The article was first published in November-December 2011.
When I called Kiran Murad, Executive Creative Director, Lowe & Rauf, to set up an interview, she warned me that she is forgetful and will need to be reminded the day before. When I called to remind her of our appointment she was nice enough to warn me that she would be a little late.
Despite the lofty title and her enormous achievements at only 35, Murad is anything but self-important (and she wasn’t even late). In fact, she is easygoing, down to earth and cheerful; when she talks it sounds like she is smiling and her conversation is often punctuated with hearty laughs and giggles.
Not only is she warm and friendly, Murad is also very successful. In fact, she belongs to the extremely fortunate minority of people who reach the pinnacle of their chosen careers at a young age. For Murad it’s not sheer good luck, nor is it only hard work, although she admits to being a workaholic who works all times of the day (and night) and all days of the week. Her success is a combination of innate creativity and imagination, her passion for writing, her perseverance and the dedication with which she pursues work, and of course, her workaholic tendencies.
The foray into advertising was part fate, part careful planning; it all started when Murad was a ninth-grade student at St. Joseph’s Convent School in Karachi. She explains:
“I kind of knew I wanted to do something in the arts from a very early age. When I was in class nine we went on field trips to different colleges and universities, and one of them was Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA)... when I saw the place I thought to myself: ‘Okay I think I need to be here, this is what I need to do.’ The atmosphere spoke to me.”
In a rather matter of fact manner Murad states that she was “always very good at art”; but she also loved writing and so studying literature was her other degree option. However, she chose to pursue a degree in Communication at IVSAA because it seemed the “perfect marriage of art and writing” – the two things she really wanted to do.
Despite graduating from IVSAA with a distinction and a coveted job offer from Asiatic, Murad admits she was a “little disappointed” that her degree didn’t involve any writing. The disappointment was further magnified on the job because she “wasn’t doing what she really wanted to.”
All she really wanted to do was write and she wanted to do it “properly”.
And this led to what, Murad thinks, was “the best decision of her life”. Quitting work, she set off for San Francisco’s Academy of Art to earn a Master’s in advertising with specialisation in copywriting in order to pursue her passion.
Equipped with a Master’s in advertising, Murad returned to Karachi almost seven years ago and joined Lowe & Rauf (L&R) as a copy/concept writer. Although her astronomical career progression is proof that she is the wonder kid of advertising, Murad recalls her early days at L&R when her creativity was plagued by language limitations.
“My problem was basically Urdu; I grew up in a household where we spoke a mixture of Kutchi, Urdu and English, and so my Urdu was never very good... to start thinking in Urdu was my biggest challenge. I used to write in English and have it translated by the Urdu copywriter but it was never what I wanted or what I meant.”
Adamant to communicate with audiences on a human level, determined not to sound too “ady” and not one to sit around and wait for things to happen, once again Murad rose to the challenge of “finding her own voice” – in Urdu.
An intense Urdu training session began under the watchful eyes and proper pronunciations of her bosses. The regimen included speaking in ‘proper’ Urdu; reading shairee, and also gleaning helpful tips about sentence construction and vocabulary from song lyrics (at this point she confesses to being a ‘Kishore Kumar buff’). With good natured triumph, Murad exclaims that her Urdu has “improved drastically” and that she even writes her own jingles now.
Apart from having the advertising X factor, it is Murad’s ‘can do’ attitude that has helped her achieve so much at such a young age:
“I have been disappointed but I persevere... I am a glass half full type of person,” she says brightly.
The infectious optimism and happiness she exudes (she says with childish candour that if she were to be an emotion it would be bliss) are the result of growing up in a large. colourful, multicultural family (her parents hail from different communities) that has instilled a love of life and developed many and varied interests – all of which she uses as fodder for her work.
Murad’s pleasantly unpretentious personality is no doubt the result of growing up with a house full of brothers, while she credits her love for music to Puppa (her grandfather), whose classical music collection she grew up listening to. Writing and storytelling, she explains was a favourite pastime in her family; in fact Mumma (her grandmother) who is a big influence in her life – not only narrated stories but also wrote in Gujarati and encouraged her grandchildren to make up their own stories.
Being a voracious reader who candidly and without embarrassment admits to enjoying romance novels along with a host of other genres (currently she is hooked to Game of Thrones), Murad explains that reading helps her collect different “voices” which in turn help her better communicate through her ads and “talk” to audiences.
Talking is not a problem for Murad; she is easy to talk to, she is open and forthcoming with information about herself and ever the storyteller, she is an animated talker. In fact she likes talking to people. In a gleeful tone of voice and with a pleased giggle she says, “There is something on my face that invites random people to say the weirdest things to me.”
Being an open and straightforward person, Murad admits that is it gratifying to be successful at a young age. However, this success has “put her in a conundrum”.
“When you achieve too much at an early age it’s not good for your future; where do I go from here?” she wonders out aloud.
She is certain that at this point in time she would not like to make a regional/foreign move, as she wants to be with her family.
Not one to leave loose ends, Murad has an contingency plan for when and if she quits the ad world – she loves cooking (it helps her relax) and wants to go to culinary school, become a chef and then you guessed it – write a cookbook!
For the time being though Murad is not quite done with advertising, at least not until she creates an international award-winning campaign.