Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Bringing on the marketing wizardry

Published in Nov-Dec 2017
How entrepreneurship is paving the way for innovations in marketing?

The familiar tune of ‘Ae Khuda Meray Abbu Salamat Rahain’ caught my attention. Someone was watching a compilation of old PTV ads on YouTube. As the next tune, ‘Piyaray Bacho Kiwi Kia Hai’ started, there was a sudden interruption and a paid ad for an airline started running. I thought to myself: “YouTube is not free anymore and intelligent enough to know we are planning a holiday, because I have been searching the internet for cheap flights.”

In today’s world of Western technical dominance, trends mostly flow from West to East and one such (relatively recent) trend is entrepreneurship. In Pakistan, entrepreneurship and marketing seem to enjoy a mutually-beneficial relationship. This can be observed in at least three different ways.

Firstly, the global focus of entrepreneurship on digital technologies has provided an edge to young Pakistanis who have the knack to productively use ICT-based marketing tools. Secondly, the inherently innovative nature of entrepreneurship provides the impetus for unique and novel ways of marketing. Thirdly, the entry of foreign companies into Pakistan, as a result of an improved and entrepreneurial economy, is introducing local businesses to creative ways of marketing themselves. The evidence proves the complementary role of entrepreneurship and the interplay of these three factors in the development of Pakistani marketing trends.

The rise of social media has provided efficient and cost- effective tools to communicate marketing messages very precisely to the right audience. The ‘Digital Citizenship in Pakistan’ 2015 report, commissioned by the British Council, states that the launch of 3G and 4G services in July 2014 significantly changed the internet landscape in Pakistan. The number of internet users skyrocketed from 3.8 to 16.9 million within one year. According to current estimates by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), this figure has doubled in the last two years, with PTA hosting more than 42 million 3G and 4G subscribers. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that the introduction of 5G will bring further rapid changes in the user base, thus providing more support and leverage to digital entrepreneurship and online advertising.


Aliyan Mughal, from Pakistan is one of the top digital marketing and SEO experts at WordPress – one of the most frequently used online tool to develop websites. His work is so perfect that the 20,175 reviews he has received so far on WordPress have all given him five stars. Mughal is a typical example of the outcomes the evolving digital marketing industry will bring.


For young Pakistanis, this development promises a wealth of opportunities to not only benefit themselves, but will also provide valuable digital marketing expertise to local businesses. This is because a strong internet infrastructure, coupled with the easy-to-learn marketing tools of Facebook and Google, will bring about the transformation of many college dropouts and ‘failed’ individuals (as traditionally defined and understood) into successful entrepreneurs.

One example is Aliyan Mughal. This young Pakistani is one of the top digital marketing and SEO experts at WordPress – one of the most frequently used online tool to develop websites. His work is so perfect that the 20,175 reviews he has received so far on WordPress have all given him five stars. Mughal is a typical example of the outcomes the evolving digital marketing industry will bring. Another example is Abdulwali Pareshan of onlineustaad.com. Pareshan, hailing from Bajaur but living in Karachi, was computer illiterate when he started learning about online marketing tools in 2007. He overcame the language barrier by learning English along with online marketing wizardry. Currently, he is an SEO and Google AdSense expert and is on a mission of spreading his knowledge, both in Urdu and English to other people like him.

Businesses have always existed, but an innovative business model is what differentiates an entrepreneurial venture from a normal business. This insatiable endeavour of entrepreneurs to churn out new ways of entering and staying in the market has also served as a catalyst in accelerating the evolution of the marketing industry. However, discussions on modern advertising normally tend towards proving the ubiquity of digital marketing and, more specifically, social media marketing.

Although modern entrepreneurship and digital marketing appear to be mutually inclusive and inseparable, there are examples where young Pakistani minds have come up with creative ideas for non-digital marketing as well.

An interesting example here is dabbaywalay.com. On the face of it, it is an ordinary home delivery service that categorises packed items separately for men, women and kids. The business model, however, is much cleverer. Dabbaywalay uses a cubical box to pack and deliver ordered goods, hence its name. Since a cube has six faces, this start-up aims to use at least four of these sides for target marketing purposes. Thus, if men’s toiletries are ordered, the sides of the box will contain ads relevant to the age group of men who normally buy these toiletries. The same goes for women and kids, or their mothers.

Another entrepreneurial example of non-digital marketing is that of a start-up that is working on a solution to enable rickshaws to carry electronically-adorned displays while moving around Karachi. The driver will benefit from extra income while the advertisers, who deem it appropriate to use this middle-class transportation medium for their promotion, will be able to send their message across the city. A tracker installed in the rickshaw will ensure that it covers the areas where the target audience live. The March 2016 ban by the Supreme Court on billboards in Karachi has also given rise to another form of advertising. Moving vehicles, mostly Hiaces, now carry printed promotional material and new start-ups are jumping in to provide these services. So far, the main beneficiaries of this form of advertising have been the news channels.


Alibaba is set to start operations in Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, despite all the scepticism surrounding it, promises the introduction of Chinese entrants in Pakistani markets. These developments will definitely have an effect on the local entrepreneurship landscape, resulting in a more advanced domestic advertisement industry.


The entry of multinational companies has also brought innovation. The guerrilla marketing tactic by Reckitt Benckiser of installing mosquito-killing billboards is one example. Another one was in 1994, when a small company named Technical Lubricants made a deal with British Petroleum (BP). After testing the market, BP decided on a full-scale launch. This entry of an international market player in the previously heavily-regulated oil industry in Pakistan brought with it some innovations. Plastic packaging for lube oil was introduced for the first time and as part of this aggressive expansion, digitally- printed billboards were installed at prominent locations of the city. This became the starting of the gradual phasing out of painted billboards. BP closed down operations in Pakistan after 9/11, but its legacy stayed.

Alibaba is set to start operations in Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, despite all the scepticism surrounding it, promises the introduction of Chinese entrants in Pakistani markets. These developments will definitely have an effect on the local entrepreneurship landscape, resulting in a more advanced domestic advertisement industry.

Entrepreneurship has proven itself as a breeding ground for innovation and progress in Pakistan and the marketing industry has been one of the major beneficiaries of this development. The future promises a much faster and more complex evolution. It is up to the shrewd-minded to make use of this golden opportunity while benefiting the businesses by providing more effective channels to reach their customers.

Dr Najam A. Anjum is Assistant Professor, School of Management and Programme Lead Entrepreneurship for Engineers at the IBA. naanjum@iba.edu.pk