Yes! We Khan – Social Media Case Study Of Imran Khan Rally On December 25th, 2011

Imran Khan Yes We Khan Rally Picture HopeThe highly successful Jalsa of 25th December, 2011 organized by Pakistan Tehreek Insaf was a major social media milestone for Pakistan. By using a disruptive technology in early markets, PTI has upset the status quo, catapulting a man who did not look like a serious contender for government initially into the forefront of the race whilst engaging voters in fundamentally new ways.  This form of tech adoption has also ushered in a new relationship model between leaders and their supporters (especially young ones) with all political parties now announcing and jostling for the ‘youth vote’ with their youth wings. Perhaps in the future it will also serve to change expectations of ‘Citizens’ and ‘Leader’s’ roles in government.

Imran Khan’s campaign epitomizes the opportunities  to be gained using your ‘customers’ to amplify the effect using new technologies despite contending with established players that have far greater resources and legacy. At its most basic however it’s about good fundamentals. For a start it’s about selling a product which people want [an innate buzz]. Dr. Awab Alvi, the person responsible for PTI’s social media strategy said “We are just an interface to communicate the product to people online. People want to see, hear and want to interact with our brand and we use a medium to give them what they want. The buzz is nothing to do with us marketing the product. Fundamentally the product is a need of the time due to the country’s situation and people are looking for an alternative and Imran Khan is being seen as that alternative.”

Thus authenticity matters and If one looks at the competitive landscape in this context, Shahbaz Sharif and PML-N have recently spent an inordinate amount of money on social media trying to make up for lost ground, but the difference is again in the vision that Imran Khan sells and the ‘more of the same’ approach which is being used by PML-N. In social media one can’t just adopt a brand and expect people to buy into it without authenticity. The new ‘Khudari’ message (something which PML-N didn’t do in 20 years) thus will not work for their brand in this case.

Another one of the tenets of social media that holds true for PTI’s approach is “go to where your customers are.” PTI made it possible for people to participate where they want, how they want, using the tools and friendships they want. Whilst it’s a butt of jokes that most of Imran Khan’s base cannot even vote and that children under 18 are not relevant to be targeted because they can’t vote. However in this traditional thinking, political bigwigs forget that these same generations can talk [and inspire] and help to build a wave of change. Social media enables them to use lower or zero transaction costs to do it. It is these passionistas  who serve as the base for the party.

“There is a tremendous army working for the organization which responds to queries, reputation management, etc and to date NONE of the volunteers have ever been paid. When you have passionate people doing something they love… they believe in the change, in doing it as an end in itself and all they want from us has been the recognition of that aspect’, said Dr. Awab. ‘I tell them truly that it’s YOU whose done this for Pakistan and I mean it’. Faisal Kapadia, a blogger and activist at ‘DeadPan Thoughts’ describes the feeling as ‘It was a high that I’ve never felt before with an energy level not even found at a U2 concert’.

Social media use by PTI includes clarifying and defense of the party’s policies and actions, reputation management and killing of the rumor mill, engaging with voters, provide the imagery that give hope and provide for a catalyst of change. The key engines thus that propelled the social media movement forward for the organization included but were not limited to Imran Khan (Official) Channel and Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (Official Page) which are the Facebook channels responsible for organizing and mobilizing people for initiatives that support key processes whilst ‘We Want Imran Khan to Be The Next Prime Minister Of Pakistan’ and ‘Jagutho’ are initiatives for sharing viewpoints, helping supporters, volunteers and campaign workers to co-ordinate their offline and online activities.

Combined there are over 500,000 ‘fans’ of PTI & Imran Khan with over 50,000 plus active participants at any moment in time. These channels were the ones which provided the support needed during the Jalsa online and the figures below show the impact of these on the Jalsa and vice versa.

Constant engagement is key. Imran Khan campaigns and encourages users and artists to use the imagery they provide for their own purpose acknowledging and recognizing that they should give up control. The best creative developed Imran Khan addressing the Jalsa with the caption: ‘Hope Is Priceless… for everything else there’s Mastercard’. A big lesson for brands here is to ‘Make it easy for people to make you their own’. Let people act on their desire to get involved at a low transaction cost, and very visibly. This increases leverage.

PTI has also been present on Twitter with @Imran KhanPTI and @PTIOfficial channels. Twitter works since during the span of the Jalsa the PTI broke 11 global twitter trends within a 5 hour window and because of it reverberated across the 300 million strong community on the platform including ‘DilDilPakistan’ quickly being picked up across the region.

To understand its significance, one can take into account that as a baseline it takes a minimal of 500 active users and 1200-1900 tweets per hour to break a global trend. To dominate it as PTI did, it takes much more. Another platform which has been very successful for PTI has been the mobile 80022 which drives the membership for the party.  Utilizing this form of technology, PTI has their ‘army’ segmented via city, via constituencies and clumped by affinities which allows them to mobilize with great speed and effectiveness.

This informs people with SMS messages when an event such as the Jalsa is about to happen and asks for participation. Roman Urdu works better than English on the platform. In the future, this database form of marketing will serve its purpose for voter turnouts.

Other features enabled on mobile include mapping via SMS which was used to provide directions to nearest available pickup points for people and recently an iReport debut feature on the platform which was used to identify and resolve the problems that people were facing at the jalsa.

iReport holds the potential to be much much more. This is going to be a powerful form of Citizen Reporting platform and once properly activated will become a force for accountability in Pakistan as normal Pakistanis report their encounters on issues which PTI raises.

The jalsa also used an innovative platform of ‘Live Streaming’ the event globally to all those who could not be physically there. Using a 50 Mbps fiber connection, the event was streamed to over 35000 people at its peak LIVE across the globe.

The PTI Jalsa has broken new grounds in the marketing of politics and perhaps even for business. Marketing executives need to start focusing on what will happen when their stakeholders self-organize, mirror each other’s interests, magnify the interests into passions and make a lot of noise. This can change expectations fast. They should be aware of traditional thinking in their organizations so they can counter these. It must be remembered that all disruptive change always presents as a fringe activity at first. Thus marketers need to make it a priority to understand social media adoption milestones, so they don’t get caught by surprise. Some of the good lessons out of the Jalsa which marketers can learn from:

  1. PTI strategy is to focus on selling leadership, not policies. Most political campaigns sell their candidates like products, replete with features and benefits (“policies” and “programs”). More profound, leadership and personal qualities and beliefs inspire more easily than policies.
  2. Trust your stakeholders to discover and do the right thing. Smart organizations are becoming more cooperative by sharing “control.” Letting go energizes people to contribute in a meaningful manner.
  3. Realize you cannot control the conversation and that’s okay.
  4. The more transparent and collaborative, the stronger your organization will be as a competitor.
  5. Think small. Industrial Economy marketing held that the only things worth watching were big numbers and big initiatives. Yet in the digital age, many many people doing small things can have a big impact when they are using digital social media because it affords so much leverage. Many small numbers can roll up to a big number. Many-to-many means geometric growth and acceleration.

For PTI after a successful campaign, now on the Social Media Roadmap is to move on from ‘just defending ourselves’ to organization of the masses and translate the online activism to offline activism. “Right now it’s all Imran Khan’s draw but now we’ve seen potential we will be organizing leaders in colleges and universities. Jagutho is one of the initiatives which has created a ‘Responsible Citizen’ model which is organized around a mohalla basis which we hope to implement soon.”, said Dr. Alvi. “The Future is calling”.

The Future Of Advertising … Is Not Advertising

The Future Of AdvertisingWe live in an era that isn’t business as usual anymore. Living in a networked economy with an increasing overlap between consumer and technology is opening up opportunities for businesses and the resulting advertising to evolve. As Mark Earls has said marketing is increasingly moving from a world where you are marketing to people to one where people are marketing to each other on your behalf.

