In conversation with Javed Jabbar by Omar Farooq

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Renowned global banking institutions have been given heavy penalties for manipulating the Libor rate secretly which eventually had a profound impact on the advertising sector as well. This lack of ethicality, integrity and greed has become the ethos that has replaced respect for the values and the standards accompanied by a shameful surrender of the state as a regulator and as a watchdog.”

JJ

Javed Jabbar is not an unfamiliar name to the advertising world. In fact he is dubbed as one of the trailblazers who have helped lay the foundation of the advertising industry in Pakistan by founding the trend-setting advertising and mass communication firm, MNJ Communications Ltd., in 1988. He was also the director/writer of the first ever film in the English language The last Mountain (1976) and produced the critically acclaimed film Ramchand Pakistani( 2008). Jabbar’s creative endeavors have left an indelible mark on the viewer’s memory. People still get nostalgic when they hear the jingle a woman will always be Lyla, or the enchanting sound of the pied piper in Peek Freans ad that captured the imagination of so many children, including myself, and adults alike. For many of us these ads represent a significant part of our growing up which remind us of a much simpler time when everything was not about making a quick buck. Although Jabbar has become disengaged with the advertising industry after he stepped into the political arena but his undying flair for the craft is evident from his numerous writings published occasionally in different magazines. I sat down with him to know what he makes out of the advertising industry and its dynamics today.

Q- Why did you disengage yourself from the advertising world?                                    JJ - Even when I started my career in the early days, I had diverse interests from writing, theater, documentaries to drama, but particularly in writing. However, I had realized during my university days that writing alone will not pay enough to enable me to pursue the things that I wanted. When I started making documentaries and commercials for companies like National Bank of Pakistan and English Biscuits that required me to live in different cities like Karachi, and Mohenjo-daro, I became very interested in the reality of our society. When I made an independent documentary for Pakistan Television The City That Must Not Die (1972) which was the first PTV documentary to win an international award; soon after I began to realize that our society is very complex, beautiful and multifaceted. Therefore advertising in a very small way engages with the rest of society. As this feeling grew I decided eventually that apart from doing voluntary work during my professional working time I must also enter the political process. So when I entered the political realm, that was virtually the de facto beginning of my disengagement from advertising. I was invited by the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to join her cabinet in December 1988 as the Minister for Information and Broadcasting. I felt that I could not continue being the chief executive of MNJ and the minister because it could create a conflict of interest so I formally resigned from MNJ on 3rd December and I had nothing more to do after that date on an official basis with advertising.

Q- Can your hands-off approach to advertising be attributed to the plight of the industry?
JJ -No it has nothing to do with the plight of the industry, as a matter of fact the industry has flourished over the decades. Sometimes my friends banter that my existence in the industry would have made them much more nervous now, so if you are looking for moneymaking this is the time to be in advertising but I am not interested in making money. I want to mention this particularly that after my disengagement from advertising in 1985, my wife Mrs. Shabnam Jabbar took on the huge responsibility of looking after the company- she assumed the role of chairperson and did a marvelous job with it. Without her support, the agency could have not survived and finally both of us felt that neither our daughter nor son was interested in remaining in advertising. Since I had become more interested in other fields such as filmmaking and cinema, I handed over the agency on the payment of one rupee to one of my former executives, Shabbir Muhajar.

Q- How do you compare the advertising today with that of the 80s?
JJ – The good aspect of advertising today is that there is a lot of vigor and a willingness to innovate in terms of location and not being bound by what is available immediately and locally, that is a distinct change that you can sense. The Pakistani advertising agencies now can take advantage of locations and technology regionally: in Dubai, Mumbai and Bangkok that didn’t happen so much in our time. The other is that today in some cases there is a greater use of humor, entertainment and storytelling than it was in our time, relatively speaking it was less. Third, in terms of sheer size, range of products and competition it has grown phenomenally. There has been an exponential increase in terms of media and choices but as I said in one of my lectures earlier, there has been a decline in the ethics maintained, in the codes of conduct and in integrity. There has been an excessive dependence on foreign influences, ideas and a loss of indigenousness. I feel there has been a shift of paradigm from indigenousness to ‘imported-ness’, now there is excessive reliance on the other sources or factors. Whereas we need to be much more self-reliant and be able to make use of our own ethos and culture, I am not saying that we should shut ourselves off from the rest of the world but there is so much more to find within Pakistan.

