SHANGHAI: Recalling their first experience in China more than 10 years ago, Mian Muhammad Zubair and Habibur Rehman, brothers from Pakistan, said they only knew one thing — the future.
“China is the future. That was what our father told us. So here we are,” the two, now in their 30s, said with a beaming smile.
Mian Muhammad Zubair, the elder brother, is 33 and graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University majoring in aerospace. The younger, 31, Habibur Rehman, is a graduate of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics with a degree in economics and trade.
The two are the second generation of a family that has been engaged in the carpet business. Their father, Shahid Sohail, used to run a store selling traditional handmade carpets in Pakistan and was seeking opportunities overseas.
Around 2000, a European diplomat suggested that Shahid Sohail come to China to explore business prospects. Three years later he was in Guangzhou, a coastal city in south China that had already drawn many foreign business persons.
Soon Sohail, a person with strong business acumen, put his eyes on Shanghai, which was at the forefront of China’s sweeping opening-up efforts.
In August 2006, the businessman decided to move the family business to Shanghai. Though back then he only knew three Chinese words — “Hi, Thank you, and Bye,” it didn’t deter his spirits.
“To us, China is more than just Pakistan’s good friend,” said Zubair, adding that they believe in the famous Pakistani motto –“Even though knowledge is far away in China, we should seek it.”
The brothers came to study in Shanghai in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and soon found that China was developing at a speed far beyond their imagination.
“Shanghai is a very safe and inclusive city, and the infrastructure changes so fast,” said Habib Ur Rehman.
Now their father, 66, has officially retired, and the brothers have taken over the store.
“For us, the carpets are works of art. The delicate patterns on the beautiful handmade carpets are the inheritance of thousands of years of culture and a witness of cultural integration between China and Pakistan,” Zubair said pointing to an exquisite carpet on the wall.
“This pattern is a replica of a work by ancient Chinese artists, which contains jasmine flowers, Chinese porcelain and other unique elements.”
Their store has also witnessed China’s transformation over the past decades. “At first, 99 percent of the customers were foreigners, now Chinese customers account for about 30 to 40 percent,” Zubair said.
“China doesn’t impose a tariff on handmade carpets from Pakistan, so the price in China is almost the same as in Pakistan, while in other countries, the price may double or triple,” he added.
The two, who now speak fluent Mandarin, are preparing to participate in the 4th China International Import Expo this year.
“The expo is a good platform to bring more business opportunities and let more people know about handmade carpets from Pakistan,” Habibur Rehman said, adding that they also plan to explore China’s e-commerce market.
“We are optimistic about the Chinese market and we are bullish on Shanghai,” he added.
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