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Am a firm believer in empowerment

HINA MAHGUL talks to Ahmed Kapadia talks about his passion – synergy

SYNERGY IS THE FASTEST growing integrated Marketing and Communications Group in Pakistan. Starting off as a single source advertising concern named Awan and Kapadia in ’99, the group has now become a trusted integrated Marketing and Communications solution partner for some for of the key local and multinational players on the brandscape of Pakistan.
Ahmed Kapadia’s key achievement is more than 15 years worth experience in the industry. Mr Kapadia has superheaded and managed some unconventional projects in various areas of Marketing and Advertising and is known as a “go-getter”. He revamped the business strategy at Orient McCann Erickson to create a difference of over 110 million rupees in the agency’s hitting turnover. He is also credited with masterminding the repositioning of Coca-Cola in Pakistan through an extensive and innovative media re-launch programme. The biggest hit song of 1996, Jazba Janoon which coincided with the Cricket World Cup in South Asia was one unit of this innovative programme. He also had a stint at Lakson Tobacco where his key achievement included organizing and executing World Snooker Championship for the first time in Pakistan which was hailed as one of the best international events organized in Pakistan. Ahmed Kapadia chatted with the Nation about the state of the nation, the economy, the advertising business and on his first love, Synergy.

What are your thoughts about the recent boom in the advertising industry ?
There has been a boom in advertising industry for the last few years and the boom is because of the automobile, telecom and banking sectors, which I don’t think is real growth interim of sustainability. At present there is no high volume investment in heavy industry and additionally human resource development ranks very low on a scale of priority. In such a scenario any economic boost will just be a temporary cyclic one. In the long run advertising in Pakistan will not boom in the real sense as industrialisation cannot occur in isolation until and unless the brand side, that is marketing side, is not improved and the quality of human resource does not improve. It is all inter-related.

What, according to you is the key to success in this business?
The only way you can cross a professional threshold is by trusting people regardless of the amount of times you get burnt in the process. I am a firm believer in empowerment and in synergy. The leadership empowerment committee meets every week, which deals squarely with the issues of leadership and aims to encourage the creation of leadership. ICOM, the world’s leading independent advertising agency network also recongnised the strengthening of this idea with an award during its Asia Pacific Conference in Singapore. Synergy is a member of the network.

Do you think there is a shortage of trained personnel for this sector?
Pakistan has always had a great amount of God gifted talent. However, because the system is so corrupt and breeds mediocrity, talented people cannot manifest their talent. The primal reason for this is that there is a leadership crisis in the country and that creates a gap. The real acid test of good leadership is that has adequate succession plans and grooms and inspires people to perform above and beyond the call of duty. Hence, in Pakistan, while we have the talent, the number, and the resources, leadership is the weak link in our value chain and that results in a system that kills rather than promotes talent.

Do you think people in Pakistan are becoming more ‘brand oriented’?
Brands today represent the most visible public face of the success of any nation and our extremely potent power projection tool. You might even say “brand built nation”. If you have brand than you have power. Around the world brands have transcended from being just products and services but have become pressure groups and industrial power houses that dictate policy of the strongest of the country. If we are to succeed we need more brands on the global brandscape. Some good examples of local brands like Tepal tea which is Pakistani brand has no foreign affiliation and Nirala which are now spearheading an interesting plethora of brands are making their presence felt in foreign markets. Similarly, as a case in point Synergy is trying to emulate the success of our brands that are now increasingly being seen as Ireland of quality around the world. While Synergy has no foreign affiliation it adheres to a management model that is inspired by foreign standards such as delineation role, clarity, decentralisation, and inter dependence which are inspired by western principles but are developed according to our local values.

It there scope for youngsters who want to pursue it as a career?
The trouble with advertising as an industry has been that it is so ill organized and it has not projected itself as a career of choice for young people today. The industry is filled with stark choices of low quality of life, low pay scales, and low level of training and development. While the situation has improved dramatically in the last few years particularly with respect to pay scales much more is to be done. Advertisement agencies should work in areas where there are ample chances for youngsters to shine. Advertising, as an industry needs to become a ground where new heroes are created so that youngsters start viewing advertising as the springboard for fulfilment of their career objectives.

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client and agency relationship?
What is important is that nothing in advertising business can be achieved by one person, it is a team efforts and collectively it should be a team that gets reward of growth of the system. The same is the case with the client/agency relationship. Right now both need to understand how the advertising value chain works and how it creates memorable brand communication. Both of them need to understand their roles and contribute in their respective capacities without infringing on each other’s rights and privileges. It cannot be said that only advertising agencies know everything and they are capable of doing anything and client knows nothing. That the client knows every thing and agencies don’t is also deluding in its self. In the final analysis it is also about ‘creating synergy’ which, as an agency will carry us through.

What should be the ethical values of an advertising agency?
People talk about ethics in advertising but they do not follow them in any other segment of society. Pakistan faces a situation of ethical and moral bankruptcy in every field and advertising is no exception to this. The fact is that like doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats, advertising practitioners are also part of the corrupt society. It is important to define the problem than to find the solution. There are numerous problems faced by advertising agencies which needs to be identified.

He also had a stint at lakson Tobacco where his key achievement included organising and executing world Snooker Championship for the first time in Pakistan which was hailed as one of the best international events organised in Pakistan. Ahmed Kapadia chatted with the Nation about the state of the nation, the economy the advertising business and on his first love, Synergy’

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