Daniele Fiandaca is one of the foremost trendsetters in the field and is currently running his own consultancy, Digital Fauna (DF came from the initials of his own name). Prior to starting his own consultancy, London-based Daniele Fiandaca was CEO (Europe) of Profero, an independent, privately owned digital marketing agency founded in London in 1998, growing it from a small team to the global business it is now with 300 employees in fifteen cities across the globe and boasting a highly diverse roster of clients, among them AstraZeneca, COI, Guinness, HBOS International, Johnson & Johnson, Lufthansa, and Western Union. Under Daniele’s creative leadership, the agency had won many awards, including a Gold Cannes Cyber Lion for its MINI “White Rabbit” campaign.

He also continues to run Creative Social which he founded, alongside Mark Chalmers, in 2004 and has sat on a number of juries including D&AD, Festival of Media and Revolution. His passions include film, collecting vinyl toys and traveling to exotic places.

Umair Mohsin caught up with him at the PAS Digital and Social Media workshop held at the Sheraton on September 21, 2011 and had an engaging ‘conversation’ about social media, marketing people to people, whether agencies will survive in a new media world and the future of advertising as we don’t know it.

Q. How do you usually define Social Media?

Social media is really a conversation facilitated by lots of technologies. It really is a ‘conversation’.

Q.When we say conversation do we mean between the consumer and the brand?

No! It’s a dialogue between people to people.

Q.So where do the brands come in to this?

It’s a conversation so it’s the same conversation that we might have if we were having dinner or if we were going to someone’s house. When people are having such conversations do they expect a brand to leap in and become part of the conversation? They don’t. So why do the brands feel they can do it online. What they [the brands] need to do is provide social currency to these people to actually fill those conversations. People tend not to want to speak to brands, so the brand itself has to be fundamentally interesting if it wants to become part of people’s conversations. A lot of brands don’t get that.

Q. So why than should brands take a look at social media in the first place?

Word of mouth has always been the most influential marketing media ever. Now however word of mouth now equals world of mouth. Brands can now get into those conversations and actually have people promoting them with one person conversing about it to a hundred people or even a thousand people and that’s extremely powerful.

If brands provide interesting content, interesting offers, interesting conversational pieces, some entertainment than they have more chance of people spreading it without having to spending media dollars. It can be mass reach without the cost. Fundamentally however it means you do have to have a good product as to the same extent it is much easier to get found out. You also have to be interesting.

Q. You use the word interesting a lot. When we say Interesting what do we mean? Is making someone laugh interesting?

Brands need to have social currency to be interesting. If you can make something simpler, faster, more inspiring, more available or effortless than you’ll have currency. For other examples look at the social currency wheel.


Credit: Steve Sponder

Q. Brands like McDonalds, Starbucks, Pepsi or Coke do not need social media to have social currency because of their existing heritage. Does social work in the same aspect for new companies or brands?

There is a telephone company called GifGaf in UK which is a phone network built using social  media. They ensured that the community engagement happened consistently and sustainably adding value both to the brand and the community. Secondly, this form of media works best when the whole business is geared to not just accepting but embracing the value and the power of its community.

Q. What was the thing that they did different?

They listened. That’s it. You have to understand the fundamentals. People in pubs do not talk about biscuits or bulbs. You have to create something that they might talk about. Wheat Thins is a fantastic example of creating something quite humorous utilizing people’s use of social. Brands have to engage their fans and if they don’t have any than they do have to ask this question of why not and that’s the issue which they have to address first.

It must be mentioned that advertisers focus on numbers when social is not about numbers but about the quality of engagement. If you can have a group of 100 fans you can learn so much including about the products and they can be your biggest evangelists. So it’s not about the numbers. That’s why it’s a CEOs job to ensure that their company embraces social across the  board.

Q. How has business changed because of social media?

Because of WOM phenomenon now products actually have to be good whereas in the past products have been successful without being so. Bad customer service is also a thing of the past, most brands do not get away with that anymore. What we’re also seeing is that people have to be far more open and honest. You have a lot of examples of businesses using social media who tried to hoodwink people and got found out very quickly.  So social media has made the businesses need to be more honest.

Q. Isn’t it too many choices and too many lines of communication? How do you keep up?

If the CEO of ZAPPOS, a multi billion dollar company can spare time for twitter then no business has the right to complain. Like I said it’s the CEO that leads the whole culture. The problem you get in UK and possibly in Pakistan too that it’s the more junior people who recognize the need for social and in all honestly many senior management don’t get it. What you find is that those CEO do get it and actually embrace it will gain a competitive advantage as a result of engagement with its community.

Q. What factors should companies consider when choosing to engage on social media?

The first thing you have to understand is that what are you trying to achieve first. Going on Facebook is not a strategy. You really have to understand what it is you are trying to do. Are you trying to build a community, do you want to use it as a CRM tool, do you want to experiment and see what happens, can you recruit your biggest fans to manage your Facebook group for you… there are different ways you can do stuff. Some of the basics are that do not open a twitter account and follow a 1000 people just to have them follow you back. You have to know what the Twitter account is for. If you’re a telco e.g. and you have customers tweeting their problems to you, you can’t ignore that. You have to have a system which can respond to those tweets straight away. The acceptable time on Twitter is really no more than an hour.

Q. Best tactics, where do I start, how do I find my focus and efforts.

Listen first, be human, and first listen to what people are saying about your brands. Nielsen Buzz metrics is an excellent tool for listening.

Q. How do you pay the agency which does social media?

I don’t think advertisers should be using agencies for handling their social media. It should be in-house. The only people who know their brands are the people who work in them. How can an agency know how to answer on FB or Twitter. Agencies should be in consultancy or giving lots of training. Agency people should sit in the business if they are handling it to understand the business and talk to people around you but it should be internal to the company.

Q. Is there a future of agencies than if brands continue to grow their own communities and market themselves?

(Laughs) The future of agencies is as making brands interesting e.g. WCRS was the agency behind Orange Telecom. They made the mobile operator interesting. Great ideas are great ideas and agencies are good at great ideas. Agencies will be successful if they can provide ideas which people can belong to.

Q. What elements should be addresses in the plan and how would you measure success.

One of the ways is that people are starting to measure the avg. value of a Facebook customer vs. a non FB customer. 40% of people want to join because they want to receive discounts and promotions and then you use the engagement to help them become customers.

Beauty In The Lines: Pakistani Calligraphy

Calligraphy In PakistanIt has been compared to a chant, a rhythmic divine beauty, a melody, an aria, a toccata, an edification, an exaltation. As poetry is for the tongue, calligraphy is to the page. The authors of The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy put it best when they said: “Calligraphy is the plainsong of the divine”.

Calligraphy is the art of the linear graphic, but it is more than that. In Islam, it glorifies the unseen face of Allah (God). Much like icons of other faiths, calligraphic scripts in Muslim cultures represent power. The first revelation of the Quran (Koran), the holy book of Muslims, regards the pen (Qalam) as a tool to acquire knowledge. It is written in the Quran that God has taught humans through the use of the pen.

Such scripts in Arabic are held in high esteem in the Muslim world as the Quran itself has been revealed in Pure Arabic. A part of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages, it is composed of 28 letters (mostly consonants) and is constructed on the interplay of a horizontal base line and the vertical lines of its consonants. It is read from left to right, with the addition of vowels, diacriticals, and loops which are positioned above and below the base line. These lines, angles, planes and formal shapes, though subject to geometric rules, achieve life and movement through volutes, contrasted characters, interlocking and intertwined letters and clear breaks. As the eye shifts from one plane to another, at once a sensation of movement and rhythm is created: the pictorial divide causes the page to move, with unexpected colour combinations and an effect of brilliance.

The Origin Of Calligraphy

Muslim calligraphers were doing marvels with form and content at roughly the same time as Carolinian manuscript illuminators and T’ang Dynasty ink brush artists were each in their own way evolving a sense of writing style unique to their language. The Western style went its own way by including images of humans and animals (and God depicted as a human), thereby reviving the Greek and Roman sense for imagistic art lost during the days of barbarism.

