Big on Small Screen, again!

Half a decade later, I am back on TV.

In 2010, it was #RideonTheTop on #ETV speaking about “Air Action by Mentos Launch Campaign”.

In 2016, I was invited to speak on the “Digital Marketing in Digital Bangladesh” on #YoungNite of #ATNNews

Felt more like a “coming of age” compare & contrast.
A boy had become a man.
An amateur to an expert.

In 2010, I was thinking creative in advertising working for Ogilvy & Mather
In 2016, I am drawing blue maps in digital services working for Robi Axiata

Still a very much thinker but also a part time blogger. Enjoy!


Mastering the Digital with Michael Leander: Part 2

Day 2 was much more engaging and useful. Many thanks to Mr. Leander for that. Although I felt he was having a real hard time managing time through the 2-day workshop, his honesty and transparency about it was admirable.

On to other things, the greatest learning in this workshop was CBM as a concept. Without a doubt, we, the digitally nerd generation speak of CPICPC, CTR and CPM as often as LOL and YOLO. But it was the discovery of the acronym CBM is what really got my attention this time.

Thanks to my years in advertising (with one of the best agencies in the world) and subsequent career in telecom marketing, I am not alien to the concept of #sexsells. However the crude representation of this universal idea (even as a #hashtag) was at time uneasy (if not uncomfortable) to point out in lengthy brainstorming sessions involving respected members of the opposite gender.

Cleavage Based Marketing or CBM (not to be confused with Content Marketing although Content = Cleavage is true) however is a more acceptable and scientific way of saying what the Father of Modern Advertising has been saying for almost half a century now. #exposetoexcite

Thanks to oodles of eye-tracking studies and an unconscious evolutionary drive prompting us to activate powerful bonding circuits that help create a loving, nurturing bond (more commonly referred to as libido), we now know that the greatest marketing tool available to mankind is #thecleavage.

And in case my reader is a lady who thinks women don’t practice #objectifyinggaze; according to similar eye-tracking studies, you are just as guilty as the man standing next to you!!!

Mastering the Digital with Michael Leander: Part 1

So I am attending this Certified Digital Masterclass with the famous (or said to be so) Mr. Micheal Leander. Its a 2-day workshop organized by (the not so good) Bangladesh Brand Forum is supposed to make me a master of,

  1. Knowing how to create a killer website
  2. Understand basics of SEO marketing
  3. Engaging the audience with content marketing
  4. Planning effective campaigns for just about everything

Well first thing first, the Day 1 was seldom interesting and more often yawning. However the day did have its peaks with 8-Second Rule of First Impressions (original article to be found here) as well as mapping my morning actions in exact sequence on a piece of paper. The later was of particular interest as it unleashed the schizophrenic OCD side of me. The list on paper looked something like this,

Initial scribble

Back home in the luxury of my room. I went back to the list to make it into a proper mind map (yes, I can get really stupidly obsessive at times). Using this new tool text2mindmap was a welcome change over my usual choice of coggle, and I fancied the map to be more methodical.

So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you MY MORNING!!!!

My morning map

Shalom 🙂

Branding explained

The story goes like this…

The year was 2007. A  young daydreaming adman in pursuit of savings (like everyone else) invests in digital assets by spending a few minutes to differentiate himself. It was no exhaustive personal branding effort, not did it have any monetizing attributes. It was a clear and simple eccentric move on my behalf. A move that after half-a-decade looks like this, S@B!H

Successful? cliched? pointless? why? what the? lost it?

I don’t have an answer yet. But I would however be interested to know how you do it!

An apt quote on “personal branding” from the
Father of Modern Advertising!


A Fruity Idea

Another tea time idea sees the light of day…
A tool conceptualized and developed for people of the country who pride themselves as a paradise of fruits.

Fruits of Bangladesh

It allows you to browse by seasons (Bengali calendar)

Fruit Calendar
Fruit Calendar

Or by regions (Bangladesh map)

Fruit Map
Fruit Map

And to the best of my knowledge (you bet), there has been no such initiative in Bangladesh before (except of course Banglapedia). Endorsed and funded by my dear(est) client Tang (a brand owned by Mondelez), this was a pet project of mine which the client bought into.

So type in fruitsofbangladesh and keep exploring!!! Feedbacks are welcome with open arms.

Never Say Die

As the title might suggest, I didn’t have কই মাছ for lunch or used an Energizer in my torch.

Both কই মাছ and the Keep Going motto of Energizer are things of the past. Times when everything would just last. Last for years. Be it a Volkswagen Beetle or an Omega De Ville, the classics simply worked. No wonder they keep coming back every now then.

