In Conversation with Kiran Faruqi: CFO of Daraz Group

Kiran Faruqi joined Daraz as a finance manager at the time of the company’s inception. Her journey is closely tied to the evolution of Daraz from a start-up to a leading e-commerce organisation operating in 5 countries. Today, Kiran is the group CFO. Read about her story, the challenges of her role, and her growth below.

1. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role as CFO?

As the Group CFO of a leading eCommerce platform in 5 markets: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, time is my biggest challenge and opportunity. The combination of working in a fast-paced environment and company culture that prides itself on customer-centric innovation, it’s important to constantly re-evaluate priorities with value creation in mind.

2. How has your role changed with the growth of Daraz over the past few years?

Daraz has grown from a small start-up to a leading eCommerce organization serving over 10 million+users in five geographies – it has been quite a ride! In this journey, I went from a finance manager posting journal entries myself to the Group CFO responsible for implementing our fiscal strategy across multiple countries. This meant growth in my role, expansion of my teams as well as reinvention of processes aimed at bringing simplicity toa complex business. I am very lucky to have been part of the company from its inception – being a part of its accelerated growth gave me a unique learning opportunity. To be honest, I am still learning!

3. Finance and technology are largely considered to be male-dominated fields. That stereotype still exists today. What measures do you think an organization needs to have in place to overcome this line of thinking?

I think measures need to be there from all sides to reject this line of thinking which then influences not only the stereo type but also the outcomes in this direction. We have to do this together!

Companies should be upfront with their expectations of a role, establish the necessary measures to be an equal employer and then let the best person win. The applicants have a big role to play here too. It is important for each applicant to measure their service offering fairly, work hard to be merited the job and once they are hired consistently aim to be better than they were yesterday as they grow with the organization.

4. The five countries where Daraz lays its cap are still developing economies. What measures has Daraz taken to tap into the potential they carry?

We are fortunate to be operating in emerging markets that are brimming with potential. As an eCommerce marketplace, our modus operandi is to regulate the ecosystem where buyers and sellers transact in a safe and secure environment. This meant introducing levers necessary to build trust and resultantly impacting the way people conduct their daily lives.

We are known as a shopping app but we are primarily a university for entrepreneurs. Our strategy is to empower SMEs to build their businesses using our platform. The goal is for anyone with a smartphone to be able to start their business and our education is free of charge. We have educated more than 50,000 sellers through Daraz university already.

Logistics remains a challenge in our markets as the ecosystem is not fully digitalized and integrated. To overcome this challenge, we built DEX, our in house logistics arm, which is specifically designed to enable eCommerce transactions. Today, we do more than 60% of our deliveries ourselves and as a result have created a lot of jobs in the process. We are also helping new and existing logistics providers digitalize by offering them with free technology solutions and support to build their businesses.

Finally, we introduced an app with an intuitive user journey and many engaging features including AI-powered personalization which allows each user to find what they are looking for. We also set upDaraz wallet which allows an easy, safe and reliable way for our customers to make payments and collect instant refunds.

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At the end, we are building a mall, marketplace and a community for our users.

5. You have been at Daraz for more than seven years. How do you think the startup culture in Pakistan has evolved during that time? Do you think the probability of success has changed?

This is only the beginning for Pakistani startups. It speaks volumes to me that the last few years have seen a multitude of international investments come through in support of local entrepreneurship. From Alibaba’s buyout of Daraz to Airlift Technologies securing series A funding, it is clear to me that our entrepreneurs have great ideas and the grit needed for their execution– the world agrees. Companies like Mandi express or Dot & Line that are locally unique are also getting the attention they need to flourish, and it is very inspiring.

6. How has the merger with Alibaba impacted your role?

With Alibaba’s acquisition, Daraz found its natural home and we became part of a much larger ecosystem. Having been heavily involved in the transaction, I was able to experience first-hand what it takes to bring something of this magnitude to fruition. It was tough but also incredibly rewarding.

Alibaba has an expansive network of companies across the world and the merger brought with it a lot of opportunity for knowledge sharing and the ability to solve challenges a lot faster together. Another great advantage has also been a mindset shift to a more technology driven finance function. With the help of cutting-edge technology, I can use a wealth of information available to play a more strategic role in assessing opportunities, improving performance and resolving challenges regularly.

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