Markhor, a startup that specializes in hand crafted leather footwear, has become the first Pakistani company to be accepted into Y Combinator. The startup hit the headlines last year when it launched on Kickstarter and promptly blew past its funding goal by $92,000.
Markhor is a social enterprise, which means it tries to give back profits to the craftsmen instead of wily middlemen. Co-founder Waqas Ali explains it in the following way:
The idea is that these craftsmen in Pakistan make handmade shoes for many luxury brands, but most of the money goes to these middlemen who are responsible for delivery.
The startup overcomes this by purchasing leather itself, keeping a design team in-house and selling directly to consumers. The result? 3 to 5 times higher compensation for the craftsmen. Considering a good pair of branded leather shoes can go up to $1000 with only a fraction going to the people who actually make them, it’s a big step up.
Markhor also places emphasis on customer experience. As soon as you order a pair of shoes, you start getting updates about the progress of the craftsman. With each order, a profile of the shoemaker is attached which includes how much money he makes. With awareness of forced labor in squalor across the developing world rising, this is important. Ali says:
People like to know that these shoes are not made by a child or a pregnant woman in China. When you’re buying high-end shoes from big brands, there are so many layers that you don’t know where the shoes are made
Markhor’s inclusion into Y Combinator will only accelerate an already impressive growth rate. The company, which has been incorporated in the US, is going to launch a women’s line next month and might even launch new products down the line.
The aim is to solidify its status as a luxury lifestyle brand and being at one of the most prestigious startup accelerators around is a good place to start.