The Footprints of Fabric Wholesale: Azam Cloth Market

The shopkeepers of Azam Cloth market pride themselves on, and they like to stress this vehemently, being a part of ‘the biggest cloth market in Asia.” While snaking your way through the many winding alleys lined with shops of various sizes you do tend to lose track of both time and space. The market is a collage of many small interlinked bazaars where the daylight doesn’t always seep in and the damp musty odor of history prevails.

Situated in the walled city of Lahore, the Azam cloth market is the hub that has been handling wholesale distribution of cloth and ready-to-wear for the last six decades. From khaddar to silk, ready- to-wear to clothing fabrics, casual wear to bridal wear, the market has something for every apparel retailer.

According to Mohd Amjad Sheikh, who has been in the wholesale apparel business since 1974, the Azam cloth market caters to a wide customer based both in Pakistan and abroad. “Retailers from all over Pakistan, Dubai, and UK visit us for their stock purchases. However, the recent security issues have had their impact on the business. Our customer base from India and Afghanistan has dwindled to almost zero. We hope once the situation improves retailers from all neighboring countries will find it comfortable to visit us.”

The merchants of the market are well versed in the history of the place, and every shopkeeper can recount how when the market was created and named. There was a small market near Wazir Khan Mosque; in 1953 when a road had to be widened the market was shifted to its current location by General Azam who gave his own name to the market. Over the decades, the small market extended and now has numerous interlinked blocks or bazaars all dealing in wholesaling of various types of clothing fabrics and lines.

How many interlinked bazaars are there in the market? There is no consensus as such but gathering from the comments of various shop owners the number must be somewhere between 15 and 20

‘It’s an Institution.’

All the bazaars of Azam market are linked and managed by a board of directors. “You won’t find a more well managed institution in Lahore. We have our own constitution with a specific set of rules. Every bazaar has its own president who in turn is answerable to the president of the board. Elections of the board are held every three years to elect resident of the board. Security and administrative decisions made by the board are binding upon the market community,” the business community of the market proudly spells out details of the ‘institution.’ Fire extinguishers, security guards and clean lanes show an active involvement of the board that runs on self-help basis. Every shop owner pays monthly charges of about 200-300 rupees to form a combined pool that helps meet the maintenance expenses.

Nawab Bazaar: The oldest block of Azam Cloth Market

While it is difficult to explore every bazaar in a single visit, every first time visitor should stroll in the Nawab bazaar to get a feel of the place. Nawab bazaar is the first and the oldest block of Azam cloth market. Its open cool spaces invite the customers to linger and shop at their own pace. The shop owners are friendly and there is an overall ambiance of good cheer.

‘What’s in the name?’

Two different versions prevail in the market about the history of block’s name. One interesting story traces origins of the name to the first generation of business men who started their businesses in this market.

According to this version, this first generation of wholesalers liked to arrive late in the markets and opened their shops around noon. So people started calling them nawabs (nawab connotes a laid-back almost royal attitude) and the market came to be known as Nawab bazaar.

Javed sahib, the president of Nawab bazaar, however, strongly disagrees: “My, father, Haji Nawab Deen, was the first generation of wholesalers who established businesses in this block, and the bazaar is name after my father,” he states.

Whatever the real history of the name, the different versions add to the aura of antiquity surrounding the market.

It’s a Man’s World

The wholesale business is dominated by men. Not only there are no female shop owners but you encounter female customers. Occasionally you can run into a lone female retailer traversing the narrow alleys of the market. Razia is one such brave woman I met while combing through the glittering, colorful shops of women’s apparel.

“I have nine children and my husband is a ‘home-tailor’ who works at his clients’ places. To make ends meet, I have started this business. I purchase ready-to-wear female kurtis from this market and my husband takes them to his clients’ houses and sells them. We get to save 100 to 200 rupees on every kurta. It isn’t much but it helps,” Razia explains her ‘business model.’

First Time visitors

Whether you are a retailer, a casual visitor, or a customer who wants to get good bargains, try to heading for the market between 9:30 am to 10:30 am. This is the time when the traffic is not too heavy and it is still quiet in the throbbing, congested lanes of the market. Visiting the market early will save you half of the hassle of long traffic jams. The other half, while going back, you will have to bear. Another advantage of visiting the market early is that once you are there you can shop at leisure and will even have time to haggle with the shopkeepers. As the day advances the business activity picks up pace, the market gets too crowded.

Parking your vehicle is now easy as there is a huge parking plaza near the market. However, the plaza doesn’t have a lift and once you park the car you will have to walk all the way down and then walk all the way up to get the car. It is bit of an exertion and would help if you are in the mood for some exercise.

Azam Cloth Market is surrounded by many other wholesale and retail markets, and while you are there you can have quick round of the other markets and schedule your next visit to one you like.

9 Reasons Why B2b Manufacturers Are Investing in Digital Marketing

Manufacturing marketers shifted gears in a big way this year, turning their attention toward sales as a primary goal for content marketing, according to a recent article in Content Marketing Institute (via Joe Pulizzi, @JoePulizzi), featuring research from Fathom. The article explains some of the changes that B2B manufacturers are making in their marketing programs, and the results may be surprising to you! They were to us, which is why we’re detailing out 9 of what we think are the most important findings in this report and sharing them with you in an easy-to-read blog:

  • 82% of B2B Manufacturers Use Content Marketing

The report details that only 18% of B2B manufacturing marketers do not use content marketing. Wow, that’s a low percentage, meaning that 82% do use content marketing, which is defined by the article as: “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

If 82% of B2B manufacturing marketers are using content marketing as part of their strategy, there must be a reason, right?

