Bharat Avalani, Chief Knowledge Officer – AFAA
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Bharat Avalani, Chief Knowledge Officer – AFAA, runs AFAA’s Fast Track program that offers learning opportunities in communication & marketing to young marketing and advertising professionals from various countries. Also the Founder & CKO of Connecting Dots Consultancy, he discusses the role of marketing and advertising agencies in Pakistan and how to tap their potential for growth.

Your peers refer to you as a storyteller. In your opinion, should marketers and advertisers focus on building brands or telling stories?

I have spent over 25 years in marketing and if given the choice, I would not want to do anything else, trust me! I consider marketing my religion and coming up with ideas inspires me to do better.

As to whether my fraternity should focus on storytelling or brand-building, we should keep in mind that consumers buy brands to look good, feel good and get more out of life. As marketers, I feel we have the responsibility of making consumers feel good about the product or service they are buying. It is all about selling dreams, and how our products and services can help bring those to fruition. The stories marketers tell create the world we live in, hence creating a better life for consumers is all that matters.

After being around in the industry for a while, I have realized that only brands with a purpose survive and grow. Same goes for people and companies, purpose-oriented people tend to thrive and companies with a purpose will last.

In your role as the Chief Knowledge Officer at AFAA, what do you focus on?

I am always on the lookout to invest in young and talented people.

I always tell them to find fulfillment in life and to enjoy what they do. And like I always say, you can only be successful if you find fulfillment in both professional as well as personal lives.

So in lieu of my practices at AFAA, we bring in 35 young individuals from 10 countries to Malaysia on a four-day program in a bid to groom them and jumpstart their careers.

To date, we have recruited over 200 dynamic individuals, including a few from Pakistan. And it gives me immense pride to say that they are doing very well in their respective careers.

I would say it is all about finding your purpose and having an impact on the lives of people.

Based on your experience with Pakistani advertising as well as our creative agencies, what in your opinion needs to be fast tracked to build better brands?

Speaking from a solely marketing perspective, I believe Pakistan is a marketer’s paradise. The trick however lies in planning and execution.

Why do I say this? Well, firstly, a major chunk of the Pakistani population is under the age of 30, around 60% to be precise, according to the National Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Program. They are the ones with the buying power. Secondly, Pakistanis are passionate people and thirdly, Pakistanis value relationships. Advertisers and marketers need people who are passionate and emotional to tell stories and who believe in relationships to build brands. So the ideal mix for launching a successful brand already exists in Pakistan.

What advertising agencies need to aim for is to create such advertising campaigns that help people be more empathetic rather than being inwardly focused on themselves. In this part of the world we tend to think way too much and not necessarily pay attention to how we feel.

Like I said earlier, when looking after a brand, advertising agencies should focus on ‘how to make consumers feel better about a product or service’ rather than focusing on what it can actually do. It all comes down to the core values of the marketer: You have to do the right thing for the people. So I think there is untapped potential for growth in advertising and marketing in Pakistan.

As originally published in Synergyzer Annual 2020