GT talks to the brains behind Scentsation
How did you decide to start up Scentsation?
It was my brother Mohsin and my idea, because most major international brands didn’t want to come to Pakistan. Before Scentsation, there was no organized retail for perfumes and cosmetics. In Lahore, for example, one could find a scattered inventory at various department stores, Alfatah, Potpurri, etc., but not in one place dedicated to cosmetics and fragrances.
Do you personally have a big interest in perfumes and skincare?
Who doesn’t like to smell nice? I started with Azzaro, and then moved on to Mont Blanc which we import otherwise also through our company Multi Tech Marketing. We then felt the need for retail outlets which we started from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and then Faisalabad. My favorite scents are from HermÃ¨s. I like to wear all kinds of perfumes. Chanel Blue and Issey Miyake for men are two that I particularly like.
Is our market good for this line of work? How has Scentsation improved the retail experience for the Pakistani consumer?
Before, when there was no designated retail outlet, customers would end up buying from Dubai, America or wherever abroad they went for travel. Fragrances and skincare there are at least 15 to 20% more expensive than they are here in Pakistan. But despite that, there were two reasons why people would not buy locally: first, because of so many fake products in our markets; second, because the latest brands to launch would not appear in stores until much later. So with Scentsation, we only stock original products as we are authorized retailers of the products that we sell. And we launch our products at the same time or close to in Pakistan as they are launched in the rest of the world.
Through the advent of Scentsation, we were able to launch, for example, YSL and LancÃ´me, which were not found in Pakistani prior to our launch. We have been able to provide space for these lines as well as bring in skincare and cosmetics linesâ€”previously not found here-such as Clarins and Guerlain. We try to keep a wide range of highâ€”end and medium brands so that any customer who comes in is able to leave with the brand of their choice.
Scentsation is the only place in Pakistan where you can get a customized gift perfume bottle for your loved one with his or her own picture on it
Whats next for Scentsation?
Loyalty cards: we already have around 20,000 loyalty card members from all across Pakistan. We have also recently signed with TCS to collaborate with them to bring Scentsation products to our customers’ doorsteps via TCS Sentiments Express. We have discount collaborations with banks, namely HBL and UBL, where participating customers receive discounts on their credit and debit cards. We always try and maximize advantages for our customers.
And in addition to our existing outlets, we are expecting to open 6 more nationwide within the next year including new locations in Lahore and Rawalpindi.
What was your occupation prior to the establishment of Scentsation?
We used to import major brands to Pakistan such as Hugo Boss and Lacoste. When we went out into the market and specified our nature of product placement, we were hugely disappointed by the responses we received from the leading supermarkets and department stores. This is the point at which we decided to open up our own sales points and started Scentsation!
What’s the most important consideration for choosing a location for opening an outlet?
We choose to stay in the big, well-frequented malls. In Karachi, we are located at Dolmen Mall, Park Towers, etc. In Lahore, at Vogue Towers and Mall of Lahore. In Islamabad, at Safa Gold Mall, and Centaurus. In Faisalabad, at Sitara Mall; in Multan, at Pace. We plan to open up at the Nishat Mall in Johar Town and in the upcoming Hyatt Towers, both in Lahore.
â€œWe introduced YSL and LancÃ´me to Pakistanâ€
Any collaborations with the fashion industry?
For Bridal Couture Week and Karachi and Lahore Fashion weeks, we collaborate every year on the red carpet and our goody bags are always a staple. We also have backstage makeup collabs with celeb makeup artists that make use of our featured cosmetics and skincare lines.
How does Scentsation do the major holidays?
Valentine’s Day, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha and then of course Mother’s and Father’s day we celebrate with full fervor and decorate all our stores with the most festive decorations. We are the only place in Pakistan where you can get a customized gift perfume bottle for your loved ones with their very own picture on it. Gift cards are a great way to let your loved one decide and buy their own favored scent.
What’s your daily routine like?
I usually sit in the office and stop by at one of our shops to assess what’s going on in the retail. I always make it a point to get some exercise after: either I go for a walk or I play squash depending on my mood, and, definitely once a week, I play cricket!
Photography | AB Lakhani