Muslims avoided such iconography, because Islam forbade the use of human imagery in any form. As a religion based on an invisible God, early Islam had to compete against pre-existing totem-based religions, which encouraged figural representation. These practices (and memories) had to be eradicated. An angular, geometric script, now designated as ‘Kufiq’ (because it was devised in the city of Kufah in what is now Iraq), became the answer. Used originally to transcribe the Quran and accepted by Arabs and non-Arabs as being inspired from ‘divine origin’, it came to be seen as the alternative to sculptural or figurative architectural decoration which had its associations with idolatry. From leading the way to mark a building as distinctly Islamic as well as pay tribute to God, it was also adapted to artistic decoration on textiles, ceramics, coins, utensils, epitaphs, and architectural monuments, all of which spread as the Muslim empire grew.

The calligraphic lines from Muslim reed pens led to a geometric stylization that has been best seen in Arabesque. This is an element of the Islamic art which consists of elaborate application of repeating geometric forms that often echo the forms of plants and animals. To Muslims, these forms – taken together – constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world. They in fact symbolize the infinite and non-central nature of the creation of the one God.

Islamic calligraphy also spread because of another reason: a rounded cursive script, employed by scribes for everyday documents, now designated as ‘Naskhi’, developed by a calligrapher called Ibn Muqla in the 10th century, and afterwards perfected by numerous calligraphers. Distinguished by its clarity, simplicity, and legibility, it gained favor over Kufiq for copying the Quran, and spread to all regions of the Muslim world later in the century. The ‘Naqshi’ is theCalligraphy In Pakistan proto-style from which came most of the scripts now used by calligraphers: Thuluth, Muhaqqaq, Maghribi, Riqa’i, Rayhani, and Tawqi’, to name a few. To the practiced eye they can be differentiated by how the hooked heads of verticals are made, the form of letter endings, the compactness of the letters, the degree of slant of the letters, the amount of horizontal or vertical elongation, and the degree of rounding of comers.

The Technique of Calligraphy

The proportioning of the characters plays a part in calligraphic designs in the same way as rhythm articulates music. The legibility of a text and the beauty of its line require rules of proportion. The proportions of the characters always remain in constant relationship: they all refer back to the size of the alif, the first letter of the alphabet.

An allegory explains this relationship best. Allah (swt) created the angels according to the name and number of the letters, so that they should glorify him with an infinite recitation of the Quran. Allah said to them: “Praise Me, I am Allah, and there is none other but I.” The first letter to do was alif, whereupon Allah said “You have prostrated yourself to glorify My Majesty. I appoint you to be the first letter of My Name and of the alphabet.” Thus alif is taken as the module of every calligraphic system.

The length of the alif varies according to style, eg in the Thuluth script, the alif is nine dots high with a crochet or hook of three dots at the top – the dot being the universal unit of proportion. This is a square (rhombic) impression formed by pressing the tip of the pen onto the paper. The dimensions of each side of this square dot thus depend on the way in which the pen has been cut, and on the pressure exerted by the fingers. This pressure has to be sufficiently delicate and precise to separate two sides of the nib.

Alif is also used to measure the diameter of an imaginary circle within which all Arabic letters could be written. Thus, three elements become the basis of proportion – the height of the alif, the width of the alif (dot width), and the alif as a diameter of the imaginary circle.

Calligraphy In Pakistan

Islam and, through it, calligraphy came to the sub-continent through the conquest of Sindh by Mohammad Bin Qasim in 712 AD, and reached its peak during the reign of the Mughal emperors. The Taj Mahal, an Indian icon built by Mughal king Shah Jehan, is one testament to the beauty of Islamic art. It is adorned with many passages of the Quran that relate to Paradise, thereby making the entire complex a metaphor for the heavens. In the area which now comprises Pakistan, Lahore undoubtedly has held the title of being the center of calligraphy in Pakistan.

According to Mrs Wahida Mansoor, a professor at the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture, “Relative to western cultures, the east has always been about Naturalism, shunning the synthetic for what is sustainable and in harmony with nature. This art is a testament to that fact. All materials from the reed pen to the dyes used are environment-friendly. There is also an air of divinity in this art, eg with its power to preserve knowledge and extend thought over time and space, ink is compared to the water of life that gives immortality, while human beings are likened to so many pens in Allah’s hand.”

Black has traditionally been the basic ink, however the range of colors used by calligraphers are extremely rich and varied. The colors which include gold, silver, blue, green, orange, violet, yellow, etc, have always been prepared from vegetable and mineral resources. Most inks are based on soot or lamp black mixed with water and gum Arabic. However other ingredients used are tea, haldi, henna, pomegranate, beetroot, and even coffee. The final stage of the preparation involves straining the ink through silk. Also, the ink might be perfumed if desired.

This art is unique in a lot of other manners as well, right down to the margins. According to Mr Rashid Arshed, Head of Fine Arts Department at Indus Valley, “Unlike other arts, the margin is used differently in Calligraphy. It may include alongside the actual text a parallel text; or marginal motifs maybe transplanted into the text; or the reader’s attention maybe diverted by making the margin easy to read and the text very difficult. Or the margin may rob the text of its central position by framing it with script on all sides.”

In Pakistani calligraphy, the names of Allah or Muhammad (PBUH), the Kalima, “La Ilah Ha Illalah, Muhammadar Rasullulah” (I Swear That There Is No God But Allah And Mohammad Is His Messenger), and “Bis Millah Ar-Rahman Ar Raheem” (I Start With The Name Of Allah, The Beneficial & The Merciful) recur like a leitmotif. They are drawn in green, blue, or red ink, or in any other chromatic scale likely to seize the attention, as if the calligrapher is trying to induce a mystical trance. Contrasting touches, the colors of diacritical signs and vowels, words or phrases given special emphasis by the calligrapher, all evoke the divine presence.

Usman Ghouri, an upcoming calligrapher, puts it succinctly: “When I calligraphy, I actually feel closer to Allah.”

The Man Who Would Be Picasso

In Pakistani culture, the ability to write, and to write well in a clear hand, are signs of good breeding and of a well-rounded education; thus, the young nation has produced many outstanding calligraphers including Sadequain. Dubbed the ‘Picasso of Pakistan’, Sadequain’s art was unique in that it showed non-conformity and protest intertwined with a sense of impending martyrdom. The poet-artist was an outsider, a rebel holding onto the values of love and the quest for freedom. He drew inspiration from the poetical and literary tradition of the ghazal (a long poem, usually sung), where the protagonist frequently espouses martyrdom as an inevitable destiny.

Sadequain used the Kufiq script to depict a canvas architecture and Nastaliq to create its pictures. This form of pictorial and architectural writing was of his own invention. The basic characteristic of Sadequain’s calligraphy was the sheer size and scale. The colors he used were bright and in high contrast, as cactus and human figures were both transformed into calligraphy. These images were often abstract but frequently organic – spears, battle standards, the dissected skeletal man, the cacti and alif.

The alif was central to Sadequain’s work. To him it was the sign of the Absolute and the manifestation of the human ego. The heroic man among the vertical tropes of power was best symbolized in one of his paintings by the cactus breaking out of the Earth’s crust to emerge into the light, like a man rising above his circumstances. The principal source of light, energy, and power in Sadequain’s art was the line, the moral and aesthetic agent of his art. The line also divided hell and heaven, a thin line, as Sadequain subscribed to the Sufi vision that each was a state of mind and being.

Sadequain’s calligraphy included decorative designs in the margins and motifs which make the texts encased within the margins more attractive to the eye. The particular strain of motifs deployed by Sadequain were drawn from the Tughra, a form of pictorial writing, which was invented to represent the names of Mumluk and Turkish Sultans in the form of heraldic signatures.

It is a pity that the Western infatuation for Zen minimalism in Japan, the paint-brushy quality of Chinese pen-and-ink work, and the wild colors of India, have veered so many eyes from an art form that combines all three. Which also shows just how ignorant is the belief that Muslim culture is rigid, monolithic, and anachronistic.

The Pen

Calligraphy In PakistanThe standard pen is cut from a dry reed. Its length is approximately 10cm, width 1cm, and the upper edges are rounded. The shaft is curved and blunted at the edge so as not to hurt or rub the fingers. Its lower, functional end requires most care and attention from the calligrapher, who usually cuts it to a tapering shape ending in a point.

