Aurochs – named after a 16th century extinct ancestor of domestic cow – is a high-quality handcrafted leather accessories brand that I started in 2016 with Farooq Kamal. The concept was to design and craft daily carry items that are minimalist yet functional by utilizing the 1700 years old Indus valley craftsmanship that resides at the very heart of Lahore.
The story of Aurochs is quite interesting. Farooq and I attended engineering school together. After our graduation in mid-2014, we both landed our first jobs in Lahore. Bored out of our routine jobs, we would sit together on weekends, make tea, and have endless discussions about our careers as engineers, future possibilities, prospects, and, most importantly, starting a company that we had dreamed about back when we were college sophomores at GIKI.
Fresh out of college and with new jobs in a new city, we had thin pockets and a little experience. Still, the thought and passion of making something of our own kept the discussions alive for more than a year. On one such weekend, when Farooq was traveling in local transport, an (unfortunate?) incident happened that gave birth to what has now become a well known international brand – Farooq lost his 10 years old leather wallet, a gift from his grandfather. It was a high-quality, handcrafted leather wallet that Farooq loved so much. He called up his grandpa and asked him if he can find the same or similar wallet again. To his disappointment, his grandpa didn’t remember where he got the wallet from as it was almost a decade ago. Dejected by the loss of his prized possession, Farooq & I made our usual Saturday afternoon tea and sat in the balcony. That’s when the idea hit us – why don’t we design the same kind of wallet for ourselves and others? “If I loved that wallet that much, I am sure others will too,” I remember Farooq saying.
We were so excited that afternoon.
But an idea is one thing, and actually executing it is something entirely different. We both were engineers by training, so we knew how to make “functional” designs, but we had little idea about how to make them aesthetically appealing. We spent the next few months meeting up on weekends and discussing the different aspects of making a good product design. We studied different design philosophies pioneered by some great designers throughout history. After a few months of tiring research, countless articles, a few good books, and dozens of documentaries, we had an initial idea of what we should base our designs on. The concept of minimalism appealed to us the most. It is an idea of making a design simpler, preserving its functionality and aesthetics.
We spent the next few months sketching different design concepts on paper, making prototypes with a small team of leather artisans in old Lahore, using them, and iterating on them based on our own user experience. We both had full-time corporate jobs, so we would use our evenings, late nights, and weekends to work on the project. This went on for the next 6 or 7 months, and we launched our first line of minimalist wallets on 25th July 2016,
Unexpectedly, very few people bought from us, and most of them were our own friends and family (THANK YOU). But we received very encouraging feedback from those who started using our wallets. Even though our initial customers were a handful of close F&F, the thought that someone out there is using our product every day was exciting enough for us to keep working.
We started learning the basics of building a successful brand around the undoubtedly great products that we were making. People start telling others about our products, and sales slowly started picking up. This went on for a year and a half, during which we learned about marketing, advertising, branding, and many other aspects of the business. We added more designs to our line and kept on improving the previous ones.
In 2018, Farooq & I both quit our corporate jobs to focus full-time on building Aurochs into an international brand that we initially envisioned. It was time to grow out of the local Pakistani market and explore more mature markets in the EU and Americas. We registered our US office in Tennessee, USA, and started shipping to international customers. Soon our products were available on Amazon apart from our own website. We had a loyal customer base who loved and adored the products.
Two years later, in 2020, we have customers in 100+ countries worldwide and are growing with each passing day. A company that Farooq and I had started with just PKR.10,000 in the bank account now has 15 full-time employees and manufacturing and fulfilment center in Lahore and USA.
- Expending product categories to include high-quality leather bags, shoulder carrys, pouches, and more.
- Make a physical presence in more countries via close collaborations with stockists and retailers.
- Receive B-Corp certification for responsible business operations.