YC graduate Markhor now sells handcrafted leather cases for Apple products

If you’re thinking of getting a new carry case for your iPad or MacBook, then a project from a company called Markhor may be worth your time.

Markhor uses the web to sell designer shoes crafted by local shoe-makers in Pakistan at affordable prices and now it is expanding its focus. Part of YC’s summer batch in 2015, it is piloting the idea of handcrafted covers for MacBooks and iPads via a Kickstarter campaign that went live this week.

The company is very familiar with Kickstarter, it’s where it began selling its high-quality leather shoes through a campaign that raised over $100,000 from more than 500 backers. This time, Markhor is seeking an initial $5,000 to develop these new products that it said are made with the same craftsmanship, materials and dedication as its shoes.

The selection of cases include:

  • $25 Apple Pencil sleeve: A beautiful sleeve for your Apple Pencil, handcrafted using full-grain leather
  • $65 MacBook sleeve: A sleeve for MacBook 12″/13″/15″ made with premium felted wool and full-grain leather
  • $75 iPad sleeve: Markhor MacPad made using full-grain premium leather and cellulose board sheet

These are early bird prices. The company said it aims to ship orders to Kickstarter customers by July.

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Projects that use the internet to create social good always get my attention so I was intrigued to learn about the new product line. Markhor has used the internet to help reinvigorate the local shoemaking industry in Lahore, Pakistan, and now it wants to offer a further boost to manufacturing by expanding its output. Currently it has two craftsmen who will create the MacBook, iPad and Apple Pencil covers, but it plans to do a lot more beyond that.

The longer term objective, Markhor’s Imran Haider explained to TechCrunch, is to finance a facility in Pakistan that can produce “premium products at a discount price” to be sold online.

“Some of the best leather craftsmen in Pakistan have been making products like shoes, bags and accessories for decades. But for past few years the demand for their skills has been declining, mainly because of competition from cheaper labor and mass production in China,” Haider said via email.

Rural regeneration via e-commerce is a very real thing. In China, for instance, the reach of Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace has given new life to rural communities that had been struggling financially in the past. As this excellent Quartz story explains, there are now over 1,400 ‘Taobao Villages’ in China which produce various goods that are then sold online at scale using the Alibaba service.

Haider said Markhor takes positives from the success of direct-to-consumer brands like Warby Parker and those that turn to craftsmanship for excellence. Shaving startup Harrys, for instance, bought a factory in Germany back in 2015, he pointed out.

“Because of our small size, we couldn’t set up our shoemaking unit but we found we can start working on this model by making Markhor accessories in house,” Haider further explained. “We have our own team of designers, supply chain and operations people that are now working with our craftsmen to make very high-quality Apple accessories.”

“It’s risky but we believe it’s going to pay dividends in the long run. Also, our craftsmanship is what makes Markhor unique and valuable to our customers. And we want to double down on that,” he added.

Full details on Markhor’s new project can be found on its Kickstarter page here. The campaign had attracted over $1,500 in pledges at the time of writing. It has until April 28 to reach the $5,000 target.