Ten years in advertising and Ali A. Rizvi, COO, Interflow Communications has done almost all there is to do in the profession, whether as part of a creative, client service, PR, media planning or brand activation team. And that too at major agencies and high level positions.
Needless to say, Rizvi is a success. But thankfully, he is not full of himself. In fact, he is secure enough to attribute his success to being in the right place at the right time.
“You can call me lucky – wherever I go, people go missing or they move to other companies.” However, he also adds that “opportunities have come my way and I have been smart enough to capitalise on them and work very hard.”
Rizvi also has no qualms about changing jobs every two years on average.
“If I feel I am stagnating, or that I have learnt everything I want to in a job, I move on.”
But when I prod him further, asking him the secret to his success, he says that it is simply a lot of hard work. I counter this by saying that there are plenty of people who work hard, but who aren’t necessarily successful. He then, almost grudgingly attributes his success to a combination of hard work, dedication, discipline and passion.
“You have to be passionate about what you do, especially in advertising, so you can give it your 110%. Only then can you succeed.”
And what about money?
“Money never motivated me, but I always wanted to be one of the best in my profession.”
Ah, so the driving force is to be recognised as a true professional?
“Yes,” he agrees somewhat hesitatingly. “And I love what I do.”
It’s clear that he is extremely passionate about his work, and continues to be excited by it every day.
“I love going to work, and I still get goose bumps when a TVC I have worked on airs for the first time,” he admits a tad sheepishly.
Like many advertising professionals in Pakistan, Rizvi did not plan on a career in advertising.
Instead it was to be a career in civil engineering, a subject he studied at Kansas State University. After graduating, he joined Kruger Technologies, an engineering company in Kansas City, but finding the rigours of engineering a little too limiting, and because he always yearned “to do something creative” he ended up setting up the company’s marketing department.
“As there was no competition, I was made marketing director,” he says modestly.
Four years later, a little weary of a post 9/11 America, Rizvi returned to his hometown Karachi “to test the waters” and joined CMC as an account manager in 2002. As it turned out, several members of higher management were leaving when Rizvi joined and within six months he was promoted to account director.
He worked there for nearly two years, after which he moved to Islamabad to join Orient McCann Erickson as account manager for Jazz. That was in 2004 when the competition between the telecoms was at its peak. Rizvi worked on several campaigns for Mobilink, collaborating with film and art directors, acquiring new skills along the way. It was, in his own words, “a different ballgame altogether” and he was soon promoted to account director, partly due to his hard work and the fact that several senior executives left the agency.
After two years at Orient, Rizvi moved to Adcom as head of creative operations, where he worked on the Telenor relaunch, and launch campaigns for Djuice and Telenor Talkshawk.
Wasn’t the Telenor relaunch campaign the one that was rumoured to be ‘inspired’ by an international brand, I ask.
To which Rizvi replies swiftly:
“For three days we worked on concepts with no success. Then one morning as I was driving home at about four, I noticed the telephone lines and a random thought crossed my mind: if we were to brand the airwaves which allow people to use their cell phones, what colour would they be? I shared this with my colleague and we started developing situations people could relate to with this idea in mind…”
The campaign eventually won Adcom an Aurora Award for best campaign.
Predictably, Rizvi began to get restless and two years later he moved to head the media planning wing of Adcom’s Islamabad office. A few months later he was made head of media for Adcom for all three regional offices, after the previous head left.
The next unexplored territory on Rizvi’s résumé was brand activation; the lure of “getting to know brands from a different perspective” saw him join Contact Plus (a sister concern of Interflow Communications) as COO, where he brought an “element of creativity to the table”.
In June, Rizvi joined Interflow Communications as the COO, describing it as a “fun ride so far”. Although essentially a management position, he is determined to bring an element of creativity to his work, by “finding more innovative ways of delivering communication solutions to our clients… we have a lot of creative muscle that we haven’t flexed properly yet.”
What strikes me most about Rizvi is that he is devoid of any airs and graces and a know-it-all attitude. He says that this is something he has learned along the way.
“I have learnt to grow in stature, but keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. It’s very easy to get carried away by success in advertising, especially because of the glitz and glamour of the profession. What matters most is what you have accomplished, and you should let your work speak for you.”