The pen is divided into two lips – left and right – by a groove 2 to 4cm in length. This groove’s function is to hold the ink. The calligrapher can vary the width of the line according to the pressure exerted on the left or right lip, or on both at the same time. He could modulate his line simply by the weight with which he presses down on one or other of the two sides.

Each calligrapher cuts his pen in accordance with his own usage and that of his native land, and also in accordance with the kind of text he is transcribing. In this sense, styles of script are definable by the pen and the width of the nib. It is therefore essential for the calligrapher to cut the point with precision and in accordance with the rules of the selected system of script. The evenness and elegance of the script also depends on the way the pen is angled to the surface of the paper, thus the calligrapher uses a number of pens.

The traditional way to hold the pen is with middle finger, forefinger, and thumb well spaced out along the shaft. Only the lightest possible pressure is applied.


Rural Broadband In Pakistan: Powered Off

Goth in Sindh40 Kilometers out of Karachi, in the neighborhood of Sultanabad, Kemari Town lies a small goth named Anwar Thaheem of over 3000 inhabitants. The village consists of a school, a single entertainment area and just one bricked house which is owned by the chieftain whilst the rest are thatched huts. The majority of the residences are illiterate and despite the presence of a single computer which was donated to the school long ago, it has never been turned on due to lack of knowledge of the populace. This goth in particular is of interest because the electricity wires that reach Karachi pass overhead (official kunda costs only Rs. 500 per month) and the fiber optic cables that connects the country pass within 20 feet of the village.

It’s places like these that serve as a reminder that despite the promise of information technology that has brought prosperity to millions of (mostly Urban) Pakistanis, unless the rural-urban divide is bridged and the issues of systemic issues not taken up more seriously, the broadband connection to over 1000 cities despite the hoopla will prove to be of little benefit to our country and the economy at large.

The promise of broadband for the rural sector has been hyped up for years.  It has been seen as unlocking the great potential of the digital revolution in the service of relief to save lives, sustainable development and lasting peace in rural areas. ICT has been seen a means of providing accessible and affordable education, while marginalized groups will use it to play a key role in economic development.

Over the last few years, some of this has come about. Due to the policies implemented by the govt. especially with regard to telecom, Pakistan has seen the growth of broadband at a good pace. Though penetration is still at 0.66% as of December 2010 with 1,140,781 broadband subscribers as compared to 643,892 at the end of December, 2009, it still shows a 77% growth over the last calendar year with 1000 cities covered to date.

The path ahead is still not easy. One of the great challenges of broadband is to provide service to potential customers in areas of low population density, such as to villages and small towns. In cities where the population density is high, it is easier for a service provider to recover equipment costs, but for each rural area it’s tougher as each area may require expensive equipment to get connected and for few customers. The quality of service for internet service providers too remains a question mark. This is mainly due to old copper media for landline connections which prevents reliable service available for home-users who are 1,500 meters or farther from the telephone exchange. Some of these challenges are being mitigated with help from the USF (Universal Service Fund) which has been running rural telecom projects to provide basic telephony and data services in several remote areas of Pakistan. The USF backing on rural projects have changed the focus of telecom operators from urban towards rural population. Until now, contracts have been awarded for Rural Telecom Projects to provide a subsidy of PKR 4.2 billion in total. All these projects aim to provide services in 12,000 un-served muzas. These projects have started bearing fruits as the number of previously un-served muzas where service has been provided has reached 3,500. In addition to this, it is mandatory for telecom operators in rural areas where USF is providing subsidy to power their infrastructure through renewable energy sources. So far, 66 Base stations are on solar. However the future is a long way away.

Broadband can be the great enabler that restores Pakistani rural’s economic well-being and opens doors of opportunity for all to pass through, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives. With the escalating costs of living especially with the rise of fuel prices, the economics of rural sustainability are in question which rural broadband can resolve.  Even just a rupee jump in oil means people that are commuting to work can no longer make that economically viable.  Going to the next town to shop becomes an economic hardship.  The shifting of the economics is causing a lot of people’s livelihoods to disappear, at a time where rural broadband could provide clean, industry-sustainable jobs working for corporations that are physically located anywhere in the world.  Many more people would subscribe to high speed if they could turn it into an income supplement based out of the home.

But as with all technologies it’s not just about the infrastructure – it’s how people can rally around accepting their own full potential and that requires a change the mindsets. Rural poverty suffers from social isolation and lack of updated education.  The dream career of a matric passed student here is to get a low-level govt. job. Anything else is taken at blank. The second trouble is the lack of leadership. No tribal leaders shows up at any initiative, no teachers from the schools are  available for tutoring and worse even the MPs in the area never visit their own areas. So the ideal outcomes are hampered by the unwillingness of the leadership to hear what’s possible. Thus building in new capacity or new buildings is more of a wastage of capacity unless one can also take care of the systemic issues.

The resistance that rural Pakistanis have shown toward towards what is their greatest opportunity at improving their lifestyles is part of a great systemic  responses that will have to be addressed before rural broadband will take off. These anti-literacy, anti-technology rural attitude barriers will have to be broken. It will mean answering questions such as how do we educate our leaders who are not in school?  How do we educate teachers when there are not budgets for professional development for educators and at the end of the day it will come down to leadership.  If leaders are not keeping up with what’s possible through trends, etc, then it hampers the rest of us, and right now we have a generational inertia that is incredibly damaging.

The main thing that needs to change especially is youth’s readiness to accept change and to pay attention to what is happening around them, both locally and globally, and to give the youth an opportunity to receive current education and showcase their skills. Only than will the chasm ever be bridged.

Published in Dawn Images: 13th June, 2011

Jeremy Gutsche – Unlocking The Cool Interview

Jeremy GutschePopular is not cool. Cool is the next big thing and in a world of increased competition, intensified customer demands and globalization, understanding how to be creative and then build up a culture of innovation is more important than ever before. One of the ways companies do that is to use ‘Trend Hunters’ or ‘Trend Spotters’, people who research ‘what’s cool?’. One of the pioneers of the field is Jeremy Gutsche, a Canadian innovation expert, author, “one of North America’s most requested keynote speakers” and chief trend hunter at which has been described by The Independent as “the world’s biggest online cool hunting magazine”.

At the Marketing Symposium organized by Revelations, Jeremy was in Pakistan to talk about ‘Unlocking Cool: How to inspire innovation potential and infect products with Cool’.  Jeremy’s Culture of Innovation framework exposes the audience to ground-breaking ideas related to perspective, customer obsession, tolerance for failure and creativity. Aurora caught up with him to talk about the next big thing.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and do explain what do you mean by Trend Hunting?

I guess the best background for me is just to say that I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and I never knew what my business idea was going to be. Everywhere that I worked I was trying to get that inspiration. So eventually when I started trend hunter, I wanted it to be a place where people could come when they wanted to get their ideas and I’d get ideas from all over the world and hopefully I’d find my own. As TrendHunter took off I never needed to pick. The interesting thing is that still guides us. We have the world’s largest trend spotting network with 50,000 contributors signed up around the globe from where we publish ideas each day and with 40 million views a month we gather data to understand what clusters and what groups are interesting.

Q. Why should marketers care about Trend Hunting and what’s Cool?

Cool is unique, cool is cutting edge and Cool is viral. Micro-trends and innovations surround us so how do we make sense of all the noise? Trend Hunting thus is basically the search for inspiration. Looking for something new, a pattern that could inspire your next big idea. It’s not about the rise of big trends that everyone knows about like ECO or FEMALE PURCHASING POWER since everyone knows about those including your competitors. We’re looking at micro-trends, those unique niches of opportunities. When you see these opportunities you can take advantage of them and if you don’t your competitor or a new startup might and overturn you.

Q. For most businesses your ideas are quite scary. You advocate constant change, relentless questioning and an anti-bureaucracy. How do you create a culture like that in a traditionally steeped organization?

