- Tell us about your educational and professional background. How did you become a part of Bisconni – Ismail Industries Limited?
I did my graduation from University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) back in 2005. During my time at UTA, I took many courses that have given me the skill set to be successful in the positions I have worked on and currently working. Being a Finance and Marketing major, I started my career in United States back in 2006, worked for an IT based company as a Financial Analyst. Spent couple of years in Middle East and came back to Pakistan in 2010. My longest tenure was with Continental Biscuits Limited (CBL) for good 6 ½ years, worked on different brands with global and local brands background. Currently working under the capacity of General Manager Marketing at Bisconni – Ismail Industries Limited.
- Since your tenure initiated in Bisconni, how far do you think the organization has come since then? What changes have you seen?
Let me give you small company’s introduction. Bisconni was introduced in 2002 and since then it is engaged in the manufacturing and marketing of the brands such as Cocomo, Chocolatto, Chocolate Chip Cookies, FLO, Rite, Novita, Craving and Chai wala Biskut. We are the innovation experts and strive to be different and bring innovative brands that fulfil the needs of the consumers covering all different biscuit segments.We are continuously increasing manufacturing capacity by installing more production lines. These lines operate on automatic PLC control and semiautomatic mode under extreme hygienic conditions.Organization has shown a solid growth with a fantastic start to 2018. So far it has been a very interesting journey where our interaction with senior board members has tremendously increased. I joined in an organization that was a biscuit manufacturer and marketer, now it is an institution where we all learn and grew. Bisconni gives each employ the autonomy to participate in business progression of the company. Employs here are also trained rigorously on and off the job to take informed decisions and thus contribute to increased learning. In past few years, Technology has been made more integral part, ability to deal with crisis has enhanced, Performance Gaps have bridged up and Quality Bar of employees have raised.
- I am sure you have worked on many brands till now, which one excites the most?
I have been managing many brands in different roles; however, Launching Oreo in Pakistan was one of the most exciting projects of my initial career phase at CBL, it enhanced my capacity as a Marketer, enabled me to think big and beyond usual. My current love is Chai Wala Biskut. It just catches people unexpectedly and has a surprise element to it, hence it is called Unconventional (Guerrilla) Marketing ????. Chai is an important part of Pakistani culture. Mostly, Pakistani’s complement it with other food items such as biscuits, paratha, or a toast of bread. The name ‘Biskut’ is inspired from day to day lingo used by the masses in Pakistan, making it relevant for the majority, taking inspiration from Pakistan’s coveted truck art! Secondly not to forget, our moto is to built Bisconni as a identity and in order to do that, we have recently launched ‘Bisconni Music’ (currently launched this platform through PSL anthem Bola Bola Dil Se Cricket Bola). The show has just begun!
- What is your style of management?
There are many management styles out there. I think a manager must be diverse and know when to implement the best style. The most successful managers are the ones who can adapt their style to the employee, and to the situation. Not every employee needs the same management style all the time,” and that’s my style of management.
- Managing one of the largest confectionery brands, you are always in target of being criticized. How do you manage all the challenges that come across on the name of your organization?
When you’re in a leadership position, it’s just part of the job description, so understand it and don’t get bitter, whatever it is, let it go. As a Marketing practitioner it is must to be open to point of views, absorb some and ignore some. The truth about criticism is that it’s almost always in your head, but principally, never personalize criticism, even when you’re being personally attacked. You will be criticized. So, learn to live with it.
- What has been a defining moment in your life?
A mentor once told me “Stop waiting for someone else to show you how to lead, He told me to BE the leader”.
- Do you believe that the confectionery industry in Pakistan has raised its bar according to the international standards?
We need to understand that the Pakistan market is generally price sensitive though the Biscuit industry has bloomed in a past couple of years. Pakistan has a large retail base though highly fragmented and dominated by small retailers, but a major shift has been observed with the opening of a growing number of large retail chains especially in the major cities where higher concentration of middle and upper-income class exists. We have also witnessed Cadbury and Candyland, overcome the issue of refrigeration facilities especially in B class general trade (GT) by providing specially designed low-cost, energy-efficient chillers.There has been Introduction of new products, new variants and new varieties. Also, unbranded/small players have upgraded their systems & procedures and have launched branded products with better packaging material, product quality and quality controls. The overall standard of the industry has been raised due to investments by not only major players but also by minor players.Moreover, the exports of Confectionery items by different players clearly indicates that the level of standard is as per the International level and the success of these companies in their exports further endorse that the quality bar is being lifted and the production controls of the Confectionery industry.
I personally see a lot of scope in new products and line extensions to further strengthen the brands equity and continue exciting consumer base.
- How do you see the revival of growing trends and shift towards E-commerce and digital medium, what are the new strategies of branding you think can work in the years to come?