Contrary to what one may assume, Rizvi says that he is ‘not’ a complete workaholic. Instead, although he will work late or on weekends when required, he spends most weekends with his family. No matter what time he goes to sleep at night, he will drop his two children to school every morning and have dinner with his wife every night when in town. He is also a big cricket fan and follows the game religiously.
I also discover that Rizvi is extremely patriotic.
“Pakistani advertising has come a long way,” he says. “The problem is that we have no idea of how to showcase our work to the rest of the world. We don’t take pride in our work; instead we are happy to gush at the work done by other people.”
He also complains about the lack of an advertising fraternity and dialogue between agencies.
“We don’t interact with each other and/or share our learning. Yet given the chance we would be more than happy to share our case studies abroad.”
And it is then that Rizvi lets on about his next real goal in life:
“I want to speak about Pakistani advertising on a global forum. We have a lot of work of an international standard that we should showcase to the world.”
And given Rizvi’s knack of getting what he wants, perhaps it is safe to say that he will do just that.
Mamun M. Adil is Assistant Manager, BD&R, The Dawn Media Group. firstname.lastname@example.org
The profits of public listed consumer goods companies surged by 44% in the first half of the year and are predicted to grow significantly in 2012. Marylou Andrew spoke to Ehsan A. Malik, Chairman & CEO, Unilever Pakistan about the reasons for this growth and what to expect in 2012.
MARYLOU ANDREW: Analysts are saying that the profits earned by FMCGs are mainly a result of inflation and increased demand for goods as a result of the floods. Is that the whole story?
EHSAN MALIK: It is partly true; I think it is very tempting to say that across the board consumer products have benefited by higher prices and volumes have suffered. You have to differentiate. At Unilever Pakistan, our growth is coming from both price and volume. If you take our laundry category for example, nine months ago we had two brands (Surf and Rin) but there was a gap in the middle of the market. We filled it by launching Sunlight. Now, when you launch a new product, you will always get volume growth. This is an example of where we stretched ourselves to the value end of the market. However, I have a number of examples where we have done the opposite. Take soap. For many years we have operated with two soaps, Lux at the top and Lifebuoy in the middle. Then we introduced Dove this year which is at the very top end of the market. Shampoo is an even better example: we had Sunsilk in the middle to top end, Lifebuoy shampoo in the middle to bottom end and then a specialist anti-dandruff shampoo in the form of Clear. Yet we still saw a gap at the very top end and so we brought in Dove shampoo. So our growth is not only price increase growth, it is also what we call a ‘white space fill’. We saw white spaces in the market and we identified the opportunity and introduced new brands. However, even within existing brands you can play with price propositions. Take Surf where we have stuck to the Rs 10 pack and in terms of unit sales, that Rs 10 sachet is 19% up over last year.
MLA: It’s interesting that you have launched products at the top and bottom ends of the market. Is that where you see growth coming from?
EM: This is mainly because the middle tier is quite well catered to. We see growth coming from every tier but we will not leave the top and bottom ends untouched. In each of the categories, we look at the consumer pyramid and then ask whether we are addressing that pyramid adequately. In the last seven to eight months, we have launched seven new brands and eight new platforms. Let me give you an example of a platform. Fair & Lovely had been in the market for many years but it was targeted at women, now we have launched it for men as well. Lifebuoy has been in bar form, now we have launched it in liquid form, because that is the future of soaps. Additionally, a lot of our volume and value growth is a result of the evolution in the retail environment in Pakistan. When I came back to Pakistan in 2006, less than five percent of our total sales went through supermarkets. As we closed last month, we were sitting at about 18% and we know from our experience in markets in the Far East that this increase is a sharpening trajectory, because it may take five years to go from five to 18% but in the next five years it will go from 18 to 40%. Our market share numbers in modern trade are actually higher than in the general trade. The other significant competitive edge that we have is scale. We now have 29 brands, while only seven months ago we had 22 brands. When you go to a supermarket environment with that many brands, your clout increases and that is a win-win situation, because when we go into modern trade and create excitement that also creates footfall for the supermarket.
MLA: You don’t bring in seven brands every year; so why did it happen in 2011?
EM: No, we do not, because you have to give the brands a gestation period to settle and become part of the core. But in the four years leading up to 2011, we had more than doubled in size and we were looking for new ideas to maintain and accelerate our growth. Hence a much more focused view of the gaps that existed.
MLA: I believe a lot of your growth is also coming from rural markets.
