Carmudi Presents Celebrities and their Favourite Cars

From vintage beauties to new tech oriented supercars, everyone has their own favorite. Our very own Pakistan celebrities have some of the most interesting choices. Carmudi, the leading online platform for buying and selling cars, has dug out Pakistan’s favorite celebrities talking about their favorite cars. And in case you are inspired to add a couple of these to your fancy fleet, check out the 200,000+ Carmudi collection on the go.

Ali Zafar
My love for cars extends from vintage to the new-borne technology types. Mercedes Mclaren is one of the supercars to make way with the most amazing electronic stability and an otherworldly look to it. That’s one car that I would absolutely love to own someday.

Adnan Siddique
A car is a sacred thing for every man. I love to drive anything that makes me feel at ease and proud of the car I own. My absolute favorite is the Wrangler Jeep. A jeep feels absolutely amazing on the road. People who don’t understand should know it’s a Jeep thing. Easy, breezy and the person driving feels like the king of the road.

Javed Sheikh
I have always had a special interest in cars, but what I love depends on my own ease and comfort. My eternal love remains the Rolls Royce, basically because I believe its design sets it apart from every other car. It’s fast, with some of the most interesting features and eye pleasing colours. Other than all the technical details, it’s perfect for extending my long legs!

Abbas Hassan
My love for cars has two sides. I am either drawn to the latest cutting edge sports cars or to old vintage cars with a classic charm. I’ve had the joy of driving some amazing cars lately. You might see a sneak peak of Lamborghini Aventador in my next music video, which is my latest love. Other than that, I love the idea of revving down the highway on a sunny day in a vintage convertible 1969 Boss Mustang. If I could own a car it would definitely be one of these two.

Junaid Younus
I am very adventurous by nature. I love exploring and my outdoorsy nature pushes me towards cars which will be my aid on the road. My new favorite is the Range Rover Sports 2014, an SUV that suits my interests best. It feels great on the road and it won’t leave you on tricky terrains. It has a great performance in terms of speed stability and luxury.

Aijaz Aslam
Buggati Veyron is my favorite. It is one of the most beautifully designed cars. Every part of it is made with perfection. Some of its features are developed by aeroplane manufacturers. Its aesthetically pleasing design and its ability to be steady at the fastest of speeds is what makes it unique.

Daraz.Pk’s Farees Shah Discusses E-Commerce In Pakistan

Farees Shah is co-founder of Daraz.pk, an online retail store based in Pakistani that offers multi brand clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women. The e-commerce site is a venture of the Berlin-based Rocket Internet, one of the world’s fastest growing and most dynamic internet incubators.

We spoke to Shah to learn more about Daraz.pk and get an overview of the e-commerce sector in Pakistan.

Ad Geek Daily: How long has Daraz.pk been around?
Farees Shah: Daraz.pk has been online since August 2012, so about 18 months.

AGD: Have you been involved from the start?
FS: Yes, I was the first person on the ground in Pakistan. I was approached by the regional team in Dubai when they were looking to enter Pakistan and I joined shortly after in April 2012.

AGD: What are some difficulties you faced while establishing Daraz.pk? Was it challenging to sell the concept of an online store to the Pakistani market?
FS: The first and foremost challenge was to get brands on board. Keep in mind that till Daraz.pk went online there was no precedent of selling fashion online in Pakistan so we had to convince them to not only sell online for the first time, but also place their stock at our warehouse and agree to share a profit margin, which at that point would seem high to all the suppliers.

What’s amazing is that we have come a long way and today any supplier we meet is not only very familiar with Daraz.pk but in fact we actually have more suppliers contacting us to get on Daraz than vice versa.

Setting up warehousing and logistics was also very challenging as in Pakistan warehousing is generally done at a carton level but we had to set up warehousing at an item level. Secondly the local logistics providers we worked with weren’t really structured to cater to e-commerce, which is why we went ahead and set up our warehouse and last mile logistics.

What made all of this extremely challenging was that we were the first e-commerce players in Pakistan. So even though we hired alot of young, smart people, no one had done this before and that coupled with the aggressive launch deadlines we had from Rocket headquarters in Berlin made this extremely tough. Needless to say, this was an extremely exciting time for all of us and if I look back at this time I can safely say I have probably not learnt so much in any previous part of my career as I did in the first 6 months at Daraz.pk.

AGD: Initially we were introduced to Azmalo.pk, which was then rebranded to Daraz. Then Azmalo was reintroduced as a separate brand, which was once again rebranded, this time to Kaymu. What’s with all the rebranding?

FS: So Azmalo.pk and Daraz.pk both started as Rocket Internet ventures but were always separate entities with distinct product portfolios, sector focus and business models. Azmalo was initially launched as the Amazon business model but Rocket decided to restructure that business model globally and relaunched it as an eBay clone, which was subsequently rebranded to Kaymu as that is the brand Rocket is using for the eBay model globally.

Daraz.pk on the other hand launched in Aug 2012 and due to its expanding brand portfolio and a high percentage of returning customers  became Pakistan’s premier online fashion destination and is now the most recognized ecommerce brand in Pakistan.

AGD: Going back to Daraz, how many brands do you currently stock?
FS: We stock 380+ brands at the moment and this number should be crossing 500 within the next 2-3 months. We currently have more than 13,000 products on the website and we add around a 1,000 new products every week, which allows us to stay extremely current in terms of style.

AGD: How do you choose which brands to stock?
FS: We are extremely selective with the brands we work with as we are extremely conscious of our high fashion image in the market and we do not work with brands that cannot meet our criteria for product quality. We choose brands based on their current sales (both online and offline), brand image and quality of products. We not only target all top brands in Pakistan but are also continually analyzing our brand portfolio to ensure we cater to the needs of the various segments of the Pakistani fashion consumer.

AGD: In your experience, what are the three most important attributes that ensure the success of an e-commerce site?
FS: The three most important attributes are assortment, customer experience and marketing.

Assortment is not only having the widest possible variety of products and the big brands but also ensuring that there is variety within each price bracket of every subcategory. Customer experience comes down to both how well the website is designed  and works as well as timely deliveries etc. Marketing of course is essential for a business where we are looking to target such a high number of people. Yyou can have the best product or service in the world but you won’t get too far unless you have a way of reaching your target audience.

AGD: There are many multi-brand online stores popping up in Pakistan. Are you flattered or threatened?
FS: To be honest we don’t think there are too many multi-brand online stores popping up in Pakistan.

The reason I say that is that we, at the moment, have over 13,000 fashion products on the website whereas no other multi brand store even has a 1,000 products. So sure, there are lots of smaller players that do exist in the market but not at a scale close to what we are operating at. And yes the market is so huge and there is such potential that I feel there is room for multiple online stores to exist, but we haven’t come across real competition as yet.

Customer-ServicesAGD: Customer service is an important part of retail. Would you say handling returns and exchanges is more challenging for e-commerce sites?
FS: We offer all our customers a 7 day return policy on most of our products. We appreciate the fact that unlike shoppers at a brick and mortar store, a Daraz.pk customer does not have the opportunity to touch and feel and possibly try on the product before making a purchasing decision. So by having a 7 day return policy we allow our customers the opportunity to touch, feel and try on their purchase and return it if they feel the need to do so.

Even though we were warned by various suppliers that this policy would be detrimental as the Pakistani consumer would use and abuse it, that has not been the case and our return rate in Pakistan has been negligible.

AGD: Would you like to share any interesting experiences in this regard?
FS: We had a funny incident when we had just started operations where a customer returned a shoe he had purchased. When we received the package at the warehouse and opened it there was no shoe in it but a giant stone. This of course was a one off incident but our processes are now structured to ensure such things do not happen while maintaining a high level of customer service.

AGD: What are your future plans for Daraz.pk? Anything exciting we should look out for?
FS: Based on customer surveys we established a list of 50 top brands in Pakistan and I am very proud to say that more than 50% of them are already online on Daraz.pk. Our target for this 2014 is to have 80% of the top brands on Daraz.pk by the end of the year.

Daraz.pk has established a very strong foothold in the Pakistani e-commerce market and we strongly feel that we are on track to change the landscape of ecommerce in Pakistan in 2014.