Q- I remember reading your article published in the daily Dawn titled Surviving And Advertising in the year 2000 that highlighted the ethical dilemmas advertising faced in the 80s and your premonition for the future of advertising in the 21st century. Have we been able to cover some ground on ethical front in advertising?
JJ – There were attempts made but they didn’t always succeed because of a crucial failure which has been on the part of the advertisers. They have not been as ethical as they should have been, for instance take the example of malpractices committed by banks and pharmaceutical companies globally. There are examples where major pharmaceutical companies have been fined on account of corruption and malpractices. Renowned global banking institutions have been given heavy penalties for manipulating the Libor rate secretly which eventually had a profound impact on the advertising sector as well. This lack of ethicality, integrity and greed has become the ethos that has replaced respect for the values and the standards accompanied by a shameful surrender of the state as a regulator and as a watchdog. The state should not have taken a back-seat and said let’s not intervene with the free-market dynamics. For example it has the State Bank of Pakistan, the Competition Commission of Pakistan and the Ombudsman where you can address complaints, but all of them necessarily have not acted effectively to check the malpractices of the corporate sector. One part of the corporate sector respects the law, both the multinational and the national, but there are several other parts that do not respect these ethics. They destroy the environment, they pollute it, they contaminate it and they don’t have any regard for protecting the rights of the earth. So all of this has led to a change from the time when we were in the industry and issues like pollution have arisen, with an effect on the climate that is going to be shared with the rest of the world. This problem is more important for Pakistan because it is one of the 10 countries in the world which are going to be worst affected by climate change.

Q- For a student what should be the right motive to step into the advertising world?
JJ- I would certainly urge young people to look at a career at least for a 5-10 year period because advertising can be very educative professionally. It can be extremely educative because you’re dealing with a range of products and services for instance, you may deal with pharmaceuticals one day and the shoe business the other and on the third day you might have to work for a toothpaste manufacturer. You will not find such exposure and interactions with all kinds of media and communications in any other sector. If you are of the creative and the production side, the virtues of compression, brevity and the capacity to narrate something important and persuasive enough to change behavior of a consumer in favor of what you want to sell is a tremendous source of learning and capacity building. It can stand you in a very good stead when you go into some other field that can be marketing, management, banking or your own business you can learn a great deal. So that’s why I would highly recommend it to the aspiring young candidates as a career option.

Q- How has your experience been at KSBL?
JJ – It has been a far more interesting experience than I thought it would be. Because I found the class to be willing to ask interesting and thought provoking questions. The second thing I like about KSBL is its relatively small size therefore it has a greater sense of familiarity and fraternity. It is a nice place to build relationships within the class between people hopefully, and between faculty and students. For places with larger numbers, the ability to assess each student is limited because you’re dealing with so many people at one time, so the size here is a good thing. The third thing that I appreciate about KSBL is the scope for each lecturer to explore freely the course that he wants to teach. There is no interference or an attempt to impose a predetermined curriculum from the faculty head or the dean’s side, they have left it to my discretion and that is how I would’ve preferred it, so those are the three things I like most.

Omar Farooq is a final year MBA student at KSBL. He writes about advertising & brand management, you can find him on Twitter @OmarFarookui

What’s better, finance or marketing?

“Marketing is better than accounting… they don’t have the creativity we have, plus it’s boring”;

“Accounting is superior; marketing people don’t have the intellectual capacity to look at numbers, that’s why they only look at the top line and can’t sift through the expenses to get to the bottom line”;

“Finance is superior; the ability to optimize capital structure, raise funds while minimizing the cost of capital requires intellectual superiority”.

Bah. Sounds like school yard taunts; the ol’ “my lunchbox is better than your lunchbox”. Well guess what? It’s like comparing apples and oranges. People making these glib comparisons need to be reminded that folks who went into their chosen professions, went into them because they LIKED doing that work. It’s the entire reason why you have a plethora of people working in a multitude of professions. Saying one line of work is better than another is not an objective statement.

That’s right. The doctor became a doctor because that’s what he likes, that’s what he wanted to do, and the accountant became an accountant because that’s what he wanted to be. It’s the sort of work that we all like to do, that compels us to pursue careers that excite us. So a marketing person may find accounting to be very boring but that is only true for her and herself alone. Some people find accounting very exciting and marketing to be tedious.

Somebody might prefer to work alone in a cubicle, researching, analyzing or coming up with the next big idea, and somebody else might be more of a people’s person, who likes to engage with lots of people on the job rather than read pages of a report. I remember when I was studying taxation in my undergrad: I loved it so much that I just wanted to be a tax accountant while others found it to be boring and I couldn’t understand why. A very recent and interesting incident that I came across, last term, which made me ponder over the difference in individual preferences was when we were doing our Investments assignments, and after putting in hours of blood, sweat and tears a friend of mine humorously says “Dear lord, never put me in a job that requires me to do all this”. Meanwhile I kept thinking how much I missed making models in Excel. I, on the other hand, actually WISH that I would be put in a position that would require me to make funds, back test them and make complex models, the likes of which ordinary mortals would never understand.

