Published in May-Jun 2022
We knew from the beginning that we didn’t want our venture to be called ‘Amtul and Fahad,’” says social media influencer Fahad Tariq Khan, one half of the husband-wife team known as Patangeer. Anticipating the next question, Fahad’s life and business partner, Amtul Baweja quips “and you do know that ‘Patangeer’ is not a real Urdu word, right? We coined the term and people still think it is a real word in Urdu.”
This does not suggest that they haven’t attributed a meaning to this ‘word’ – for them it means ‘wandering kites’ and which perfectly encapsulates the story of how they came together as a power couple. Following wherever the wind took them, they wandered into each other’s lives seemingly, but not quite, aimlessly (more later). They are anything but aimless.
Well aware of what Patangeer means, Amtul and Fahad revisit their vision every time a new sponsorship opportunity comes along. In a world where the client’s brief is sovereign, Patangeer stands out for going against the grain.
“We never take a brief from a client,” says Amtul. “I cannot look domestic and be seen doing household chores; that is not us. In any case, of the two of us, Fahad is better at household chores. Also, if we are given creative freedom, we can make clients look cooler than they actually are, which is why with every new client, we ask ourselves if their brand aligns with Patangeer, and do we have the creative freedom to do what we want?”
If the client passes through that filter, they get to work. Fahad calls Amtul, “Patangeer’s engine” because she is better at dealing with clients while he is happier conceptualising and working behind the scenes. They divide the work and try not to overlap.
“It sounds glamorous when you say you work with your life partner, but it is not easy,” confesses Fahad. “Remaining professional when you are married is difficult, but it was key in creating Patangeer, and we always try to remember that.” They manage a small team of five, which according to Fahad, makes it even more important that “people think they are working for a professional organisation, rather than for a husband and wife.”
Managing their small office and team, while maintaining a clear vision for the business has not been easy.
“We are a forward-thinking brand and we started with a certain vision of what it means to be a Pakistani. To be honest, there is a lot of work in the market and every influencer can take on several projects, but if we start doing that we will lose our identity. This is why we have to keep working on other stuff to sustain Patangeer,” admits Fahad.
The two are sitting in their fourth-floor office, nibbling on a plate of carrots in an attempt at healthy eating. Although both of them love to talk about Patangeer, Amtul is definitely the more boisterous of the two, the one born to perform. Even if you have not seen her lighting up the stage with her improvs, it is difficult to miss her energy. Fahad is more analytical; he says he had to learn to open up and express himself.
During the lockdown, the pair, initially known for their travel blogs, embraced the mantra of ‘keep creating’ to keep Patangeer alive. They work hard on their content and take pains to get it “just right.” Case in point, their eyes light up when they talk about a recent shoot and the lengths they went to perfect the brown on a piece of toast before the sun went down for the fleeting shot. Amtul delights in telling me how exacting they are when it comes to content creation.
“We create a backstory for every character, no matter how small the role.” Declining projects and clients that don’t vibe with Patangeer sounds like a strategy for failure, given the current state of the economy, but they don’t do things by halves. There is a strong awareness of what Patangeer is and is not – and a strong instinct to let serendipity be their co-pilot – although they never actually say so. Yet as they tell the story about how they met and what happened next, one can sense the role of destiny in the subtext.
“Although we knew each other at school, we went separate ways after graduating from high school,” says Amtul.
Fahad went to the US to do a marketing degree, whereas Amtul studied anthropology and sociology at LUMS. During this period, Amtul camped and trekked frequently in the northern areas of Pakistan and then set out for foreign adventures.
“Baku, Turkey, Indonesia… My father was extremely supportive.”
While Instagramming her adventures, she threw herself headlong into her other passion at university – the theatre. She made a name for herself as a stand-up comedian while working with the boldly feminist comedy troupe The Khawatoons. At the same time, Fahad was travelling across North America as he climbed the ladder of his sales career. He credits his sales training for “opening up” his personality, and for the extensive travelling that was beginning to spur his own adventurous streak. Armed with a GoPro and no formal education in filmmaking, Fahad too was beginning to document his travels online.
The two, who were moving in the same social circles, were instantly connected by their love for travelling.
“The way Pakistan is portrayed around the world bothers me a lot,” says Fahad. “Pakistan is so much more than the negativity associated with it, and I wanted to show the other side of the country.” With that driving motivation, Amtul and Fahad came together to become the first Pakistani influencer couple to travel and make content together. Amtul grabbed her meagre savings and her father’s DSLR and flew to the US to join Fahad for the cross-country road trip of a lifetime.
“By the end of the trip, we realised that if we could survive that with the limited resources we had, we could survive anything life could throw at us,” recalls Amtul.
Despite the ups and downs of the trip, which included having to sell their car, Amtul diligently blogged the entire trip and found that their audience were lapping up their posts. In 2017, the couple started receiving inquiries for projects from potential sponsors. By then, Amtul was working at a non-profit while Fahad had moved back to Pakistan and was working in event management.
Their first trip in Pakistan was to Gorakh Hill. The content they created did so well, and that was when their fate was sealed. They left their relatively stable careers and launched Patangeer. Fahad brought his extensive marketing experience to the venture while Amtul brought plenty of acting skills and the ability to deal with clients. Skills that continue to stand them in good stead and which will prove useful for the projects they plan to take on next.
“A short film; that is what we really want to do,” says Fahad without missing a beat. “At the end of the day, we want to be remembered for the content we create.”
Shahrezad Samiuddin works in communications and is an agony aunt. firstname.lastname@example.org