When Hiro Harjani stepped off the plane from India, he had no contacts, no cash and zero business experience. So how on earth did he build a fashion brand with 5,000 international trade accounts and celebrity endorsements from Lisa Snowden and Helen Mirren?
“I arrived here with nothing,” says Harjani. “I came from a middle-class Indian family with servants and drivers. I was used to living a certain lifestyle. Suddenly, I had to start from scratch.”
He set up a clothes stall on Petticoat Lane and ran a mini-cab service during the week. In the late eighties, he bought a fashion store called Cockney Touch. “I worked hard and learned the trade. I didn’t make one mistake, I made thousands.
“I got to the point where I was fed up of surprises, I didn’t want any more business shocks. That’s where I got the name ‘Aftershock' from. I registered it all over the world.”
Harjani says he had the vision of a global fashion brand right away. “I thought, ‘If I’m going to sell clothes in one store, I might as well sell them in 500 stores. Or 5,000 stores. I just had to find a way of doing it.”
He noticed that a large chunk of his customers were from overseas, so he started travelling abroad to visit them. “People started asking me if they could franchise the business. I set up an office in New York. Luckily, I found a nice Jewish guy to run it and we started expanding from there.”
Today, Aftershock has 20 stores across the globe and employs 500 staff. And he's not stopping there. "We haven't even scratched the surface."
Hiro Harjani was interviewed as part of the My First Million series, in association with Orange.
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