Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

A passion to publish

Published in Mar-Apr 2017

Tauqeer Muhajir, CEO, Millennium Media in profile.

I am not sure whether or not Tauqeer Muhajir has read Marsha Sinetar’s Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood. What I am sure of, however, is that he could well be termed as someone who subscribes to Sinetar’s point of view, given that he has clearly found a way to successfully combine his interests – or “passions” (which include finance, art, travel, sport – and Pakistan) with his work life in the form of the magazines that his company, Millennium Media, publishes (he is also the editor of these magazines): Money, Nigaah and Travel & Aviation, as well as several books on sport, art and “the unsung heroes” of Pakistan.

His interest in finance is evident from the fact that he graduated from Punjab University with a Bachelor’s degree in commerce, after which he enrolled in the Executive Programme in Business Administration at Columbia University. Muhajir then moved to Karachi, where he joined Wings Communications, an advertising agency as an account executive, looking after several brands, including Gul Ahmed, Pepsi Cola and Morven Tobacco. The earlier part of his career also included two stints at DAWN; the first as Head of the Special Reports department, and later as General Manager Marketing; in between he also worked at Gulf News and Khaleej Times; at the former, he eventually headed operations in Abu Dhabi as Regional Manager; at the latter, he worked as Head of Supplements and Special Reports.

Despite working at well-known and established organisations in the earlier part of his career, in 1993, Muhajir’s entrepreneurial spirit caused him to break free and co-found the Financial Post.

“Publishing always fascinated me; it has various facets and it isn’t restrictive; [by establishing Financial Post] I got involved with editorial content and product development.”

Although the paper did well and made an impact in the market (“we were able to make a small operational profit,” he recalls), the partnership “went bad”, following which the partners went their different ways. Muhajir then set up Millennium Media in 1998. Since then, the company has moved from strength to strength under Muhajir’s leadership.

“I am very proud of the fact that some of my magazines, such as Fashion Collection, have been around for more than a decade,” he says. In addition to magazines, the company also publishes books.

A recent book is called 20 Pakistanis to be Proud of, and includes profiles of prominent Pakistanis ranging from the Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah to Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sadequain and Malala Yousufzai.

“It may sound like a cliché, but I want to project Pakistan in a positive light; there is a lot of negativity associated with our country, and our media has not done justice to our heroes; there is no consistent information about them. I could have highlighted 200 heroes, but that wasn’t economically viable...”

The response to the book has been promising, and it has sold especially well at airports, clearly garnering interest among expatriate Pakistanis. Perhaps seeing this potential, one of Muhajir’s next projects is a book called 20 Pakistani Americans to be Proud of.

Given the worldwide decline of the print media, I ask him whether or not being in the publishing business is profitable enough to pursue; his response is a simple one, yet one that exudes confidence.

“The print media has survived and is sustained in South Asia; I think South Asian markets are different, there is no doubt in my mind that digital will play an important role, but print is here to stay.”

He backs this thought by adding:

“Television channels advertise in print... having been in the market for 30 years or so, my experience tells me a good product will make its own place in the market.”

Although Muhajir’s demeanour is affable, there is something in his words that betrays a sense of someone who values his independence, and this comes through in the course of our conversation. When I ask him whether he could have made a more financially rewarding career by being a part of a larger organisation, he points out that entrepreneurship is important to him, as this “freedom” allows him to work within a “broader canvas”.

It’s an interesting choice of words, given that he is passionate about art. “Pakistan has some brilliant artists, they have been under acknowledged and underappreciated globally, but I think Pakistani art can compete with the rest of the world.”

When I ask him how he can be passionate about two such seemingly different areas – business and art – he is able to draw an interesting connection between the two.

“Art is actually patronised by a lot of corporates, and art would not be where it is without corporate support all over the world; arts and culture are integral to societal growth.”

Muhajir is keen to establish art as an alternate investment option in Pakistan, and instil the idea that art can be a prime investment, and that it is “good to hang your money [in the form of art] on walls rather than keeping it in the bank.”

“Art is actually patronised by a lot of corporates, and art would not be where it is without corporate support all over the world; arts and culture are integral to societal growth.”

He is equally enthusiastic about creating awareness about artists among young people; he recalls a time when he gave a talk at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, and was horrified when he realised that many of the students there had not heard the names of many leading Pakistani artists. To increase the appreciation of art he has, in addition to publishing Nigaah, worked on a book called 20 Pakistani Painters You Should Know which documents the work and lives of a wide range of Pakistani artists.

Despite his varied interests (he has from time to time, hosted television shows that centre on business), Muhajir is a firm believer in achieving a work-life balance. He says that his offices close promptly at 5:30 p.m., which he attributes to his team “working smart”, and this gives him time to spend with his family, and pursue yet another set of interests, which include “sports, pets, watches and going to the gym.” He reveals that he used to play table tennis “at a national level” and currently serves as the secretary of the Karachi Table Tennis Association, “an honorary post.” He is trying to revive interest in the sport.

He is quick to mention that when he says that he is passionate about the arts, this passion is not limited to visual arts, but includes performing arts, as well as film. It is not surprising therefore to hear that he hopes to produce and direct a film. And given the enthusiasm that is apparent in his voice as he expresses his dream to become a filmmaker, it is likely that he will realise this one too.