Dubai: “Retail is in my blood,” said Alia Jashanmal, 28, who grew up in a family of entrepreneurs based in the UAE since 1919. This half-Indian, half-Syrian was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, and since her childhood, she witnessed her family work together to turn a business into an empire.
"My grandfather came to UAE in the 50s, even before this place became the UAE. My grandfather's opportunities to grow his business and provide for his family in this nation were the foundations of my lessons in financial planning."
Alia’s journey as an entrepreneur began in July 2021, when she and her business partner Alkesh Thravani established an e-commerce retail store, which brought together fashion, beauty, homeware, and pet care products from around the world.
“I always dreamt of having my own concept store, and ‘Aloushi's’ came to life because of my passionate desire to showcase different cultures under one roof,” said Alia.
What were your expenses in launching this new business?
As a start-up, their initial expenses included the trade license fee, which in turn can only be activated once you obtain office space. Alia stated that other costs include stock, shipping, packaging for the products, and PR and marketing.
"I chose to go for a co-working space such as ‘Cloud Spaces’ in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, where all the necessities of office space are included. We spent Dh6,000 on the trade license and Dh15,000 on building the website."
The other costs were value-added tax (VAT) on all stock that comes in, which was based on invoice value. It cost Dh65 per month for an accounting software ‘Quickbooks’, Dh20,000 for clothing materials, photography expenses of Dh21,000 and packaging or suit covers for clothes at Dh11,000.
Alia’s business partner Alkesh Thravani invested profits from his personal trading business into launching the online e-commerce retail store in the UAE.
Two entrepreneur tips from her entrepreneurial journey:
Tip #1: Negotiating prices and capitalising on deals helps save money for the future.
Alia’s biggest financial obstacle was to create the business during the onset of the pandemic. She said that “the pandemic drastically affected efficient shipments of my products, and another challenge was motivating people to work on time due to the state of emergency.”
"It taught me how to be adaptable when there is no guarantee of how businesses would run because of the severity of the pandemic. I learned that it was essential to negotiate prices and capitalise on deals to save money for the future of the business,” said Alia.
“Always communicate with your network to negotiate the best price for both parties to prosper. For instance, if I pay six months in advance for a one year contract, I would earn a discount, which would work in my favour in the long run."
Tip #2: Work with a qualified partner to grow the business during the pivotal initial stages.
Since Alia began her online venture during a global pandemic, saving plans were essential in creating and growing the business especially during the pivotal preliminary stages.
“I solely relied on my business partner to make a saving strategy and handle the finances. Choosing a qualified partner aided me in having a business plan that was capable of succeeding in the future," Alia added.
"When establishing this business, I particularly focussed on customer service as the most imperative financial aspect, alongside the quality of products. The mission of the business is to offer the most luxurious products to the customer on an accessible platform. The profits we earn are mainly re-invested into the business, allowing it to maintain personal interaction with customers and suppliers."
Three lessons Alia Jashanmal learnt that later helped run a business:
Lesson #1: Have a clear-cut use strategy
Alia studied in a boarding school in Switzerland, where she got a weekly allowance for managing her expenses.
"I had to budget my expenses and ensure that the money lasted throughout the week. This helped me learn about allocating an amount for a specific use. I knew where the money was going and had a clear-cut use strategy. It became one of my first essential business lessons."
Lesson #2: Work with people from different cultures to learn the role of good customer service.
Alia’s working career began at a young age of 18 in the French Polynesian island of Tahiti, where she first waited tables and later as the ‘maitre d'hotel’ of a breakfast restaurant at a resort. She then moved to the US and worked as a sales coordinator at a New York-based boutique hotel.
"Working within the hotel industry was the most enjoyable experience of my life that allowed me to understand and deal with a variety of different cultures and types of people."
Later she moved into the fashion sector, working with a friend who had helped set up her brand. “This experience helped her know more about customer service and its importance within any industry.
Lesson #3: Make a regular savings habit from monthly income.
Growing up, Alia did not make a habit of saving money.
“However, I quickly recognised this over the years after working. I began saving 10 per cent of my income each month before I started my own business and realised that it is crucial to save money, put budgets in place and plan," she revealed.