Today is not the day for reminiscing our golden past, so let me get back on track.

Ever since I picked up my first Android, I started going grey.
Yes, smartphones are a wonderful evolution of connectivity solutions.
And yes, I won’t last a day without it.
But the burden of battery life is at times too much.

Carrying a charger every time you go out, keeping a power pack close by or simply buying battery cases are just a few of the preventive measures we take to last through the day. Yet it’s almost instinctive for us to check the battery life after every use.

Add the stress of a smart phone running out of juice to our everyday life in Dhaka, and you are left with a nightmare of the worst kind. If not for hours of power cuts, the hours spent in traffic will get to you. And as Murphy says, it gets you on the worst of days.

Tired of expecting a fix that would improve my iPhone’s battery life and frustrated after trying out all the tweaks (80-20 charging rule, No GPS, reduced Screen Brightness etc.), I was giving up till the idea of a backup phone came along.

Don’t know about others, but I guess it’s a necessity to maintain two numbers in Bangladesh. Be it the official vs. personal number issue or the pursuit of ultimate value, we are all stuck with multiple numbers. And since the rise of Dual SIM smartphones is still at a nascent stage (at least with regards of top-of-the-line makes), more and more smart phone users are stuck carrying two phones 24/7.

The idea was simple. Just the way behind every successful man there is a woman, behind every smart phone is a backup কই মাছের প্রাণ phone. ইলিশ is a delicacy, but I needed something cheesy (cheap & desi).

Thanks to my eccentric curiosity, I didn’t have to look far.

Walton has been a superbrand in Bangladesh lately. Following the footsteps of value brands like Konka and Singer, Walton has established itself as the undisputed leader of white goods in the market. I regularly followed their Facebook page. And just as I got tired of seeing my phone die on me every other day, I came across this…819244_497807170283429_1031345858_oThe 50 day standby was really difficult to digest. I work in advertising and yet I never fail to constantly remind myself don’t go for flashy advertising. But the idea of a phone that lasts for 50 days, was simply too much to overlook. Icing on the cake was its retail price of Taka 2250 / $29. It was a deal that took me back to those days of indestructible Nokia, when handsets and handguns were of same quality and lasted the same.

I was always aware of the market these phones catered to. In fact I remembered this ad of Marathon Series by Micromax which had caught my attention a few years back. Didn’t pay much attention since both my earlier phones (SonyEricsson W810 & Motorola EX115) lasted days. But I guess with the onslaught of battery-hungry smartphones, the market for long-life basic phones was hitting a high as well.

The idea turned into a plan. I was decided on buying a phone that would last, last so long that even the OCD-ed me would forget to charge it. As luck would have it, I was going to visit Basundhara City (unless you missed it by chance, the biggest mobile market in town) in a few days and the chance of making my plan a reality was knocking at the door.

Walking in with my colleagues, I looked like a man on a mission. I’ve been there many times before with the sole purpose of buying a new handset, but never was I on the lookout for something so different from what I had. The Walton store was a hard find and the news there was heart breaking. The wonder phone was still in its womb.

It wasn’t practical to go back after a week and I had to have my কই that very day. I looked around. From Maximus to Kingstar, Symphony to Samsung every brand was now in contention.

But it was a bright yellow retro that caught my eye. It was as simple as it could be. Stood out like a stork. And would cost me half of the Walton (cheaper than a Walton, beat that!!!).

I saw the price (Taka 1299 / $17) and rest is history.

Getting home, I preached of its seemingly never-ending battery life. The retro looks got enough attention as well. But the real test was when I put its marathon battery to test.882853_572741909410469_948310917_oBelieve it nor not, its been a fortnight and the battery still has two-thirds left. Flashy advertising does work after all…

2013-03-22 01.01.44
My two-week old Micromax X103

Last but not least, I got my brother hooked on to the idea of this and he is putting his Symphony B45 to test. Even as Nokia tries to take back the basic long battery-life market with its $20 Nokia 105 phone, these immortals are not gonna die out soon…

UPDATE: Finally after 20 days of use, I have put my phone to charge. God bless, Micromax. Nothing like anything.

2013-09-05 11.40.16-1
The best long-life basic phone one could have, easily!!!

Three of us from work were bunking work in the middle of a hectic pre-Eid weekday chattering away in the lobby of I had already tasted blood (of online “cash on delivery” shopping) during my stint in India and coming home to find a office-full of online shoppers was surely a welcome sight.