EM: Rural growth is coming for three or four major reasons. When I left Pakistan in 1994, there were two TV channels, when I came back there were over 70, so there is hardly any part of Pakistan that is media-dark. Then there is the Pakistani farmer who has benefited from the higher agricultural produce price but doesn’t have a high savings habit and the reach of banks is pretty poor, so what is he going to do with that money? There is also the increasing penetration of washing machines which is giving the housewife more free time. That free time is valuable for her and for us because if the TV is on and she is watching our advertising, that creates demand. All we have to do is make sure that the product is available and the assortment is right in the retail channels those customers go to. We have also increased our retail footprint in the rural areas significantly and that has fuelled our growth.
MLA: Your ice-cream business has done very well in 2011 with sales rising by 12%. Why is that happening?
EM: Pakistan’s per capita consumption of ice-cream – 0.4 litres – is very low, whereas in countries like Turkey it is 2.6 litres per person per year, so there is a lot of room for growth. Globally, ice-cream consumption has nothing to do with temperature and countries like Finland have the highest per capita consumption. Ice-cream has also been growing because we have increased the footprint of our freezers and we keep changing their location if they are not working in one place. The other factor is innovation; two years ago there was no Badami, in its second year, the growth rate is 50%. When the conditions you live in are insecure, you need small luxuries and that is the secret of the growth of ice-cream.
MLA: Is your profitability going to be affected by increasing commodity prices?
EM: Yes, that affects everyone but it is usually offset by scale. If you invested X amount and you are using 70% capacity, there is a certain unit cost. Once you take that capacity to 80% you get volume growth and your unit cost goes down. If you take the commodity costs and our price increases, the latter is significantly lower because we have the scale advantage which some of our competitors may not have; to compete with us they may have maintained that price parity, but then their margins have been squeezed.
MLA: On the one hand you have growing profitability and on the other you have a middle class that is increasingly under pressure from inflation. How do you reconcile the two?
EM: It is very tempting to generalise and say that the entire middle class is under pressure. When you say that you make a very basic assumption, which is that the official economy is the main economy; but we all know that the informal economy has outgrown the formal economy. A lot of consumer demand is being fuelled by the latter. So when people say that we are under pressure it is a small section of salaried people who admittedly are under pressure. However, the large informal economy has been able to pass on costs and they are not under pressure.
MLA: Which businesses within your own portfolio are best poised for growth in 2012?
EM: I think people want to look and feel good so personal care items will do better. Home care is evolving at a rapid rate and all the segments of the pyramid have been addressed by us and the competitors. Soups will do well, and noodles have had explosive growth. In the last five years we have had to increase our capacity twice. Noodles are now being eaten by children and adults; it is the cheapest way to consume calories.
First published in the Nov-Dec 2011 issue of Aurora.
The packaged foods category has witnessed significant growth in the last couple of years, helped along in large part by product launches from local companies seeking to diversify their portfolios and take advantage of growing consumer demand. Last year, for example, National Foods (which has traditionally been known for masalas, jams, jellies and squashes) extended its portfolio with the launch of Fruitily, a powdered drink brand. The aim was to take another step towards making National Foods a ‘true foods’ company.
This is precisely what Shan Foods wanted to achieve when it launched its brand of contemporary desserts (as opposed to Pakistani desserts) – Delve Desserts – in September this year. Asma Aman, Marketing Manager, Shan explains that the company has been trying to convert from a masala company to a true foods company.
“We already have several other categories such as traditional desserts, pickles and instant food mixes, however we are best known for masala, and we want to diversify into non-masala categories.”
In researching various potential categories, Shan discovered that in the Rs 1.25 billion desserts category, contemporary desserts accounted for Rs 800 million and that there was huge demand (both local and international) for halal jelly, and thus offered tremendous room for growth.
However, because the flagship brand (Shan) is so thoroughly associated with masala in popular perception, the company created a totally new brand (Delve) under which all of its present and future contemporary dessert offerings will be launched.
The Delve Desserts range currently offers several flavours of custard and jelly and one pudding variant. Traditional Pakistani desserts (sheer khurma, kheer, firni etc.) were already part of Shan’s range and have deliberately been kept out of the Delve brand.
The idea, explains Aman, was to create a line of products that could compete on an international scale, were totally halal and superior in flavour to the range of contemporary desserts offered by Rafhan and National Foods.
