Earlier this year Faisal Sheikh jettisioned his position as Chief Operating office at myCart.pk to take the helm as General Manager at Karachi-based marketing and ad firm, MHL Global.
The straight-talking Sheikh, who is well known for challenging established norms in the Pakistan business world, has been tasked with leading advertising & media with a focus on digital and how it can increase returns on marketing investment for both consumer and corporate brands.
Branding in Asia editor in chief, Bobby McGill, recently had a chance to talk with Faisal Sheikh, Pakistan’s marketer on the move.
What are you working on these days?
I’m currently in the process of setting up a new business unit that will provide SMEs an opportunity to build their online presence. The SME’s in Middle East and South Asia are mostly ignorant of the importance of online presence and its impact on their business in markets that are now more consumer driven than they were 5 years ago.
These SME’s are generally owner operated or family owned concerns and avoid online presence either because of limited exposure or get things done in bits and pieces with no strategic thought process.
Tell us about your recent talk at DigiMark. Who were you addressing primarily and what value were you trying to provide to the audience?
DigiMark is an interesting platform, the organisers did a pretty good job of getting a mix of professional from brands, agencies and people who wanted to enhance their knowledge of Digital. I am generally one of those people who challenges the established norms. My talk was focused on getting people to stop hitting the snooze button on their digital strategy.
Both brands and agencies are to be blamed on the lackluster attitude towards digital, I was practically begging them to get out of their conventional cocoons and start experiencing the whole new world out there. I iterated the need to experiment and experience before actually ‘investing’ in digital.
There was a period of time between 2008 and 2011 when augmented reality was all the rave in Pakistan with regards to brand activation. What gives you solace that VR is a trend and not just a fad?
Not really a big promoter of AR in markets where reality is still questionable.
That said, people in Pakistan are attracted by the ‘new thing’, however most brands were sold a pot at the end of the rainbow and the leprechauns walked away with more than their fair share. Along with it they took away the faith in new and improved versions of customer interactions.
Both brands and agencies are to be blamed on the lackluster attitude towards digital, I was practically begging them to get out of their conventional cocoons and start experiencing the whole new world out there.
It will be an uphill task in convincing brands about AR again, but once convinced most brand should take up AR based projects to improve brand experiences. ROI’s will be the key and the beancounters will be the biggest roadblocks.
What do you think are some of the more significant challenges facing marketers in Pakistan today?
The biggest challenge faced by current and future marketers in Pakistan is the lack of creativity through the process. Everyone wants to reach for the stars, but when you aim for the next traffic light, you might be in a bit of trouble.
Can you talk about some of the work you’re involved with in emerging economies such as Myanmar?
I’ve been working in the developing markets for the last 5 years. Countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar are primed for exponential growth in Digital Media, their infrastructures are improving at a rapid pace and the cost of connectivity is very low in comparison to not only other markets but also in terms of access to entertainment.
I believe the next 2-3 years are going to see these markets leapfrogging a number of developed markets just based on the huge mass of people behind these economies.
You’re a lecturer at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. What is the most valuable lesson you would like to see your students walk away with?
At IBA and previously at SZABIST my quest as an instructor is to encourage creative thinking and problem solving. My course material is structured around advertising, marketing communication and digital media with a strong dose of using ones brains to look at facts, sort through garbage and making a informed decisions.