There are two parts to that that are important. One is the idea that you need to constantly change. Second, you have to realize is that the world never returns to normal. If you look at marketing, you can see things like social media changing the landscape.

I like to say that ‘Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast’. Thus in terms of how you get a traditional organization and get them to change, an interesting way to get an organization to get more innovative is to create a ‘Gambling Fund’. The idea is that it’s tough to try to persuade everybody to do things a new way but the real thing that stops people from being creative is because you get caught up in a routine. With a gambling fund you are allocating a specific amount of money and time trying something new. BBC’s ‘The Office’ was their most successful program and that came out of that fund.

Q. You talk a lot about destroying value to unleash new creativity and innovation. Yet cannibalization in business is hard. Is there a middle way for managers where they can balance both shareholder demands yet ensure that they live for tomorrow.

In innovation there are best practices and having someone kill your idea is important. There is a need for people to challenge the idea and there needs to be a push in all directions. Situational Framing Dictates The Outcome Of Your Creative Process. What is it that you’re trying to do?

It’s so easy to get caught up in your profit center that you stop adding fuel to your innovative new ideas. When push comes to shove or when you need a little extra money, companies cut off their innovative arms. For the long term, one of the most important questions is how do you re-invent ourselves and that always comes from destroying that which you’ve created.

Failure is part of the experimentation process.  In order to win, you need to constantly be gauging customer needs, tracking evolving trends and testing new ideas. Google is an example of this. They’re constantly testing new portfolios.

Q. You have come up with “The Exploiting Chaos Framework.” Give us a brief description of each of the four tactics and how they work in the framework. Do you think these tactics can be employed by Asian cultures which are more passive in nature?

The framework has four parts. Creating a ‘culture of innovation’ – Deeply Understanding Your Customer and Willing to Try New Things. The next part is ‘trend spotting’ – you identify opportunities from your customer, competitors or other industries. The third part is adaptive innovation – constantly adjust your strategy to ensure that you’re on top of a changing world and the forth idea is ‘infectious marketing’ – to create a meaningful change it’s about finding a way to break through the noise and create word of mouth. What this framework is about is that in periods of change these are the elements that help companies adapt and win.

There’s a difference between how people remember you and having people feel how they see you as part of their team. You can either make an emotional connection or you can go deeper and making a cultural connection. The difference is that with a cultural connection I see you as being part of my team. I don’t see you telling me what to do, I see you as part of my team.  Because we’re on the same team I want you to win and you want me to win. In any industry when you make a cultural connection, people are willing to refer you. That someone else says your product or message is the best.

Q. I love the quote you often use, “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast”. Do tell us more about what that means and how does culturally steeped nations can create the Culture of Revolution you often talk about. Are we doomed to passivity?

No matter how cool your PowerPoint deck is, if the organization is not willing to adapt and embrace change than it’s not going to happen. At the end of the day, what will make your company succeed or fail is the culture you’ve created. This means both the culture within your organization’s teams AND the cultural connection you’ve made with your customers. Within your team, you will always be more successful if your team feels connected to your cause, empowered to try new things, and able to test and fail. With your customers, you will always be more successful if you can create a cultural connection that makes people feel like your product is made just for them. Too often companies speak “to” their customer, but companies that create an authentic cultural connection make the customer feel like they are part of the same team… They talk “with” their customer.

Q. For a message to go viral, you recommend that marketers should Relentlessly Obsess About Your Story. What does that mean?

People talk about it in a given way. You can control that message by having a story idea that is simple, direct and super-charged. The idea is that if you can only remember 7 words or less – slogan or in every part of my company – you might want to think what those words are. You need to best describe what you do. By constantly figuring out what are the exact words that best define what your company is about you can get a disproportionately better impact and each word really really matters.

You need your story needs to be simple. I’ll give you the words that you can tell us. The second is you need to be direct. You convey your value proposition and why I must choose you. Super-Charged – messages, slogans, titles that makes me want to tell someone else.

Marketing Strategies For Digital Media

Every year for the last five years digital pundits had been predicting dramatic change in our media consumption. They had foretold the convergence of digital and broadcast media, the erosion of mass audiences and the restructuring of the media and advertising industries. So far every year, leading industry practices had remained static, even stagnant, and the overall pattern of marketing spend had barely changed in all these years.

2011 however marks the event when the long-predicted future has finally arrived heralded by the ever increasing number of advertisers looking for digital solutions, the marketing spend on digital in Pakistan crossing the $5 million mark, the setting up of ‘digital agencies’ by the dozen, established traditional agencies setting up ‘interactive divisions’, whilst prior tech companies proclaim themselves to be ‘agencies’ and both mainstream media companies and major marketers accepting the facts that the methods by which consumers absorb information and entertainment and the ways they perceive, retain, and engage with brands and brand messages have changed irrevocably, as evidenced in interviews in Nov-Dec, 2010 issue of Aurora, the leading trade magazine for the advertising industry. Now enough consumers are spending enough time accessing information and entertainment via digital media platforms to have shifted the overall pattern of media use. This shift will increase substantially in 2013 as greater broadband penetration (4.13 Million connections estimated by PTA) and roughly 20% of all Pakistani households using broadband will make the internet more viable as an alternative entertainment platform as well.

Yet digital platforms continue to remain a mystery for most Pakistani marketers. This is because they transform the traditional marketing and media ecosystem into an intimate, immersive, accountable environment, in which consumers can interact with brands at every level of the purchase funnel. This befuddles the mind as it is very different from the linear content and communication form developed for traditional marketing channels where the consumer is assumed to be the sheep or as politically correctly called ‘captive viewer’. The old media world was where information was controlled and limited by editorial through a centralized single channel distribution system. In today’s multi-channel world of ‘leaks’, however it’s not really surprising that these old forms of advertising should fail to translate well as consumers increasingly behave more like discerning critics who use the Internet to pick through and make their own sense of the swathes of information available. To survive in this new reality, thus requires a massive change in mindset.

The first thing to understand about digital marketing is that (surprisingly) it is not primarily about technology. It’s about providing relevant & interesting value in the form of ideas and experiences that get people engaged, makes them want them to talk, provide real entertainment value, or render a useful service to the consumer rather than just another [empty] marketing slogan, dance or jingle. These marketing ideas and experiences thus need to be crafted with the same discipline as the underlying product so that the two become virtually indistinguishable.

Secondly, to effectively engage consumers in the new digital space, marketers need to define more clearly the values that underlie each of their brands and to instill those values throughout the marketing program through integrated marketing. Marketing executives can start by asking the overarching question: What new capabilities and services will enhance the value of my product to my customers? The answer to which will thus develop an understanding of capabilities they should keep in-house (e.g., those that can achieve scale across the portfolio and that create essential advantage) and which should be outsourced to external marketing, media, and technology partners.

Thirdly, it helps to remember digital marketing’s greatest selling point. Digital benefits marketers by furnishing a real time, direct, uninterrupted view of the consumer and a measurable, efficient read on the return marketers are generating on each marketing spend. This accountability and intimacy are particularly important now, when a cluttered and highly fragmented media environment has made “buying awareness” prohibitively expensive.  However it’s one thing to collect digital information; it’s quite another to draw intelligence from it. Leading marketers would be wise to build partnerships with their digital agencies to track ad placement, versioning and effectiveness as well as delve in social insights generated through ‘listening’ to the consumer.

To thus keep up with the times, the following are some recommendations for new digital marketers and traditional agencies:

  • Shift just 3% of your media spending and management attention to digital media and learn how to use those media to more effectively influence consumer purchase behavior. Especially learn to develop in formats which promote interaction with audiences.
  • Digital is not a silo. Combine “above-the-line” advertising and “below-the-line” marketing (promotions, sponsorships, events, public relations) in new two-way interactive campaigns. Touch-based technologies can really amp up any event.
  • Research through approaches and metrics that measure outcomes.