Aman doesn’t go into any product development details but says that the company spent almost a year on the packaging to ensure that it was modern, up market and very international in look and feel. The result is dark blue boxes with the red and yellow Delve logo. These no doubt stand out on the shelf, but are also reminiscent of packaging used by Foster Clark for its dessert range.
In terms of price, Delve competes head to head with both Rafhan and National (except that the Delve sachet is Rs 10 higher than Rafhan) but Aman believes that the only real competition right now is Rafhan.
“Rafhan is the clear leader in contemporary desserts but there is no one in the number two position. National Foods has been in the market for six or seven years but their market share is not huge and the gap between one and two is quite large. We want to occupy that spot and we will be able to, because there is a big difference in the taste of this product and that of the market leader.”
In spite of the certainty that emanates from Aman, Delve was first test launched in Karachi only (it has recently been launched nationally) and the media launch was restricted to large billboards, print, and free tasting activities mainly to see what the off-take would be, not only among consumers but also at the wholesale and retail level. Aman claims that Delve was a success from the word go and is now available in 7,000 shops in Karachi.
Delve’s long term success will depend on the company’s ability to convince target consumers (mainly children between the ages of eight and 14 and their mothers) that they offer a superior product over the competition (both of which are highly trusted brands in Pakistan). In this respect, the fact that Delve has actively disassociated itself from the Shan name (with only a tiny logo on the box) may not work in its favour.
However, Aman believes that for Delve to be successful, the company must ensure that it is not associated with masala in any way.
“We also need to drive commercial consumption in restaurants as jelly and custard are used in a lot of different formats.”
Shan is still a long way from being considered a true foods company, and Aman is aware of this.
“Contemporary desserts are the first step but we have a long way to go. As marketers we need to identify niches and segments to develop superior products. In the next three to five years, we plan to be known as a global foods company.”
If that is indeed Shan’s ambition, we can expect to see a great deal of activity in the next few years.
First published in the November-December 2011 issue of Aurora.
I have a dilemma. I am supposed to write about five ads aired over the last two months. I was also given a few pieces by previous writers as a reference for the format of the article. The interesting thing is that the more I read about advertising by local advertising practitioners, the more I think that we (disclaimer: as in the advertising profession, a metaphor, not myself necessarily) really don’t like ourselves too much. Massive self-esteem issue.
Why is it that we think it’s really clever to trash the work around us? For every Maaza Mango there is a Djuice Khamoshi Ka Boycott. For every truly awful Surf Excel bullying ad (truly awful) there is a heart warming Surf Excel Daadi Aik Minute ad. If there is bad work out there it’s because some clever clogs in an agency has no clue about the person they are supposed to be selling the product to. I read a piece where this gentleman proudly proclaimed he doesn’t watch TV (so he really has no clue about what is out there), that nobody watches TV anymore and ‘millions’ cruise the net. Wake up call. Yes there are millions of Pakistanis on the net (mostly young people living in the top three metros in SECs A and B). But there are millions more who, believe it or not, still watch TV. And still take note of TV advertising.
So please stop cruising YouTube and Ads of the World sighing at the work you see. The best of Ad Age, etc, is not the only thing on air in the US. Sit through a day of TV there and you will see a lot of crap. Seriously. And Indian ads? Many of them are chhapa (Myntra online shopping and Lacoste – did anyone even stop to think why would a bunch of Indian kids be running around with surfboards. It’s Colaba not California). Some even chhapofy our work – Kotak finance is somewhat inspired by Engro Rupiya, na? (to be said with a bobble head movement).
What is really worrying is that the new ‘talent’ coming into the profession speaks with great confidence about all the ‘rubbish’ that is produced and how not a single campaign is noteworthy. Recently, a friend of mine told me about a gentleman who came for an interview and went on about the new Garnier shampoo for hijabis. And what a great idea that was. When corrected and told the brand was Sunsilk, he insisted saying, Garnier products were green. Let’s hope for Unilever’s sake that the consumer didn’t think so as well. Has it become the thing to do? Self-flagellation for being stuck in a profession churning out mediocre work?
So here’s the good news. There’s a lot of fine work out there. Ideas that speak to the consumer; ads that are well executed; narrative that is beautifully worded. Many of these ads even build businesses. Which is what ads are meant to do.
