Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Cricket Craze

We in Pakistan are crazy about our cricket & so no surprise when out pets follow in our foot steps. As today is the Pakistan vs India semi-final of World Cup 2011 (a game considered to be a final in itself), here is an anxiety filled cat going green!  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reclaiming our Culture

With all that is happening around us it is very difficult to refrain from getting frustrated & maintain our optimism & yet if we wish to get through this & reclaim our sanity & country, the need is to hold on tight to our optimism.

However, just holding on to the optimism without doing anything practically is also going to prove disastrous. Contributing practically while staying positive is going to be the key. From a very long list of things that need to be sorted out I want to discuss our dying culture. When I use the term dying culture I am not just referring to some particular tradition that is going out of practice but an overall change in our society, which is letting go of everything that should under normal circumstances be a source of pride & identity.

We all get nostalgic when the time period of 90s is mentioned & for those who have witnessed the pre & post eras of Zia-ul-Haq have a much better tale to tell. If we go into deeper analysis none of these periods were problem free. They had their own set of political & economic issues. Still people state that they were better times. My opinion about this statement is that those times are considered better because our culture & diversity was fully alive. The society was not in a bi-polar scenario where either you are a right wing supporter or a left wing supporter. Long story cut short diversity was celebrated not condemned.

In the present times one of the biggest threat that we are facing is (& as some would say we already have); the elimination of our cultural diversity. No matter how difficult the situation may be we have to turn this process around. One view point that we come across regarding this topic is that it should not be the utmost priority at the moment as we need to deal with more important issues. I personally don’t think this should even be considered an argument; for the very reason that it implies that first we let the situation get worse & only then we’ll see how to amend it. This group is ignoring a very important fact that we can use our culture to help our people block the level of frustration & divert the energy of the youth which is being wasted or being directed in the wrong direction towards more positive things which will help not just our imagine but also the ground reality of our country. Also not to forget that it will help revive our cultural activities which; can do wonders for our already dead tourism industry. An industry whose reopening will help us convey our side of the story & our heartfelt message of peace to the people around the globe.

The overall environment of the society was really different when the Rafi Peer theater, concerts, fund raising events, new year programs, basant & the all the likes of these were a regular feature of our lives & not some alien concept.

The concern for security does exist & is a valid concern & one of the major reasons that we no more have these events. A responsibility, that lies on the shoulders of the government, which have failed to do so. To top it off, now we have official bans on recreational activities from the government. In doing so, they fail to recognize the fact the extent of damage that they are doing. These restrictions are not only going to prove to be the brutal murder of our culture but also they help the right wing nuts. The government is doing their job for them by suffocating people & crushing all traces of diversity that gives color & richness to our society.

Not everyone has gone nuts in this country, no matter how much this be reinforced by multiple forums. There are people trying their level best to keep these roots alive & a lot is happening which unfortunately does not get the due coverage. However, the lack of responsibility shown by the government is a big question mark that needs answering. Getting this answer is not going to be easy or simple, we know this by experience. This again cannot be taken up as an excuse for not trying. Culture as they say is a construct made by the people. In our situation the people have to make an extra effort to reclaim it.   

When the Moon came closest to our Earth

On 19th March 2011, it was stated that the moon came closest to planet earth. This is how it looked through my lens.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Need to celebrate our diversity

We live in complex times, where mostly events occur in the shades of grey instead of the principled black or white. Therefore, when looking at the root cause of issues it is mandatory that we have the ability of multipronged analysis. Two factors that have played a major role in creating this mess are mismanagement & politicizing everything left, right & centre. I’ll leave my rants on the issue of mismanagement for another time & talk about how politicizing has subverted all that which once used to be a source of pride for the people of Pakistan.

A rich heritage is something that forms the roots of our country & its people as we are part of a region filled with a spectrum of diversity. However, with time this factor too had to face the wrath of politicization. Anyone who has shared some general discussion sessions with their parents would know that this has not been the scenario always. If we look at it we might be the ones having better facilities & opportunities at our disposal but I feel that they were the ones who were lucky enough to spend their youth amidst a much healthier environment; obviously here my reference is before the country was taken over by the dreadful regime of Zia, the consequences of which we suffer to date. They were more close to the culture & were not facing the dilemma where they were under a constant pressure to prove their religious or ethnic identity; & what I have concluded it didn’t matter much. Being human was the most important thing contrary to what we are excepted to primarily identify as. It’s not that these different identities didn’t exist at that time, they sure did but they didn’t act as a source of hatred. Sadly, this is exactly what this diversity is being used for now a days.

How many of us can claim that we know what our country is comprised of? Majority of us can easily be labeled as tourist once we are out of the few areas (easily counted on the fingertips) that we are accustomed to. While involved in a team, preparing for a peace conference, comprising of individuals from all across Pakistan one of us made a very telling observation using her experience as an example. She said after meeting people from up north her mental notes of the people of that area changed drastically.

