The fabric of carpet in web
Arezo Khosravi and Mohammad Nasiri; a young couple who sell carpet online
Arezo was an UN Office employee and Mohammad owned a planning company but they both quit their jobs to start their own business.
In 1389, they launched FarshOnline internet store with only 30 million Tomans. They faced many oppsitions but now their store is very famous.
It has 5000 visitors per day and has sold more than 500,000 meters of carpet so far. They work with more than 20 brands and want to gain 10% share of selling 80 million meters of machine made carpets within next 5 years.
Their goal is to be present in global markets of hand-made carpets, revival of traditional designs and patterns of Iranian carpets and employment of low-income women and girls.
When did you think about FarshOnline idea and when was the site launched?
Arezo: we thought about this idea in Mehr 1389 and it was launched at the end of that year.
Is there a special reason that you enter carpet market?
Mohammad: I had a planning company in which I was not so successful. But I could become familiar with internet world and online businesses and I knew a lot about IT. On the other hand, my father was in carpet market for 50 years. So this idea came to my mind.
Arezo: I was studying international law and I had worked in UN office. I had traveled to many countries and knew foreign approaches. They had simple lives and didn’t waste their time.
They bought what they needed through internet. Thus, when Mohammad told me about his idea, I felt that we could count on selling carpet online.
Your families must have disagreed with you because you would quit your own jobs.
Mohammad: everyone disagreed; from my father to my friends.
Arezo: even great masters of business law told us not to enter this business. They said this market is very traditional and carpet is different from mobile and foods.
Its online sale is difficult and maybe impossible. But we studied a lot about methods of selling online; from idea to launching site.
It took about six months and we examined more than 20 online carpet sale sites around the world before starting our own; from their operational method to technical methods for running their business and the reasons of their success.
We wanted to move forward based on international rules of Ecommerce rights.
You didn’t receive any support. Didn’t you receive financial support?
Mohammad: our families didn’t give us any capital and we started with our capital which was 30 million Tomans.
Arezo: because we were carpet startup and no one has entered such an area, we chose Farsh Online as the name of our business.
Mohammad: my father didn’t even give us a carpet so that we could sell it in our store. but because I was in carpet market, I knew providers and manufactures and had contact with them. Some of them supported us and some told us not to do this business.
This site launched in 5th Esfand 1389. How long did it take to sell your first carpet?
Arezo: the day after we launched the site!
Mohammad: he was an engineer from Mashad who bought a 6-meter children carpet and a 6-meter long pile carpet fro, FarshOnline. Our first sale cost 400,000 Tomans.
Did you start with hand-made carpets or machine made ones?
Mohammad: machine made carpets because selling hand-made carpets online was very difficult.
Hand-made carpet market is stagnant right now. How does it affect your business?
Arezo: because this market is stagnant, we focus more on machine made carpets and it is about six months that we have added hand-made carpet to our sale categories.
In Iran market, hand-made carpets are sold very rarely. On the other hand, reduction in the volume of export has caused increase in its price so the public don’t but hand-made carpets.
What has happened that you have decided to add hand-made carpets to your categories?
Mohammad: the most important reason is that we have plans for exporting. Because hand-made carpets don’t have many buyers in Iran and we count on export markets.
Did you ever have any export?
Arezo: we have sent some samples to America and we are planning to increase export of hand-made carpets.
How are these carpets being sent and how much do they cost for customers?
Mohammad: invoices above 200,000 Tomans is free for Tehran. For other cities, Farsh Online pay the cost of shipping the goods to freight and the shipping from there to the customers costs about 10 to 20 thousand Tomans.
Arezo: but if the customer pays more money than the usuall, we compensate. For example, they called us from Andimeshk and said they were to pay 50,000 Tomans for shipping of a 4-meter carpet.
In this case, we paid the money to our customer. Also if customers are dissatisfied with the carpet, they can return it within 7 days after purchase and we refund the money.
How many visits does your site have?
Mohammad: Farsh Online has 5000 visits per day.
What was the rate of your growth?
Mohammad: at first we paid for most of costs. Internet infrastructure was weak and people didn’t know much about this field.
