unctad.org | Pakistani start-up focuses on niche online shopping market
Pakistani start-up focuses on niche online shopping market
14 March 2019
Nazish Hussain's passion for online innovation has connected Pakistani women with pre-owned designer items and introduced them to the world of ecommerce.

Nazish Hussain didn’t expect to become a self-made businesswoman, but a knack for seeing a need and acting on it has turned her into a passionate ‘netpreneur’, or online entrepreneur.

Her online shopping business focuses on a niche in Pakistan with big potential: the sale of second-hand designer items, which she has branded as “re-commerce”.

As with most entrepreneurial ventures, Ms. Hussain found inspiration in unusual surroundings.

Following a 2013 trip abroad, where she discovered the success of high-end vintage stores, Ms. Hussain decided to give up her promising corporate career as a media manager to take the plunge and launch Pakistan’s first re-commerce marketplace.

When returning from her trip, she realized vintage stores did not exist in Pakistan, but that the idea had potential. “I wanted something like this, and it needed to be online,” she said.

In December 2014 she founded Secret Stash, which connects buyers and sellers to high-end pre-owned designer bags, shoes and accessories.


Ms. Hussain has designed a business concept for women and by women.

Nazish Hussain

Pakistani women can now buy and sell pre-owned 100% original designer items for a discount – either by making a fashionable find or giving a second life to pre-owned items.

Empowering women is at the centre of her approach. She wants to see more businesses where women are at the top and, as a manager, she is focused on promoting work-life balance for herself and her employees.

After a challenging two years in start-up mode, Secret Stash is now growing.

A revamped website and an active social media presence have positioned Secret Stash as a lifestyle brand and helped changed Pakistani consumers’ perceptions of pre-owned items.

In part, her growth has been spurred by participation in a groundbreaking entrepreneur support programme.

Bridging the digital divide

The UNCTAD and Alibaba Business School eFounders Fellowship programme opened Ms. Hussain’s eyes to the possibility of scale.   

In November 2018 she responded to the invitation for young entrepreneurs, and especially woman entrepreneurs, to apply for the programme, which takes place at the Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.

“It’s incredible to have lived this two weeks’ experience of what a global ecommerce giant’s ecosystem is about and to meet so many other like-minded entrepreneurs from Asia,” she said.

“It inspired me to develop a long-term plan with a clear vision for my business. An immediate action after coming back from China was to strengthen trust in our platform by increasing the credibility of our sellers.”

She has made it her responsibility to educate online clients on how to become trustworthy sellers and emphasizes the importance of the authenticity and quality of her products.

UNCTAD’s smart partnership with the Alibaba Business School aims to bridge the digital divide in Africa and Asia and empower the programme’s young graduates in developing countries to become champions for the new economy.

The partnership is the brainchild of UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi and Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, who served as a special advisor to UNCTAD on young entrepreneurs and small business.

To date, 127 ‘netrepreneurs’ from 25 African and Asian countries have participated in the programme.

This cohort will grow after the next courses, which take place in May and June 2019.

Applications are now open for the May intake from Africa and the June intake from Asia.


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