Being each other’s biggest strength is what makes Shafqat Rahman and Sahar Rahman a power couple who began their journey together. Colors’ Tunajina Islam has the privilege of sitting down with them to know their struggle, triumph, frailty and thrill together as both individuals celebrate one another’s growth.
Shafqat Rahman of Casa Deco, actually settled down with a good job after completing his Master’s in Strategic Business Management in London. Tired of robotic job life, he decided to be his own boss by starting a business. Away from home for 10 years, he longed for Bangladesh and decided to move back. He opened a high-end café Crepe-Au-Lait to connect with the people and the culture of Bangladesh once again.
Shafqat Rahman established restaurants like Crepe-Au-Lait and Panini, but he was inclined towards interior designs. Both restaurant interiors were done by the man himself, showing creativity, and appreciation for it led to the start of his interior design firm – Increation, in 2011. Increation focuses on neoclassical Parisian style and covers everything from lighting and window treatment to bespoke rugs and furniture. His approach differs from most designers for his preference to including the client in every step of the process. From discussing scope of work to drafting, to quoting, and completion, the client stays in the loop for it all. Through activities like consultancy for GPIT’s 10-storey building and few potential offers, Shafqat Rahman became eager to fill in the gap of this market that was clearly visible to him. Furnishing items from lighting, to sofas and tableware were not readily available in accordance with trendiness and elegant style.
So began the journey of Casa Deco in 2015, as a sister concern of Increation, aiming to provide high-end boutique furniture that is made-to-order. Globally inspired products plus Shafqat’s unique mind create a one-stop solution for all your interior needs. Everything is customized to the buyers’ liking. Casa Deco provides a digital catalogue where the client picks the colors, patterns, fabrics etc., with the guidance of expert minds.
Casa Deco pays attention to quality and detail of its furniture by sourcing the best materials from places like China, the USA and London. Its clientele grew larger over time. Increation and Casa Deco are the top pick for clients like cricketer Shakib Al Hassan, Amber Group, Olympic Group, Grameenphone and Bashundara Group. Its strength transcends through all its works, and is verified by UNICERT certificates for Quality Management – ISO 9001, Environmental Management – ISO 14001, and Occupational Health and Safety Management – ISO 45001.
The entrepreneur is also involved in many other fields. He is a country director for Marketing Futures where they run seminars globally, bringing in star marketers of companies like Google, Facebook and Nestle. He is the co-chairman of FBCCI- standing Committee relating to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director of the Rotary Club and even owns a preschool/daycare called Stepping Stone. He participates in different tenders, bringing in Chinese agencies and working with the government when there’s the right opportunity.
Shafqat Rahman is evidently an energetic guy who is no less than a go-getter. ‘I love challenges,’ he says, “I’m a creative person and as an entrepreneur, I don’t feel like stopping at anything. Wherever there is an opportunity, I take the risk because risk is what it’s all about.”
He took on the initiative of creating a simpler way to connect with clients. The Casa Deco App, available on Google Play Store, is the first-ever furniture App in Bangladesh. This App offers amazing features that make choosing ones next piece of furniture easy and fun. It’s user-friendliness and simplicity makes it suitable for all and keeps you connected at all times. Always thinking ahead, he says, the next order of business is hoping to branch into Chattogram. ‘We also look forward to expanding and opening Casa Bedding under Increation, where we will be doing luxury mattresses, pillows and duvets from March 2020,’ he adds.
However, throughout the process of his being a businessman, he says, his wife’s support was the key. Sahar Rahman makes up the other half of this power couple. She, too, is a creative entrepreneur who paved her way into fashion designing. She got her degree from Pearl Fashion Institute which was then the first institute by India in Bangladesh. Working in fashion merchandising at HnM as an intern, Sahar was then offered a job in the same line. It was her make or break moment and at that point, she realized that fashion merchandising is not truly what her heart yearned for. The decision of not taking the job was the turning point for her. That’s when she and her sister Amana Rahman started their own clothing line where they designed every intricate detail and meticulously sourced lavish fabrics. They started off small within the likes of their own home and soon enough, word of mouth got their business to boom.
