“The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.” –Hugh MacLeod
These days one doesn’t often read something positive about Pakistan. My country of birth faces a lot of problems – some that have been thrust upon it from the outside, but many that are systemic and endemic. But it is a nation of 180M people, and there is tremendous talent in its people that remains shackled. Every once in a while when such talent combines with deep passion and perseverance, a company like Markhor is born.
Markhor’s founders, Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim, hail from the historic town of Okara in Pakistan. Growing up they witnessed shoe-makers in their town practice their craft, but were astute enough to realize that the ancient craft of hand-made shoes was dying in Pakistan. They worked diligently for 8 months to launch Markhor - a company that designs, manufactures and sells amazing hand-crafted designer shoes around the world. They didn’t just find a way to sell locally made shoes, they reinvented the craft for the modern customer, and have brought the local shoe-making industry into the 21st century. With each shoe that is sold a little bit of that ancient craft is also preserved.
I met Waqas in my office many months ago. I don’t even remember how we got introduced. He is a slim, young man with a neatly trimmed beard. He speaks fast and he speaks with an accent. He also speaks with determination. He had so many ideas when we met. As he rattled them off to me I felt he may be trying to do too much at the same time. Imagine a young lad who didn’t know what internet was 6-7 years ago was trying to tell me he could design and build better than Italian shoes in Okara, Pakistan and sell to demanding customers around the world. That he would get people like Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg to wear and promote his shoes…and that he wanted to become the biggest shoe company in the world.
As I often do, I took him to the white board and we worked together for a couple of hours to clean up some ideas, organize them into a few big themes, and synthesize a few key milestones for his company. Starting an international e-commerce company in a category that has been dominated for decades by well-heeled (no pun intended) competitors from fancy romantic locations in Western Europe seemed an uphill battle. I wondered if Waqas and his team had any idea how hard this was going to be. I asked him bluntly. I remember him looking into my eyes and saying “We are going to win. I may not know exactly how but I didn’t start this to fail. We will win”. At that point I knew this man was going places…
Waqas and Sidra’s dream, Markhor, is now live on Kickstarter. They are off to an awesome start and I am a customer. They have already reached more than double their kickstarter goal in less than a few days. But their ambitions are so much bigger. As Sidra said to me recently, “[we are] #notstoppingnotsleeping”. Go Sidra, Go Waqas! May you win big!
Check out their kickstarter campaign here: