In Pakistan, like in every other country, every field or industry has its own shining stars who have redefined, revolutionised and transformed their respective areas of interest. For the world of marketing and business management, there have been many who have left their mark, but perhaps none like Khalid Alvi - as a marketer or educationist, chances are that you are a member of the online group he created with fellow enthusiasts, KAMN, or you may have come across and loved many of the memorable campaigns he created in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Alvi started his professional career in 1991 after graduating from IBA with an MBA degree in marketing and finance and in the course of 30 years he has played a pivotal role in the success of many FMCG giants such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Unilever. Currently he is the CEO of Etika Holdings, the second largest beverage manufacturer and bottler in Malaysia. For his dynamic leadership at Etika Holdings, Alvi was recently awarded the prestigious ACES award in the category of outstanding leaders in Asia, making him the first Pakistani individual to win the award.
SHAHZEB HASAN: What is the background of the ACES awards as well as the criteria for the Outstanding Leader Award and how one is nominated for it?
KHALID ALVI: The ACES Awards are presented by the MORS Group, an Asian research company which has for mission to bring together companies, corporate leaders and captains of industry and share a platform where they can exhibit leadership and sustainability excellence, learn from market experts across the world, engage stakeholders and employees in valuable ways and embrace a culture of progressive learning. The Award and selection criteria are inspired by ‘Chiron the Centaur’ a character from Greek mythology. He was tutor and advisor to Greek heroes such as Achilles and Hercules. He was a master strategist, philosopher and lover of the arts and the Award is presented to individuals said to encompass these attributes. They need to be established high achievers across multiple territories, display strong leadership, be the architects of corporate governance and sustainability, serve as an inspiration to the younger generation and want to change the world around them, and who through their efforts have made a difference.
SH: How do you feel about receiving this honour, among the many other milestones you have achieved?
KA: I am very happy being the first Pakistani individual to be awarded among all other Asian nominees. It was a proud moment to be nominated and recognised as a Pakistani, beyond my own personal identity as Khalid Alvi.
SH: In your opinion, what makes your work ethic and leadership style stand out?
KA: Four things have defined my leadership style. Firstly, knowing that participative thinking and collective wisdom are far more important than an individual. I have always believed in hiring people better than me in their respective fields and then creating a culture and environment to help them work together. Secondly, I have never compromised on my personal values. Thirdly, applying transparency by putting everything on the table and fourthly details; the real needle movement happens when we delve into the finer details rather than looking at things from a holistic level.
SH: How do you and Etika Holdings differ from the other players in the region in terms of the creative process you go through?
KA: Quite different. Etika is a magical combination of the American and Japanese culture of doing business; a balance between the Pepsi inspired aggressiveness and level of control and the constant improvement taught in the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen. It has helped transform us into the best of both worlds, making us fast paced, nimble and allowing us to take more risks and getting it right the first time.
SH: Among the other nominees, is there anyone whose work you admire or are inspired by?
KA: There are many who are inspirational, and I study and learn from them. These are people who do not like the status quo and want to make a difference. One of the biggest hurdles leaders face is being comfortable and that is what differentiates leaders such as Lee Iacocca, Jack Ma, Elon Musk and Jack Welch.
SH: Which campaign or project are you most proud of to date and why?
KA: There are many I am proud of and several I would consider failures as they did not end up doing what they were designed to do. Some of the ones I am proudest of are those done during my time at Pepsi, such as Pepsi Battle of the Bands, Pepsi Cricket Clinic and the launch of Mountain Dew. These campaigns not only helped the business, they helped develop the music and sports industry in the country.
SH: What are you aiming for next?
KA: I want my kids to make a smooth transition into adulthood. Our world had more opportunities, today things are much tougher and I want to give them the confidence to make a difference. I want to continue to be active until my body allows me to do so and I want to do something for Pakistan and make it a better place. For me, it is no longer about personal achievements but the pursuit of what I can achieve beyond that.
Shahzeb Hasan is a marketing and brand professional from IBA and LUMS and has over seven years of experience working in brand and product management.,