If there is one thing that most of the brand managers I have met over the years have in common, it is a tendency to use words such as ‘affinity’, ‘propensity’ and ‘learnings’. They also, unfortunately, tend to lack a sense of humour, are overly earnest, and take themselves – and the brands that they work for – terribly seriously.
Although Ali Rashid Khan, Senior Brand Manager at Engro Foods is guilty of using textbook phrases, he thankfully has a sense of humour. Case in point: he admits that although he has gained invaluable insights into the minds of the Pakistani housewife after working on Olper’s milk for three years, he still “sadly cannot read the minds” of his mother and wife just yet and make them do his bidding. With a chuckle, he attributes his premature hair loss to worrying about work incessantly.
The latter claim is not hard to believe, given that Khan is a self-confessed workaholic, irrespective of where he works, be it Engro (where he has been for the last five years), Reckitt Benckiser where he worked in a sales function for two years, or GlaxoSmithKline where he briefly handled Horlicks. This tendency makes sense given that he clearly takes his work very seriously despite his friendly demeanour.
And it was this demeanour that led him into the marketing sphere, as one part of the job he clearly loves is interacting with his consumers (either directly or by holding focus groups) in order to gain an understanding of how their minds work. He says that “the anthropologist” in him finds talking to people from different walks of life fascinating, and it was this which drew him to marketing in the first place. He also confesses that he is prone to making conversation with random strangers, asking them various questions about their life and work.
Given that Khan is affable and easy to talk to, it is no surprise that having fun at work is important to him. (What is surprising is meeting a brand manager who admits to this.)
“I judge the success of a campaign in two ways. The first is the amount of fun I have while working on it, because if an idea is good, then there is plenty of positivity among the people working on it. What I enjoy most is when people within the organisation or even outside, ‘own’ a campaign. It’s wonderful when people from the supply chain say that they liked a campaign, or when Facebook or Twitter users defend your work. There’s no joy for me in being the only person standing there saying, ‘I did this’.”
However, it is definitely not all fun and games for Khan.
“The second way I judge the work I do is by the business results – if we see the brand growing or the consumer KPIs improving. I don’t think anything else can make a brand manager happier, and I am grateful to have seen this happen quite a few times.”
One of the most successful campaigns Khan has worked on was the Olper’s Ramzan campaign featuring Fawad Khan and Abdul Sattar Edhi.
“Olper’s Ramzan campaigns have always been more than about selling milk – we have functional campaigns and activations for that. Engro believes that Pakistan is a very resilient country and that there is cause for optimism and celebration, which is why we opted for the concept of peace this year. We brought in Edhi sahib as a way of showing our appreciation for him. We were clear that we would not ask him to endorse Olper’s, because that would have been disrespectful. It was a great experience meeting him and Bilquis apa and I can guarantee that not a single rupee was exchanged.”
I notice that when he speaks about Edhi, Khan’s voice betrays a reverence for the man, betraying inherent values that place a lot of importance on respecting one’s elders. This is best explained when he adds:
“One of the sad things these days is that we don’t have elders to guide us and share their values. Those values are eroding and Edhi sahib embodies them; he symbolises the good in Pakistan.”
The statement could be dismissed as a tad clichéd were it not for the emotion and earnestness that is apparent in Khan’s voice, so that one can safely call him a genuinely ‘nice guy’.
In addition to the Ramzan campaign, Khan is proud of the work he has done for Omoré, the more so because he worked on the brand’s launch in Karachi (which involved, among other things, a carnival at Sea View and cavalcades across the city) and then managed to achieve a market share of 33% within four years for the brand.
Given his achievements in such a short period of time, it is clear that Khan is an extremely goal-oriented person.
“I don’t set goals for 10 years into the future. A lot changes over time and if you persistently hold onto a goal for 10 years and events make that goal impossible, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. My goals are short term; this allows me some degree of control. As a result, I get more happiness out of a lot more things a lot sooner.”
This ‘set a short term goal and be happy when you achieve it’ philosophy seeps into his personal life.
“If on a Saturday, I say to myself that I will play golf, then take my mum shopping, have my car washed, go to the mall with my wife and daughter and have dinner with my parents, and I actually do even 80% of all this, I am happy.”
Not surprisingly, Khan’s ‘bucket list’ (yes, he already has one despite being only 32) includes two items that have already been completed. These were “working on Olper’s and doing an Olper’s Ramzan campaign, so double ticks there.”
Pending on the list is making Olper’s milk the category leader and increasing the market share of Olper’s cream and Olper’s Lite. Despite being a workaholic, there are two non-work related items on this list; travelling to every continent in the world (preferably on holiday) and learning another language.
Given that he tends to complete his self-assigned tasks in record time, it wouldn’t be surprising if Khan ticks off the remaining items within a couple of years – or even less.
Mamun M. Adil is Manager, Business Development & Research, DAWN. firstname.lastname@example.org