Are people in general outside Sindh familiar of the Sheedis, people of African descent? My guess is hardly any. And what about the Kalash Valley. Yes we do know that it is part of Pakistan but I don’t think many of us have ever thought of exploring it ourselves. These were just a couple of examples from a long list. If anyone is interested in getting into the details reading about a bit more I did recommend Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia.

The idea that diversity is harmful to Islam & as some argue is not acceptable by Islam is absurd in my view point. How can a religion giving preference to humanity be anti-diversity; makes no sense to me atleast. How & who is interpreting & for what purpose is what should be considered before letting your judgment seep in. Unfortunately, nobody asked these baseline questions before letting the powers to be trample our diversity under their ambitious.
Whose fault is it? Well as I said earlier everything is grey here & hoping that the governments will intervene is a lost case. Let’s not accept any such improvement at least in the near future. Also as the saying goes the most dangerous words are “I am from the government & I am here to help.” Agreed that most of this diversity has been scarified, so that our politicians can achieve their petite goals but let’s give a look at the other side of the coin. Who allows them to exploit such issues? The bitter reality is that at this juncture the finger points at us. What if we the people refuse to succumb to their propaganda of hatred & instead decide to celebrate our rich heritage; something that is not an abnormal idea. All of us have friends who are from a different ethnicity & even different religious background. These relationships are perfectly compatible, so if there can be harmony at the individual level why not at the collective level, after all society is made up of individuals & there attributes are what gets transpired at the bigger picture.

Looking at the history we will come to know that change happens from bottom up & not vice versa. So as the quote is “Be that agent of change that you want to see around you”. Let’s take the initiative ourselves & not let the powers to be exploit our diversity & use it against us.

Let’s celebrate our diversity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

HBL; TVC blunders!

The banking sector as a whole really needs to work on their marketing side as it is only rarely that we see something really catchy from their side. However, HBL TVCs don't follow the commoner's road taken by the industry but move a step further by making useless & irritating ads.

Take this 'Anda-Ghutala' TVC. A man who never had money to even pay for anda ghutala & for almost every other thing in his life gets opts for a credit card, paying for which is still out of his reach! 

I mean seriously, this is the message you want to convey to your prospective customers? Given the nature of the whole credit card business isn't this ad a bit dubious as well?

As if idiocracy wasn't proven enough this new Mr Bean campaign is worse. Most of us have some sort association with the character of Mr Bean but HBL has failed to use them in the right manner. I have yet to come across an individual who can relate to the HBL Mr. Bean who portrays an image of an outright idiot. So unless the message they want to convey is 'HBL banking for idiots' the people behind this ad campaign need to be taken to task.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Not everything can get viral!

This advert is a perfect example of the fact that not everything can get viral. Too much effort is right in your face blowing away the cover that the idea behind it was to somehow get it rolling on the viral circle. Also the humor fell flat as well. So for those who think e-marketing is a piece of cake, THINK AGAIN!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Role New Media can play as a Marketing Communications tool in Pakistan

Not very long ago ‘New Media’ was considered just another addition to the buzz words. Even though the pundits of the field were making some positive predictions for its future, no one was really expecting it to explode in the manner in which we know it today & yet there is more to come. Today new media is the rage.

The new customer is deeply involved with the products & what goes behind the scene in the making & presenting of that product. You can’t just sell your product to your customer these days. Life is no more that simple. The sale depends on the ability of the company to communicate its message; & that message is not only limited to the attributes of the product. Thanks to the technology people are much better informed & aware of their surroundings & this has also helped in making people more conscious of their rights & roles. 

New media has become a surrogate world & the presence of people in this world is on a continuous rise, both in number & strength. Almost everyone who is not completely technologically challenged has a facebook account. A forum which has become a major hub for market research & a front on which the marketing team aims to achieve success so that it is better able to communicate with their customers. Brands have been known to be brought down, if an extremely bad word of mouth is spread. In fact this is no exaggeration when stated that new media can be used as a synonymous for word of mouth. Some other forums that are part of this design include Twitter, Myspace & Blogs. Orkut which now part of history for most of us after facebook came in, but still there is a large Asian population that has active accounts there.    

Like the rest of the world, there is a strong Pakistani presence in the cyber space, even though the rate of education is pretty low. However, companies especially the local ones have yet not been able to exploit the strength of new media as a marketing communications tool to the fullest. The main problem for this is the rigidness in the mindset of the industry. They themselves have not yet completely defined the boundaries of marketing & sales & have not yet fully understood the power of the customers. They are victims of most of the myth that the communities exist for sustaining brands; that they will just come up with a product & people will just but it because it’s there, & the list can just go on & on.  

Reality however has a different stance. We too are part of the global village & people have the exposure through this very new media as to what is happening elsewhere & have access to the brands that know how to pamper their customers. So the competition is not just local. There is a lot happening at the entrepreneurship sector in the country & they are using the new media for communication, both locally & globally. The seasoned organizations need to follow suit as well, because this medium has the potential of expanding their target market & build their image & most importantly, its influence is not dying out in the near future as the customers have tasted power & are not going to let it go.