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Cover Story
Sense of priority must for a successful business leader, says Masood Hashmi


   Shaukat Mirza - Former Chief
    Executive, Engro Chemical
    Mian Mohammed Latif -
     Chief Executive, Chenab Group.
    Alireza - MD, Shabbir Tiles.
    Ahmed Dawood -
     Chairman Dawood Group.
    Fazle Hassan -
     Director,  (IBA) Karachi.
    Zubyr Soomro - President, 
    Masood Hashmi -
     Deputy Managing Director,
     Orient McCann-Erickson.

One must not entirely depend on luck, working hard also counts

Sep 13 - 19, 1999

37-year-old Masood Hashmi is the youngest president ever elected by the Marketing Association of Pakistan (MAP), the representative body of top decision makers from various fields in the private sector. He is also the first ever MAP president belonging to the advertising industry.

He is also the heir-apparent of the largest advertising agency in Pakistan whose billings stood at an envious Rs 550 million in 1998, showing over five-fold increase from Rs 105 million a decade ago in 1988. It also enjoys a market share of 14 per cent of the total advertising expenditure of Rs 3,901 million— including all media; print, television, radio, cinema and outdoor advertising.

Hashmi is the Deputy Managing Director of Orient McCann-Erickson, the most prestigious advertising agency which has won APNS (All Pakistan Newspaper Society) Best Business Performance Award for sixteen consecutive years.

PAGE felt it necessary to invite Masood Hashmi to express his views for its cover story on "What makes a successful business leader." Following are the excerpts of PAGE’s talks with him.

Masood Hashmi believes in fate, call it what you may— destiny, taqdeer. He said: "I have a lot of faith in God and luck. But don’t take me wrong. For good luck you still have to work hard. I worked day and night during the last sixteen years since I joined the Orient in 1983 when I was only twenty-two and now with the mercy of Allah and through my efforts I have made it the largest advertising agency today, enjoying an affiliation with McCann Erickson Worldwide, the largest advertising agency system in the world."

He elaborates his concept of luck with an anecdote— "A professor at Harvard University advises his colleague to be nice to ‘A’ grade students for they may be one of his colleagues later. But be extra nice to the students who are B and C graders because they may be the prospective donors of the buildings, science laboratories and equipment."

"It is not only always hardwork that makes you successful but of course waiting for luck without any efforts would do no good. But then if success and money can come through hard work the guy who breaks the road in sizzling heat should have been making much more money than Rs 100 that he earns a day," Masood says.

Does the fact that you are the youngest MAP President, the first-ever in the advertising agency sector, signify anything?

"Yes, it signifies primarily two things— Number one that people love and support me, even my clients are like buddies to me, because I have a good report of being ‘dead honest’, outgoing, extremely witty and humorous person which makes the people like me at the end of the day even it at times my honesty displeases them initially.

Secondly, it signifies the importance of advertising and its recognition by the marketing executives that advertising people are no more mere film makers but rather equal senior marketing partners."

"I don’t do any work. Look at my table. Do you see any papers? No. I don’t do any work. My job basically comprises of three things. I serve as the navigator of my company to plan and ensure where it should be a year from today which needs a clear vision and the clarity of thought. Secondly, I manage to ensure that some 350 staff and workers who are working for Orient are performing to their ability and potential. And thirdly, I make sure that the best people in the market should work for me instead of somebody else. Of course, top levelling PR is also the part of the job."

A decade ago, he told PAGE, he used to be much engrossed with the low level management work and it was a comment by a foreign acquaintance which made him change his style to today’s ‘no work’ attitude. The visitor who watched Masood indulged in heavy managerial work had asked him, "When was the last time you had an appointment with yourself? "That question and the resultant revelation entirely changed my working habits so much so that today I feel that the most constructive time is when you are doing nothing because it allows you think and have a chat with your innerself. But of course, this applies to the top executives only because such an attitude on the part of the low and medium management could have a devastating effect."

To a question, "What are the essential ingredients for the making of a successful business leader? "He shrugs off his shoulders and says "There may be 2000 ingredients but it’s very hard to name them all. However, there are certain traits including wisdom, dedication, hardwork, motivation, ambition, etc., etc., which change from person to person.

Elaborating his point further he said, "There are all kinds and types of successful business leaders. Particularly with reference to Pakistan and generally the world over, there are those who are educated and there are those who are illiterate, there are cultured ones, there are hardworking ones and there are those who are lazy, there are those who are well-mannered and there are those who are ill-mannered."