Advertisements are not there to change society or to be great art. They are there to make money for the manufacturers of the product in focus. And to make money for the people who make the advertisement. That’s it. If the money comes rolling in, the ad works; whether you like it or not. So here are my five. Some good. Others that could have been better. And just to make it interesting, there’s not a single Ufone ad among them.
Brand: Abbott Zinc
Campaign: Introducing Abbott Zinc
Message: Zinc se zindagi.
Effectiveness: Here we have the lovely Mahnoor Baloch at her Dorian Gray best, endorsing Abbott Zinc.
A good product and a much needed one at that. Unfortunately Ms Baloch floats through the ad talking about how Zinc helps her ‘maintain looks and freshness’, ‘prevents hair fall’ and ‘keeps skin healthy and youthful’. All very well. That is exactly what Zinc can do for you. The problem is that the product benefits don’t really come through. The languid pace at which the commercial is shot is devoid of the energy and vitality that are the cornerstone of the product benefit. Why, oh why, do advertising people think that celebrities are the panacea to all their ills? Lesson one. If you get a celebrity, she or he needs to embody the brand character and must be used as a conduit to bring the product benefit to life. Baloch, beautiful as she may be, sleepwalking her way through a TVC was a pretty stupid idea. If it had to be a celebrity then it should have been someone more lively and with enviable vitality. Not someone who looks like they have just smoked up.
Verdict: Completely forgettable. Criminal waste of a fat budget.
Brand: Tapal Tezdum
Campaign: Rs 20 sachet launch
Message: Ab bees rupay kay sachet may lagay tha kar kay.
Effectiveness: Hai hai. Kithay Mustafa Qureshi? A classic example of a brand throwing the baby out with the bath water. A brand with a consumer base in rural Punjab. A tea that claims to be so strong it hits you in the gut. And Mustafa Qureshi. Pure genius. Granted this was a consumer promotion and the budget must have been tiny but casting Chucky, the killer doll’s desi animated cousin was a really stupid idea. They would have been better off doing a product based animation with Mustafa Qureshi’s iconic and very distinctive voice-over.
Verdict: Bring back Mustafa Qureshi.
Brand: Fair & Lovely
Campaign: Max Fairness for men
Message: Max confidence.
Effectiveness: There are two ways of looking at this. Fairness creams are evil. Or three cheers for women’s rights and men being bombarded with the same gora rang is the right rang message… It was a good idea to get Shahid Afridi who is the beloved of all young Pakistanis. As a sportsman it is believable; he is out in the sun all day. And as a celebrity with other business interests it is understandable that he would want to look good. But why on earth turn a rough and tough guy into a papoo bacha? And why wasn’t his own distinctive voice used instead of using a (well) papoo voice? When you use a celebrity as famous as Afridi, he needs to look and sound like Shahid Afridi. Like Head & Shoulders.
Verdict: It will do the job.
Brand: Shaukat Khanum
Campaign: Zakat donation drive
Message:Ta kay kho na jaye koi.
Effectiveness: Tear inducing, irrespective of whether you have seen a loved one go through the agony of cancer or not. A hard hitting, gut punching approach to zakat donations unlike the upbeat testimonials of some zakat driven advertising or the sermonising approach of others. Then again a certain Mr Khan is hardly known for his subtlety. However, what works is the fear of losing a loved one, which every human being can relate to. Nicely done.
Verdict: Should have opened many Birkin tucked wallets.
Brand: Anne French
Campaign: Lemon variant launch
Message: Go soft.
Effectiveness: Have reached the word count limit, so will keep this short and sweet. Great idea. Well executed. And as effective (if not more) than the Veet Katrina commercial. Probably cost less as well. An absolute travesty that Anne French lost out to Sunsilk at the PAS Awards.
Verdict: Folks at Pfizer should be very happy.
S. Hyder is a creative working in a Pakistani advertising agency.
First published in the November-December 2011 issue of Aurora.
Design for Change (DFC) is an inspirational story. It is a global movement initiated by an Indian woman, Kiran Bir Sethi. A trained graphic designer, she incorporated some of the essence of design into a socially constructive programme and in 2009 launched DFC as a national movement to encourage schoolchildren across India to participate in a one-week project to change an aspect of life in their own community.
After its success in India, DFC went global in 2010, which is when Pakistan came into the picture, thanks to Ali Habib, who while doing his Masters met someone working for DFC India. Wanting to be a part of this movement and to bring it to Pakistan, Habib formed a team of like-minded people and the project kicked off.