There were even disagreements with internet in the society. Thus we didn’t have much growth until 1392.
Arezo: in 1390, FarshOnline had caused financial loss and in 1391, it became balanced and in 1392, it experienced threefold growth.
Now it has 5-fold growth. Because of this growth, we felt that there should be new happenings and new tasks if Farsh Online wants to continue its growth.
Thus I decided to study PhD of business management and we have edited a short-time and long-time plan which would contribute to FarshOnline growth.
With how many brands do you work?
Arezo: at least with 20 top machine carpet brands. Second-rate brands want to work with us too but they don’t have a place in our business because we don’t want to lose customer orientation as our competitive merit.
We sell small hand-made carpets as well so that the public and young people can afford them. We want to revive Iranian traditional patterns: patterns which are from different areas in Iran like traditional patterns of Ardebil.
How much do your hand-made carpets cost?
Mohammad: in general our strategy is to sell carpets which are affordable for most of the people. We have added hand-made carpets with this vision and they cost up to 400,000 Tomans per meter.
Do you have any statistics about your sell rate?
Mohammad: aside from handicrafts and decorative accessories, we sell more than 20 twelve-meter carpets daily which is more than 200 meters per day and we have sold more than 500,000 meters during these 5 years.
How much is the least price of each machine made carpet in the market?
The least price of each meter of a machine made carpet with good quality is up to 40,000 Tomans. There are cheaper carpets in the market too but we don’t sell them because we focused on first rate carpets.
How many people work with you?
Arezo: in general, our team consists of 15 young, creative and motivated people.
You are the first online carpet market. What is the current condition of online carpet market in terms of competitors and other sites in this field?
Mohammad: there are many sites that sell machine made carpets and they started their business one year after us. They even referred to us to get some advice. There were about 5 active sites in this field until 1393.
Arezo: but now there are 37 sites in this field, three of which are the exact copies of Farsh Online. They have even copied our logo. We are negotiating with them to solve this problem.
But because copying patterns in carpet market is very common, those who have entered online field from the market, copy all parts of the site. They have even copied the comment of customers!
Which one is your rival?
Mohammad: we don’t have a serious rival in online field right now. These sites are run by one or several persons and they are not that much important.
Because FarshOnline is the leader in sellin carpet and connecting tradition and modernity, other sites have been our followers so far.
Arezo: there are many sites but they have different approaches. We try to be special and professional; thus we pay cost for our job.
For example, we have professional studio and take special photographs because we want to observe our customer orientation.
But others don’t pay cost for these things. In fact, we want to behave with modernity in this traditional field. Thus we help our rivals and give them advice.
How do you set prices?
Mohammad: we sell carpets based on customer price which is determined by Iran Textile Industries Association. But we have our own solutions and strategies for selling more.
For example, factories sell carpets to us in bulk and we gain profit from retail. We even cut our profit and focus on selling more.
Because according to public opinion, they should buy goods in online environment 10 to 30 percent cheaper. We have put 50% discounts in our site.
You mentioned the price set by association; we have many unions and associations regarding carpets; what do they think about online sale and have you ever had a contact or challenge with them?
Arezo: this year we had problem in participating in carpet exhibition. They tell us what our company is. They don’t get what we are; they don’t recognize us.
Even internet associations have put so efforts in this field but they want to see a traditional company. At last they didn’t give us a stall.
In machine made carpet exhibition, they would give us a stall provided that we pay an amount of money. But they didn’t give us a bill and didn’t determine the place for our stall. At last, we didn’t participate.
Mohammad: we couldn’t participate in hand-made carpet exhibition for the same reason and problems.
Arezo: at last we talked to one of the authorities in Chamber of Commerce and they are supposed to recognize online stores next year.
One of the problems of online stores is the lack of license. We are working on it and Association of Internet businesses has made many efforts in this regard.
Do people in carpet market recognize you in bargains as a manager who is a woman?
Arezo: this market prefers to work with men and they want Mohammad to negotiate with them. Even they know the site in the name of my husband and accept him as the manager.
While we haven’t said that Mohammad is the manager of Farsh Online. They try to neglect me but Mohammad and I support each other.
