Sarocsh Ahmed is a banker turned entrepreneur with a vast experience in Banking & Digital Marketing Industries. Sarocsh holds an MBA degree from the Institute of Business Management, Karachi. He is the co-founder and CEO of Symmetry Group; the largest Digital Media Agency Network in Pakistan. Before taking his position as CEO, Sarocsh was working as a Chief Finance Officer. He also worked with the prestigious, Bank AL Habib and Dubai Islamic Bank.
As a CEO and the brain behind one of the most sought-after digital agency of Pakistan, Sarocsh continues to bring changes in the media sector with his innovative ideas, untiring zeal, and the efforts to make a difference in the world of digital marketing.
BM: After 10 years of banking, you became an entrepreneur, what was the reason behind the shift?
SA: Symmetry group was initially formed in 2003. The thought of initiating a digital agency crossed our minds once my brother, Adil, my wife, Faiza and I realized that Pakistan was lacking in a field that was creating positive hype around the globe.
The very first effective campaign in Pakistan was run by Symmetry for Telenor, Djuice in 2006, after which we officially began our digital enterprise. Telenor was considered as a telecommunication service reserved for the elites and our initiating campaign targeted the potential youth.
BM: Symmetry Group is one of Pakistan’s largest digital agencies. Tell us about the success story and the challenges you had to face in such a short span of time?
SA: When we started this company in 2003, I invested around Rs. 150,000/- to build up a foundation out of my income; which I had saved through time. We faced challenges from day one as we had to employ educated people and give them a salary out of the little budget; we began with.
However, the Telenor campaign stabilized us to some extent. As the digital market is growing day by day, moving fast, the competitors are lining up in front of us. Unfortunately, people are not well-versed with digital marketing and lack even in the basic knowledge of digital.
There are still a few challenges faced by our media buying agencies when it comes to digital marketing. The first issue is the lack of proper knowledge. Secondly, the lack in the fulfillment of financial obligations, by the clients, again due to insufficient understanding of Digital terminologies and measurement metrics. And, the final issue is the ‘Government’; the high taxation rates, ambiguous laws, slow processes along with the cross-provincial taxation, making it extremely difficult to cope up with the dynamism of the digital world.
BM: When did you start the subsidiaries of Symmetry and why did the need arise?
SA: Symmetry Digital was found in 2000, Creative Jin started in 2009, and finally IRIS Digital began its functions from 2012. The need arose when we started getting more and more companies as clients. It is not fair for the client that the same company handles all the operations, at once. We started Creative Jin when we got Mobilink on-board, after the Telenor campaign. So, when Warid came, we had to start a third agency. We do not make employees handle multiple tasks at once. Each of our agencies has its own organization and team, all the agencies are offering the same services to the clients but there clients are different.
BM: How do you differentiate between the work purposes of all the agencies?
SA: Initially, the purpose of the Symmetry Digital was to work as a full fledged digital agency, after which Creative Jin was established to focus on quality content and finally, IRIS Digital’s purpose was to introduce innovations; such as augmented reality in Warid Glow campaign. There after, their work purposes soon began merging.
BM: Why are the companies interested in joining Digital media? Why are so many promotional digital mediums establishing these days?
SA: You won’t get the proper answer of this question anywhere because the agencies, themselves, do not know about their reasons to come onto digital. This is why you will see that agencies in the market are buying media on digital the same way as for print and electronic. However, this is not the same medium; Digital is itself an accountable and measurable medium. The campaigns therefore should be much more targeted, focused and top of all engaging.
BM: What, actually, is D-joint?
SA: D-joint is basically our venture to spread digital knowledge across the industry. We arrange workshops for our teams and the clients. This project encompasses all the aspects of digital mediums; such as measurability of the ad mediums, latest trends, and content. We are also working for many different initiatives, which will be announced soon.
BM: You have received yearly awards for being the best digital agency. However, there are many other agencies now. Do you think you would have the chance to win this year?
SA: As you have seen, we have received the “Campaign Asia Agency of the Year Awards” for the past four years, where we were competing against all the Big Names of the advertising world. However, we have won and are confident to continue winning these awards, in the future ahead.
As far as the bigger agencies are concerned, they are not doing what we are doing. They are mainly into media buying of which digital buying is a small component. Therefore, profit margins are shrinking, whereas, we are wholly focused on innovations as compared to our competitors.
Digital Innovation is our Motto!
I don’t think that we have a stiff market competition, when compared to these media buying houses. Having said so, our direction is different and we obviously are not competing with them on their strengths, and they are not competing with ours’.
BM: What is your mission and vision for the growth of the Symmetry Group?
SA: Our vision is to “innovate,” keep innovating, and you will promote the industry along with yourself. If you won’t innovate then you can’t succeed. We are the first to bring a change; and we will continue our legacy of making records. As for the growth of the company, we are currently focused on content, mobility solutions and technology.
BM: What is the USP of the Symmetry Group?
SA: Our USP, from the first day to date, is innovation, experience, knowledge, and hard work. I do not claim that we are the best, but, obviously I can say that we are one of the best.
Sometimes, we even deny pitching new clients because we want to maintain our quality and competence. We do not want to over-clutter projects and lose our efficiency; when we think that we already have a lot of clients and we cannot manage the new ones’ properly, we request a leave. Some of the renowned names have disliked our denial, but we know that we cannot handle them or they will not benefit from us.
So, this experience of being in business for a long period, un-matched knowledge of local digital trends, credibility and the quality are what keeps us going.
BM: What had been the defining point of your life?
SA: I do not believe in a single defining point in life. They can be multiple and can affect a person accordingly. My first defining moment would be my job at Bank Al Habib, it has made me humble. The management of the bank was modest and they molded me like themselves. My time with Bank Al Habib had been a great experience. The other defining point of my life was my father’s illness which left him completely paralyzed. This experience jolted me as my father was a very active man and now he is on bed for more than 6 years, and that saddens me. Out of this, I learn in the present, learnt from the past, and improvise to make future glorious.