HICKSVILLE, NY / ACCESSWIRE / June 10, 2019 / As a 22-year old, Wahab Sheikh was in university, focused on a career in engineering. Little did he know that a career pivot would lead him to be a successful entrepreneur in the retail sector just a few years later.
While it wasn't smooth sailing the whole way (the life of an entrepreneur rarely is), Wahab can now say he's the man behind bringing vibrant South Asian fashion to the desi community in the US.
With a base in New York as well as a strong online presence, Wahab's store, Salai, is now opening a brand new branch in Parsippany, New Jersey. The move marks a big moment for a business that once threatened to go under.
Now, with plans to expand across state and national borders, there's no telling how big the Salai brand can grow.
Salai's Origin Story
Not many would choose to give up a burgeoning career path in engineering to go down the road of retail.
However, Wahab decided to make the jump after a chance encounter with a Pakistani celebrity who was the face of one of the biggest fashion brands in the country. Wahab had the initiative to launch the brand in the US, where it was believed the brand would be popular with the many of South Asian descent.
Those beliefs turned out to be accurate, as the store in New York made almost 200,000 sales just several days after opening in July of 2014.
As often happens, success breeds discontent. The business was put under threat when Wahab's business partner, who headed up the Pakistani side of the operation, tried to cut Wahab out altogether. He held back stock and fudged invoices, opening his own stores for the brand in Houston and Chicago.
Eventually stock shipments stopped, and the New York store was left with just a few pieces of old inventory left.
The solution? Wahab made the call to branch out and make Salai, a store carrying all of Pakistan's most popular clothing brands. These brands, which include Gul Ahmed, Al Karam, Beechtree, Khas, Warda, Limelight and Satrangi, are powering Salai to increase their sales by the day, thanks to exclusive US rights to all the aforementioned brands.
What Salai Means to the Desi Community
America is a melting pot of different cultures, and the South Asian community is one of the strongest and most close-knit there is. In addition to almost 4.5 million US residents of Indian descent, there is over 500,000 from Pakistan, and many thousands more from nations such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
The fashion from these countries also happens to be among the most vibrant, unique in the world. Traditional dress is of heavy importance to the people of the Indian and Pakistani subcontinent, particularly for major events such as weddings, or celebrations like Diwali. Yet for those residing state side, it can be difficult and costly to get traditional dress.
One characteristic among Pakistanis is to buy clothes unstitched, having them custom-stitched to the liking of the customer. This often meant Pakistanis living the US needed traditional clothes custom-made in Pakistan, at the cost of significant time and money to the customer.
Salai introduced a channel for South Asians residing in the US to get traditional designer clothes without having to be shipped halfway across the world. Such convenience much-needed for those in the community trying to note only keep their beautiful traditions alive, but introduce them to new audiences in the US.
The Future of Salai
Wahab Sheikh gave up a lot to get where he is now.
Despite However it's paying off now with the expansion of the Salai brand.
The brand new store in New Jersey marks the second physical location for Salai. They also have a successful online store, and following growing larger every day. Over 13 thousand followers on Instagram and 78 thousand on Facebook is evidence of that. Their brand is even reaching notable celebrities, working with names that include Cedric The Entertainer and boxer Amir Khan.
Salai's success thus far has surely justified the decisions Wahab has made along the way. But there may be more to come. If the New Jersey launch goes well, he plans to open stores in more states with strong desi communities, and eventually in Canada too. Things have come a long way from distributing a solitary brand.
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