As this author asked from where all this creativity came, and when her love for fashion began to stem, she said from an early age of 9, she was very fond of different styles, especially the ones that stood out the most. She is the artistic type, mostly abstract art and her wardrobe, as she describes, was different from others. ‘I would never really stick to the trends and would always go the other way. I remember one day at a party I decided to pair up capris with a kameez just because I thought it looked good. I got people asking me ‘why are you wearing that?’ A few years later, this actually became a trend,’ she recalls. Her visionary mind pushes her to be one step ahead. Her tasteful fashion, she says, is largely attributable to her mother and father to whom Sahar and Amana looked up to. Spending her childhood years in Pakistan, she feels lucky to have learnt a diverse style of fashion. After seeing all her gorgeous designs at home, Sahar Rahman insisted on opening her own store immediately. With the morale boost her husband gave her, she and Amana went ahead and opened ‘Sahar Rahman’ in 2014, a quaint shop in Gulshan. She received an overwhelming response from women in Dhaka on the very day of the opening. There was a line of women in front of her store and she couldn’t believe they were all there for her. They have been blooming still. They dove into products that complement the bridal and party wear two years ago, with her best friend Badria, owner of Monroe, a brand that offers nagra’s, polti’s, accessories and the likes.
The couple – Sahar and Shafqat – have a wonderful love story to share with all. One fine day, scrolling through Facebook, Shafqat’s eyes catch the sight of a beautiful young girl, Sahar Rahman. He couldn’t resist courageously sending her a message. ‘The first time we spoke over the phone, we had a pure connection right away. We had the same ambitions, energy, compatibility, one said and the other echoed.
The instant connection led to grabbing coffee and a year later, they bound their love with marriage, seven years ago. ‘Our careers are so dear to us because it all really started coming to life after we met each other. Crepe-Au-Lait was done around the time of our engagement while Casa Deco was in the building process as our first baby, Sofia, was still a bun in the oven,’ he says. Each new chapter in their career almost marks a new chapter in their relationship. They are now a wholesome family of four. With two creative minds in the house, ‘it’s almost as if he’s my male version,’ she says with a laugh. Nevertheless, being hard-working parents it can get difficult at times to stay on top of work and family life. They say it’s important that they support each other individually. ‘Being in creative fields, we both understand the basics of each other’s job and can provide advice to one another. At the end of the day, no matter how busy the day was, it’s important to connect and talk to always keep each other in the loop,’ she says.
Nothing came easy to these two. ‘Struggle always varies from person to person,’ says Shafqat Rahman. ‘Getting the right information, capital or being at the right place at the right time can be some struggles. You are always faced with a new barrier and each is a new struggle, but the drive is what really pulls you together.’ He emphasizes being unique in ones own field to flourish and from his restaurants to interior designing firms, he put his best foot forward as he thought out of the box and promised customers differentiated items. The best way to do this is to have enough research and knowledge about products and most importantly the market itself. Learning is a part of the process. ‘You can train yourself to get there and eventually automate your flow so its always on. Doing it day in and day out, you automatically turn on your flow. I would like to live in a world where everyone is in their flow.’ That is a real struggle, he says, ‘but if you don’t see struggle and live the experience you won’t learn.’
Sahar Rahman explains her take on the challenges of entrepreneurship. As a new designer, it was difficult for her to have people’s faith and get women to adjust to her taste. ‘Pastels and light colors are not fancied by Bangladeshi women but rather bold and bright colors are preferred. The beautiful pasty colors were adored by my mom and my sisters and that’s where we learnt it from. It soon became our signature style,’ she says. The struggles she faced were showing people the beauty in new and unique colors/styles and adapting to change. ‘People are so scared of change,’ she adds. Over the years, people started to put more faith in the Sahar Rahman brand as she has never failed to impress, and soon, business has started thriving.
Shafqat Rahman says: ‘The most important thing is mindset. You need to make sure you have laser light focus and the speed of execution to see it through. You need to take action even when you’re uncertain.’ Sahar Rahman urges young women to seek out their passion and do something for themselves to give them that confidence every powerful woman needs. She adds, ‘You cannot get something overnight. A lot of patience and dedication is required and you will get results.’ Building and growing together with much individuality, they are a power couple indeed.