Designer, decorator Kianat Tufail is running a successful business from her home
Entrepreneur Kianat Tufail is challenging social norms as well as running a successful business in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Paper crafting is a very popular art these days. We decorate all kinds of things with paper and sell them,” she tells The News on Sunday.
“It is a unique art. Unfortunately, there is no formal institution or training centre in Pakistan where people can learn it. I learnt it on my own. When I was at primary school, I would decorate various things for ceremonies,” she says.
She would also participate in art competitions. That was where she got the motivation. She never looked back.
By training, Kianat is a pharmacist. She is currently pursuing a master of philosophy (MPhil) degree in pharmacy. “I am also running a business. I decorate things for weddings and other events. I get a lot of order mostly because there is no other artist of the kind in town.”
To a question about her most popular product, she says most people bought her things to send them as gifts. “I decorate a lot of items. Mostly people want me to ornament things that they want to give away. This includes regular gifts and birthday cards. For example, I customise a birthday card in such a way that when it is opened the pages fan out to show a picture of the recipient. Sometimes we hide chocolates and sweets in an envelope.”
She says most of these items are prepared at home and sold online. “A second branch of my business deals with outdoor events. We manage the decoration of the platform for weddings and other functions. We have worked for a university as well as some wedding halls and restaurants,” she says.
Kianat is also teaching the art to a number of girls.
“I teach them so that women can also earn a livelihood and become independent. During our early days, we faced many problems. Persuading others to join me was the biggest challenge,” she says.
Now, she says, some of her former students have started their own businesses. “Some of them have also joined my team. Around 70 percent of our income comes from handcrafting and 30 percent from event management,” she says.
To a question about the biggest difficulty she has had to face so far, Kianat says her first big challenge was to convince her family to let her start the business.
“Early on, I faced issues from my family. They worried that relatives and neighbours would say that I was running a shop at home. Some people questioned the wisdom of my decision to operate a business rather than focusing on my education. Now, most people have grown used to my work. Many send their daughters and wives to learn the art from me.”
Some of the projects take a lot of work. “When I am decorating something for a client, my biggest motivation is their appreciation,” she says.
“We beautify things delicately. Even an ordinary thing when handcrafted beautifully becomes extraordinary,” she says.
To a question about whether she would continue her business after completing her education, she says: “People frequently ask me this question. I tell them that the most suitable job one can have is the one close to your heart. My work is also my passion. Money comes later.”
“When the lockdown was imposed, all the businesses were closed down. My work was also affected as it was not possible for people to visit our shop. I came up with a strategy to do online business. During the lockdown, I uploaded information about my products on social media platforms. I would get orders from the clients and dispatch the products. Online business helped us a lot during the lockdown because people spent most of their time on social media.”
Kianat wants to open her own institute. “I want to expand my work and train more people. So far, I have attended more than 20 workshops on entrepreneurship and online businesses,” she says.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Peshawar. He tweets at @Wasim_Chashmato