Dare to be different

Babak Chehrazi, an Iranian businessman who wants to do business in Saudi

Obviously, Dubai is not enough. At least, this applies to Babak (Bobby) Chernazidi who runs a clothes store in Dubai Design District, Closet. His shop is for those dare to be different. Difference his motto. That’s maybe also the reason why he wants to open a branch in Saudi Arabia.

Q: Dubai is a place that is visited by millions of tourists every year. Why are you eager to move to Saudi?

A: I have a lot of Saudi clients who I met in London. Now they rather come here as it is easier and less costly. I realized that among all GCC countries Saudis and then Kuwaitis like to take change, they are ready to try new things. I like that as this is all what our concept is about. So I decided to move a step closer to the Saudis.

Q: Saudi is a land with contradictory images. Have you visited Saudi to see wether that it is the right choice?

A: I am an easy going person open for everything new and I don’t mind. Originally I am from Iran and lived since I was 2 years old in London. I have no prejudice towards any country or nation.

The first time I visited Saudi was in 2003 for a wedding of a friend. The second was in 2004 also for a wedding as well. That time I could not develop an impression on the country as I whisked in and out. One thing I can tell that there is a life behind a life in Saudi. The two weddings were the wildest weddings I attended.

In 2012, before I opened my store here in Dubai I looked around in the regions. Among countries I visited, I visited Saudi Arabia. With a Saudi friend I visited major cities – Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar – to find suitable locations.

Q: What is the asset of Saudi Arabia that makes it profitable to open a business store? Kuwaitis have higher income and it is a more relaxed country.

A: Population. Population is a gold mine. I believe in change and today is the culture of Instagram. They have input. Demography is attractive for our business. In Saudi Arabia 60% are under 30. Demography helps business to get to the younger minds.

In Saudi Arabia there is nothing. This is where I can build something and create a change.

Q: Bobby, most of your customers come to your store in London. why did you come to the ME.?

A: This is exactly the reason. I wanted to be closer to my customers and connect to more people from the ME, especially from the Gulf region. Dubai was a good starting point because beside the locals, of whom I met in London store, there are Saudi and Kuwaiti tourists.

Q: Seeing the styles available in your store it rather symbolizes classic rebelish rather than mainstream. Who are type of people you want to attract?

A: Anyone can come into Closet and buy. But of course there are those who ready to try something new, never seen before. The items that you see and never thought that you can wear them.

Q: What is the concept you want to create with your store once you open one there?

A: I want a big store that includes 3 or 4 concepts.

A coffee shop, relaxing areas, books and of course clothes. Show movies. I want people to come into the store not only to buy clothes but to relax, work, have a coffee with friend. Create a feeling of freedom.  A place to meet and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and create foot traffic for the shop. I want it to be a people’s place for men and women.

Q: Do you think you can be successful?

A: I can’t tell because I have nothing to compare my business with. There are a few such concept stores in Riyadh, Jeddah and Eastern Province. But they are for women only and include clothes and s mall coffee area that doesn’t offer much.

Q: When will you start your project in Saudi Arabia? Would you work there?

A: Find my an investor and I begin tomorrow. I don’t mind living and doing business in Saudi. I am not worried about the culture rather my concern is the red tape regulations that have been the main reason why this project has been delayed.

I checked with a few shipping companies who say that it is unpredictable but less than before. We need our products to be released as soon as they arrive. It is not beneficial if like it was the case in the past that a custom officer takes a week to clear a shipment while another take hours. Unfortunately that was the case few years ago.

With the economy opening up, regulations becoming easier and more flexible more investors friendly that these obstacles have been removed. I hope that we can open a shop there soon.