Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

All in a day’s – and night’s – work

Published in May-Jun 2015

A day in the life of Jawwad Jafri, CEO, JVentures and Flashcall.

It’s the last day of the week.

I leave home at about 7:45 a.m. to drop my wife at the Civil Hospital where she is training to be a dermatologist.

I don’t love getting up this early, but this early morning drive with her is something I try not to miss. I reach office at 8:50 a.m. well before my colleagues, not because I love being the first one at work, but because it would be extremely uneconomical to go back home. I turn on my laptop and dive right into my emails, before the hullabaloo of the day starts. The next two hours set the tone for the day. The pitches, executions, ideas and challenges for the team. I plan everything within these two hours before the team shows up at about 11:00 a.m.

Working with fragile egos

Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to choose my team. It is hard for me to bring someone onboard unless I see a passion and drive for digital media in them. This often means working with people who are extremely talented, yet not set in the ways of corporate culture.

I hate to be the one to clip their wings, so my strategy is to let them set their own rules. This means that when you want to have something done your way, you tell them that the audience is far too immature for their brilliant idea or that the client is too stubborn to think out of the box. JVentures recently launched the world’s first cricket lockscreen app. The idea was simple. We wanted to cash in on this year’s ICC Cricket World Cup excitement, where nothing other than the live score matters to audiences during a match. We had to break through the clutter and compete with giants. We saw a huge opportunity in lockscreens, as it is the prime real estate on a user’s phone and the idea just kept growing on us. We thought about how we could be half asleep, yet check the scores, be in a meeting, yet glance at our lockscreen without offending others. We launched Cricly before the World Cup and the response has been tremendous. The entire team is excited about it and we are adding new features every day. Cricly was featured in Tech in Asia – Asia’s top technology blog and on their top startups from Asia. Today we will spend a major part of the first half reading the reviews about the app, checking the number of downloads and, without damaging any egos, find the best way to add more value to Cricly.

Local versus international clients

The second half of the day starts with calls to, and appointments with, clients. Approximately 40% of the day is spent talking to clients both local and international. The level of understanding and professionalism that comes from our international clients is a blessing that has kept our company afloat until now. The digital projects we have worked on internationally include Greet.Play.Love – a social network in Canada, and PayActiv – a financial startup in the US. In both the cases, digital was at the core of the client’s strategy. The difference with local clients is that most of them view digital as an add- on. They never share how they benefit from our strategies in terms of the bottom line and this makes it not only less interesting but less rewarding for everyone involved.

We pitched to a local mobile brand this week and they are extremely open to ideas right now. This has broken some stereotypes, but we still have our fingers crossed. I also received a call from a global giant interested in exploring Flashcall, the missed call startup I head. The idea of Flashcall is simple. We enable consumers to engage with brands through a simple missed call to the brand’s number. Brands use the missed calls to acquire new subscribers and consumer feedback or start a conversation. The concept has been a huge success in India where Twitter has decided to acquire the company.

Getting away from work

Although you cannot survive in a startup unless you are absolutely passionate about it, sometimes you need a break. This usually comes in the shape of random dates with my wife. One of the luxuries of working for yourself is that unless you are totally caught up in client meetings, you can close your laptop and head out for a break. I have realised that these breaks are not only necessary but extremely productive as they energise one to get back to work. The other getaway that leaves me in high spirits is a get together with school friends. The friends I made in school are my friends for life. There is no faking, no hypocrisy and no judgements. It’s such a relief to be in the company of people where everyone is comfortable to be themselves. During work, when energies are running low I reenergise myself with music. My tastes are mature for someone my age. I grew up listening to qawwalis by Aziz Mian, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sabri brothers. To this day I rejuvenate myself listening to these maestros.

Cricket craze

Our conversations these days are about cricket only. Be they clients or colleagues, we just can’t get enough of it. The day is spent sharing cricket videos, records, making cricket memes and laughing our heads off on cricketing videos. After our overdosing on cricket all day, it is a huge relief to head home as my wife is not a cricket fan. Being in a digital world means that when I reach home work is not over. I have to constantly check on online campaigns, take calls from clients at odd hours (because hey I am the agency) and to top it all, my work day with my international clients has just started. Time to dress down and get in work from home mode.

Jawwad Jafri is CEO, JVentures and Flashcall.