The team consists of six individuals from totally different professions and backgrounds. Ali Habib is a techie in public health, Batool Rizvi has recently done her MBA, Natasha Ansari teaches at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Nida Alvi is an educationist, Rubia Malik is involved in policy research and education and Samad Ansari is a graphic designer. Yet despite their diverse backgrounds, they all found in DFC something that united them.
The main premise of DFC is to empower children to literally think ‘out of the box’ (a term we adults have exhausted and don’t really do justice to). The aim is to put young children through a four-step process, which is feel, imagine, do, share, and which translated into Urdu for a wider reach means ‘aap mehsoos karen’, ‘sochein’, ‘kar ke dikhain’ and ‘phir batain’.
The idea is that children will apply basic problem solving skills to find a solution to a problem, go out and test it, and then reflect on it and evaluate its impact in bringing about change as well as how this change has changed them in the process and how eventually Pakistan as a whole can change.
The focus is on children in classes three to eight, which roughly translates to eight to14-year-olds. This is the right age because at this point children still have that feeling of empowerment; the audacity to dare to dream. They haven’t yet been affected by the disillusionment of ‘we are helpless, what can we do?’ ‘We can’t do anything’, and ‘there really is no point’ or ‘we don’t have the kind of money this change requires’.
Through DFC, children are allowed to ‘do something’, no matter what the scale of the task. The experience of having actively impacted lives to make a tangible change stays with them and gives them an optimism they will pass on to others. And in the bigger picture, considering these children are the future, it will create a generation of positive thinkers and do-ers.
Children, through the DFC platform, are encouraged to adopt a hands-on approach to the problems around them and implement solutions as soon as they think of them.
For a better idea of what the children of Pakistan are capable of doing, if given the opportunity, one has only to look at some of the projects they have taken up. The accomplishments are nothing short of awe-inspiring. The range of issues children picked on is beyond anything we, as adults, would. While our safe approach to such causes would be to create awareness campaigns, children go straight to the problem, conceiving solutions and then implementing them. They tackle smoking, paan and ghutka addiction, sanitation and any other issue they see around them. They are impressive in their sensitivity to issues that are often disregarded or taken in one’s stride because of our resignation to lack of change.
Inspiring stories include one from interior Sindh, where children noticed that the villagers were suffering from recurring health problems because they were buying medicines past their sell-by date. The hakeems, they decided, were responsible for selling these medicines. So, through door to door surveys and talking to the villagers, they tackled the problem in a week, by checking the expiry dates. This involved sitting with the villagers and explaining to them what an expiry date is and where it could be found on the box. In Quetta, children started a back-to-school campaign by going door to door and convincing parents they should allow their daughters to get an education. In Shireen Jinnah Colony in Karachi, 500 schoolchildren held a peaceful protest to induce tankers to take a route other than the school route, as many of the children were caught in accidents trying to avoid the tankers.
Unlike other parts of the world, DFC Pakistan has a corporate partner, which is Safeguard. According to Omeir Dawoodji, Country External Relations Manager at P&G Pakistan, Safeguard runs one of the largest private sector health and hygiene programmes in Pakistan called Sehat-o-Safai. Through this programme P&G reaches out to schoolchildren and teaches them about important health and hygiene practices, including the importance of washing their hands with soap.
At the end of the day, DFC is about inspiring people (children and grown-ups) to have faith, believe in the power of their own actions and create a ripple effect with their actions that will continue to touch everyone within their reach.
For more information on DFC Pakistan go to www.dfcworld.com and pick Pakistan in the location.
Khizra Munir is Creative Manager, Interflow Communications. email@example.com
First published in the November-December 2011 issue.
As Wateen rebrands its visual identity, Marylou Andrew talks to Sohaib Sheikh, Head of Marketing, Wateen Telecom about what this will mean for the company, its customers and Pakistan’s larger broadband market.
MARYLOU ANDREW: Why did Wateen decide to rebrand?
SOHAIB SHEIKH: When I joined Wateen about a year and a half ago, the foremost concern was that there were lots of negative associations with the brand, and customers had a lot of issues with us. The brand did not fulfill its promises and the tagline – We Connect – was very functional. Research also suggested that customers were not aware of Wateen’s entire product portfolio; we were perceived as a company that just sells internet and our customers did not really know how we are enabling Pakistan’s digital needs. We felt that this was a challenge that could be translated into a huge opportunity.
