Founded by husband-wife duo Tanzia Nasrin and Arnob Mustafa, Leisfita, sells exclusive designer jewelry and women fashion items online. Originally founded in 2012 as a Facebook page, the company went through multiple phases of metamorphosis over the past years. Today, it has evolved into a niche ecommerce player with a strong brand following in the women's fashion category.
We recently caught up with Tanzia Nasir and Arnob Mustafa to learn about their path to entrepreneurship, how LeisFita got started, what is LeisFita and how it operates, how Leisfita has evolved and grown from a mere idea into a company with a growing customer base, the state of Leisfita’s business today and its ambition going forward, what does it take to grow a business, challenges of being a founder, lessons they have learned so far and much more.
Could you please tell us about your background and what you are working on now?
I was born and bred in Dhaka into a middle-class banker family. None of my close family members are in business. However, from the very beginning of my career, I have always wanted to do something that I enjoy the most.
I never had a 9 to 5 desk job in life. I worked in Mobile Petrol Station while I was a university student. After graduation, I joined a Health Insurance Company as a Sales Representative.
In 2012, I started my BPO company. Now besides BPO, I am focusing on building up our eCommerce platform Leisfita. I work as Head of Business at Leisfita.
I was born and brought up in Dhaka. I came from a business family. My father and grandfather were into handmade clothing business for decades based in Sirajganj, which definitely helped to cope up with some down times as I have grown up seeing how father handled everything.
After completing graduation in Accounting I have tried a few job interviews. However, a formal job never attracted me. I always wanted to do something creative. I love painting. Be it a paper or a glass jar, I grab that and start painting on them or create some craft items out of it. From there I figured I may start giving my passion some importance. That’s how I landed on Leisfita. Currently, I am working as Head of Creative at LeisFita.com. My responsibility is bringing the most creative designs for our customers.
Could you please elaborate your path to entrepreneurship?
After HSC, I couldn't get a chance to enroll in any reputed public university. I was disappointed and literally forced my parents to send me overseas for higher studies. During that period of transition, I started my first venture with one of my friends - a coaching center which lasted only 4 months. However, the experience of making money always drove me to do something from then on.
I went to Australia for higher studies in 2004. I stayed there until 2010. While studying at Wollongong University, I have worked as Territory Representative for a Health Insurance Company. After returning to Bangladeshi in 2010, I got married to a beautiful woman Tanzia. Afterward, we both decided to stay back in Bangladesh with our family.
I spent a few months in a job hunt and worked for a small transport company for a month. However, it did not take me long to realize that this is not me. So I left that job and started a BPO agency in March 2012 - we’re mostly doing sales call for USA or Australia based companies. While working with a client based in Australia for his telemarketing part, he asked me whether we can provide web designs for him. Without knowing much about it, I said yes. I had to hire a web developer. Later I used to spend a lot of time with the developers to gather knowledge about website designs, hostings, digital marketing, etc. Before that, I had very little knowledge about this.
While I was doing all these things, one-day Tanzia came up to me and asked if I could help her source some products to sell through facebook. I guess Tanzia could tell you more about it.
Well, We are three sisters. My immediate elder sister and I first came up with the idea of selling some unique products through facebook. We didn’t know much. We saw some pages selling jewelry, dresses, watches, etc. And we thought we both should start showcasing our own designed Jewelry and other fashion products.
First, we needed a name. After much thought and churning through a few English names, my elder sister suggested that we should give a Bangla name and she suggested “LeisFita. Everyone agreed on the spot. That’s how we bought the domain on the same day of October 2012.
We launched our very basic website in 2013 January. Although website conversion was very low, we were getting a good response from social media. This is how my entrepreneurial journey started.
You could say, Leisfita is a family run business started by husband and wife; Arnob and Tanzia. At Lesifita, we understand what women desire, with an excellent eye for fashion, we source the most exclusive items for our customers from all around the world. For a modern-day woman, we know how valuable her time is, so our goal is to
meet her needs by spoiling her with endless selections.
At LeisFita, we always put the customer first. We pride ourselves on the best customer service and high-quality products. Our goal is to be a leading online fashion store in South-East Asia.
What went into building the initial operation of Leisfita? How did you put together initial investment and other things to get started? Please walk us through what the first few months of your journey were like and the challenges you faced.
Leisfita was launched in 2012. Initially, we were doing business mostly based on facebook. In 2016, we thought we need to change the way we do business, otherwise, it will be hard for us to sustain. As Tanzia conceived our first child in 2015, we decided to give LeisFita a year rest. After 2017, I started barely with any money. My BPO business went through a tough time the previous year and I was left with literally no money to invest in again.