But what he feels is the major reason for his success as a business leader, PAGE asks. For me, he replies, it’s definitely is the sense of priority in everything that I do in all spheres of my life, be it professional or personal. Unlike my father, S.H. Hashmi who founded the Orient Advertising in 1953 in association with his brother S.M. Hashmi, the Chairman and the Managing Director of the company respectively, who lays on a premium on commitment, apart from fate, I attribute my success to this single sense of priority and feel I am quite good at it.

Masood also agrees that success is subjective, the meaning of which can, and does, differ from person to person. But I insist on ‘what does it means to him? What’s his translation of success.’ He asks me if I have read the book ‘The seven habits of highly effective people’? I say no. He summons one of his staff, asks him to bring the book, give it to me with his inscription as a gift and asks me to quote the meaning of what success means to him. The quote makes the concluding part of this article.

He says that as a nation Pakistanis have yet to adapt themselves to the winds of change. During the last decade which has turned the world into a global village, an expression which is widely used but hardly understood by the majority of the people in Pakistan. The fact, he says, that people the world over including Pakistan watched the Gulf War on their mini-screens, as if it was a cricket match, signifies the important role that the media— be it advertising, print or electronics— can play today.

Muslims and the Media

"And yet Muslims the world over have failed to make any major investment in the media though they have invested heavily in many other sectors. Today when after Allah, money and media are the two biggest powers, the lack of interest by the Muslims to invest in the mass media would take a heavy toll on the people as the time has once again come for the survival of the fittest. Without investing in the all pervading and powerful media, would the Muslims be able to survive, nay, they will suffer," he laments.

Masood seems saddened by the general misperception of advertising in Pakistan as something which is about lies. Pointing Orient’s brass logo, ‘Truth Well Told’, outside the entrance to his company’s premises, on the wall behind the chair in his office and also on the company’s publications he says that the absolutely wrong perception is a major detriment for the industry.

He stresses that the primary purpose of advertising is to convey the truth about a product in an attractive manner to help sell a particular product. "Those who say that advertisers sell lies, negates their own argument as if such was a case there will be no repeat customers for a particular product as false advertising may help sell a product once but even the most expensive of the advertising campaign could not sell the same product twice if it was based on lies."

He said that advertising business has come a long way in Pakistan from its images of being mere film makers a few decades ago to be treated as an equal marketing partner today. It should also not only work an expeditious show but also act as a ‘dream merchant and trend setters’ a potential which still much remains unexplored in Pakistan. Though as an industry advertising has started moving in the direction to get the much needed recognition as an equal marketing partner it should be much more fast paced, he added.

It is necessary, Masood said, that the advertising industry in Pakistan should make way to one window operation to combine the PR, marketing, internet, management, concept writing, and event management to better meet the increasing demands of the clients. Though every single agency claims to offer a single operation facility in Pakistan, in reality, none of them is doing it, he said.

The Secret

Masood lets PAGE in on a secret which he claims he has never revealed to anybody else except his immediate family, saying, he expects to live for another 33 years till 2031, when he will be seventy year old. He showed PAGE a written— repeat written— plan till 2031 which he says he has plans to follow strictly on year to year basis.

The plan includes retirement in 2015 and also such decisions as where to buy a house, a car, or any major investment in the company. After his retirement in 2015 and till 2031, the last year on his written plan, he will retire from active business— no more office— except occasional advice as the CEO of his many companies but strictly not on a day-to-day basis.

Masood intends to travel with his wife and kids, pursue public speaking seminars on a chosen issue barring issues that has to do anything with politics, be a speaker at strictly business fora and enjoy spending time with his grandchildren.

Masood confesses that he is not a very well-read person but says that is an ardent reader and can’t go to sleep without reading. His reading interest primarily, as you have guessed, is marketing though he also is an avid reader of Urdu poetry. Jack Trout’s ‘Horse Sense’ is one of his most favourite book and he also liberally quotes Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people.’ Ghalib is his favourite poet but he also likes Faraz. He is a great fan of Iqbal Bano and Maestro ghazal singer Ustad Ghulam Ali and Farida Khanum. In the new generation he is an admirer of folk singer, Abida Parveen who is famous for her recitation of mystic poetry.

How would you like to be remembered?

So, how Masood likes to be remembered? Instead of giving a direct reply he asks me to quote words from Covey’s book: "In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one... You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the heads of the people there... as you walkdown to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today.

All these people have come to honor you...There are to be four speakers...one from your family... one of your friends... third from your work or profession and the fourth from your church or some community organization. Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What character would you like them to have seen in you?"B