For those of us who relish finer things in life, even the smallest of details elevate our experience. That luxe feeling we all crave, that finesse that we admire and that sophistication that demands a second look, all pertain to homeware. A thoughtfully selected set of tableware can make any dining experience to the next level. Moin-ur Rahman, Managing Director of International Homeware, has a round of conversation with Nusrat Noshin, as he dishes out his experience in the homeware field.
Moin-ur Rahman has spent the past 6 years bringing about trailblazing changes to his family’s 62-year-old business. What was this young businessman like before he held the reins of IHW?
He recalls, “I grew up in the UK and graduated from Oxford Brookes University in 2004. My concentration was marketing management but I gravitated towards theatre studies and IT. I returned home about six years ago; the first couple of years was all about adjusting to the business realm of Bangladesh. It is so discrepant from what we think it is.” He goes on to describe the inceptive phase of IHW. “The first generation of IHW ran on shop-based business. It was my grandfather’s initiative. When my dad took over, he started with an office encompassed by a small block in the shop.”
Moin-ur Rahman dwells on one of the first new lines of business he started – commercial kitchen equipment. “Restaurants were all the rage when I returned to Dhaka. I learned that not many of them used standard, legitimately graded equipment. Now, I can’t ask them to get good oil, but I can ask them to get a high quality, safe-to-use fryer.” He has pointed out that the name IHW is only six-year-old. “Before that, it was a traditional shop-based business model, but we needed that to change. We wanted to create a brand that would capture the true essence of what the business is about, and for that, we needed to educate people. I started with a corporate team of 35 personnel outside Dhaka, for door-to-door sales. We are in an industry where brands’ names aren’t significant. We follow clothing brands, car brands and so on but not glassware. IHW imports from companies that have been in the business for as long as 200 years. Which is why creating a brand identity is crucial.”
He goes on to say. “If you think about it, people do not have much knowledge about glassware relative to electronics or clothing. They can’t differentiate between low-quality products and expensive crystal, and frankly, they probably don’t care.” He continues. “What they don’t understand are the health implications and the lack of long-term value of low-quality crockeries. The chemical the glasses are washed with to give them a temporary synthetic shine can have detrimental effects on our health in the long-run. On the other hand, customers aren’t convinced about our products’ quality when they are displayed in shabby third-party retail outlets. We figured the only way to correct that is through brand identity and official retail stores. IHW strives to be a brand that can be trusted to carry top-shelf homeware, that will give you your money’s worth. We import from Germany, France, Czech Republic and such.”
“hence they are keener on what they want in their homes. We entertain young married ladies at our stores who look for unique decor and homeware for their homes. On top of that, such couples also seldom rely on domestic help for cooking. They cook themselves and are more wary of using and maintaining good cookware and cutlery.” He adds: “The quality does matter. Sommeliers and wine connoisseurs use different glasses for a different kind of drink. Certain glass types and shapes can bring out the subtle flavors of a beverage and if you are drinking from the right kind of glass even plain water can be tastier.”
He finally touches briefly on the history of IHW. “My grandfather started this business in 1957, during which he was in the army. Back then servicemen could not be involved in a business, so he’d make another family member sit in the shop. He would sell imported goods to local customers, so of course, the business went well. When my father took over, he made a small office encompassing a corner of my grandfather’s shop. He started the wholesale side of it. Then, the liberation war took place and after ‘71, imports were banned. So, the business sold only local goods for a period. My dad expanded the shops and created more scopes of business. Now, it’s my turn to bear the torch and push our horizons.”