So it’s not a question about which profession is better because that is pertinent to you alone. But you might argue, “What of those accountants who say their work is boring? Or doctors who don’t like to practice medicine?” Well, sure, there are some people who went into their respective lines of work for the wrong reasons. And as a result, their motivation fizzled out pretty soon. That’s how accountants leave their practice and pursue other options or doctors leave their practice and pursue marketing in pharmaceuticals or marketing people leave to become something else. I once attended a talk given at NUS by Mr. Tsun-yan Hsieh, who had worked for 30 years at McKinsey and he mentioned one example of a French partner at McKinsey who told him that he wanted to quit and become an artist. Now the profile of an aspiring artist is not what you’d usually find at a place like McKinsey but the guy left and Mr. Hsieh recalled meeting him after a few years, and the person was very happy as a stage performer working in French theatre. The guy had gotten in McKinsey for the wrong reasons (and probably stolen my spot) and so, after a few years, his motivation died and therein we see the telltale signs of people finding other venues.

So I guess the lesson is that it’s not about which profession is better, that comparison is just bonkers. No career is intrinsically “better” than another. That’s just your preference talking. It’s about introspection; reflecting back on what you are good at, what you love to do and then making the choice for yourself. Because if you get into a career for the wrong reasons, you’ll find your impetus kaput pretty soon and you’ll find yourself talking nonsense like ‘ABC’ career is better than ‘XYZ’, without analyzing the fact that it was just your individual preference talking.

What’s so new about the new Basel III?

By Shahan Arshad

Although Basel III has more regulations than the ones stated but the question in everyone’s mind is that Basel II was supposed to protect us from crises like the one in 2008, so how can we be sure that Basel III will succeed where Basel II didn’t?

In the ever evolving financial world it’s no surprise that industry experts have ventured to Basel III. Its efficacy, however, is yet to be judged by its critics and proponents alike. But why did the experts felt a dire need to create this new Basel III, let’s review some of the reasons.

Why it came about?
In simple words: because Basel II accords were insufficient to prevent banks from excessive risk taking, resulting in the financial crisis of 2007–2008.

So what’s new in Basel III?
For one thing, it tightens banks’ capital requirements. It also requires higher weights for risky assets bringing more assets under the Risk Weighted Assets (RWA) calculations, which itself is modified under the new accords and is even said to demand a higher quality of capital; although how they’re going to achieve that last one is bit dicey. Basel III also tightens liquidity requirements and is expected to be implemented in phases with full compliance in 2019. A common list of what Basel III has changed versus Basel II is given below:

Basel II Basel III
Common equity requirement 2% Raised to 4.5%
Tier 1 Capital 4% Raised to 6%
Tier 2 Capital 4% Reduced to 2%
Can include hybrid capital requirements Tier 1 capital can no longer include hybrid capital requirements
Tier 3 Capital requirements Tier 3 capital eliminated
No capital conservation buffer Introduction of capital conservation buffer at 2.5% of tier 1 equity
No counter cyclical buffer Introduction of counter cyclical buffer at 0 to 2.5% of Risk Weighted Assets during high credit growth.
  Trade finance risk weight increased to 100%
  Liquidity coverage ratio to be increased to greater than 100% (requires a bank to hold sufficient liquid assets to cover its total net cash outflows over 30 days.)
  Leverage ratio to be greater than 3%
  Results of stress testing to be reported in financials
  Credit valuation adjustment capital charge to be applied to cover Mark-to-market losses on risk to OTC derivatives.
  Net Stable Funding Ratio to be greater than 100% (requires available amount of stable funding over a one-year period of extended stress)

Although Basel III has more regulations than the ones stated but the question in everyone’s mind is that Basel II was supposed to protect us from crises like the one in 2008. Not to sound cynical but that failed, so how can we be sure that Basel III will succeed where Basel II didn’t? Well for one thing, regulation is an ongoing, evolutionary process. Basel III is meant to plug in the holes left by Basel II. However, the more holes we plug in, the more new ones seem to pop up or more accurately, the ones overlooked become visible. The world economy and financial markets are dynamic and eve revolving ecosystem with players of all kinds.

In military aircraft training, pilots talk about countermeasures to missile fire, and then there are counter-countermeasures and then those counter-countermeasures have countermeasures of their own and so on. For example, a heat seeking missile has a countermeasure called flare deployment meant to confuse the missile. So the counter-countermeasure tells the missile computer to seek the heat signature which is higher i.e. that of the jet. So the pilot again deploys flares which have a higher heat signature and then the missile computer tells it to target the lower heat signature (the counter-counter-counter-countermeasure) and so on. Although this is just an empirical example, the purpose is to illustrate how banks and regulators, in the world of finance, will always find loopholes to increase their bottom-line, and someone will then try to plug in those loopholes, and then the newer, unnoticed loopholes will be found and then those will be  plugged and so on ad infinitum. The process will go on; the point is not to find a perfect system that would cause our search to come to a standstill but rather a journey that sees us evolve with changing circumstances. The important thing in this ever evolving process is due diligence that be maintained at all times.

Shahan Arshad is a final year MBA student at KSBL(Karachi School for Business and Leadership). You can find him on Twitter @Shahankhan8

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