Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2017

A passion for brands

Junaid Aziz, Brand Consultant, in profile.
Photo credit: Malika Abbas/White Star
Photo credit: Malika Abbas/White Star

Junaid Aziz steps into our office (in confident gait).

My first observation upon setting eyes on him (before I even ask him his name) was that this guy loves designer brands; the Gucci belt and flip-flops and a Mulberry work bag on his shoulder are very conspicuous. Second observation: he not only loves wearing designer products, he loves flaunting them too. My observation is verified minutes later, as he launches into a discussion with my colleague about Louis Vuitton.

The next morning, I interview him (officially). This time, he appears even dandier, in a tailored suit (jacket hung over his shoulder), a polo neck and aviator-shaped spectacles. Five minutes into our conversation, I learn that he is the person responsible for setting up the MeatOne brand in Pakistan and introducing the concept of meat boutiques. Furthermore, in a span of 16 to 17 years, he has worked with a number of prestigious global, luxury brands as brand manager, including F.P. Journe, Mont Blanc, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin. Fascinated, and keen to know more, I start from the beginning...

The 37-year-old Aziz is the youngest of three siblings (he has two elder sisters). A proud former student of B.V.S. Parsi High School, he remembers the school’s majestic grounds and beautifully-designed halls.

As a child, he describes himself as not particularly destructive, but “sufficiently naughty.” Although he did nothing really noteworthy in terms of academics at school, sports was something he was always interested in, particularly cricket. His other passion was ‘watches’. His father was fond of them and frequently discussed with him the different aspects of a watch and how much artistry is involved in making it work. “The watch, I learned, was the best combination of technology and art and I started admiring it as a piece of beauty.”


At Oxford he thought of doing a PhD in brand management. Oxford had just set up a business school. The dean, on learning of Aziz’s ambition, commented: “Doing your PhD in brand management from Oxford would be like buying an SUV from Ferrari. Given that it has the name Ferrari, it’s not going to be a bad car but... it’s not the best of their cars. Would you still buy it?”


With this love intact and done with his A’ Levels, Aziz went to the IBA – surprising his parents, given that studies were not his strength. He majored in marketing with a keen interest in strategy thanks to “one of the best strategy teachers” – Dr Mehnaz Fatima – a major influence and whom he fondly remembers. At the IBA, he had a chance to work with Asim Raza, the film and TV commercial director on one of his projects. Raza offered to teach him his trade and although he knew Raza to be a “true artist”, he declined. “It was a tough decision.”

He had other plans.

He loved brands and wanted to pursue brand management, but the only brands that existed at that time were oil, tea and soaps, “and I knew I wouldn’t be great at selling sabun.” Moreover, he adds, what he had read in books was not implemented. The regular employment options he saw were FMCGs and he found nothing inspirational there. What he wanted to explore was luxury brands.

Confused, he decided to take a year off and go to Oxford. He had not played cricket for four years (a promise he made to his father who asked him to finish his studies first). “A magical place to play cricket; 39 colleges and most of them have their own cricket ground and so many clubs.”

At Oxford he thought of doing a PhD in brand management. Oxford had just set up a business school. The dean, on learning of Aziz’s ambition, commented: “Doing your PhD in brand management from Oxford would be like buying an SUV from Ferrari. Given that it has the name Ferrari, it’s not going to be a bad car but... it’s not the best of their cars. Would you still buy it?”

Instead, he suggested two business schools more suited to his field of choice; one in Paris and the other in Milan. The suggestion came with a disclaimer that there was a one in a million chance that they would take him. Aziz applied and to his surprise, the Richmond Creative Academy in Milan wrote back to him. “They replied purely on shock value... Pakistan? Luxury brands? There is something not right here.”

Nevertheless, they agreed to meet him. As Aziz did not have a Schengen visa, they arranged a video conference at their corporate office at Knightsbridge. He was selected and what followed was a Master’s in conjunction with the Richmond Group, which owns about 17 brands in the luxury industry. The focus of the programme was to bring about an understanding between the marketing, communication and the design functions of companies.

The best part of the school was that all the CEOs (17 of them, including Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaeger-LeCoultre, A. Lange & Söhne and Piaget) took a week out of their schedule to come and lecture... and so says Aziz, he learned from the ‘crème de la crème’. “When those 17 CEOs tell you how to build a brand, you are spoiled for life.”

What followed was an internship with Vacheron Constantin in Geneva. Although an intern, Aziz was part of all the decision-making processes. “The input required from me was the same required from anyone else... that is how they build a culture.”

His internship came to a sudden halt when his mother had a stroke. He came back to Pakistan and decided to stay with her. Then came the challenge of finding work and since he could not find an aspirational brand to work for, his friends suggested he work for an individual. He made a list of three people; Hameed Haroon taking the number one slot (he didn’t name the other two).

“And so I met him.”

“So you came to the office and just met him; was it that easy?” I ask.

“No, obviously not... of course I had to go through the usual gatekeepers; I had to say intelligent things to gain access.”

“Hameed sahab told me to go through the legacy of DAWN and see how my understanding and experience of brands would work in that context.” He was hired as Manager Brand Management and Communications.


Knowing the huge part stories play in brand-building, he asks me to read The Story of Marcel La Roux; a story he has created for Marcel. I ask him if the Boulangerie de Joie is real. “Well, it could be. I don’t know.”


It was through Haroon’s connections that Rolex, which was launching in Pakistan, approached Aziz to hire him as Brand and Retail Manager.

At Rolex, Aziz focused on building the brand’s positioning and educating Geneva about the Pakistani market, its segments and how it worked. He also established the first Rolex boutique in Lahore.

His wedding followed next and he relocated to the US and was hired by Mont Blanc as a watch specialist. A year later, he left to pursue a Master’s degree in Globalisation from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a year with F.P. Journe.

In his opinion, the brand world has vastly changed. In the 2000s, the brain capital was employed by the luxury brands; today, the more discerning minds are working for start-ups or are entrepreneurs themselves. This explains his current focus as a consultant to entrepreneurial ideas.

He is working on two projects in Pakistan. One is for Al-Shaheer Foods (MeatOne); they are launching ChefOne, a frozen food category brand (ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat). Having launched MeatOne, Aziz is now leading the strategy and brand-building part of the effort.

He is also the co-Founder of the recently launched bread boutique called Marcel's. “We want to offer Pakistanis a very authentic, French baked goods experience. Why is it so hard for a 22-year-old student to pick up a croissant and coffee on his way to university and why did no one come up with this idea before? We want to create something that is massively beyond what people expect.”

Knowing the huge part stories play in brand-building, he asks me to read The Story of Marcel La Roux; a story he has created for Marcel. I ask him if the Boulangerie de Joie is real. “Well, it could be. I don’t know.”

He asks me if I have read Terry Prachett. “In his Discworld series, almost everything exists, even dragons. But they only exist if you believe in them.”

Dragons or not, it is back to food for Aziz. As for watches, “I love them and will retain my romance with them forever.”