Hande-made carpet export has lost its 20-years-ago market around the world. One the other hand, many stores are opened in the field of online carpet sale in countries like America which are the customers of Iran traditional hand-made carpets; what are the plans of FarshOnline to compete with such stores and their presence in Iran?
Mohammad: export to markets which are lost is very difficult. Many powerful stores are opened in this field and carpets of other countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have taken th position of Iranian carpets in the market.
But we have recieved many requests from aaround the world and thus we are confident about exporting.
Arezo: we have many emails from many countries like Russia, Brazil, Australia, Sweden and Norway that want to buy Iranian carpet and sell then in their cities and countries or use them personally.
Mohammad: we had even an email from Russia and a person wanted to open a carpet factory there and asked us for help.
He had found FarshOnline from Google and didn’t know Farsi and his email had been translated with Google Translate. These requests have caused us to think about exporting carpet through Farsh Online.
Arezo: we have sent carpets to Sweden and Norway but because we were in the period of sanctions, we had problems in shipping and recieving money.
For example, our customer wanted to have a carpet store in Norway but high cost of shipping was a big barrier. we have sent samples to America in which we gain success.
What are the solutions for solving problems related to sending carpets abroad or even inside Iran?
Arezo: becuase different countries have become customers of Farsh Online and in order to send goods easily and with lowest cost, we would open two offices in America and on European country within a year so that we cut the problems related to shipping.
Mohammad: we have even got domain of a site in English.
Arezo: one of our advisors is preparing an app for transportation which is specific to Farsh Online to solve transportation problems in Iran.
In fact, we can solve our problems by ourselves because we shouldn’t be dependant on transportation systems in the country.
FarshOnline is always organizing infrastructures due to these infrastructure problems and is easing the way for others. We even want to have our own transportation system.
All these require high costs and a lot of energy. two years ago ICT praised us a lot, but they don’t offer us any services and we don’t have a good server in Iran.
You have a infrastructural and basic view towards your business thus you may come up with production. If it is the case, what are your reasons for production?
Arezo: yes. Farsh Online will become a big copany and it wouldn’t remain a startup. Thus we want to enter the field of production because we can offer better prices to our customers in this way.
I also wrote an article about women peace in the family for which I had recieved a reward in Geneva. I always think about women jobs and their social situation.
Thus we work with women who have financial problems and their families are subject to serious social damages.
There was even a family in which the father wanted to sell his daughter because of his addiction but mother stopped him with making money for the family.
We are working with 6 families right now and get what they produce and sell them on the site and give all the money to them.
We even have a plan to sell what handicapped persons produce. I have seen many issues in carpet market. They buy a carpet from a woman for 5 million Tomans and sell it much more.
If we enter in the field of production, we can provide a standard place rather than non-standard undergrounds.
Mohammad: it is worth mentioning that this weaver sits on a machine made carpet which costs only 10,000 Tomans and weave a silk carpet.
How do you find these people?
Mohammad: they call themselves. We have several call every day. We communicate with them and help them. Most of them are from other cities; from Illam to Sanandaj and North Khorasan.
Arezo: Business is not only buyong and selling and making money. My husband and I do our business to satissfy our souls. We want to help low-income people especially women and weavers who don’t have insurance and any legal rights.
Mohammad: We have other reasons too. For example, preparing an infrastructure for employment for those with skills related to carpet.
Currently in this market Iranian designers are sent to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and afew people has remained in Iran. Even they send Iranian wool to other countries.
If we enter this field, we can incease your share in carpet market. You mentioned that so have sold more than 500,000-meter carpet. What is your plan for the next 5 years?
Mohammad: 80 million square meter machine made carpets are made each year in Iran of which 20 to 30 percet are being exported. We want to reach online sale and export 10 percent of this 80 million meters within five years. We have also plans for wholesale.
When a startup is launched and grows, customers will come. Does Farsh Online have a special customer?
Arezo: yes! It had customers who wanted to buy Farsh Online. Buyers from inside and outside of Iran.
How much did they offer?
Arezo: more than 10 billion Tomans.
Why didn’t you sell? It sounds a good deal. You have started with 30 million Tomans and you could sell it for 10 billion Tomans.
