Is Amir Adnan’s Brand Essence Diminishing?
The alley is flooded with water so much so that it resembles a gulley. Efforts are being made to pump the water out as we contemplate passing through this ‘moat’ but it looks like it’s going to take a while to make it accessible. We try the next alley which is no less menacing – one side completely destroyed and from the other one just slightly better, monstrous trucks are coming in our direction.
After some struggle we make it to the inner maze of alleys and factories. But where to now?
After even more struggle and khuari of asking around (most of the people working there declare such a place doesn’t even exist!), we are directed to our Manzil-e-Maqsood: Amir Adnan’s Factory.
But what were we doing there? Were we suppliers? Distributors? Retailers?
We were the customers! Or at least my friend Sami was. I was just there for moral support. But the point is, what were we the customers doing at the factory? Isn’t the customer supposed to be the King? Why were we subjected to such a tormenting journey? Why were we directed to a small non-descript alley in Korangi Industrial Area and that also in the month of Ramadan?
We were there because Sami had bought a Sherwnai for his wedding. Now he had given the order at the Park Towers outlet of Amir Adnan, so why was he called for a trial at the factory located on the outskirts of Karachi?
That’s the issue here.
IBA’s director Danishmand has a habit of stopping where a group of students are chatting in the main corridor and inquiring about them, but more importantly narrating some experience of his. The other day he chatted with a few of my friends. The topic of interest was marketing. According to him, the customer is considered the King in Japan; the King if he tips, in the US; and never a King even if he gives tip in the UK. We are still under the imperialistic influences of our former masters even when it comes to business, hence such a callous attitude towards our source of bread and butter: the Customer.
Coming back to Danishmand’s experience, he narrated that once when he went to Japan, he had to buy a pair of spikes for his son. To the best of his ability he chose them at a store. The money was in his hands and he just about to complete the transaction when the sales girl dealing with him engaged him in a conversation about his son: was it the first time he was going to wear spikes? Why did he need spikes? How much he worked at his fitness and so on.
Now the sales girl could easily make out that this was a foreigner who most probably is not going to turn up at this shop ever, but her training and attitude is such that she still wants to leave a good impression as well as make the customer happy.
Danishmand compares this attitude with a typical shop in Punjab where the shopkeeper has a Chahiyay-Ya-Nahin? attitude.
No doubt we look down upon the customer, consider him a moron who’s going to bear it no matter how low the quality or high the price. And then when we ourselves are the customer and meted with the same treatment we dish out ourselves, we blame the society and our fellow countrymen.
Amir Adnan’s business seems to have developed this my-way-or-the-highway attitude of late. If you want to buy my product, fine, these are the arduous tasks that you’ll have to go through before you can own one of my creations. That’s what he seems to be saying.
It’s akin to Rolls Royce motto that we sell only to upscale customers. Only Rolls Royce is dead serious about the type of customers who own their product. You got to have a truckload of millions or belong to some royal family before you can own a Rolls Royce.
I vaguely remember a case where Rolls Royce demanded back its car from a customer (I think he was an Indian) because he had deceived them about his stature or was embroiled in some controversy. The man, pissed off by this attitude sent back the car crushed and crumpled with a note saying in no uncertain terms that this was how he saw their brand.
However, the difference between RR and Amir Adnan ( if they can be compared by any stretch of the imagination) is once RR sells its product, it goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure the customer remains satisfied.
Once a business tycoon’s RR broke down on a highway in the middle of the desert. To be precise, the axle broke off. He called the customer service and at once a helicopter was dispatched to transport the man wherever he wanted to go. However, the company spokesperson was adamant that a Rolls Royce’s axle just doesn’t break.
I doubt Amir Adnan can provide any sort of after-sales service, let alone the RR royal treatment. I can bet on this after having seen what my friend went through. You already know the details of the arduous journey to the factory. Here’s the remaining part.