Traditional advertising has lost its storytelling charm and evolved instead into predictable, often bland, and largely invisible dance based executions that are not memorable or inspiring. Industry-wide, companies are making digital media a bigger priority in their brand strategies. It’s not that digital alone will dominate over other mediums. Mass advertising will continue to perform a role in driving awareness, but increasingly as digital makes head-end marketers will prioritize towards channels that deliver accountability, relevance, and interactivity to fully capitalize on the online opportunity. The digital markets thus are only set to boom.

To Learn More About Our Digital Marketing Solutions, Visit My Digital Agency or for a full list of services we offer in Digital Media:

The Rise of The Data Center Industry in Pakistan

IT operations are becoming a crucial aspect of most Enterprise and Medium sized organizations in our country. As the automation of processes increases through implementation of world class ERPs, one of the main concerns that companies are facing is business continuity – what if a system becomes unavailable thus impairing or completely stopping the business process. Thus it is becoming necessary to provide a reliable infrastructure for IT operations, in order to minimize any chance of disruption. Thus Data Center Services are becoming a booming business in our country.

A Data Center (the cold room) is a facility used to house and maintain dedicated servers on behalf of an organization. It’s a concept that found life during the dot-com bubble in the US and has since then grown into a discipline unto itself globally. In Pakistan it started with the Basel II accords which separated operational risk from credit risk (meaning banks were now responsible for defaults and any operational problems that arise in banking) implemented by the SBP. Now with Basel III implementations and more and more medium sized companies aiming for enterprise level automation, IT becoming the core backbone on which business operates especially for industries such as Telecom, Banks and shipping, m-commerce and e-commerce growing in Pakistan and increasingly competitive landscape from a global community is driving the companies towards focusing on core competencies and outsourcing everything else.

The biggest reason for this change in mindset is cost. The overall IT spending shows that the lion’s share of IT expenses goes towards overhead and maintenance – as high as 70% of the budgets of IT departments are spent in maintaining IT infrastructures at the expense of adding new capabilities. This underutilization of equipment leads to high cost per transaction. Most servers in typical business data centers are utilized at only 5 to 10 percent of their maximum capacity and cooling and power distribution systems are also used to much less than their full potential.  Clearly that’s wasted capital and it makes the cost per computing transaction much higher than it needs to be. A secondary effect is that the fixed energy costs for running servers at low utilization makes the cost per transaction much higher than it needs to be.

The second factor is that outsourcing ensures access to operational expertise, much of which is unavailable internally due to economic or other restraints thus also freeing up internal resources for other purposes. These services also allow enterprises to leave the upkeep of network infrastructure and applications to the data center personnel allowing the company to focus on their core competencies. Not only does this increase efficiency, but also reduces the cost of running the network in terms of resources and manpower. Besides this, it also offers increased security, whether from environmental threats such as over-heating and dust or from viruses and infiltration via firewall maintained by the data center thus providing a high level of risk management.

The future for this industry is bright. It cannot be denied that traditional retail formats have been saturated and the present consumer environment is moving from bricks and mortar to online due to the increased convenience and a more satisfying retail experience. Many new ventures are now focusing on e-tail and need the expertise in networking and database while being focused on translating the retail experience onto the new medium. The biggest driver however remains the consumer themselves who as they become involved with the digital world more and more, will increase demands for storage, connectivity and more and as corporate turn to serve them, they too will drive the demand for reliable mission critical facilities.



Data Centers – A New Industry In Pakistan

Data Center Pakistan

Dawn Images interviews Mr. Raja Jehangir, Director Strategic Planning, Center-X Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Pakistan, bringing in a new wave of data center solutions in the country.

Q. What’s the big deal about Data Centers and why the hoopla surrounding them now?
Well, the “hoopla” has been around for a while, but only now is the industry truly examining the complexity of the data centre. The last two decades have seen a paradigm shift in the way we do business. Companies have always risen and fallen, based on the level of service or need on offer by an organisation. In the last two decades, the “computerised” environment has played a bigger role in the level of service offered, and the pace of this has been accelerating at break neck speed.

Now, It’s pretty clear that there’s an architectural shift going on in the industry. Previously businesses relied on the client-server relationship internally, processing of data for internal use, but now we are at a stage that the services a company offers are not “at the counter” but online. This has resulted on the greater dependency on ensuring uptime, right about the time where certain elements within the Pakistan infrastructure, power delivery, cost and security are being stretched. This has resulted in a greater demand for reliability, which in turn has placed a greater demand on data centres to deliver the uptime required.

The flipside of the “hoopla” is that companies are now evaluating the cost of the data centre far more closely. It is a cost of business. What this trend means is that your servers can be professionally managed by a data centre, so you can actually have a weekend and not spend all your time trying to manage your servers. It’s like having banks manage your money rather than you managing your money. Also since the networks now have become secure and the computers have become fast enough that this is possible.

Q. Why do we need data centers? Isn’t it better that companies keep their own information safe?

This is the mindset that has hampered the industry to an extent in Pakistan. This can be attributed to the early data centres in the country not maximising the business potential, and also the “client” not willing to let go of the perceived control. The issue of “information safety” within an external data centre is actually a non issue, but it is the physical parting that often creates angst. Till now, the cost associated with providing a service through ICT infrstructure has not come under scrutiny, but as costs of power delivery and reliability rise we are seeing a shift in opinion in Pakistan. Only about 30% of the CIOs in the U.K., for example, are held to account for the electricity bill, this is a trend we see here, but we forecast that we will see costs associated with data centres being audited more efficiently and commercial data centres focusing on such costs to increase their margins. What companies did not realize is that for every kilowatt-hour of IT electricity use, you have more kilowatt-hours for supporting equipment — cooling, fans and air flow. This is just overhead that doesn’t result in more computing, and the more you can reduce it the better. This is a large over-head per Kw/H most companies are paying for their Datacenters. IT departments should be looked at towards treating and managing IT as a strategic resource subject to the same cost controls as any other department. Efficiency is the key.

Q. What do you consider when running a data center?

Environmental influences play a crucial role and require in-depth analysis in advance of planning and implementation. A critical point to note is the matter of security and availability requirements. When defining objectives, it is essential to establish which hazards can potentially occur, external influences include natural disasters and accidents such as fires, while internally, it could be data security or attacks . In Pakistan, things like Uptime, Power Delivery, Cooling as in line with international flags in terms of requirements. However, we also have to contend with civil disorder, security threats and flooding, when considering a data centre.

Q. Aren’t large enterprises or mainly large companies customers have use of outsourcing their data centers or smaller companies have this need as well?

Ans. Pakistan is increasingly joining the ranks of countries with a sizeable population of Web 2.0 companies and business units of large enterprises with zero-tolerance for IT failure. Industries such as Telecom, Banks with their ATM machines for example, credit card machines, m-banking and so forth are increasingly relying on IT to be the core of their business. In shipping email is a legal document. These are the first industries that have migrated to the outsourced data center model. Moreover as more Pakistani companies become export oriented and start becoming global companies, they will need their processes to be up and running at all times. This mission criticality will lead to a bigger boom in Data Centers in the country.

Q. What is the Quality of Data Centers In the Country and are they up to global standards?

Ans. Whilst we do have some excellent data centers in Pakistan, the up and coming data centers are the ones to watch. They’ve learnt from the lessons of their earlier pioneers and are truly bringing in global standards in this country. However it is end users who must ensure that the supplier they choose is able to cater to their reqirement, on Uptime, Connectivity and items such as Civil Disorder or Terrorist Threat. Setting strict SLAs and outlining exactly what measures are expected of the data centre, will go a long way to preventing a downtime and delivering a quality service.

Q. What is trend-setting?

Telecoms traditionally had large investments in network infrastructure rollouts. We’re seeing next generation mobile and fixed networks being planned, 3G and fiber rollouts. Telecoms are increasingly fearful that they cannot survive on micro-margins in commoditized markets which is a boom to industries like ours. The great thing that’s going on in IT is automation. Anything that’s related to automation is what we will be looking back on as transformational. Also there are the additional demands on business infrastructure which are going to be coming from online video and social media, a growing B2B software-as-a-service market (SaaS) market, and the exponential growth of web-enabled mobile devices and other Internet-based offerings in our country.

