Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in May-Jun 2017

Radical focus

Saira Fatima Sadozai, Founder, Radical Retail Solutions in profile.

Saira Fatima Sadozai is the face of young Pakistan. Having graduated from the Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design (PIFD) five years ago, she is a one-person powerhouse. Sadozai can design for you, market for you, offer you consultancy and much else. She does all this under the name of Radical Retail Solutions, and claims hers is the only company in Pakistan to offer such integrated services to the textile and fashion sector.

That Sadozai has opened up her own company at a stage when others are still trying to find their feet should come as no surprise – as the first graduate ever to have been awarded a gold medal by PIFD, this is someone who keeps collecting accolades. However, Sadozai didn’t dive right in when she started her own consultancy; she was savvy enough to get a feel of the industry ins and outs before doing so.

“I worked for three to four years before I set up my own company, which is now about a year-and-a-half old.”

When asked about the companies she worked for, Sadozai says she will not give any names, because she doesn’t want to promote any company. Nevertheless, she adds that “when I started working, one of my first challenges was to set up an R&D department. My second job was as a brand manager – again in textiles and fashion. I started off my career by working for a retail company and learnt all the tips and tricks of retailing.”

Although Sadozai speaks rapidly, she is careful to give measured input; every now and then, she will tell me that some tidbit she has shared is “off the record.” She is pragmatic enough to realise the dangers of stepping on toes.

“I did my first window displays in 2012 for a shop on M.M. Alam Road, Gulberg. When we design windows, we guarantee increased sales, original designs, and that the window will become a selfie point. And we do theme-based designs.”

Fast-forward a couple of years, and Sadozai had faced enough negativity to give impetus to Radical Retail Solutions being born.

“I opened my own company because of the hurdles I faced while working for others, and that really gave me the push. People do not want to appreciate you for your value – it is only after I opened my own company that my gold medal was recognised as an asset.”

There is much to discourage young people in the workplace and she feels that “ours is a male-dominated society and there is a lot of leg-pulling. Plagiarism is rampant in this industry, and in fashion, there is a lot of lobbying.”

Radical Retail Solutions is no whim and there is a 20-year plan for it. The company offers a range of services. “We do visual merchandising, art direction and brand development; product and retail audits are something new that we have introduced – we evaluate a product and suggest improvements that can be made to improve quality and sales. We provide design and marketing consultancy and PR services. We have also designed the wardrobe for certain characters in television plays, sponsored by a textile company.”

While Radical Retail Solutions is still a new name, what got them noticed were the shop windows they did for clothing stores.

“Crafting a window is more like crafting an art piece and bringing an imaginary world to life,” explains this fashion graduate.

“I did my first window displays in 2012 for a shop on M.M. Alam Road, Gulberg. When we design windows, we guarantee increased sales, original designs, and that the window will become a selfie point. And we do theme-based designs.”

In her consultancy work, Sadozai seems to have hit the right note for her interests. “I have always had a passion for art, and often used to indulge my passion by creating reliefs, soap carvings or paintings. I wanted to achieve something, because women from Pathan families do not often follow the kind of path I have taken. As a woman, it is always good to empower yourself.”

Sadozai credits her success to the fact that she knows how to present the products she works with – whether it is marketing or visual merchandising.

“It is usually thought that people who have studied fashion marketing and merchandising or business studies are good in retail, but that is not true because how can somebody who does not know about the product present the product?”

For now, this young woman is content to steer clear of fashion design – that is, after all, what she focused on in her degree programme – and she is clear about her reasons. “I would like to venture into fashion design, but not at present; right now the industry is saturated with designers. At present, retail is my focal point – product marketing. This work gives me a vast canvas to play with.”

Radical Retail Solutions operates nationwide, and the team has its share of hurdles. For Sadozai, one of them is dealing with uncooperative professionals.

“The biggest challenge is working with non-technical senior personnel. The people who do not understand the technicalities of our work are the ones who call the shots, and that creates a difficult work environment. People should trust professionals.”

For someone whose major has never been marketing, Sadozai is motivated and committed to her goals. The kind of work she likes doing best is that in which the partners in the project are as thoroughly-involved, and bring their ‘A-game’ to the table. “I love challenges and take up hard tasks to complete... ideally with those companies that seriously want to uplift their brand image, want a remarkable increase in sales and are ready to invest.”

Fareeha Rafique is a Lahore-based journalist.