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An Exclusive Interview with Shakeel Khokar, CEO - Interflow Communications (Pvt.) Ltd.

Proved his mettle throughout the career span of 30+ years; be it an entrepreneurial initiative or managerial one across various growing industries in Pakistan namely Paints, Food, Personal care, Cosmetics, Interior Designing and Restaurant business. Shakeel Khokar is a revenue engine that consistently delivers top and bottom line results by understanding consumers and delivering innovative solutions to consumers’ needs. He holds a track record of having successfully launched brands with new positioning & re-positioning the Cos. with new corporate image. Shakeel’s forte is his contribution towards developing and establishing Corporate Identity for Cos. where he has spent years. Shakeel Khokar has conducted numerous training sessions across different organizations; moreover he holds the contribution towards the launch of corporate identity programs for transforming Habib Oil Mills to HOM & Zulfiqar Industries to ZIL. Likewise, Shakeel’s professional experience is translated through uncountable achievements in the advertising industry. Today, he tends to change the shape of the agency and set a new market trend as CEO Interflow.

BM: What new changes have come about in Interflow, and how is it all going?

SK: A lot has happened in the past couple of months, as we have been through some major changes. For instance, we have transformed and changed the senior managerial team, hence changing the entire shape of the agency alongside introducing new strategies. This came about as I believe that quality can change, uplift and be sourced through good talent. We feel that the local punch; the local perspective should be adapted among the agency as one gets lost in the translation, hence becoming too tentative. So, this is what’s happening here at Interflow, and definitely much more. We’re putting in the right kind of talent and applications according to the global perspective, and this is what we’ve been trying to put together for the past six to seven months.

BM: Once you revamped the entire team what challenges did you come across?

SK: Not much, honestly. When you put the company’s soul into it, people who believe will stay whereas the rest will leave and that’s what business and precision is all about. And with high chipped personnel joining us in the past couple of months, I believe we are going up strong, and that is where we are headed.

BM: What new trends and ideas do you want to set and introduce in the market?

SK: We have multiple agencies that are old, well-seasoned and respectable, where some of them have also reinvented along with time for the sake of survival in the market. Similarly, Interflow has been among ever-changing agencies, always working towards the growing trends. We, at Interflow, tend to step into every trend that comes in the market, whether it was at the time of FM Radio or Electronic media itself. We even built an agency for boutiques by the name of “Gravity”. We all believe in the core, and the core is set by the guru himself – Mr. Taher A. Khan. The key that he brings along is the youthfulness that pushes his senior managers to always come up with something new and unique. Thereby, becoming the trend setters for the industry to lead and follow. Nonetheless, our main focus currently lies on the fact to bring local brands at a point to counter international brands, by incorporating all the international strategies and brand building ideas, which will also benefit the international brands ultimately.

BM: What in your opinion is the significance of an international affiliation?

SK: As far as the foreign affiliation of the brands in Pakistan is concerned, people are more intrigued when a company or organization has a foreign name attached to them. If it comes to the advantage of foreign affiliation, they give us a foolproof system; up keeping, processing, job keeping. There is a lot of science; this is the professional and paid form of communication. In terms of having a bigger vision, they can help me with that and in terms of having a better way to train people; all the international learning comes together, people breed together and breeding of ideas is extremely important.

BM: How would you then compare local to international brands?

SK: Looking at the consumers’ side, local brands are growing strong, whereas on the communications side, international brands are doing a brilliant job. However, at Interflow, we look at the brands from the advertising perspective. So, now we are wholly focused on to uplifting local brands. Though other agencies are doing a great job at their end, we simply want to localize by means of being true to the local success of the brand itself.

BM: How would you describe your style of management?

SK: I don’t have a specific style, but, anything that manages to get results is my style. For me, it is a sin to have a specific style as you can’t have a same style in every situation and problem solving perspective. It depends what is required, so my management style is very flexible. One man should do one job not a chain of people on the same thing, as it kills anybody’s head and that doesn’t take people any further. People who deliver value should be in positions to drive; this is what my management philosophy is. And, so today I tend to build a team rather than hiring people, to hand them over their respective authorities and trust their work, instead of doing everything myself. Basically, not having to manage is my style of management.

BM: When talking about new strategies and ideas, how do you see the young minds taking the challenges forth?

SK: I don’t take age of experience as damaging; it’s not only about youthfulness but that strong courageous gut feeling in order to keep up with the pace of the advertising world. So, to speed up the game you need to have that nice blend of skills set for which all you need is knowledge. So, even though we have a number of youngsters working with us here at Interflow, it’s never always about age. In fact, the most youthful spirit I know of is Mr. Taher A. Khan himself; hence it’s all about having the right sense of an idea and how to take it further to attain the best results.

BM: What do you have to say about the growing digital medium and its effectiveness on the youth and people of Pakistan?

SK: Honestly, I still don’t understand the correlation that people define between the youth and digital. According to my perspective, I believe that our understanding towards digital is incorrect. For me, I think that television is digital as it comes in a box rather in aerial, and so is radio. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not a fight amongst mediums but instead on the accessibility of those mediums. Therefore, I can never seem to abide by the philosophy to divide the mediums according to the mediums alone, but rather on the base of content. I believe that everything’s digital and it is only the idea that will drive the content and brand at large.

BM: What new venture is Interflow coming with in the near future with digital?

SK:  Creativity itself will be a new venture; people have forgotten that creativity is a dire need. In terms of digital, there are two things that I have to say; all of the industry’s knowledge stops at numbers and I am sure there are a few digital outfits that understand the medium but have no idea about the brands. How is digital’s penetration in the modern times? I have asked this question from a lot of people and all I get is numbers. What I really want to ask is how this medium is penetrating among the masses; how housewives and kids perceive this medium. Until and unless I have the answer to all of the questions regarding digital and how people are taking this medium, I cannot comment on any new venture, just know the fact that its already digital everywhere.

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