Year after year I’ve made presentations (to clients and my bosses in the region), held discussions and read news on how Bangladesh is a sleeping volcano of digital potentials. Sadly that line of conversation went on for years without bearing much fruit. Not anymore!

Since its origins the onslaught of local “best deals” sites has been rather noticeable. The first time I saw the signature billboard nestled among the behemoths (i.e. Aarong, Cats Eye and Banglalink) last year, I had unknowingly started browsing the site from my phone. I must admit, it wasn’t appealing at all. The deals were mostly travel related and anyone with access to a credit card (or even privileged mobile subscriber) would have seen better packages already.

During my India days, I grew great respect for their flagship “cash on delivery” services. Led by (yes, the makers of those kids turn adults ads), India has experienced a boom in online retailing for the last few years. From the books-only flipkart (which now carries just about everything else) to the india’s largest fashion store (as they claim), the services have at times been friendlier to customers than the actual retail experience.

Surely this “online retailing” helped to get boutique and small-time brands out in the open. For just about everybody could fight for a share of your spending as long as they were under the umbrella of a trusted brand (i.e. flipkart or myntra). Web-only clothing brands started popping out in a country where just making a visible enough mark in retail would entail a 1000 stores. (and more recently in fact pioneered concepts like “virtual dressing rooms” and “try before you buy” to enable a more real-time experience for buyers. I mean compare pushing traffic at a busy hour to get to a store and not finding the style you are looking for vs. going online at God forsaken hours and selecting just about everything with one click. To top it all, you don’t even need to pay till you see it with your own eyes. If I am not wrong, the idea of paying only after getting what you’ve paid for (i.e. mistrust in the retailer) is rather unique to our part of the world. And I am pretty sure cash on delivery was born out of that.

Global giants like and have also made their entry into the Indian web space (through and but unlike many other industries, they are not tasting success that easy. With some of the local players already investing in vertical integration (delivery and collection), the global dominance is long way off. Unless of course the billion-dollar bullies buys off the million-dollar minnows.

I was still kidding with my colleague about the services of akhoni, as the bright idea of opening a site of our own came to be. Before I say any further, I admit of being a shopaholic of their appealing deals. From buying wrong-sized tees that fit me like a blouse (as some have pointed out) to computer accessories without having a need for one, the “discount diarrhea” has surely struck me bad. And the contagious online bargain-hunting virus has spread with visits to other sites with similar offers (,, etc.) and influencing people with similar mindsets (mostly my colleagues).

That said, the business is still in a very nascent stage in Bangladesh. It gives “one night stand” type brands a crack at glory (who has heard of Rolla or Section 10 or T-Factory as t-shirt brands; let alone Oops, yes another brand), but whether it actually makes way for a web-based fashion brand is still in contemplation. From the site experience (mostly very poorly designed and hard to navigate) to the product delivery and return, there are a hundred ways to improve the current ecosystem. As much I appreciate seeing the likes of cash on delivery and bKash as payments methods, I despised my experience with delivery timelines and stock maintenance. While a mediocre company (only a national player, that too with a limited choice of products) like flipkart has made it this big just by quality of service, the likes of akhoni and hoichoioffer have a marathon to run.

As luck would have it, I was soon approached by some senior person at the akhoni reception while we waited aimlessly for the receptionist aka. cashier aka. delivery girl aka. customer complaint manager to arrange for my items. She was nice. Nicer than I had expected at least. Curious and proactive as well. I dunno whether it was because I had already bought like a dozen tees from them or we as a group seemed approachable, she inquired and sought suggestions about their deals and services.

Impatient and excited, I went on telling her about supply chain improvement and vertical integration and better in-site experience (thank god I didn’t go all the way to mobile app). I guess she didn’t expect such ideas coming from a 29-year old man buying a Batman and Bane t-shirt. But there it was. Another sad realization of how we are as managers. If you are in the business of online-retailing and be lucky enough to hold a senior post, you better be somewhat techie and aware of the who’s who of the business. The couldn’t possibly be any other industry where living “in the now” was more important than the business itself.

The do-it-all girl was still not back. And my colleague and I were not short of ideas in any track. May be give a crack.

PS. In spite of it all, I appreciate the great initiative taken up by akhoni and all. The hope is still on…

This article is also available at

The Showdown

Don’t go by the title. It’s how we say don’t judge a book by its cover. To me retail experience is what you get in a KFC or Pizza Hut. They don’t just sell junk food but also make sure you keep coming back over and over again. By definition it means a retailer who packages an experience together with merchandise.

