OVER THE LAST THREE DECADES, THIS MAN – TAHER A. KHAN – AND HIS DEDICATED TEAM HAS REVOLUTIONIZED THE INDUSTRY. THE MAN WITH THE MIDAS TOUCH, HE HAS BEEN INFLUENTIAL IN SHAPING THE MEDIA INDUSTRY IN PAKISTAN. FROM CREATING THE LARGEST AD AGENCY, ‘INTERFLOW COMMUNICATIONS’ TO THE LARGEST MEDIA GROUP, HIS THIRST FOR ACHIEVING THE UNEXPECTED REMAINS UNQUENCHED AS HIS RIDE CONTINUES, TURNING EVERYTHING TO GOLD HE TOUCHES ALONG HIS WAY. HIS UNSWERVING INVOLVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF COMMUNICATIONS HAS BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BY THE GOVERNMENT, THE INDUSTRY & PROFESSIONAL BODIES. TAHER A. KHAN IS ALSO KNOWN FOR HIS ROLE IN PUBLIC CAUSES, HE PLAYS AN ACTIVE ROLE IN LEADING NATIONWIDE DONATIONS AND EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS. HE HAS BEEN A MEMBER OF SEVERAL NATIONAL COMMITTEES SET UP BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN. HE IS ALSO ON THE ADVISORY BOARD OF LAHORE UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT SCIENCES (LUMS) & IQRA UNIVERSITY”
BM: Talking about “Bates & Interflow, tell us something about the collaboration your company has gone through?
TAK: Bates is the rising star of Asia, it started the concept of collaboration and Interflow has been a dominant force in Pakistan advertising, so having Bates and Interflow come together will definitely contribute to the high standard of advertisement in Pakistan. I think it will also give more thirst to creativity as strategy is a very important element in advertisement. Creativity at the end of the day is the business that we are in. Sparkling creativeness is what people expect from our creative advertising agency.
BM: How many companies do you have on your 360 platform?
TAK: We have over a dozen companies; we have three advertising agencies, different media buying houses, production companies, activation companies, plus we are also in cinema advertising and outdoor, as well as digital.
BM: You are on the advisory Board of LUMS and Iqra University. What is your word on the academic standard of Pakistan?
TAK: The academic standard of Pakistan in my view is rapidly improving. I think higher Education Commission has contributed greatly in the advancement of new private institutions like Habib University and Karachi Business School. I think these are high caliber institutions, by and large, you can see that the quality of teaching faculty has vastly improved. The number of PhDs and Faculty can very well illustrate that, there is now an emphasis on quality education and I think that will cater a very healthy platform for our future generation.
“BOTH CLIENT AND THE AD AGENCIES HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT DIGITAL STILL HAS A LONG WAY TO GO”
BM: You introduced the first private sector TV channel in Pakistan and promoted Urdu content. Tell us about that journey.
TAK: When I first started a private sector TV channel, it was a huge challenge because there was only one institution in Pakistan, Pakistan Television (PTV), which has done a great job of training and has groomed worthy professionals, but then again private sector has added another dimension to the whole situation. I think NTN contributed by giving opportunities to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have excess to this exposure. I consider we were fortunate to have some Mega Block Busters like ‘Chand Grihan’, thus it brought in a new setup of people who gained experience. Consequently, that’s when the private channel boom came; there was the talent in our market already which led to growth of the private media industry in this country.
BM: Ad agencies today have different departments for digital media and digital creative, which is strange, as both go hand in hand, what is the scenario behind this separation?
TAK: There are two things, obviously, all the ad agencies have to be digital savvy, and they have to understand digital media because they are supposed to come up with the creative content. The job of a creative agency is to come up with creative solutions which can be translated in all media including digital advertisements but, there are specialists who need to come out with the implementation of those creative ideas and that is why you have a digital agency. In our case, digital headquarters provides that facility. While the Interflow creative comes out with the creative solutions, DHQ puts them into practice therefore that is a distinction. So, I think there is no difficulty in understating the fact that everyone in the ad agency is not just in an ad agency. This is the age of digital boom and everyone has to have some kind of proficiency, as far as digital is concerned.
BM: What do you have to say about the growing digital world of today?