On Entrepreneurship With Ali Nasim – CEO @ Ephlux

Following industry wide Twitter buzz over the CEO of Ephlux at Oracle Open World 2013, I sought out the revered technopreneur Ali Nasim for a chat on Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Laila Rehman: What is entrepreneurship?
Ali Nasim: Its the ability to create a company where there was none before and its done by a team, not an individual as some would have you believe. I see two distinct types of entrepreneurship, the first being SMEs that serve a local market, like family businesses that are geographically distributed to where the population is and are fundamentally driven. The second kind of entrepreneurship is the innovation driven enterprises (IDEs) which are looking to export and reach the global market or super regional markets. They have a sustainable competitive advantage that allows them to do that. These are truly ‘new to the world’ type of products and offerings that create high growth opportunities. Of course, the risk with IDEs is much higher than SMEs, that’s a given. But the benefits are much higher. SMEs tend to remain as they are in size and are unable to shift beyond their role in the economy.

LR: What are the key differences you see between the two?
AN: Each requires a different skill set and cadence. The time to get things going in SMEs is less compared to an IDE, for which takes a longer time to get off the ground. But when the IDE takes off, there is exponential growth whereas in SMEs the growth is linear. SMEs require less investment of course while IDEs require investment at launch & growth stages, including stages of innovation introduction. So I would say the key differences between the two is the matter of risk & reward, and we at Ephlux are focused on being an IDE – to create the predominance of jobs and contribute growth.

LR: The WSJ’s Leslie Kwoh wrote an article last year that called innovation one of the most overused words in the English language right now. Why do you think that is and what does the word mean to you?
AN: It’s overused because every company that isn’t innovating wants to appear to be part of the hip and young trend that has captured the world. But for me, innovation has to create value, something that creates positive value whether it increases profits or aids in social development. Innovation for me is something like seamless integration with social applications and enterprises services like JD Edwards. So by that stretch, innovation equals invention plus commercialization. So the companies overusing this term consider it to be associated with something they aspire towards but are not necessarily able to reach because innovation as an invention has no value. There are countless patents that have not been commercialized and are sitting hidden away in some office files. I believe ideas are cheap, its the implementation that’s expensive and really hard. Invention and technology are nice “haves” but they need to be commercialized to create value. The commercialization aspect of this equation must be greater that zero.

LR: By that logic, which company – local or international – do you consider to be innovative?
AN: Without a doubt, that would be Apple, but keep in mind that none of their products were created by them, but they were the ones that commercialized them for instance the Macintosh was created by Xerox Park. Google today is an advertising company which created this multi-billion dollar juggernaut. But the idea or invention that made them an advertising company actually came from Bill Gross at Overture and they were the ones that commercialized it.

LR: Why the gap between invention and commercialization?
AN: Mindsets matter, I mean, there is no shortage of ideas, the question is whether there are enough entrepreneurs to commercialize those ideas. In Pakistan, someone tried to replicate the idea of Facebook with Millat Facebook, and failed miserably due to an inability to commercialize. The plagiarizer ended up requesting donations from the public to maintain his copycat site. He even attempted a tirade of excuses for his lack of ability, so that gives you an idea of the mindset of those incapable of commercializing an idea.

LR: Are there any costs associated with forgoing an innovation mindset?
AN: Plenty, and asking the shareholders, suppliers & employees of Lehman Brothers, RIM, Kodak, SEARS and IBM (to name a few) can give a reasonably strong impression of what that means exactly. Nestle has been revived on other parts of its business but they lost core business units like instant coffee which are now completely gone. The US Postal Service used to be referred to as “job for life” and today its just not the case, no guesses why. Every company must continue to innovate – to learn, unlearn and relearn – from across the world and organization.

LR: But the people in organizations have different markets and frameworks to operate in, wouldn’t it be hard to continuously think of this as a disruptive process? 
AN: You raise a good point, and its worth pointing out that disruption oriented innovation is the most preferred or sought categories of the three, the other two being lateral and incremental. Within this, the types of innovation can be business model oriented, positioning or perception oriented, technical, process oriented and social innovation. Incremental innovation about making an existing product better like the iPhone’s.