Still sounding heavy? Well let me elaborate on today’s dissection then. When McDonald’s or KFC or Pizza Hut decide to open an outlet in a locality, the simply put the neighborhood puny out of business. Remember the chicken revolution of the late 90’s and early 00’s. A brand made famous by yummilicious chicken broast that used to be as popular as Haji’s Biriyani and every part of the city seemed to have a branch. From Kalabagan to Banani, Rifles Square to Uttara there was no shortage of the infamous HELVETIA sign.

But no sooner had KFC come in, the bright shop boards in red and white started looking stale and shabby next to the red n’ blue. With one outlet alone, KFC was outselling all of Helvetia’s spread out branches. It was actually the other Yum! Brands franchise Pizza Hut that nailed the coffin of local franchise business in Bangladesh. The big boys were here with their gun-slinging kill ’em all attitude. And desi lungiwalas didn’t stand a chance in front the western denim. The dark days of colonialism were imminent, and so were we (the consumers) ready to change our platter.

A decade later KFC is a household name in every corner of the country. With their recent opening in Cox’s Bazar they have catapulted themselves as the undisputed market leaders in the fast food industry. Their offering may not be so healthy, their innovation in menu could be non-existent but the experience they give is still something to die for. Even on a hartal day with heavenly traffic (i.e. no traffic), the buzzing atmosphere during lunch in a KFC outlet doesn’t fail to surprise me!

With Transcom Foods hitting the ball out of the park with both Pizza Hut and KFC, it was time for MGH Group to come forth. Their Nando’s and Barrista chains have also proved to be quite successful. Not so much a quick-serving food chain, Nando’s is still offers a decent fight to KFC with charcoal-grilled chicken. Of the other international brands in operation Pizza Inn still has a long way to go and Coffee World has lost its charm to the newer players in the market. Basically its not so difficult to conclude, we are a nation of early adopters. We pick up on whats trending at an early stage only to chuck it off our wish list in a few years time.

Enough with background, my point of interest was in discovering how an Indian food chain is successfully fighting off the brands that made such a dent around the world, specially in our beloved Bangladesh.

Enjoying or not, I am stuck living off fast food for a good few months. I could blame it on the quality of hotel food (which I’m yet to taste), but I much rather resort to the universal fact of convenience. Quick-serving chains didn’t just make it BIG overnight. The convenience is quite incomparable.

Thanks to its economic boom and 2nd  largest population count, India has just about every fast food brand one can think of. From McDonald’s to KFC and Subway to Taco Bell, the choice of brands in quite diverse and mimics that of the Indian ethnic groups (over two thousand and counting). So when the Big Boys decided to step in, I wonder what were the local boys were thinking. Trembling like the Helvetia owner!!!

Quite NOT. India with a near split of vegetarian and non-vegetarian population, offered a challenge to the meat-loving westerners that they had to quickly get accustomed to. They had to adapt. And not only adapt to a different taste bud, but change their menus altogether. In came the likes of McAloo Tikki (McDonald’s India’s highest selling item) and Paneer Tikka Sub (one of Subway favorites). The meat guzzling All American McDonald’s consumer was now a veggie loving stereotyped Aam Admi (a common Indian). Their successful adaptation meant a bombardment of other international brands in the local scene, who also catered to the local needs in some way or the other. Fancy a Nimbu Mirchi or Chicken Jalfrezi, anyone?

The retail experience a McDonald’s, Subway or KFC offered was quite similar to what you find anywhere in the world. I will discontinue referring to Pizza Hut or Domino’s hereon for their different nature of service (one is principally a dine-in restaurant kind, the other being a delivery-savvy value for money brand). With a major focus on retail experience and customer journey in the outlets, these brands spend millions a year establishing a better connect with the consumers and leave them with a unique experience (of some sort).

However in reality, McDonald’s and KFC offer nothing but alarmingly uninteresting menus with quite poorly designed consumer journey. If we just take the selection, delivery and payment (not in sequence everywhere) management system, its one of the most worst-managed queues you’ll see anywhere in the world. From pushing and shoving around by the hungry mob (aka. crowd) to the congestion at the delivery counter, the experience is everything but unique. There is virtually no difference in how a McDonald’s or  KFC chain would serve food to the common man.

