GOOD BUSINESS: Muhammad Mehfuz Alam sits comfortably in his shop in Souq Waqif.
By Umer Nangiana
Name: Muhammad Mehfuz Alam
Nationality: Bihar, India
Shop location: Al Bisht Al Fakhir, Souq Waqif
These days, he hardly sits idle. It is the start of peak season and soon this traditional souq in the heart of the Qatari capital will be bustling with people, many of them tourists. Muhammad Mehfuz Alam, an expatriate from Bihar in India, sells Arabic men’s clothing in one of the many shops named Al Bisht Al Fakhir in Souq Waqif and he says business is good in this popular market.
What do you sell?
I only have Arabic items. Bisht, farwa and much more. It is all imported mostly from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan and other countries and comes ready-made. We do not stitch anything here. We only do alteration in size or shape to fit.
The farwa is a heavy and very warm overcoat made from thick sheep wool. The farwa comes in differing colors and a variety of interesting traditional designs.
What is your shop’s specialty?
It is bisht. It is the traditional Arabic men’s cloak popular in Arab countries which they wear over their dress. Our main business is bisht. Winter is our peak season in which we sell the woolen ones. They start from QR250-QR400 for a normal one and a better quality one starts from QR800 and goes up to QR2,500.
However, what is special is our pricing. You will attract more customers if you price your product a little lower than others.
Who are your customers?
Everyone! A lot of people from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia buy it. There are customers for every quality. If somebody needs a little cheaper one, I have that quality starting from QR200. Similarly if somebody wants to gift it to friends or wear it for some occasion like weddings, I have that good quality available too. It depends on the customer’s choice, I have every variety.
Most of our customers are local Qataris. Then we get tourists from different countries as well which include Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and Europeans.
Where do you source your goods from?
The goods come from Syria mostly and the dealers supply it to others in Qatar as well. We purchase from them directly.
How is business here?
Business is doing really well. Now, our season is approaching. From November to January, these three months is the peak season. And then, we sell a lot during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha as well. Farwa is the most selling item alongside bisht. I also have saif (swords). They come from Syria and we also purchase them locally.
What problems do you face running this shop?
Thank God, I have not faced any problems here so far.
What kind of customers do you find annoying?
So far I have not come across any such customer. I have never been irritated by those bargaining. It is their right and if they do not like the price they would simply walk away. If I am getting profit, I will sell it otherwise I will not, it’s simple.
Tell us your favourite anecdote related to a customer.
I have a customer who is a Qatari. He visited our shop last month and purchased an uber worth QR800. He gave me a tip that was more than the price he paid for his purchase. So I managed to develop a connection with him. Whenever, he visits this place (Souq), he comes to see me.
Recently, he went for Hajj and before that he visited me. So far, anyone I have come across, either local or expatriate, they all have treated me very well and behaved very well. It is simple if you treat others with love, in return, they will give you love.
What is the best thing about Souq Waqif?
I find working in Souq very special. It is also because there is always some event or the other happening here so we do not need to go anywhere else for outing or entertainment. Everything is available here.
Where do you spend your leisure?
I have no particular hobbies. Most of my time is spent in work and then I talk to my family and my children and that is enough for me. I am happy.