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Exclusive Interview with Zafar Ali, DHQ

Zafar Ali, Managing Director – DHQ speaks to team Brands Magazine and FHM Pakistan on the changing perspectives and dynamics of the rapidly growing digital media.

BM: Tell us about your educational and professional journey so far.
ZA: I completed MBA in Marketing KU alongside 12 certifications in network securities, including one for banking sector. Starting my career from a Software house, I joined Geo in November 2002. I worked on IVR portal and during my tenure we locked our first agreement, with respect to the new white label short code technology, with Mobilink and later on with Ufone. Soon after I joined Express media group in 2007 as Head of Digital. Becoming the head of International Division, I launched the channel in Canada, US and Dubai markets. My last assignment in Express was Express Entertainment, and left the group after its launch. I moved to Dubai after availing good opportunity at a consultant/digital agency firm. After coming back to Pakistan, I was interviewed by Taher A. Khan who gave me the responsibility of Digital Agency, DHQ, and that is how I became a part of Interflow group.

BM: What challenges did you face during digital media development?
ZA: At first, working with limited resources with just two accounts was extremely difficult for me. During the initial stages, the challenge was for people to recognize us & for us to make them realize that we have all the resources of a proper, full-fledged digital agency. It was a challenge to establish our name among such big agencies, as owing to their popular clientele the potential clients did not prefer us. So, we had to show them what we were actually capable of, and luckily we are proving ourselves stronger day by day.

BM: Did you train your team with regards to the ever-changing digital medium?
ZA: Yes, I did train my team when it came to the rapidly changing digital medium. We gave proper certifications on this regard. I already had around 35 international certifications in my bag, so I called my team and all media planners and they agreed on studying and passed the certifications. As far as the current knowledge is concerned, my team is fully aware, along with the official certifications, regarding the recent Facebook and Google trends.

BM: What changes have you brought in the world of digital media?
ZA: We have developed in-house mobile applications, web portals and different internal products through which we garner more clients. We have also partnered with Facebook and Google officially. Through this official partnership, Facebook monitors our growth and progress, which is beneficial for us in improving our campaigns. We have also formed different SOPs and a portal where we have kept in-house project management tools that greatly help in digital establishments.

BM: Do you think that digital media has overshadowed electronic and print advertising?
ZA: I don’t know why people call digital a separate medium for marketing; there are different tools for different platforms in marketing. Has print completely died after the boom of TV? No, but its viewership is better than that of Print. The platform which is more interactive based on that time and era is more successful. Fortunately, digital is a bigger platform with unlimited scalability and that is why it has overshadowed due to increased interaction level and extremely swift response time.

BM: Do you think that digital growth in Pakistan has met international standards?
ZA: Yes, digital growth in Pakistan has increased rapidly; it will continue on growing every year, but the international influence is the main reason behind it. There is no local tool that should be held responsible for this change. There are limitations with respect to technology; we are not wide thinkers with lesser creative ideas than other countries.

BM: What new ventures have you planned for DHQ?
ZA: 2017 is going to be the year of mobile for DHQ; we are also planning to launch and explore the gaming world. For this, we are building a department based purely on games and experimented on it for the past two years, with results extremely positive. Success is a different story that we will explore on the way; investment on mobile is plenty and business on mobile will be plenty too. Furthermore, we plan on making the offices in Lahore and Islamabad functional to increase our clientele.

“DIGITAL GROWTH IN PAKISTAN HAS INCREASED RAPIDLY;IT WILL CONTINUE ON GROWING EVERY YEAR, BUT THE INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE IS THE MAIN REASON BEHIND IT.”

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