Sayed Zariyan Ali
Sayed Zariyan Ali with some of his many prized offerings. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: By selling rare pairs of sneakers, a Dubai teen has accumulated around Dh120,000 over six years.

With an initial savings of Dh6,000, Pakistani student Sayed Zariyan Ali, 17, had started his venture and bought his first pair of rare shoes when he was 11 years old. He then resold it for a good profit and after six years of buying and selling, his initial capital grew 2,000 per cent. Now he has at least Dh120,000 in his personal account, earned entirely from his venture.

Ali discovered his natural business acumen and became a ‘sneakerhead’ or someone who is into collecting and trading in sneakers.

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Born in California, Ali grew up in Dubai, rode on the boom of collecting signature basketball shoes, which has become a subculture among the young and upwardly mobile population in the UAE.

He told Gulf News: “I have become an entrepreneur and I have been collecting sneakers for six years now. Occasionally, I sell some of my pairs after I have enjoyed them. But my clients are not just from the UAE — some are from India and the United States. In fact, just recently, I made a handsome profit of Dh60,000 just by selling five pairs of rare and expensive sneakers.

Precious pairs

Without batting an eyelid, Ali gave a rundown of some of the shoes he has sold.

First and the ‘cheapest’ one was a vintage pair of Kanye West x Louis Vuitton Don (cream colour). First released on July 1, 2009, a brand new pair today would set someone back by around $5,000 (Dh18,250). Ali owned a pre-loved pair — which he had worn a few times, but was still in ‘pristine’ condition — when he sold it for Dh4,000 on March 1. He turned a Dh2,000 profit from the transaction.

Limited-edition shoes
Ali recounted a special buyer who had flown in to Dubai all the way from Mumbai to secure a rare pair of Nike Air Yeezy 2 Solar Red. Image Credit: Supplied

Next was another pair of Kanye West x Louis Vuitton Don (black). This one was rarer and Ali put up his shoes for sale at an initial offering of Dh10,000. A buyer haggled and Ali sealed the deal for Dh9,000 and made a Dh6,000 profit off just that one pair.

Collector from Mumbai

Ali recounted a special buyer who had flown in to Dubai all the way from Mumbai to secure a rare pair of Nike Air Yeezy 2 Solar Red. “Released on September 6, 2012, there were only about 5,000 pairs worldwide and my buyer from Mumbai came to Dubai on March 1 to personally collect the shoes. He paid Dh11,500 — a brand new pair would cost around Dh20,000 — and I made around Dh5,000 on just this pair,” he noted.

So far, the most expensive sneakers Ali has sold was a pair of Nike MAG (2011). “A brand new pair of Nike MAG’s will set you back by at least $12,500 in the US. I ended up accepting an offer for Dh43,000 and made a profit of Dh24,000 on this pair,” Ali told Gulf News.

He also had a pair of Kanye West x Louis Vuitton Don (red) that was signed by the rap artist himself on stage. With an original box and a certificate of authenticity, for which Ali was offered Dh30,000.

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A typical online advertisement from Ali, offering to sell one of his limited-edition shoes. Image Credit: Supplied

“In total, from the five pairs I sold, I made around Dh60,000,” he added.

Honesty is the best policy

“But selling rare sneakers is not as easy as taking good photos and putting them online,” Ali underlined. “You have to build contacts and cultivate your reputation. In this trade, honesty is the best policy,” he explained.

“I thoroughly explain to my buyers the origin of my shoes and whether they have been used or not. I never traded counterfeits. All the pairs I sold have been authenticated,” said Ali, who is now on his final year at Emirates International School.

Ali added: “The common theme among the shoes I sold was their scarcity and if I was not selling authentic shoes, no one would buy from me. In this business, creativity is important and honesty is the main currency.”

Inspiring young entrepreneurs

Ali said the reason why he wanted to share his story was to “encourage other young people like him to take part in entrepreneurial activities”.

He was not apologetic in admitting that his shoes indeed were very expensive and flaunting them in times of the COVID-19 pandemic would appear scandalous to some people.

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“The thing is, there are people who are very wealthy and have not been adversely affected by the pandemic,” said Ali, adding: “These people are always ready to buy rare or limited sneakers.”

Ali noted the value of hyped sneakers has always been based on supply and demand. Some rare or limited-edition sneakers have appeared to be resilient and he just took advantage of the demand and made a well-deserved profit.