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20 April 2018Last updated
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How she got there: Founder of FashLink

Payal Patel has a job that would make most fashionistas sick with envy. We talk to her to find out what her job involves and about the career path that led her to this point

By Louisa Wilkins, Features Editor, Aquarius
1 Apr 2012 | 12:00 am
  • Payal Patel

    Payal Patel loves finding creative new ways to promote fashion.

    Source:Dennis B. Mallari/ANM Image 1 of 2
  • Payal Patel

    The FashLink website is growing steadily in the UAE.

    Source:Dennis B. Mallari/ANM Image 2 of 2

"When I was growing up, I wanted to be a business woman. Most of my family members are entrepreneurs, so my parents encouraged us in that direction.

"By the time I finished school and was choosing university courses, I was interested in fashion management, but I didn't want to limit my opportunities. So, in 2001, I started a management sciences degree at the London School of Economics.

"After university, I started working in events and in 2005 I moved to New York to study events management. I ended up working for an agency, managing Rush Hour actor Chris Tucker. I was really chucked in at the deep end - they say three months in New York is like three years anywhere else. While I was there, I got quite into the fashion scene. When I moved back to Bahrain in 2008, I tried to bring the fashion scene with me. By the end of that year, I had started Bahrain Fashion Week. We worked with the government to support emerging designers in the region. It was going really well but I caught the dot-com bug and began seeking out venture opportunities in Dubai.

"I started looking at the overwhelming choice of fashion stores here - we have more than 500 brands in Dubai. Between March and June of last year, I brainstormed with the other co-founders and we came up with the concept of creating a digi-catalogue of all the items in all the stores across the Middle East... With malls as big as Dubai Mall, it's hard to browse, and with so much choice it's hard to shop efficiently. We wanted to make shopping easier.

"Through a lot of research and surveys, we realised that, in this region, people still prefer to go to stores for their shopping experience. But then we were inspired by the film Clueless, in which Cher's character has her own digital wardrobe. So we took our digi-catalogue idea and evolved it into FashLink.com - a site where people can browse stores online, but still shop offline, plus have their own virtual wardrobe and be their own personal stylist.

"We launched the test site in December 2011 and asked a lot of bloggers, designers and shoppers for their feedback. We ended up redesigning the website completely and launched properly in the first week of January of this year. We had 76,500 page views in the first month and 18,650 unique visitors. We currently have ten employees.

"Now, we are constantly adding new features, such as reviews of items, competitions... social media is an integral part of it, too. We have just launched a reward system where people can earn points for recommending products, creating a look, and for winning the ‘look of the day'. They'll be able to swap these points for various items on the site. Other plans include working with retailers to create a reservation system, introducing men's or children's clothes, or offering a fashion concierge service."

My job involves... "Working with retailers to get their items uploaded onto our system each week. We now have more than 5,000 items on FashLink and this is growing steadily. I also meet with stylists, designers, bloggers and the media regularly to show them how we can help them... we really want to support both the industry and emerging talent. I do a lot of research to find out what type of site the region needs and would use. I work hard to keep myself in the loop with regards to how we can improve and make site more interactive." 

To do my job you need to be... "Very sociable and open-minded in terms of listening to other people's ideas and being able to take negative feedback and use it to make positive changes. You need to be willing to learn and committed to keeping up with technology." 

What I love most... "Playing with fashion!"

What I like least... "Learning all the technical jargon and abbreviations. I even find the basics hard! I'm creative, not technical." 

Looking back, if I could have done something differently... "A fashion marketing course could have made the process quicker. It takes longer when you learn by experience, but I love to learn that way."

To people wanting to do my job, my advice would be... "Do a lot of research. With the internet, there's no excuse for poor research. Know your market - understand it and cater to it. An idea that works in one place may not adapt to somewhere else."

Job joys

  • I love finding creative new ways to promote fashion, so it can evolve from the basic billboard strategy.
  • I've really enjoyed learning about social media and how powerful it is... a year ago I didn't know how effective Twitter would be and how much it could actually influence people's decisions.
  • Meeting passionate people involved in all aspects of the fashion industry and bouncing ideas around - feeding off each other. 

Work woes

  • The amount of time and effort you have to invest into a start-up and establishing all the different workings of the business is challenging.
  • Having to multi-task in several different departments is quite hard. I have to make sure they all pull together to make FashLink.com happen.
  • I think the hardest part of my job has been to get the concept understood as a ‘window-shopping' online. This is new to the majority of the people in the region. We have to work really hard to change retailers' perceptions of online marketing.
  • Could you do this job?

Could you do this job?

Career consultant Alia Ali Khan uses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to match personality types to job descriptions. She says: 

"Payal appears to be among the ‘Rational' personality type - such people are especially gifted in their ability to make sense out of large complex structures, and to find patterns and clarity within them. This could explain Payal's ability to create a beautiful, simple approach to an overwhelmingly large amount of stores and items.

Rationals are ‘big picture' thinkers and tend not to get lost in the details. They are also highly logical and don't let emotions get in the way, as seen by Payal's ability to use feedback constructively rather than taking it as criticism.

"Rationals pride themselves on being experts in their fields, so they are suited to jobs that require them to master technical or conceptual skills. However, they should be wary of jobs that require too much process and routine details - as big idea people, Rationals feel bogged down by mundane tasks and require support staff to carry out those tasks. The start-up nature of Payal's business works perfectly in this case where things are always new and she is always learning."

To learn more about your personality type and the kind of jobs you would be well suited to, visit Alia's website, www.usingpersonality.com.

Profile

Name: Payal Patel
Age: 28
Nationality: Indian, brought up in Bahrain
Job: Business development director and co-founder of FashLink (www.fashlink.com), the region's first fashion portal search engine and virtual styling website

By Louisa Wilkins, Features Editor, Aquarius

By Louisa Wilkins, Features Editor, Aquarius