MLA: What do you want to communicate to customers?
SS: If you look at Wateen’s product line, we have data, voice telephony, multimedia (five in- house channels on a cable TV network) and enterprise solutions (LDI, optic fibre, Vsat, etc.). This makes us the largest ICT company in Pakistan and these products enable healthcare, media, telecom, banking and financial services. If you talk about ATM connectivity, we connect more than 60-70% of ATMs in Pakistan. On the WiMax side, we launched in 22 cities four years ago and it was one of the largest WiMax rollouts in the world. The technology was new then but now we need to improve on our service delivery and manage people’s expectations. We also need to take these portfolios and tell our customers what we have.
MLA: How are you planning to do this because you can’t achieve this with a few press ads?
SS: It starts with organisational change; the rebranding doesn’t mean only a change in visual identity, it also means a change in how we approach our business. We have new management, a new CEO (Naeem Zamindar) and new people on the board. Our focus is on creating a new Wateen, which is innovative, responsive and responsible. The rebranding meant that we had to move on from past mistakes; the vision is simple: to lead Pakistan’s digital revolution. Within the organisation we have a new customer care head and we also have a chief transformation officer (CTO). Most organisations have a HR head but our CTO is trying to transform the entire organisational mindset and make it more customer centric. When we talk about rebranding we are talking about going back to the market with new brand promises; we are focusing on Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan and Gujranwala, and beefing up our network there because 75% of our users are currently in the metros. We are retraining our staff to be more efficient and effective when it comes to solving customer problems. We also plan to improve our operations at the franchise level.
MLA: Was the rebranding also necessary because new broadband brands have entered the market and it is that much more competitive?
SS: I always believe that competition makes the market grow and it leads to improved levels of service. It was a combination of factors that led to the rebranding: the service issues, the competition and the new management with its transformative vision.
MLA: What has happened in cosmetic terms?
SS: We have transformed from functional to emotional. We have revamped our corporate ID symbols and icons to announce that the new Wateen is different from before. Our main objective is to introduce Wateen as more than a WiMax operator and to promote it as a Pakistani organisation which truly believes in making a difference for people. There may be some teething problems, but we will take them in our stride and build a sustainable organisation. We have recently hired Adétudé as our new creative communications agency and Creative Chaos as our digital partner.
MLA: What is the state of Pakistan’s broadband market and what is Wateen’s current position?
SS: The regulatory procedures have ensured that we have a level playing field and entry to market is friendly to foreign investors. The industry is still in the infancy stage; there are only 1.4 million broadband connections (wired and wireless included) and 3.5 million dial-up connections. Wateen holds 20% of the market share. If you talk about PC penetration, it is 15% (overall Pakistan). There are still plenty of underserved areas and we are bidding for those as well under the government initiative of Universal Services Fund. We have already done a lot of work in Sargodha, Abbotabad and Sialkot by giving free internet labs to educational institutions and teaching people how to use the internet. In Sargodha we started our campaign with 256MB but we were surprised to find that the demand there was for one MB, so there is obviously a lot of potential.
MLA: What advantage does Wateen have over the new brands (Wit-tribe and Qubee) and PTCL?
SS: None of the new players have voice telephony. Wateen is the only WiMax operator that offers this service and the rates for international calls are very competitive. As far as PTCL is concerned, it undoubtedly has a favourable appeal to Pakistani consumers because we all grew up with it. Since PTCL used to have the biggest market share, the increased competition meant that its numbers would decrease, forcing it to become more lean and efficient. However, because it is a semi-government organisation, those changes are not easy to make. So for us the industry benchmark was clearly a red ocean and we want to look for bluer waters and set a new trend in the ICT industry.
MLA: Will future broadband growth be PC-based or will it come from mobile devices?
SS: All the devices will show growth. It is common for laptops to be WiFi enabled now but they will be WiMax enabled in the future. Samsung is already launching a WiMax enabled tab shortly. We have heard of 3G coming in but that involves the PTA. This will grow the market further; 3G will have its own share and we will have ours; it will not cannibalise our share.
First published in the November-December 2011 issue of Aurora.
AURORA is Pakistan's leading advertising, marketing and media magazine; it is widely recognised as the voice of the industry. Building on a decade of experience, it offers its readers insight into the latest creative marketing campaigns, new product developments, consumer trends, and industry opinion.
Editor: Mariam Ali Baig