LR: The age old question – can it be taught or is it inert?
AN: Depends on the institution but it can be taught. Most of the universities in Pakistan and all over the world focus on creating employees and pencil pushers, I went to IBA and was encouraged to think far out of the box and aspire for more. My family & parents were also a great support system for the tough times, so merely being taught the mindset isn’t always enough, you need a system around you to facilitate the process. My 50+ employees around the world have played an enormously positive role in my personal development, I learn more from them than they do from me. To answer your question – yes it can – but not everyone can teach it, especially not those who have never ventured outside their comfort zones.

LR: Funding is often an issue in this area, what would you suggest to aspiring entrepreneurs?
AN: Well, Pakistan has quite a few incubators cropping up like DotZero, SEED IC, Plan9 and Cloud9 Start-ups to name a few, and its best to approach them instead of outright funding simply because of the additional value of mentor-ship offered by renowned industry players. I would also recommend the ambitious future leaders to pitch their ideas at KITE, Faizan Laghari’s Mini Ventures or to Adam Dawood’s DYL Ventures for connections, mentor-ship, funding and office space.

About the author: Laila Rehman is a coordinator with the Family Education Services Foundation for projects in Karachi.

Meet Shahnoor Ahmed

Shahnoor Ahmed, CEO of Spectrum Y&R and Chairman of the Advertising Association of Pakistan, talked to us about social media, Katrina Kaif, chicken karahi and more.

With what seems like the experience of having given a hundred interviews, Shahnoor Ahmed begins answering our questions seamlessly, flowing from one topic to the next without pausing to think. Perhaps our questions are too generic. Or perhaps he is just that passionate about what he does.

We jump right into the customary background check. When did he first get sucked into the world of advertising? In the 1970’s. And what was it like back then? “Well,” he takes a deep breath and sighs. “A long, long time ago… it’s like a fairytale!”

It’s a cloudy day and the fickle sun moves in and out of view of the window, setting the scene for a trip down memory lane.

1970’s to Present Day: How Times Have Changed

Shahnoor Ahmed began his career with a clean slate. With no agency to inherit but armed with a deep love for advertising, Ahmed started off at Asiatic (now JWT Pakistan) with Anwar Rammal and went on to SASA. After an unsuccessful startup that he claims “crashed very badly” and a very, very brief stint at Paragon, he joined Javed Jabbar’s MNJ International, where he worked along side many of today’s advertising giants. Spectrum Communications was born in 1978.

“The advertising landscape has changed dramatically in many, many ways,” he says. When he started out, television had just come to Pakistan. Everything was done by manual typesetting and getting material and putting things together was much harder. Clients’ expectations, too, were equally suited to the times.

Now, clients want instant gratification; a turnover of two hours is two hours too long. “Why can’t you just email it to us?” he mimics.

Nevertheless one thing remains the same: “Everyone is still looking for the big idea.”

Social Media: The Way Forward?

In the 70s, agencies were responsible for film production, media buying, outdoor and print media. All these functions have since splintered off into separate pools and many current agencies have a solely creative-strategic function. Now, they need to have a social media function too. “It is not that they are becoming irrelevant,” Ahmed clarifies, “They need to keep themselves updated.”

“Some things you can judge by looking at the writing on the wall,” he states. “We can see that digital is the way forward just like we could see that media buying houses were becoming a reality. You have to admit that it’s a reality especially when you find current small businesses using digital media.”

He seems impressed by 14th Street Pizza, a Karachi-based pizza delivery service. “Twenty or thirty years ago, you could not open a pizza place and say that I will reach the kind of clientele I want and not waste money targeting anyone else,” he says, referring to 14th Street’s policy of delivering only to select neighbourhoods.

So is it now time to step down and hand over the reins to somebody from the Facebook generation? “No!” he disagrees passionately, “The only option left is to learn or die. If something new comes in you have to learn it in order to survive. If someone resets the button and upsets your whole apple cart and some of your apples are in the air, you have to gather them back and in that process a lot of people take your apples away. That’s just the way it is.”

In fact, one of the first things you’ll notice when you walk into Shahnoor Ahmed’s office is his Sony laptop open to Facebook. This is a man ready to jump through the digital divide.