These amateur drawings (by me) demonstrate how virtually identical customer journeys exist in experiencing the aforesaid brands. And as mentioned, they both suffer from congestion and queues. Lets not even get down to those impatient hours (minutes in patient world) you wait for the food to be ready.untitled-0011untitled-0023Subway is a tad better in crowd management albeit catering a much smaller crowd (in most cases). To their advantage (aside from the health issue: 97% fat-free) is the live demo of food preparation and freshest of fresh items in offer.untitled-0033In my opinion (and you are welcome to differ), the best retail experience in this case is in visiting the local chain called Haldiram’s. A snacks-maker turned fast food joint, Haldiram’s caters only to the all-veg segment with commendable success. They don’t have a pan-India presence, nor do they have a charming story of how it came to be; but in my experience at least, they have the best customer management model (far outweighing the above three) among the local quick-serve food joints.Untitled.004

By distributing the functions of payment and preparation, they have literally cracked a killer solution. I admit such a solution requires a larger format store and perhaps costs high on manpower as well. But the fact Haldiram’s retail experience (regarding payment and delivery) is better than the Big Boys from the West remains intact.

From a separate payment counter to watching your food getting prepared right in front not only provides convenience but also quality assurance. With its veg-only menu and rather selective items (I think not more than 20 items in total), Haldiram’s is a case study of significant merit. Challenging and winning in a war most lose out on, India is a country where historically local conglomerates have been successful at holding back foreign oppressors (do I sound nationalist?). From the historical duels between Unilever vs. ITC to the more recent Amazon (Junglee) vs. Flipkart the success rate of Indian firms facing better-financed, better-managed MNCs have been nothing short of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Luckily there is always a hat.

Luckily for Haldiram’s, the Indian consumers remained loyal to their roots as they ventured into the western delights. We on the other hand, are mythical creatures only seen in the land next to Bay of Bengal!!!

This article is also available at

The Shadow Chronicles

Being an established self-serving advocate, it was quite unbelievable that I would miss the chance to go up on stage and collect the silverware for my campaign “Mentos Monday” at the Adfest Dhaka 2011. But as ironic as it may be, it happened… and somehow, I really have no regrets about it 🙂 After all, winning is all that matters and my missed chance was soon made up for as I stood on stage collecting the second silverware for the night that we (Ogilvy Bangladesh) had won.

Winning feels great… everyone gets to take pride in it, dialogs start about it, criticism goes up by a notch… ah well, it’s all just part of the package at the end!!!Beating the mighty Prothom Alo to take the best print ad award (news and publications category) was quite an achievement for Daily Sun. Being only a few months old, the English daily is hardly a match for the no.1 newspaper in Bangladesh for over a decade. And even when it comes to communication, Prothom Alo has been leading the way with some of the great campaigns that we’ve been exposed to in past few years. However, it wasn’t to be the same this time around… the Daily Sun Victory Day (16th December) print ad dethroned its predominant competitor to take away the silverware!!!

The idea SIMPLE: Establish how the “pen” is mightier than the “sword” (or in this case the rifle) and salute the freedom fighters on Victory Day.172872_10150091562958171_593538170_6376839_1766377_oAs deserving or crappy as it may seem… no sooner had the award been announced that an anti-alliance was formed. As I closely watched people from the creative industry bombard this piece of communication as a “copycat” of a noted campaign from a global brand; I simply couldn’t resist digging deep and actually unearthing the practice of using such shadows in advertising around the world.
The campaign from which the one above had apparently taken inspiration (or copied) from belonged to Lego, the colorful interlocking plastic bricks that we all loved back in childhood.mattus_lego_copyThis campaign was all about highlighting the greatest strength we posses as children, “creative imagination”. When a child’s vivid imagination takes over, even the simplest of Lego structures could stand for the unlikeliest of objects (in this case a ship, a dinosaur, a tank and a plane).

Considering how half a glass of water can stand for both optimism (if seen as half full) and pessimism (half empty) in one single visual representation; its hard to believe that a creative mind would associate the campaigns above to be of the same kind (let alone, dubbing the local to be a “copycat” of the global).

In fact, the use the shadows to mirror the subtext of the image are a common practice that’s been going on for ages. It’s easy to label a local creative as a knockoff of the global award-winning work, but when you see the following, do the same neurons tickle your brains?
powerbarshadow johnlewiswoman johnlewischild hoard-2 ariel_bright_white 2200269748_6a68073569_o wwftigerEven movies haven’t shied away from ripping the benefits of this shadow-play either…
star-wars-shadow-adIt’s really unfortunate, that we as a nation are obsessed with defaming the achievements of others (and I’m sure multiple occasions are popping up in your head, too). It would be really great to have something as original and authentic as the Holy Qur’an, but that’s hardly ever the case. Because the brains behind such creative work take inspirations from their daily lives; it seems, at times their expressions of different ideas take not so different shapes at the end…

It’s always easier to say something is “copied” rather than trying to interpret what the thought behind is, just like the way it is to condemn than to compliment!!!

For more, please visit