As part of an ongoing series highlighting young talent in the industry, Branding in Asia presents “One Under 30” – a special feature that focuses on up-and-coming talent in the ad world, one person at a time.
This week we talk to Saif Ali, General Manager at Dastgyr Technologies in Karachi.
Over the course of our conversation, he talks about how he got his first break in the industry, what he enjoys most about the work, as well as what he doesn’t like about it, and more.
Name: Saif Ali
Company: Dastgyr Technologies
Position: General Manager
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Current Location: Karachi, Pakistan
Education: High School Diploma, College Dropout
How did you get your first break in the industry?
I accidentally fell into a digital marketing role at a now-defunct business services startup, but most of what I’m banking on today, I learned in that first job.
My CEO was a senior director from the consulting world who taught me marketing communications 101, understanding my audience, ideation & conceptualization, how to write for different mediums, etc.
That strong foundation truly set me up for success.
What is your personal mantra?
Make art in everything I do, be it through work, music, relationships, conversations …”
The definition of art is entirely subjective, but I’ve always perceived it to mean: a form of authentic material expression that evokes some thought on the human condition.
Then, there are usually a couple of additional qualifiers that get attached on: it must be original, it must be moving, it must have some perceived beauty, it must be unique.
“In my urban, inner-city high school in Houston, I had classmates who didn’t speak a word of English, others who were refugees from armed conflicts in different parts of the world. Learning to communicate and collaborate with such a unique set of people molded me.”
When applied to work, this mantra becomes a powerful driving force. It pushes me to think differently, give importance to perspective, and always produce something new.
From what person, place or thing have you drawn your greatest creative inspiration?
I’ve been fortunate enough to live in three wildly different countries and have grown up with so much diversity of experience all around me, which continues to inspire me every day.
In my urban, inner-city high school in Houston, I had classmates who didn’t speak a word of English, others who were refugees from armed conflicts in different parts of the world. Learning to communicate and collaborate with such a unique set of people molded me in a particular way and forced me to think creatively from a very young age.
People typically have to travel regularly to experience as many different cultures and languages, but I was always immersed in it. And that amalgamation of various cultures, mindsets, religions, and ways of life gave birth to a creative mind.
What do you love about the job?
Building relationships with other creatives is definitely the best part of the job. I love that my professional network includes not only commercial leaders, but also writers, musicians, poets, designers, dancers, and filmmakers.
The close association of marketing & advertising to the arts is a major part of what has kept me on this path.
What about your job are you not so crazy about?
The toughest part about the job is that most stakeholders, internal or external, in any organization feel like they have a strong grasp of marketing & advertising, when in actuality, they’re specialists in another field. Constantly having to explain what a consumer insight is or how a dark post works and why PR is wholly different from media can get exhausting.
The long hours are also tough, but it’s all so worth it to see one small idea come to life across an entire campaign spread.
What is some work you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
One project that stands out was the pilot campaign I spearheaded for Pakistan’s first influencer marketing platform developed at Empact Activation Services. Our hypothesis was that smaller influencers combined at scale would deliver higher marketing ROI.
Hence, our maiden campaign consisted of 1,000 nano & micro-influencers coming together to launch the #FashionIsYou platform for Sunsilk Fashion Edition in 2019 by defining what fashion meant to them individually
If you had to choose another career what would it be?
It would have to be music & film production, hands down. It’s a field I’ve always been super interested in and have studied on my own. Plus, I play music myself so I imagine it would be the perfect marriage of artistic inclinations + commercial acumen.
The dream is to eventually become good enough at what I do to make a fantastic living by only working 20 hours a week and use the rest of my time to produce for small, independent artists.