Creativity at Work

He recalls his first ever campaign with a smile. It was for a headache pill containing three different ingredients. They split the screen three ways for the print advertisement. Back in those days, this in itself was an achievement.

Now that he’s got a whole team that deals with the actual generation of ideas, he is more involved in the strategic side. Even so, a great idea is a great idea, and when creativity strikes he’s ready to put it in motion.

“Right now creatives are found on YouTube,” he says candidly. “It’s a shortcut as clients are not investing enough money into research, which is very important.” As a result, marketing is greatly intuitive in Pakistan. Still, he feels that trying to get actual consumer insights is very important for a successful campaign.

As far as memorable campaigns go, he is particularly fond of Slice’s efforts featuring Katrina Kaif during cricket season. “As a man, I loved it!” he says with a grin and chuckles as he tells us about how his young interns seem to have opposing views.

Up Close and Personal

Ad Geek Daily: What was the last movie you saw?
Shahnoor Ahmed: Oh my God. In the last month I’ve not really watched any. I watched every one of the Oscar nominated films last year. I wanted to go see Thor. Avatar was brilliant. I hadn’t seen Indian films in a while and someone recommended Dabangg. Itni bakwaas thi (it was so bad) I couldn’t go beyond ten minutes.

AGD: Do you watch Mad Men?
SA: No I don’t but I’ve watched some episodes. I haven’t been sucked into it but I’ve watched a few.

AGD: Because of entertainment or its link to advertising?
SA: Entertainment. I like the idea that it looks like the 50′s and 60′s and I know because our agency’s headquarters are in Manhattan on Madison Avenue and they have a couple of floors that I’ve been on that are exactly like that… the old wood finish and tables and the stuff they haven’t refurbished. [The show] is very entertaining to watch.

AGD: Do you cook?
SA: I love cooking Thai and desi food. I do a great chicken karahi, Pathan style! I’m currently trying to collect old family recipes for a relative who is putting a cookbook together. I’m videoing a lot of it.

AGD: Cats or dogs?
SA: I have a dog. I didn’t like cats initially but lately there were some mice in the garden so we’re trying to attract a few cats back to the house. I have a labrador called Trigger. I’ve had him for two years now but I have always had a dog.

AGD: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
SA: Cornflakes, toast plus green tea.

AGD: No anda paratha?
SA: No, unfortunately. I’ve always said that if you have a breakfast that’s fit for a king then you sleep like a queen.

AGD: Tell us about the worst boss you ever had.
SA: I’ve never had a bad boss, or maybe it was that my passion for advertising went beyond such things. My quest to learn continues and when you have that passion to learn you can’t really have a bad boss.

AGD: Do you think it’s a good idea for married couples to work together?
SA: I work with my wife who handles the social marketing side of the business. We do a lot of pro bono work in the health sector. I thinks it’s a wonderful idea to work together and share each other’s burden. Now my son’s also working here.

AGD: Do you work over the weekend?
SA: I used to, a lot. I’m not doing it as much but if there is work running then yes. If deadlines have to be met and things have to be looked at then I will definitely be in here.

AGD: When do you typically come in every morning?
SA: Not later than 9.30. I leave around 7.30-8 in the evening. I go to the gym from here. I spend an hour at the gym. In the summer I come home and swim for half an hour. This is life and not a party!

AGD: If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
SA: The power to heal.

AGD: If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?
SA: A BMW sports car. [Laughs]

AGD: There’s an article about you on the front page of today’s newspaper. What does the headline say?
SA: Shahnoor Ahmed elected as president.

AGD: President of what?
SA: The rest you have to read! You only asked me what the headline would say.

AGD: How many petrol stations would you say there are in Pakistan?
SA: About 4500. A little less than 5000.

AGD: You sound very sure about this.
SA: We handle Chevron.

AGD: That explains a lot.
SA: The largest number is about 3500 PSO pumps, then there’s Shell and Caltex and the other little ones. I can cross check for you.

AGD: This was actually an exercise to test how quickly you could come up with an estimate. You threw us off completely! Any future projects we should know about?
SA: My new project is to learn the digital side of the business that is developing and be able to apply it effectively in time and not after everyone else. Don’t want to miss the boat. That’s something which is a target for myself so let’s see where it takes me.