We’re also seeing the beginning of Virtualization and Managed Services Model of business as Data Centers move from being a merely a ‘Cold Room’ towards adding more values to their clients. The days of getting a single million dollar client may be coming to an end and the future could very well be about serving the larger net communities over the cloud and net services. Now it will be about a million customers deliver one dollar each.

Q. What is your recommendation for companies that have decided to not outsource but to build their new data center or modernizing their existing one? Is there a rough guide?

Every organisation is different, but every organisation should be looking at bottom line operational cost. When evaluating a move ahead with in house development of data centres, do question, “What is more core business? Is it building and managing my data centre or is it about delivery of a promise to your clients?” When looking at your in house data centre, do factor in not just the construction cost, but also the cost of maintenance and power costs. The quickest and easiest way to save money and get efficient either in-house or outsourced is by using the latest energy efficient hardware at enterprise level coupled with the right power and cooling upgrades to your data center.

A good way is to drive down your energy use in your office is through the use of Smart-PCs which have a rated-power of 40 Watts, and can cater to 95% of the business user’s needs, with higher end machines used to the remaining 5%. This has the twin benefit of lowering your generator set costs and increasing the output of your UPSs leading to massive savings.

Q. For Disaster recovery, where is the best place to have your DR site?

That is a tough question as there is an element of personal choice. In my opinion, the preference would be what the Financial Services Authority in the UK advises, namely “not too close but not too far away”. There is a number of people who believe in DR sites being in a different city, I believe this to be a mistake, as the reasoning is for a city wide disaster. City wide disasters are rare and by their very nature prevent travel out of the city. I would prefer having the core team, the key element in any disaster being close to my DR site. Outside your city, at a reasonable distance, may be the answer.

Q. Which are the key characteristics of the data center of the future?

The data center of the future will be modular, expandable, flexible, with a higher level of integration between the IT equipment and the infrastructure. The two systems have to be better integrated to allow for optimum efficiency. I see the servers themselves telling the cooling system how much cooling they need, and all of this in a well controlled space with excellent airflow segregation.

Originally Published: Dawn, Images, Page 10, Sci-tech, 2nd January, 2010

To Contact Raja Jehangir for Data Center Services:

About Raja Jehangir:

Raja Jehangir Mehboob, Director Strategic Planning: After completing his education in Business Information Technology in the United Kingdom, he joined Lehman Brothers’ management trainee program in 1987. He has experience in the International Foreign Exchange, Money Market, Equities, Commodities, Derivatives, domestic Asset Management and Data Centre industries. After Lehman Brothers, he rose through the ranks within 2 years to hold the position of Senior Dealer and Chief Dealer for Po Sang Bank, one of the 12 sister banks that comprise Bank of China, where he was instrumental in Po Sang’s first Treasury in the United Kingdom. This was followed by setting up and heading the Foreign Exchange department of Sucden Financial, the World’s largest Coffee, Cocoa and Sugar Broker followed by setting up of the Institutional Foreign Exchange desk for Archer Daniels Midland, a company listed on the NYSE.

During his time with Lehman Brothers and Prudential, he was instrumental in the first steps taken by the organisations in computerised trading and pricing platforms, including the development of the first “Exchange for Physical” trading program, giving the organisations a 20 second advantage on price discovery on Futures<->Spot. He has developed mathematical trading models based on Fibonacci, Moving Averages, Momentum indicators and divergences in the market which was applied to a highly successful fund in FX, Precious Metals, Commodities and Equities trading.

The depth of knowledge skills have resulted in a concept paper being co-authored and presented at Harvard Business School titled “Quasi Equity Islamic Finance”. Additionally, he has written/contributed to concept-theoretical papers for mutual funds based on carbon credits and wind generated power, Gold and Inflation Tracker Funds. He was instrumental in developing the Dawood Islamic Fund, which based on the criteria set in the guidelines remained the top performing Islamic Equity fund with the lowest standard deviation in Pakistan while he was with the organisation.

His time in the Data Centre Industry in Pakistan as Head of Sales, and then Strategic Planning saw a growth in profits of over 500%. He is registered with the Financial Services Authority in the UK as an authorised investment adviser.

He is currently Director Strategic Planning at CentreX Solutions (Pvt.) Ltd., a company specialising in Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity, Energy efficient desktop computing and VDI.

Exploring New Avenues In Digital Marketing

Digital marketing encompasses a variety of internet marketing and online media strategies to promote brands and products, besides generating awareness. Increasingly, this is the medium which is providing powerful marketing tools that will improve branding efforts and boost direct response e.g., integrating mobile with digital marketing can create personal, long-term relationships between brands and consumers using electronic marketing channels.

One of the companies responsible for creating such powerful online marketing strategies, for a wide range of companies for European and Middle East clients as well as the local ones, is Media Idee. Ehmer Kirmani, the mind behind the company, is especially skilled at creating multi-channel digital marketing strategies as part of the marketing mix for a wide range of companies through his firm. We discussed the future of advertising and marketing and how the industry structures will change.

How does Media Idée work?

The inspiration to start the company came from our own experiences when in all of our previous jobs, no matter how good the performance was, they used to give us fixed incentives and we couldn’t grow beyond a certain level. I wanted to change that and when I started my own firm, my objective was to provide a platform for anyone who wants to grow professionally by giving an opportunity to have a stake in the company and share the profits. We are now in the fifth year and have grown enough to be separating the divisions of the company and each segment is being run by its own director, reporting to Media Idee Corp. This would not have been possible without this entrepreneurial drive. Consequently, we have a complete production house, an in-house execution team for events and a full service interactive team.

You speak a lot about developing an entrepreneurial culture. What does that mean?

We are the first media and entertainment company in Pakistan which is bringing in a professionally driven structure, based on entrepreneurship and profit sharing. Companies in India and other countries grow because of their hierarchal structures and the fact that anyone can rise to the top and not just the family that owns that company. These companies have a platform where people can join them as profit sharing directors and which, in turn, expands your company. It is difficult to educate people in Pakistan about this, but gradually the culture is changing.

What motivated you to establish Media Idée Interactive?

It is not a new company. We started the company way back in 2006 when we saw the writing on the wall, clearly saying that ‘digital is the future’. This makes us the first digital agency of Pakistan. The market in Pakistan was nascent then, so most of our work was being done for brands abroad which has given us international exposure into the medium.

Now, however, most Pakistani companies are going digital and as pioneers, we’re at the forefront of this revolution. Most of the young people today spend their time either on the mobile or in front of the computer. For many of the brands we handle, their target is the young audience. However, this was not the only reason. Digital media is economical and can effectively complement any traditional campaign.

What would you regard as your most significant experience?

It has been a great learning experience as we’ve not only worked in Pakistan but have done work for international clients based in the Middle East, South East Asia and Europe, which has given our work a lot of diversity and a global recognition. Moreover, we also cater to local customers and we have no qualms even for working for other digital agencies.

Which industries do you see as the trendsetters in Pakistan?

The telecom sector is the one which is bringing in the most digital innovation in Pakistan. The financial sector and the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors are also entering this medium and looking for solutions. We expect a lot more sectors to come onboard.

Closing thoughts…

Digital marketing is a learning process—there are still no experts in this space. You have to be a learning organisation and change with the constantly evolving market; especially at the pace technology is altering.

Visit MediaIdee at: or Media Idee Digital:

Originally Printed in DawnCEO Media Idee:

Unleash The Power Of Digital Out Of Home In Pakistan

These are signs of changing times and they are everywhere. Banks, retail stores, exhibitions, malls, airports, restaurants — digital signage is being mounted at all these places. Enter the world where flat screens offer high-quality, value-added marketing content.

Digital signage is a broad term used to describe the integration of a variety of technologies, including software, that culminate in a single end result — a unique and powerful communications medium that provides unparalleled opportunities for marketers to capture audience’s attention, educate and inform, build brands, improve customer experiences and drive sales through the use of digitally powered signs (such as plasma display panels, liquid crystal displays (LCDs), kiosk stations (such as ATMs, computer monitors and normal televisions) to replace and enhance traditional media such as posters, outdoor billboards, etc. The concept has been around for some time, but now digital signage is fully coming into its own since the days of the dot matrix display boards, the first usage of this technology.