  • 26% of B2B Manufacturers Say that “Content Marketing is Effective”

According to the report, last year, 30% of B2B manufacturing marketers said they were effective at content marketing. More importantly, 53% of those B2B manufacturing marketers that have a documented content marketing strategy say they are effective. So what’s the key here? Having a strategy and a plan, and executing against the plan.

  • 37% of B2B Manufacturers Have a Dedicated Content Marketing Group

And not only 37% already have a dedicated group of marketers that focus on content marketing, but 19% plan to have one in the future. This number, according to the report, is growing rapidly. The most effective among them are much more likely to have a dedicated group (67% vs. 37%).

  • 89% of B2B Manufacturers Say that Brand Awareness is the Ultimate Goal

The report shows that in comparison with other B2B peers overall, manufacturing marketers are much more focused on sales as a goal (85% vs. 75% overall). In addition, far more manufacturing marketers cited sales as a goal this year than they did last year (up to 85% this year vs. 56% last year).

  • 65% of B2B Manufacturers Are Creating More Content

According to the report, the percentage of marketers creating “more” content is down 4% from last year, but still remains high. 21% of respondents are creating “significantly more” content and 44% are creating “more” content than years past. If 65% are creating more content than ever before, then something must be working for these marketers.

  • 87% of B2B Manufacturers Use Video

The report shows that an overwhelming amount of content marketing for this industry is focus on video production. Other important tactics include eNewsletters (85%), Social Media Content (85%), Website Articles (84%) and Illustrations/Photos (82%). The use of videos increased from 80% last year to 87% this year moving up to the #1 tactic from it’s spot in 3rd last year.

  • 89% of B2B Manufacturers Use LinkedIn

The article shows a breakdown of how these marketers use social media platforms. While 89% use LinkedIn, 83% use YouTube (which makes sense as, according to our last stat, 87% use video). “Even though more manufacturers are using YouTube this year (83% vs. 81% last year), LinkedIn has surpassed it as the most often used platform, over a 16% increase from last year.”

  • 27% of B2B Manufacturers Post Daily or Multiple Times Per Week

For B2B Manufacturing Marketers, frequency is important (at least for 27% of the respondents)! But comparatively, these marketers are behind other peers in differing industries where 42% post daily or multiple times per day. Only 14% of B2B Manufacturing Marketers said that they post “less than once per month”.

  • 47% of B2B Manufacturers Plan to Increase Spending

Something must be going write for these marketers! According to the article, 47% of these marketers plan to increase their spending on content marketing within the next 12 months. While peers plan to increase 55%, this is still a high number for the industry. Last year, 46% of manufacturing marketers said they planned to increase spending, so the trend continues.

Manufacturers, while in the past more traditional in terms of marketing using tactics like print and direct mail, have upped their digital marketing and content marketing efforts in almost every way.

Digital Marketing Strategies Need To Be Aligned To The Most Recent Market Trends

To begin with, let us understand that any kind of marketing requires consistent and persistent efforts. Market trends keep changing and if you do not keep tweaking and optimizing, your business is sure to stagnate. This is exactly why it is highly essential that your digital marketing strategies be aligned to the most recent market trends. This helps brands better connect with their target audience and provide them with value services.

Adopt a data driven strategy

More and more businesses are embracing a data driven marketing strategy. Realizing the importance of data analysis and measurement tools, they also realize that with the right data at hand, they can provide customers with better services. This data is also crucial for developing new marketing strategies and creating better ad copies, better social media content and better overall content for digital marketing purposes.

Quality content to Engaging content

The importance of quality content cannot be emphasized on enough. Today’s customers demand more – along with the quality of the content, it should have the power to hold their attention long enough to convert them. So, whether you are using blogs or articles, social media or videos, make the content worth the reader’s time. Visitors simply browse through the content – until something interests them enough to stop and read on. Compelling content not only engages but also helps sustain the attention of potential customers. This is exactly why you need to keep refining your content and making it perfect.

Focus on mobile

Digital marketing trends are no longer limited to the web. If your digital marketing strategies do not include mobiles, you are missing out on a very large customer base. Mobiles have formed irreplaceable parts of our lives and digital marketing strategies today without a mobile marketing plan are almost in vein. Google too has made mobile friendliness as a key search ranking factor in their algorithm. This makes it all the more important to have a mobile marketing strategy.

Use visualizations to strengthen your story

Captivating videos and graphics are a great way to strengthen your marketing campaigns. There’s a reason why info-graphics and feature images are getting popular by the day. Here are a few stats to support this theory:

  • 46% of the marketers agree that visuals are crucial to any marketing strategy
  • Content with images receive 94% more views than those without.
  • 55% content creators prioritize creating visual content to make it more engaging for their readers.
  • 39% of the marketers allocate more budgets for the creation of compelling visual assets.

Images and videos generally have their own search index in Google and YouTube. They help in adding visibility to your business.

Finally, the key to any marketing strategy today is personalization. You need to ensure that you meet the needs of your target customers. The ultimate goal of digital marketing is to deliver the right content to the users at the right time. Keep all the factors in mind while you plan for your next digital marketing campaign.