How do you see the revival of growing trends and shift towards E-commerce and digital medium, what are the new strategies of branding you think can work in the years to come?The future of marketing has changed radically with the advent of smartphones and online shopping. In 2020, consumers just do not have the time to flip through catalogues, plan shopping trips and spend hours at the mall. Today’s consumers want everything at the touch of a button. This growing demand has been met by the local market with great enthusiasm.
Pakistan has witnessed a tumultuous behavioral shift in the past 3 to 4 months with consumers shifting and heavily relying on e-commerce for groceries, essential products as well as bulk-buying food and household items. The demand for FMCG products in Pakistan has increased exponentially since the outbreak and data from the Daraz e-commerce index has shown that the online sales of FMCG products doubled in March and are expected to rise to 70% from 20% in the coming months.
This pandemic has changed the landscape of e-commerce and it is predicted for this sector to grow even after the threat of COVID-19 subsides, ultimately resulting in new digital prospects for FMCG brands.
E-commerce sites such as Daraz, Hummart, foodpanda and the like have received a positive response from the region, despite the 90% of the market opting for cash on delivery as a mode of payment.
There are new growing trends shaping the e-commerce industry in the year to come:
Personalization: Consumers still want the personalized treatment they receive in store. They want the online store to suggest products based on preferences and not just push the best-selling item.
Voice-Powered Search: Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant. They’re available any minute at your fingertips. All you have to do is greet them. Adding voice search to your shopping website can help add value to your local SEO.
Consumers Demand Transparency: The main reason consumers visit an ecommerce site or app is product information. Something as simple as being transparent and providing the correct product information can give you a much-needed edge in Pakistan’s e-commerce industry.
Overall, focus on prioritizing the consumer’s needs over any other agenda. The more footfall your e-commerce site/app has, the more chances you have of converting that traffic to buyers.
- As Pakistan’s marketing and communication industry moves into 2020, what further changes will you need to implement in order to ensure your brand remains relevant to your target audience and the company view as major growth avenues for the future?
The new year has rolled in with changing consumer preferences and innovative strategies on the rise. Today’s consumer has no time to understand the subtle art of marketing. Thus, marketers turn to in your face tactics that may or may not result in the bottom line you want.We have planned to focus on the horizontal integration in the business capitalizing on the existing facilities and exploring new categories. Secondly Continuous ‘Innovation’ is our regular mantra and our major growth avenue for the future. We tend to develop products and communication as per the needs of the consumers. Chai Wala Biskut is our ‘2020 Ki Taza Khabar’
Last but not the least, brand building on Multiple Cost-effective Touchpoint. We are on the mission of making life simple for consumers by communicating single idea across all cost-effective touchpoint so digital is through which we build brands.
- Ismail Industries Limited (IIL) as a group has played a role in CSR activities as well. Tell us about that initiative.
Everyone can talk the talk, but not everyone walks the walk. Its one thing to promise what a company will do to reduce societal problems and enable the community. Its quite another to actually take the measures to ensure the fulfillment of a company’s social responsibility.IIL strongly believes in its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Over the years IIL have been contributing on education through ‘Ismail Academy’ and ‘Khadija Girls college’ in Korangi, Karachi. IIL believes that the strength of a nation depends on its people and through education we can inculcate professionalism amongst them. The school project is part of IIL CSR initiative to educate the residents and their families.
Recently at Bisconni, as part of its “Complete Others” CSR campaign, Bisconni spearheaded an initiative to donate bionic arms to specially-abled kids of our country. This campaign was carried out in collaboration with Bionik.org that designed exclusive bionic arms for these kids, bringing a new ray of sunshine in their lives. Bionic arms work by picking up signals from a user’s muscles and the bionic hand is controlled by tensing the same muscles which are used to open and close a biological hand. Not just Bisconni but their consumers have taken a part in donating prosthetic arms for children in need. Bisconni launched limited-edition packs for their products, Chocolatto, Cocomo and Chocolate Chip Cookies. On the purchase of each pack, Rs. 1 was donated to the cause.
- What is your passion?
I’ve always been passionate about a couple of things, but I realized that the passion is to be good at what one does, I’m passionate about making a difference and I feel the same way about what I do in my personal life. Sports is one thing which I am passionate about the most, it brings people together, strengthen friendships, and provide a time to forget about the rest of the world and enjoy some athletics.
- Define Success
Success to me is about the difference you make in people’s lives and enable them to lead a better future, nothing to be judged in monetary benefits.
- What message would you like to give to the youth?
When you look around, you might think some people are ahead of you and some behind you. But, always remember that everyone is running their race in their own TIME. So, don’t envy someone who’s successful or don’t mock someone who hasn’t won yet, because they are in their time zone, just like you are in yours. So, please relax, be persistent, committed, take the opportunities as step, mistakes as lessons, and grow to your potential as you are the most technically blessed generation till now.