
bakery and confectionery shop which he was forced to close after a spree
of robberies numbering eight in total. In 1994, he proceeded to the USA
and stayed there until last year to start household furniture
manufacturing unit and a retail outlet.
Why have you decided to move back to Pakistan from the US last year?
lived and worked in New York City from 1994 until late last year. After
9/11 the things change for worse for the Muslims in particular and
Pakistanis in general. There had never been so much public anger against
them in the past. That prompted me to come back. Just how bad was the
situation is evident from the way we were treated while boarding the
aircraft that would fly us back home. Other four Pakistanis, including
two women, and me were made to go through a number of screenings at the
airport, were segregated from the rest of the travelers. We were made to
take off our shoes and our baggage was searched thoroughly unlike the
other travelers. I would never go to the US again.
What's the market of household furniture like?
I feel that the demand of household furniture is growing at a more rapid
pace than any other furniture. This is due primary to growing use of
personal computers in particular and television set in general. Kitchen
cabinets are the top-selling item of all the household furniture items
followed by computer trolley, which has emerged as the second
top-selling item. Television trolley is also a hot item. This is true
not only locally but trends indicate that the demand for the two are
also on the rise elsewhere. There seems to be a great demand for the
television trolleys in Saudi Arabia where I exported 80 trolleys in the
recent months. Rising demand for furniture, particularly household, in
the Gulf countries offers Pakistan a vast potential for exports, which
remains untapped still. In addition, there has been a growing demand for
wall-fixed computer box in the developing countries, which is obvious
from rising retail sales of it by the expatriates living in such
developed countries as Canada. In short, the demand for household
furniture is not only growing within the country but elsewhere to offer
great potential within the country as well as outside.
What are the prices of wood, the basic raw material of furniture
manufacture, like in Pakistan?
primarily use "dayar" wood and "chipboard", both of
which are readily available in the market at reasonable prices which
have remained stable during the last one year. "Dayar" is a
local wood while the good quality chipboard is produced locally as well
as it is imported into the country. At present good quality locally
produced chipboard is available for Rs 900-1,000 per 4-8 foot sheet
while the imported counterpart is only a bit more expensive at around Rs
1,200 per 4-8 foot sheet. "Dayar" wood, on the other hand is
almost five-times more expensive and that explains the growing use of
chipboard in furniture manufacture here. The quality of locally produced
chipboard is good though the quality of imported chipboard is much
better. However, local chipboard is being extensively used in furniture
manufacture because it offers much better profit margins.
Are you satisfied with the local craftsmanship?
but not about productivity. I exported around 80 TV trolleys to Saudi
Arabia but was forced to discontinue exports because I was unable to
keep commitments due mainly to lack of productivity on the part of the
craftsman. The major detriment to productivity is the laid back attitude
of the craftsman and workers who work only when they need the money
oblivious to commitments made to foreign buyers as well as locally such
as the rush fueled by the two main marriage seasons — the first after
Eid-ul-Fitr, such as the at present, and the other after Eid-ul-Azha
about 35 days away.
wide range of Chinese products is increasingly finding its way to the
retail shelves across the country. How the scenarios with furniture
a number of Chinese furniture items, both wood and plastic, have found
its way into the local markets. I myself put many of them on display at
my outlet and also sold some of them. Though the prices of China-made
wood furniture were lower than the local counterparts, the quality was
not as good. The Chinese furniture is finding its way into the local
markets increasingly and I feel that it would be able to penetrate it
ultimately. Wooden wall panels are also increasingly finding its way
from China and though the quality of locally produced counterparts is
much better, the imports are much cheaper. In a price driven market like
Pakistan the increasing flow of Chinese furniture, both wood and
plastic, as well as wall tiles would ultimately drive local furniture
and related industries out of business in not too distant a future.