TAK: I ponder more clients are investing huge funds into the field of digital media. The only problem right now is that both client and the ad agencies, at the end, have to understand that digital has still a long way to go. The client and the ad agencies have a very good understanding of creating television commercials or print ads. But in my opinion, there is still a lot of learning to be done in the field of digital. It is not just a situation in Pakistan, but it’s a worldwide phenomenon. However, in some countries digital spent has already overtaken television spent especially in the markets of UK; a lot of spent has already been invested on digital coverage. Even in Pakistan, nowadays, a lot of Multinational companies are interested in allocating more funds to digital media. So you will soon see a boom in digital but it has to come along with a detailed understanding of this medium.
“BOTH CLIENT AND THE AD AGENCIES HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT DIGITAL STILL HAS A LONG WAY TO GO”
BM: You are well-known for your contribution to public causes. Tell us a bit about that.
TAK: I believe in working for people and society, we support different social causes as a company and I also back different organizations as per my individual capacity. I’m still in several boards of educational institutions but the worthwhile cause where I spend most of my time is working as a trustee for Fatimid Foundation, with which I have been associated for a long period of time. Fatimid Foundation has positively grown under the leadership of General Mion-uddinHaider. The other cause in which my organization and particularly my wife SeemaTaher are deeply involved is water, because we feel our country has gone from water surplus country to being a water deficit country and that in the long term, will have a very serious impact on the nation. Besides this, as a media agency, we are enrolled in many other causes and we like to partner with others in order to solve as much issues as possible.
BM: How would you characterize your management style?
TAK: My management style is to give empowerment. In our group, every company is being headed by a Chief Executive officer (CEO) who is responsible for that particular business. My job is to provide guidance and support wherever it’s needed, and in turn I encourage my CEOs to empower their managers so that the entire decision making process becomes speedy, flexible and reliable.
BM: What major regional developments do you foresee which are bound to impact the advertising scenario, in general?
TAK: If you’re talking about the Asian and South Asian Region, then I think there are a lot of markets in this part of the world. These markets will grow at a much faster pace than the rest of the world. So, as the markets grow and prosper, obviously it will lead to a growth in consumerism and as consumerism grows, we would need to be more effective in our communication skills. As a result, I think our region will see a lot of improvement in the quality of advertising over the coming years.
BM: What, in your opinion, is the significance of having a foreign affiliation? Do you think it has a positive impact on the economy?
TAK: Foreign affiliations are always good for the local industry because it exposes them to the latest trends in advertising and marketing communications. The biggest benefit I see coming out of an affiliation is the training that is available to your people. It also opens the markets to foreign investments because brands through their international agencies learn about a market like Pakistan, and once you see the opportunity you are definitely encouraged to invest. So I see it as a positive initiative for Pakistani advertising industry and for the economy as a whole.
BM: Give us a little brief about your share in Mindshare?
TAK: Mindshare is a joint venture between Interflow and WBT and it’s on a 50/50 equity basis and our experience in this business has been tremendous. It is a company which is renowned for its professionalism and integrity and proves of the confidence that this industry has on us is in the fact that, it is the largest media buying and planning house in this country.
“CREATIVITY AT THE END OF THE DAY IS THE BUSINESS THAT WE ARE IN. SPARKLING CREATIVINESS IS WHAT PEOPLE EXPECT FROM OUR CREATIVE ADVERTISING AGENCY”
BM: You have initiated many ventures. How do you achieve the set targets?
TAK: Every company, within the group, at the beginning of the year sets its annual plan to meet once approved, the management is completely free to implement whatever is needed on that basis. In every quarter there is a review and the performance is assessed and evaluated, so at every stage the group is aware of the status of each company. As an Interflow group; we monitor these companies, we give them the freedom to operate but they have to work within the parameter of business plans that have been approved.
BM: Are media buying houses implementing their strategies according to the international set standards?
TAK: They are international companies and these companies are obviously operating at the level that is followed worldwide. We have the finest ad work in Pakistan, and the few major international companies who are operating in Pakistan operate in exactly the same way as they do internationally. So there is a very high level of professionalism, creativity and integrity.
BM: Any message for the youth?
TAK: Pakistan is a land of huge opportunities; we are standing at the crossroad today with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and with the improving law and order situation we are poised to get into the next level of development. I consider this is the stage where all of us should be optimistic and especially our youth who should see the future as bright. In this country, there is nothing preventing a young person from making it to the top, we have the human resource, the talent and the ability. All we want now is a vision at the government level to put all these resources into good use and to embark on a journey to take Pakistan to its rightful place in the comity of nations.