What It Really Means To Be ‘Made in Pakistan’
'Made in Pakistan’ is an age-old catchphrase that marketers have long used to play on consumers’ nationalistic heartstrings. It is a powerhouse slogan when attached to any brand or campaign, instantly rallying patronage by echoing shared sentiments of pride and belonging. It is a stamp of national approval, a summation of our country’s resources, efforts and expertise, all coming together to produce something greater than the sum of its parts. However, today, it seems as though any local brand, big or small, credible or otherwise, is free to toss this slogan around just by virtue of being Pakistani. As a result, this slogan is slowly losing its true essence. Marketers and brands need to understand that ‘Made in Pakistan’ is a claim that goes far beyond where brands are rooted or products are produced. It is a claim that even local brands must earn by operating in a manner that is ethical, sustainable and focused on feeding back into our country’s growth and prosperity.
Local Innovation Over Imports
Let’s start with the obvious: local brands that rely heavily on imports versus brands that produce everything from scratch. You will be surprised how many local brands sell mostly imported products, yet boast about being ‘Made in Pakistan’ (sigh). It is a classic example of how some of these brands have lost the plot entirely. Compare this with brands that source, develop, produce and assemble most (or all) of their products in-house or indigenise foreign manufacturing processes to produce local alternatives. Customers benefit because they get the option of original, high-quality local alternatives made to their requirements most importantly competitively priced as per local market standards. In the bigger picture, the entire country benefits. Firstly, local production creates local employment opportunities, as well as valuable skills training and development for workers. Secondly, it supports surrounding local businesses and industries that also become part of the supply chain process. Thirdly, it stimulates the overall economy and encourages healthy competition in the market, leading to the creation of more, newer and superior-quality local products.
Economic Support Through Tax
Like any responsible citizen living in Pakistan, one of the basic civic responsibilities of any company is to support the economy by paying taxes. According to an official report in 2021, Pakistan loses out on approximately Rs 310 billion every year due to corporate tax evasion and illicit trade; that too from only a handful of sectors (tea, tobacco, tyre manufacturers, automobile lubricants, pharmaceuticals and real estate being the top six). For context, this amount alone could go towards quadrupling Pakistan’s education budget and increasing social welfare programmes by up to 60%. The sad irony is that by evading taxes, many of these local companies are pushing the country towards economic stagnation and contributing to the very inflation that comes back to bite their businesses (as well as everyone else’s). Bottom line: you can be a true-blooded Pakistani company producing products locally, but if you are not fulfilling your basic duty by paying your taxes and supporting your country, you don’t deserve to wave the ‘Made in Pakistan’ flag. Don’t even get me started about all the local brands that are built on ‘black’ foundations that claim to be contributing to a brighter Pakistan.
Responsible and Sustainable Practices
In addition to economically supporting the nation, brands that wish to don the title of ‘Made in Pakistan’ must operate with the country’s long-term prosperity in mind. This means favouring practices that actively conserve national resources while minimising pollution and damage to the environment. Such practices include responsible sourcing and replenishment of raw materials, efficient recycling and waste disposal, increased reliance on renewable energy generation and regular CSR initiatives. Many local brands have come up with some creative ideas, such as launching products made from recycled materials, biodegradable bags and packaging, and distributing seed packets to customers, proving how even seemingly small efforts can contribute to positive environmental change. Others are actively involved with NGOs or certified by global bodies to ensure that their operations are in line with international environmental practices. Although some of these approaches can cost companies more with little direct return on their businesses, brands that carry the ‘Made in Pakistan’ torch must always keep the greater good of Pakistan’s people, communities and environment at the forefront of their moral compasses.
Support in Times of Crisis
Pakistan is no stranger to natural disasters and such events have often revealed which brands are ready to put their marketing agendas aside to come to the aid of the nation. The recent monsoon flooding in 2022 is a particularly poignant example since almost all brands were already struggling with the rising dollar rate and skyrocketing costs of doing business. Despite this, many of these brands selflessly paused or postponed their ongoing campaigns to focus on flood relief. Some responded by donating unprecedented amounts in terms of funding and supplies (over one billion rupees in some cases), while smaller setups such as local bakeries, jewellers, furniture and cosmetic brands pledged a percentage of the proceeds from their overall sales towards flood victims. Even before the floods had struck, some local brands had already taken to social media earlier this year to announce that they would not be increasing their prices despite the ongoing inflation, finding ways to reduce their costs and cater to their customers. Although difficult times affect us all, they are vital opportunities for brands to step up and do the right thing, proving their dedication to the country. Compare these efforts to those of a few local brands that remain silent during such times or hike up their prices to capitalise on an ongoing situation.
If companies and brands focus on the true essence of this claim, there is no reason why ‘Made in Pakistan’ cannot become a global tagline. As a nation, we already export billions of dollars worth of raw materials and products around the world, many of which have gained international acclaim. We produce over 750,000 soccer balls a month for brands such as Adidas that are slated to be used in the next FIFA World Cup. Our textiles are used in mega fashion brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Nike, Quicksilver, Gap, Old Navy and more. Our local VFX teams are responsible for the motion graphics in Hollywood blockbuster movies. But again, it is not just about our talent and ability to produce and deliver. It is about doing it in a way that elevates Pakistan and gives meaning to this iconic claim. It is about empowering our people and supporting our businesses, industries and economy, especially in their time of need. It is about supporting Pakistan, building a positive image of our country and giving us all something that we can be proud of as a nation. That is what being a Pakistani brand or company is all about. That’s what it means to be ‘Made in Pakistan’.
Taimur Tajik is Creative Head, Interwood.
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