Urooj Asif is a well-known personality in Pakistan. She served Pakistan’s entertainment industry till 2011 after which she turned over a new leaf. Urooj took a major decision of her life, quitted the Showbiz industry for good and started a clothing line; a hijab store named “Hijabeaze” Let’s see how she began this venture; what has been her motivation, who inspires her and the tips she proffer for a successful and balanced life.
According to you what does the word HIJAB symbolizes?
Umm, for me hijab teaches a woman how to look genteel. A lot of people take hijab as a piece of cloth that wraps a woman. Hijab symbolizes a lot more than only covering our bodies. And it definitely doesn’t stop any woman from looking good or being part of this world.
When you handed in your notice to the entertainment industry, did you already have this business idea in your mind?
I never thought of starting a business and esp. a clothing line, because opening a clothing store or something related to clothes was the last thing I will ever choose to do. I had no sense of how to design dresses but of course I knew how to carry myself because I was associated with showbiz industry. The idea of this hijab line basically dawned on me when I myself started wearing hijab. I never found any hijab stylist or a hijab store who provided the women of Pakistan the kind of clothing that helped them cover themselves and at the same time look decorous. So I thought of creating the type of clothing I wanted for myself including scarves, abayas etc.
How did you begin or structured your business? Also tell us how were the initial days of your business to you?
Initially when I started my business I never thought I will open up a shop. We began as an online store with the widely used social website Facebook. I only started with a few hijabs with no vision of what the days to come will bring for me. I didn’t appoint any tailor when I began so I used to stich and pack on my own. I didn’t even have a printer back then when I took online orders so I would go to the net café and take out print outs. I did everything on my own, and by everything I mean everything, starting from the scratch like packing, printing, sending. I really didn’t know where I was going or rather where Allah was taking me but now when I look back, I genuinely feel blessed because I never even thought of doing a business at this level. This is how it all began and then step by step our business took pace and grew.
How did you plan the policies for your business venture?
The business I am running doesn’t really work on any business strategy or growth models; my focus is to try to keep my business policies in line with Islamic ideologies. The very basic rules, our religion teaches us like not to run on credit, to try fulfilling every team member’s rights. I pay people as soon as they submit me their work. Also I make sure nothing unjust happens in my presence. I never act like a boss, or look down on anyone. My sweeper is as good as me and my manager. To me, my workers are my assets and the people whom I personally deal and interact with have never left my business.
Tell us some of the major challenges you faced during your journey?
Load shedding esp. in summers, every other hour we had the power gone. But I have trained my mind in such a way that it concentrates on what I have in hand rather than feeling deprived because of what I don’t. I recall the days when I would be recording tutorials and towards the end of my tutorial the power was gone, but even at that point in time I would gather myself up and started to plan ahead. There were days in which I recorded 4 to 5 tutorials in a go just because of the power issues.
Also when you are functioning at a big platform, a lot of people are following you. Some start to copy your ideas and this is something very normal. I pray to God that may He give people the strength to look for good in others rather than searching for flaws in them. And may they follow or copy these good qualities rather than copying Channel, Gucci or say any other brand. I get to hear it a lot that Mr XYZ is copying your designs and he is using your pictures, but I know I need not worry, they will get what’s written for them and I will get what’s written for me, none of us can snatch other’s Rizq.
Women entrepreneurs are not very common in Pakistan, did you face any criticism during or after you finally decided to leave the entertainment industry and start a hijab store?
As a woman you have to go through a lot of challenges obviously, but I have fought my obstacles and remained very positive all my life. I strongly believe that when you do something wholeheartedly you do get positive outcomes.
What’s the motivation that drives you to succeed at work?
The tag in our products that has “Made in Pakistan” embossed on it. It gives me the motivation to work harder and harder to help my land grow. I want that people elsewhere should be awed that despite the hurting comments and critique that Pakistanis and Pakistan is facing, the people of Pakistan refuse to quit!
Where are your stores currently functioning?
Motivated by my fans I now have 3 successful running hijab stores in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. I am also planning to open up a store in Rawalpindi soon enough.
Why only these cities?
People of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have been pushing me continuously. We saw astounding response when we held exhibitions in these cities and hence our team decided to open our outlets here.
Can you name a few hijab stylists who have galvanized you?
There are a lot of people I follow on YouTube and on other social websites. The two people I follow the most are “Saman’s Makeup & Hijab Styles” and “Pearldaisy”. Saman is also one of my good friends, we went to school together. We have taken a lot of inspiration from Aminakin the owner of Pearldaisy but we do amend her ideas a little, though now we have begun designing our own hijabs as well.
Would you let us know the personalities that inspire you spiritually?
I took my inspiration spiritually from the incident of Karbala about which I learned during one of the morning show that I was doing in the month of
Muharram. I got inspired by the fact that how important a woman’s hijab is for her so much so that everybody cried for the hijab when the veil was snatched from Bibi Zaynab at the Karbala War.
