Creative Chaos: Ethnic Crafts Fair in Lahore

A quick write-up following a visit to a local crafts fair in Lahore – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

CW CCThe Good

  • The Season-November in Lahore is the closest we get to Autumn around here, so it was quite comfortable while browsing through the crowds for the perfect handicraft fix.  The sun is bright enough for us Lahoris to bust out the designer sunglasses, breezy enough to dust off the devastatingly beautiful (read:expensive) pashminas to wrap around our shoulders and the air crisp enough that everyone is infused with an extra dash of joie de vivre -even the traffic policeman on the drive up were less adamant on issuing tickets!   20151107_151456
  • Large variety of crafts on display – From camel-skin lamps crafted in interior Sindh to embroidered leather pouches from Balochistan, there were many types of crafts represented at the fair.

The Bad

  • The LocationThe Mall is already the busiest road in the city, the organisers’ choice of Tollinton Market led to a parking nightmare.
  • The Time of the Year – There is too much going on! What with the Faiz Ghar folks rolling out a festival on literature and music then there is the Khayal ArtsFest with more of the same – November is pretty cramped. I would have probably picked late February/ early March as an alternate time of the year to hold this fair; somehow it seems like all the fairs and fests have been crammed in ahead of the impending ‘Shaadi’ season.  Pushing your limited target audience into a state of overwhelm is not favorable! 

The Ugly (or Missed Opportunities)

  • Products Unlabeled – No Back Story, No Instructions and No Contact info if you want to get in touch with the vendor.
  • Lack of Business Cards, Labels or Social Media presence  – Vendors need to provide some way for customers or potential business partnersto get in touch after the fair is over. If nothing else,  set up a basic Facebook page with the brand name and print a set of cards with the Facebook Page link on it.
  • Prices Aren’t Written in Plain Sight or  are Hard-to-Read – I wrote about this before here.

Win the Wallet: Cardinal Rules of Selling at a Local Fair

“Why do we fear pricing  products?” This is the one of many questions that came up recently.  Here is some background: That ring belonged on my finger.  I am at a local crafts and organic foodstuff fair in Lahore with a friend when this sparkly jewellery catches my eye.    There are a couple of people milling about behind the counter, but no price on the ring.  “Price Kidher Hai?” – “Where’s the price?” I ask in that general direction.  It’s a very busy stall, lots of potential buyers asking, tugging, expecting the wares – so it’s no surprise I don’t hear back until my interest is lost and I remember having a similar ring back home.    As we drift away towards the home-made cupcakes stand, the jewellery seller calls out ” Rs. 850 or your best offer!”.   SIGH!  This was all too little
and too late!

Here, for the benefit for all future and past merchants, cardinal rules for selling at a fair:

Rule #1: Please, oh, please don’t make ask you!

As a casual consumer strolling through a pop-up shop, I am here to enjoy myself. Make it easy for me to purchase your product or services.  Please, oh, please don’t make me ask you! That is such a chore and I am fearing a whole haggling situation, oftentimes I’d rather check out another shop/stall than struggle to get your attention.

Rule #2 : Price It    il_570xN.127037156

Have a set price written clearly.  The final price. No haggling. This is not a street side bazaar.

Rule #3:  Win the Wallet

“Win the Wallet” by lumping together the best-sellers with the slow-moving items – Offer  ‘Buy 2 and Get 1 free’ on your mini-notebooks crafted from hand-pressed paper.   Use Social Networks for your advantage AND offer a juicy discount to new customers- ” Refer our Facebook page to 10 friends and Check-in on Facebook – Get 20% on your current purchase”

Rule#4: Show Me What’s Special

When you have a unique or lesser-known product, you must educate the consumer. MUST.  Record a small demo video with your cell phone and play it on a laptop at the stall on loop.  Announce live demos every hour at the fair and make sure to include people who are watching in the demonstration.  If you want me to buy the latest innovation in organic honey – garlic-flavored- give me a taste!

Tell me what you think – Have you ever been frustrated by the lack of preparation by sellers at local fairs? 

Thoughts on the Google’s Techmela: A Tech-nical Oversight

Living on the internet, as the most of us do, we are used to brands coining new terms in hopes that they become trends on Twitter. The latest effort in the Pakistani Twitterverse is the phrase #techmela by the folks at Google.

The Google-powered “Techmela”  ( technology bazaar ) is being advertised as the biggest online technology shopping festival with exclusive partnership with Daraz.pk as the site hosting the sale.

On the surface, it seems like the Public Relations team was sleeping on the job with the slow spread of the announcement of the “biggest” shopping event.  Aside from the few tech-celebs cut-and-pasting a press release, there was little to go by on what differentiates this online sale from the thousands of products being sold to Pakistanis everyday.

As for the assumption that this particular Google-backed and Telenor-backed event is some sort of technological Messiah for the fledgling E-Commerce domain in Pakistan – I seriously doubt it. 

Granted, when you throw in money by the way Telenor and Google, things will happen. I have to ask though –  How is exclusively supporting one vendor when there are thousands of individual small business people in Pakistan selling their products and services online have any positive outcome on the adoption of e-commerce?  This is nothing but a purely commercial event being touted as a social development.

If you are Google Pakistan, Telenor and any other stakeholder seriously invested in E-Commerce, listen up! The success of the E-commerce domain in Pakistan requires the following scenarios to be considered.

  • If online users are not purchasing products, it is not because there aren’t the right products or even the right discounts being offered. The number one barrier to purchasing online is the inaccessibility to e-banking or mobile banking solutions – especially for unemployed women. 
  • Another reason that online users are not purchasing online is that even if they do select a product, the e-commerce vendor ( here I am referring to a small business person, not a Kaymu or Daraz) has little to no access to payment solutions such as door-to-door credit/debit card payment solutions. One example would be Monet’s Swipe2Pay mobile point-of-sale service, which can be a viable solution but they are bit vague on how to go about offering their services to small businesses at this moment in time. Such a solution would erase the anxiety that small business face when trying to sell wares to a distant location when Cash on Delivery is simply not an option.

Until the small business persons/merchants are empowered to sell their wares and receive payment from across the nation, the E-commerce domain will continue to be monopolised by the few and the connected.

As for the Google Techmela? IMHO, it is an amateurish attempt at capitalising on the earnest efforts of the tech and banking industry to bridge the gaps in the e-commerce domain.