We started again with only BDT 50,000 and two team members. With that money, I could only pay the one 300sqft room security deposit. I contacted my friend Adrian Jeganathan from Australia to help us out with a strategy. You can say we gave re-birth to LeisFita in February 2017.
We rebranded. Introduced a new logo. Changed our product focus. We started with a niche product line which was Genuine Pearl and Semi-Precious Stone Handmade Customisable Necklaces. We used to select exclusive designers jewelry and target specific audience group age between 27-50 Women. It went well.
If you ask me how did I manage the initial investment, I would say our first investors are our customers. Since our products are exclusive in material and design, we thought why don’t we give our clients to choose how she wants her jewelry would be. We contacted our partners' jewelers from 3 different countries to get approval to provide us customizable items. While we gave our clients the option to customize their jewelry, we requested a pre-booking amount to place the order. This is how we secured our first investment. Then I reinvested the profit I was making every month. That how we managed our first 10 months.
Could you please give us an overview of Leisfita in terms of services you offer, how many users you have, the size of your business,
We offer unique and exclusive products both in design and material. Currently, we have 5000+ designers jewelry made of cultured pearls and semi-precious stone. Our major products come from China, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It requires 25-30 days after placing an order. We are working on reducing the time to 15 – 25 days by the end of this year.
Currently, we have 40,000+ clients with a monthly order volume of 1200+ with 20% global shipping. We are a team of 17 people working out of our Green Road, Dhaka Office.
What is your business model? How have you grown your revenue?
LeisFita.com is a platform where consumers can order products which are made by global designers and get delivery anywhere in the world.
For Bangladesh, we have a different model - once the ordered items are made they are sent out to our Dhaka office then we do the delivery. Since 2017, we have been experiencing on average 180% bi-yearly growth.
We set our monthly sales goals and always try to achieve them. Every quarter we re-assess the sales growth and take necessary measures. To achieve the sales goal, we go back to our previous data to analyze which part of the expenditure we have to reconsider and what are some things that we could do. We analyze our marketing cost, team efficiency, resources, and capital requirements.
On average how many customers you serve per month? How have you attracted customers and grown Leisfita? Could you tell us about strategies and activities that you carried out to achieve the growth?
Currently, we are serving on average 1200 customers per month. One thing that has helped is that we target a specific group of audience. So far we avoided mass marketing.
Two major things have always worked out for us in growing our business. One, we have a responsive customer support team. They are well trained and can make decisions independently to make sure the customers are fully satisfied. Two, word of mouth of satisfied customers. We always go back to our customers after delivering the goods, take their feedback, and request to recommend us to their friends and family.
What are the lessons you’ve learned in terms of growing a business? What other entrepreneurs can learn from your growth journey?
We have stories of multiple failures. I myself failed in several ventures. I have learned two lessons. First, focus is critical for growth and success. Focus on one thing at a time and work toward it. Second, instead of focusing only on investment and valuation, founders should focus on actual investors of the company - the customers. Serve them well. Listen to them. Show them empathy when they face any problem availing your products or service. If you can build a happy customer base, your success should not be a challenge.
Have you raised any investment?
We have raised an initial investment from friends and family.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What are the challenges now?
The biggest challenges we’ve faced initially was building the trust in our customers as most of our products are high-end compared to local imitation products. We are overcoming this challenge gradually.
One challenge that we are going through now is converting our customers who are over 40 from assisted order to online order.
How does your sales and marketing work?
Currently, 70% of our sales come from social media campaign and the rest is coming through word of mouth, blog and organically. Once a customer places an order, we forward it to our partner jewelers or vendors. Then it get made and delivered to our Dhaka warehouse.
What are the goals for the future?
We aim to build the ultimate platform for the fashion needs of women.
What are some lessons you’ve learned?
It is easy to implement what you think is right for the customers but it takes a special mindset to implement what customers think is right for them. When you build strong relationships with your customers, you advertising costs would go down significantly. Listening to customers always help in developing the products and process.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous in the process of building Leisfita?
The name always helped us to reach our target audiences heart. As soon as they hear the name we see a smile on their faces because it gives them the childhood memory of LeisFita hawkers. Our global designers always give us new designs weekly which are widely appreciated by customers.
How do you deal with challenges and stress that come with being a founder?
Stress is part of every entrepreneurial journey. Whenever I face challenges, I take a break and try to spend some time in solitude. It helps.
What are your advice for founders who are just starting out?
The 80:20 rule is true. Whatever you do, try to find that at work. It would make you more efficient and reduce your workload and improve your results.
You are your brand’s first and only ambassador at least for the first few months. Act like one.
Be persistent when you set a goal. Maintain your consistency.
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