Digital signage is now a viable and affordable alternative to traditional printed signage because the prices of display hardware have tumbled. Thus this new medium of Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) (also known as out-of-home advertising, in-store TV, captive audience TV, digital signage or dynamic digital display) looks set to offer advertisers one of the most targeted and powerful ways of reaching consumers. The type of content on this type of signage can vary. Pakistani marketers looking to improving the effectiveness of their marketing communication are fast replacing the static point-of-sale signage, especially in today’s multimedia world, where it doesn’t have the POP! it used to.

Aside from content such as TV ads, messaging on DOOH can also provide a website address, mobile number or even an IVR, which, when dialled, provides a pre-recorded message specific to the ad display location for exhibit, product or other information. DOOH can also be made interactive with sensors, touch-screens and other interactive devices which can be installed alongside these displays, allowing content to respond when consumers pass by. This enables the customer to fully engage in the communications experience, and this also provides valuable marketing data.

Dynamic dimensions

There are several dimensions of this technology, including comprehensive control over how, when and where your messages are delivered, based on the location or time of the day. This is called narrowcasting. Narrowcasting involves streaming specific data to specific audiences as opposed to traditional broadcasting, which targets a great swath of general viewers.

Digital advertising makes it possible to present messages on multiple DOOH displays through eye-catching dynamic content targeted by demographic, psychographic and geographic specifications, besides other customer-defined business rules such as the time of day, store zone, etc. Since the content can be changed or updated at any time from a remote computer containing the solution’s administration software, the displays are designed to show product information to consumers with the hope of encouraging sales that would not normally occur according to consumer’s traditional shopping patterns e.g., on a given day, different ads for a clothing store might be presented to reach the young people between 18-25 year olds through displays at bus shelters, coffee shops, on campus, in food courts, petrol stations, bank machines and in malls, depending on the time of the day they are likely to be there in large numbers.

This kind of specific targeting allows a marketer to communicate their message to the audience at critical junctures and cuts down the total spending on ads. The greatest strength, however, of digital signage lies in its immediacy. Digital signage enables “speed to messaging”, “faster time to market” and communications flexibility when content creation, composition, management, transport and presentation are all done digitally.

This allows the cost-effective re-purposing of ads across media platforms, since digital signage networks are largely automated and remotely controlled. This enables the launching of new communications campaigns with zero courier costs, no on-site personnel requirements and total security. Thus digital signs can literally be reprogrammed with the latest advertising campaign, price change or public message at the click of a mouse button. One mouse click and thousands of screens update automatically.

This also has the benefit of eliminating out-of-date messages to increase relevancy of messages for the consumer – no more posters or messages from last month’s campaign fluttering around. In the future, these signs will also be able to influence inventory and supply chain by promoting products that are in an over-supply and cutting off promotions of products that are out of stock at that location. Targeted, informative content that changes behaviour, such is the power that every marketer dreams of.

Also, since DOOH presents digital messages at the point-of-purchase, it brings “the power of place” (how our surroundings shape our thoughts, emotions, and actions) to life. There is currently no other medium which makes it possible to deliver compelling content at the right location at the right time for maximum impact, for example it is a known fact that over 75 per cent of buying decisions are made at the point of purchase (Source: POPAI). Setting up a digital signage at a shopping mall or retail outlet can influence purchasing right where it’s about to happen. This is what sets digital signage apart from traditional media. It allows you to run purpose-built, meaningful content that can be managed to meet the consumer experience.

DOOH also has been reported to increase customer dwell time. Dwell time is the period during which a dynamic process remains halted in order that another process may occur, e.g. a person stops to glance over at a range of biscuits in a super market. Retail studies have shown that the longer the dwell time, the higher the number of sales.
The use of DOOH has also been reported to enhance the customer experience through value-added ‘edutainment’. In waiting rooms, e.g., such as the doctor’s office, pharmacies, railway stations or banks, these displays reduce perceived wait time. People really enjoy watching the educational programming on these displays and believe that the time spent was less than it really was improving customer satisfaction.


Setting up a basic signage is as simple as plugging a DVD player and a DVD with your ad into a display console and putting it up in a shop. However, for a proper DOOH, the components needed for a digital signage system include: an authoring console equipped with content management software, allowing the playback of content in a variety of playback formats, a server to which finished content is uploaded and from where it is distributed to the different displays of the network, a distribution infrastructure consisting of a data network or fibre optic or CAT5 cable which broadcasts media from the server to the displays and digital signage displays which can be plasma displays, LCD monitors, CRT monitors or kiosk stations.

The distribution infrastructure is perhaps the most important part of digital signage, and choosing the correct distribution technology is a crucial element of any digital signage project. To date, the most common distribution infrastructure in Pakistan has been the data network platform, most commonly seen in the top retail stores of the country.

A data network platform uses a computer network infrastructure in order to transmit content in the form of compressed multimedia files (such as MPEG files) from the management station to the central server and from there to the computer connected to the display device. The central server handles distribution to multiple displays and the display-end computer decompresses the file for display on the display device. This solution requires a dedicated CPU in every single display device deployed.

While offering better approaches and new paradigms of message targeting, DOOH is typically sold on a rental basis. Thus the technology’s inherent capabilities for message targeting combined with attractive rates make DOOH attractive, providing high return on marketing investment. And the best part of it all is that marketers can maximize display value with measurable effectiveness, tallying sales data to the message that was being run on these screens.


The greatest interest in digital signage today is from the banking, telecom and retail sectors, although it does have other uses in healthcare, education and other displays of information, e.g. an average retail store has a footfall of over 500 people per day who can watch these ads and the preliminary results of studies by local major players show that a dynamic content’s impact is higher than that of static media on these locations. So it’s no surprise that the potential for this technology is huge.

Telecom franchises number well over 1600 alone, there are over 5000 high-end retail shops where this technology can be deployed and high-end banking branches number well over 4500.

As one of the suppliers and pioneers in this field, 3M Pakistan is currently assessing the potential of bringing this technology into Pakistan. They’ve already launched one of the components of DOOH amongst their range of products, Vikuiti, which is a range of projection display components. Vikuiti has been tested at over 50 locations in Pakistan so far and have been proven to be an excellent choice, surpassing the metrics of reach, frequency and recall over static media. Within one year of its introduction Vikuiti has already hit the targeted numbers for this market and is growing fast, slowly converting the POS market in Pakistan.

According to Dr Hugh Philips, a cognitive psychologist, human beings “select” or “de-select” what they notice based on the relevance of what is presented. That being the case, motion video and animation coming and going on a dynamic display has a high probability of being seen, and relevant or interesting messages can then fulfil the objectives. The numbers are already promising. Viewers are five to 10 times more likely to notice and recall dynamic media than static media (Source: POPAI).

It’s a high-definition world, and today’s time-starved consumers demand more from their experiences, thus using digital signage can make for happier and more energised customers. With its superior ability to target specific messages towards defined audiences and get noticed, digital signage offers unparalleled opportunities to anyone wanting to capture the ever fragmented audiences’ attention, educate and inform people, build brands and drive sales and profitability.

The advantages of digital signage

• Reaches defined audiences
• Targeted messaging
> Target your messages by screen, location, time or day
> Enables tactical marketing by audience segment
• Captures audience attention
> Increases message impact through eye-catching dynamic
> Enhances the customer’s experience through value-added
> Increases customer dwell time and reduces perceived wait time
• Speed and immediacy of message change
> Reduces time and cost to produce and deploy new messages
> Eliminates out-of-date messages to increase relevancy of
• Ensures local compliance with auditable playback
> Automated playback with no human interaction
> Compare proof-of-play reports to sales data
• Maximises display value with measurable effectiveness
> Creates content schedules containing multiple messages
per signage asset
> Easily tests different message executions and assesses the
impact of each

Published: Dawn Newspaper, Sci-Tech

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