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Exclusive Interview with Amer Sarfaraz, Bramerz

Amer Sarfraz, VP Business – Bramerz speaks to team Brands Magazine and FHM Pakistan on the changing perspectives and dynamics of the rapidly growing digital media.

BM: Tell us briefly about your educational and professional journey.
AS: I completed my schooling from DPS, Faisalabad after which I came to Government College Lahore. Completing my MBA from Lahore School of Economics in the year 2000 and after a short stint at SMEDA, I started my own business with my current partners at Bramerz, importing branded (refurbished) Desktops and Notebooks from USA, and we were the first ones in Pakistan. I went to Australia in 2003 to pursue an MS in Marketing from University of Western Australia. On coming back, I joined ICI Paints for a couple of months and then moved to PIA in 2005. Disappointed with the way things were at PIA, I along with 3 other friends co-founded Bramerz in July, 2006 and I continued to be a part of it in parallel with PIA till 2010, until I resigned and joined Bramerz as a full-time partner.

BM: With a diverse professional experience, how do you manage to handle multiple businesses at once?
AS: Essentially, Bramerz is a digital company, although we do have multiple business units under the umbrella brand, but the DNA is still very much digital. I don’t think there is a trick to it, as you grow both as a professional and as a company, things start settling into the larger framework. Each business unit (5 in total) has its own business head who is responsible for the P&L, operations and growth of that business unit. As partners, we are only engaged at working with these unit heads and giving them strategic support where required and setting the overall company direction for growth and new initiatives.

BM: What changes have you foreseen within the marketing and advertising industry of Pakistan from the time you stepped into this field?
AS: Change – as they say is but inevitable, so has been the case of marketing. Back in the day, the job of an advertiser was much simpler. It was a time of static advertising where the control pretty much was in the hands of the brand. Outdoor, print, radio, television, and pamphlets ruled the world. Fewer options, less control in the hands of the consumer meant they could be easily targeted and were relatively easier to influence too. In today’s digital age, reaching out to your target consumer is a super challenge. From a push economy, we have now entered a much more fragmented, pull economy where the consumer pretty much decides what they want, when they want and how they want it.

BM: How did you train your team in order to aware them of the ever-changing digital market?
AS: The beauty of digital is that you’re always learning. All these social platforms change often and one has to keep up with them. I always encourage my team to research and look for new ideas, technologies and references. I would be asking my juniors about the latest trends and trending topics because Bramerz has an open culture and that’s how we have developed. There are also visits by various speakers to exchange ideas and such sessions are also encouraged and executed internally. On the side note, all permanent employees are Google certified, which despite being a boring ‘test’ helps with more technical aspects.

BM: What new changes or innovations has your company introduced with respect to digital medium?
AS: I keep telling my team from day one that social media is not the only digital avenue. We keep changing our strategy with time to avoid being stale. Until a last few years we were solely digital but now we have a successful PR wing, we are also experimenting with a bit of traditional media in print and other areas. We have made logos, done events and are making / have made the most videos in past one to two years. Digital is not a standalone medium; everything is merging but for us the core is obviously digital.  We have also explored and developed new products such as Fishry, a completely managed award winning e-commerce platform serving hundreds of clients across multiple verticals. Publishrr is another product, which is a content and monetization platform for large scale newspapers, magazines, TV channels & radio. Olaround, a location based loyalty and discounts app that probably was the first time for many Pakistanis to get exposed to QR Codes deployed at more than 500 retail outlets across Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

BM: Where do you see Pakistan with respect to digital marketing in the future?
AS: Pakistan has just started; it’s just the tip of the iceberg, this market is going to be massive. Brands are expanding their budgets and looking at digital as an effective medium. As clichéd as it sounds, the future is digital. I see more money pouring into digital from all ends as it’s attracting eyeballs like never before. And then we are coming into the radar of international companies/venture capitalists; Careem, Uber, Rocket Internet and few others are already here. Ali Baba is also looking to enter Pakistan. With the local market becoming hot, it’s not too far that we will see the economy picking up even faster.

“DIGITAL IS NOT A STANDALONE MEDIUM; EVERYTHING IS MERGING BUT FOR US THE CORE IS OBVIOUSLY DIGITAL.”

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