Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Mar-Apr 2014

The world is flat

A day in the life of Fawaad Saleem, Chief Strategic Officer, Digital Tribe and Director-Pakistan Chapter, Startup Grind

“Goods are traded, but services are consumed and produced in the same place. And you cannot export a haircut. But we are coming close to exporting a haircut, the appointment part. What kind of haircut do you want? Which barber do you want? All those things can and will be done by a call centre far away.” – Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.

As Thomas L. Friedman says, the world is flat. It is becoming more connected and more open in terms of sharing people, processes and technology. We live in a world which has the same level playing field and where everything is not necessarily controlled from top down. This gives everyone the same platforms and skill set to learn and excel.

This takes me back to early 2010 when I decided to give up a high flying corporate FMCG marketing job to start something of my own. Boot strapping my way from setting up my startup without office space or permanent resources. It was my BlackBerry and I working out of my bedroom.

Fast forward four years, and every morning the same thought about how connected the world has become inspires me. Gone are the days when your market was just your mohalla. Someone out there wants something that you have. Be it a product or a service. You just need to connect!

The reason I opted to move out of the corporate world and into a more dynamic environment was so that I could work in my own time. Now I feel that there aren’t enough hours in the clock.

The day kicks off with checking emails and making sure that the world did not fall apart while I was sleeping. With a sigh of relief I move to my office to plan the day. Life has become so simple with apps like Basecamp (which helps me stay on top of our project), Evernote (which shares all the ideas flowing between the team) and Dropbox (which has made file sharing so easy). As I plan my day I drop my kids to school, making the most of the quality time with them, which I completely miss out during the rest of the day.

Monday morning starts with a review of the week ahead. Status reports, content calendars, advertising spend analysis and weekly key tasks are all set, reviewed and shared with the client. I then let the team take care of everything.

By the time everything is ready to rock and roll it’s time for lunch. We have lunch on the house and it is the one thing everyone looks forward to. My lunches are mostly on the go. I grab a bite or two and then head to a meeting on the other side of the bridge.

When I am back at the office I move into my role of meeting potential new global partners and clients. It is critical that we keep our networking strong and our relationships warm with our clients. We value principles such as helping others before helping ourselves. They need to feel the warmth. It is also important that our relationship with our global clients have a human feel to it, which at times can be taken for granted with technology. The best moment of any day is when clients give great feedback on something we have done. It gives us confidence about what we do and makes everything worthwhile.

The worst moment on any given day is the internet going down, even if it is for a minute. It puts you in an awkward position during important Skype calls. It reminds me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into which the internet now fits perfectly.

My reading is limited to what is happening in the tech industry and the global digital space. Throughout the day my Facebook newsfeed contains articles from Inc, Business Insider, Mashable and TechCrunch, to name a few. It helps me keep updated with technological innovation and keep up with changes in the platforms we use.

One of the things I love about our industry is that it is ever changing. We have literally gone back to the drawing board time after time just to keep pace with technological changes and the dynamics of the platforms we use. It would not be wrong to say that the only constant is change itself.

Reading about great stories from the global community made me opt for a role as a chapter director for Startup Grind Pakistan. This is where I look for the best local entrepreneurs and get them for a ‘fireside’ chat every month. They are a true inspiration of how one can, with so little, create something extraordinary. Passion drives everything!

I simply look for a great story. I have interviewed founders of tech companies like Salim Ghauri of NetSol, Yasin Paracha of Team A Ventures and Adnan Yousuf of SattarBuksh to name a few. Every story has something to take back.

It is late evening and my day seems to be just starting; with client feedback coming in from the East Coast I reenergise myself with a cup of desi chai to get through another couple of hours.

After several texts and calls from ‘headquarters’ I decide to head home. I look out of the window of my car and see Shahrah-e-Faisal packed with people from all corners of Karachi who have a great story to share about how their lives have been touched by technology.

In the world we live in today we need to continually reboot ourselves. We need to ask whether whatever we do is sustainable. Can we do this more efficiently? Better? Bigger? It is also critical to reassess the skill set we have, because with changes in technology we will need to adapt, embrace and acquire multiple skill sets to survive.

Fawaad Saleem is Chief Strategic Officer, Digital Tribe and Director-Pakistan Chapter, Startup Grind. fawaad@digitaltribe.co