Arezo: We have passed difficult stages of FarshOnline recently and we injected high costs in this process and we have seen many capacities during this period.
It costs much more than that. We have done infrastructures and we would see its major success in near future. Thus we don’t want to sell it.
Did you have capital attraction?
Arezo: not at all.
Mohammad: If an investor offers a good capital, we would accept.
Arezo: But it is more important for me that the investor knows online environment and carpet and which capacities he adds to our team and what he can do to help us grow.
One of the problems of startup field is lack of efficient human resource. You have mentioned that you use Sharif University students in the field of IT. What problems did you face and how did you solve them?
Arezo: Human resource is the problem of Iran labor community especially in the filed of startups. We are always looking for experts.
For example, for content production. We have recieved many resumes but their resumes are different from what we see in person.
They are not motivated and don’t have a good output. We want work force in the field of IT right now, but there isn’t any efficient work force and if there is one, he/she wants to launch his/her own business.
Maybe we have many graduates in IT but they don’t have enough experience.
What should be done to solve this problem?
Mohammad: We hire people with this tought in mind that we would train them. We provided a friendly environment and we even prepare lunch with them but those who works well want to launch their own startup.
They don’t even accept higher salaries. Maybe we encourage them too much.
- You must have become disappointed; how did you behave in such cases?
Mohammad: Many people have left us. But I am hopeful.
Arezo: FarshOnline wouldn’t remain without Mohammad and his quiet character. I had worked with foreigners and wanted to move everything forward on time.
On the other hand, we have entered a totally traditional field and I couldn’t tolerate irregularities. Sometimes I wanted to quit and return to my previous job or teach at the university. But Mohammad gave me hope.
It seems that there is a good relationship between you as a husband and wife; on the other hand, many people say you sould choose one: work or marriage! What is your opinion?
Arezo: We got married in 1387 and we have lived and worked together for about 11 years without any problem.
Mohammad: We were like two friends from the beginning. In the workplace, we are two colleagues with a friendly relation.
Arezo: We have grown very well since we are together. Those men in my life were always good persons from my dad to my husband. Mohammad is one of the best happenings in my life. I am very active and Mohammad is very quiet.
I was a journalist, worked in UN office and traveled a lot, during a period of time, I was a tutor. Cosidering all these, I should have a man who can cope with me and support me.
In fact FarshOnline has helped us and our business to grow. We don’t go anywhere seperately. We eat together in FarshOnline and we raise our child together. We have proved that a husband and wife can work together.
Do you think that you’re successful?
Arezo: we have a long way to go but our vision for two years later is that we become Iran carpet reference. After that we have a two-year plan to address insurance of women who are weavers. We may even do it under the name of FarshOnline.
Can a startup insure is employees?
Arezo: no, unless it is registered as a company. But founders of internet stores have complementary insurance with the help of Association of Internet businesses.
How do startups pay taxes and how they are calculated?
Mohammad: during last six months, this field has become stable to some extent and it is determined that if monthly profit reaches a fixed limit, tax should be paid.
Online sale system is supposed to be connected to Department of Finance so that they have exact statistics.
How much does your history of being in carpet market affect your success?
Credit in this traditional business which is very difficult to get, is very effective in reaching success.
We have problems with providers and they don’t believe in online sales. But because I have worked in carpet market, many people know me and thus some of them supported and cooperated with us.
Your father didn’t even give you a carpet for sale. What is his reaction now?
He is retired and doesn’t work in carpet market. But now that he sees our success, he is satisfied.
If you are asked to define Farsh Online in a few sentences, what would you say?
A combination of tradition and modernity with linking carpet and internet has been established for the first time in FarshOnline.
Contrary to what people think based on which husbands and wives can’t work together, its founders are running Farsh Online very well.
FarshOnline is updating its patterns according to foreign customers’ taste and budget and sees itself as one of the main channels of exporting carpet.
FarshOnline is customer-oriented and focuses on free delivery, high quality of carpets, guarantee of the authenticity of products, guarantee of lowest price, pay door for all parts of Iran are among services it offers to customers.
And the last question: which carpet do you use at home?
Out friends and relatives expect us to have many carpets at home. But we have only two Shirazi carpets.