Once we reached there, there was a brief waiting period before the sherwani arrived. To sami’s horror it wasn’t the same one he had chosen at the outlet. You can imagine the gravity of his horror when I tell you the sherwani cost a whopping Rs.46,000! To be exact, the one he had chosen was a dull green; this one was a shiny golden. The design, however, was the same. And to rub salt on his wounds, the man in charge was adamant that this was the same one he had chosen.
How low can you stoop? First you call your customer to that God-forsaken place for a trial, and then you try to sell him something other than what he had chosen at the same exorbitant rate.
The matter was resolved finally when the same sherwnai displayed at the outlet was brought in and compared with this one. There was a definite difference between the two. This was explained by the craftsman as unavoidable since it is impossible to get exactly the same colour combination because a human mixed the colours and not a machine. Fair enough, I guess. But at least this inherent shortcoming should have been explained by the salesman at the outlet in advance so that matters didn’t come to a head like they did now.
Sami was lucky in that the display sherwani fitted him and only minor alteration would be required. So he gave up the one made for him and chose the older one.
However, not every customer will be that lucky and mannered, and if a short-tempered customer got pissed off by this, they would have a tough time controlling the situation.
After this matter was resolved, I asked the man dealing with us the rationale of calling the customer at the factory for trial.
He said that the trials used to be conducted at the outlet in the past but when they didn’t work out, they had to call the customer at the factory. He gave two reasons for this change of venue and I couldn’t digest either of them. At least they were not so serious as to inconvenience your customer so much.
One reason was that during trials you have to match the size and the material of the accessories ( khossay, turban etc) with the participant’s size and choice. At a factory you had all the things you need at your disposal but it was difficult to stock all of it at each outlet. Ok. Difficult, yes. Impossible. No.
The second justification that he gave was mind-boggling. He said that there are two types of masters ( the term used for tailor in this part of the world). One type was the one who took the initial measurements at the outlets. The other type was the one who conducted the trial and undertook the actual cutting of the fabric himself, after which the other craftsmen took care of the stitching.
The masters they had for the measurement part were unskilled at conducting the trial since they were trained for the actual cutting. And they had only one master capable of cutting who needed to see the person and get an idea of his shape in order to make the right fit. This master, he proudly announced, was the one who was sent to General Sahib’s crib for the trial whenever he needed a sherwani.
Isn’t it baffling? I mean, why don’t you make a serious effort at training other people for this job? The ace master is not going to last forever – he may even switch sides if a competitive designer offers him a lucrative offer.
How can you base your entire operation on a single man? What sort of a business plan was this? And what about the customers residing in other cities or even countries?( Amir Adnan has expanded to UAE and the US). By the look of things – Mrs. Amir Adnan was ordering some packages to be sent to Lahore ( There was this lady bossing around who people were calling Bhabi so I presumed she must be the lady of the house) while we were there – it seems that the whole manufacturing is being done in Karachi alone. Does that mean that non-Karachiite customers also have to come all the way to the Karachi factory for the trial? And if not, doesn’t it mean they get deprived of the skilled craftsmanship of their ace master? It doesn’t make sense. The point is if the non-karachiites can live with an Amir Adnan product that is not the work of this master that means you have trained those masters in the other cities to do the core work. SO why not do the same here instead of inconveniencing your customers.
It all boils down to this: you have to absorb the setbacks and accept the shortcomings of your business yourself instead of passing the burden on to your customer. Unfortunately, most of the businesses here follow this modus operandi, and even the MNCs that come here to do business resort to such unhealthy practices. The fault lies partly with the Pakistani consumer who becomes a moron when it comes to buying decisions and not taking a stand against unfair treatment meted out to him.
As thing stand, Amir Adnan’s brand image is certainly not diminishing but growing strong. However it’s a dangerous growth since he doesn’t seem to have expanded his resources in proportion with his expanding operation. And now competing in the international market, it won’t take long for him to get embroiled in a lawsuit or something because consumers there take you to court if they so much as find a button missing from the clothes. If that happens, the repercussions may snowball right down to his own city.