Who was your biggest support among your friends and family?
I don’t have a very big friend circle. Amongst the few that I have none were here when I started Hijabeaze. Talking about my family, they used to make fun of me, though their sarcasm was not based what I am doing is wrong but rather they thought that I will only do it temporarily. When I pronounced my decision and asked my sister to get me some scarves my mother said “Thorey din ka bhoot hai phir utar jayega” Moreover when I took the plunge, I would sit for hours and hours, sometimes the whole night was gone while I planned, or scribbled my ideas on paper. My family I am quoting said “Ye pagal hai bilkul”.
Were you married when you started?
Yes, I was married and I started my business when my daughter was 3 months old. Unfortunately or fortunately during those times my husband also moved to London with the plan of calling us abroad. Honestly, I never wanted to leave my country, I wanted to and still want to stay in Pakistan, live in Pakistan and work for Pakistan.
Is your husband supportive in this regard?
A lot, Alhamdulliah. When he returned, he was impressed, to see Hijabeaze emerging eminently. And this is one of the reasons that he has returned back for good now, seeing that I have established my business and settled here nicely.
You are a wife and a mother; doesn’t your personal life get affected by your professional life?
I started doing my work from home and I still work from home. I currently reside in Islamabad and manage everything from home. Certainly my family is my priority, and I think that family should be one’s top priority because no matter how successful you get, no matter how rich you get, no matter how much respect you gain; if you don’t have a home nothing else matters. And I think a woman plays an important role in making a house a home.
This is the reason, why I moved to Islamabad 2-3 months back when my husband returned to Pakistan. I have a daughter and she was very young when I started Hijabeaze so the only thing I ask Allah is that my Niyat is not to mint money, as success comes with hard work and patience. I am working with an aim, I am working for YOU so help me train my daughter the way you want me to train her. Obviously the time to come will reveal how my daughter truly is, but I can confidently say that I have tried to raise her up to my best efforts.
So you are currently living a typical housewife life? Do you like it?
I am in love with it! When I am being bugged from my staff on call, I am like please do whatever you want to, I am on vacations. I have also started to read Quran, and I think that is the best part of being home.
Tell us one thing that you like doing and one thing that you don’t enjoy at home?
I am a cleanliness freak so I start cleaning my home as soon as I am awake. And I don’t like to cook. I started cooking during the past few months and that also because I don’t have a choice and because you need to eat so that you live!
As you have been associated with the showbiz industry of Pakistan for quite a long time I would like to ask your views about the current boom in this sector?
If you talk religiously, yes of course our productions are showing the western culture, rather than depicting our society we are showing the glamorous, fake-fantasy land. Whereas if I talk as a neutral person the media was going down the hill, but now people are making great efforts, they are making us smile. The only positive point I see is the revival of the cinema, through which people are earning their Rizq. The issue is that the movies that run in the cinema are very vague and moral less. If we look at the Iranian cinema for example, the movies that they produce does not only entertain you but at the same time they are teaching you some kind of a lesson , a moral value, some kind of ethics, so basically you are learning something. See, life is not all about laughing or entertaining yourselves. We should not forget the purpose of our lives. It’s not that I don’t watch movies, I watched Ye Jewani Phir Nahi Aani, and I watched it twice. It is a funny movie; I would definitely like to watch Mor and Manto. The point I am making here is that these movies should have some more elements other than fun. And our movies should be less westernized, with lesser music or clearly saying item songs.
It was pleasure taking to you Urooj, you are a very positive person. We wish you all the best for your future and the future of Hijabeaze. How would you like to end our conversation?
I would like to end our conversation by a small poetry. I don’t do poetry but these words they just came to me naturally one day, I am sharing these words with you
“Kahan se wakt nikalo kisi pe tanz karon
kahan se wakt nikalo kisi pe tanz karon,
mujhey fursat nahi milti khud apni zaat se;
badlna mujhko bohot hai kisi ko kiya sochoon,
badlna mujhko bohot hai kisi ko kiya sochoon,
ke le sakun Amaal naama daaye hath mai.”
This poetry means that if Allah has blessed anyone with good habits and qualities, one should never take pride or look down on others, because everyone is somehow struggling, though we might not be aware of their situation. Every Muslim is trying to get their Aamaal-nama, their result card in their right hand on the Day of Judgment. It is better that we concentrate on our betterment, and even if we want to correct someone, we should learn the wisdom of doing so appropriately.
We are the followers of the Holy prophet (SAW) who should his character for 40 years before starting to preach and we are not even consistent for 40 days and start to criticize or pinpoint others about their bad habits.
That’s all I have to say, Thank you. It was lovely taking to you!
An exclusive interview with Urooj Asif (Arooj Nasir) TV Actress and Host.