While planning for the speakers for the Brand Pakistan Conference, there was one person I knew that I absolutely, definitely had to invite. A master branding guru and an authority on experiential marketing, with a career in branding and consumer insights stretching over 24 years and a great speaker to boot, Bharat Avalani was an obvious choice.
I first met Bharat, I believe in 2005, at an international conference on advertising and that one meeting turned into a deep abiding bond of friendship strengthened by Bharat’s love for Pakistan and Pakistanis. We have continued to meet all over the globe at various conferences frequently, and also on his numerous visits to Pakistan in his capacity of regional director Unilever AMET. A job which he has recently left, to launch his career as an international consultant on brand strategy.
His Unilever job was very interesting and unique since he was responsible for gathering insights before Unilever product launches throughout Asia and Africa. His keen observation and fantastic memory ensured that he was the right person to connect with people’s genuine emotions and create campaigns that resonated.
When I contacted Bharat to invite him as a speaker at The Brand Pakistan Conference a few months back, he had three choices:
- to be a keynote speaker at the prestigious International Advertising Association Conference Africa Rising at Ghana,
- to attend a royal wedding at Jodhpur, or
- to be a speaker at the Brand Pakistan Conference.
He says that for him, there was only one choice – such is his affection and love for his friends.
A truly global citizen, Bharat’s nationality is humanity. Where other people see, he feels. He is a bundle of emotions with his heart definitely on his sleeve.
I call Bharat the memory collector. Like many others, he also takes selfies, but his selfies are different, because each picture tells a story that is deeply etched in Bharat’s memory. Each picture is an emotional experience for him.
For Bharat, his holy pilgrimage is a journey of emotions, the very reason the first thing he did on landing at Islamabad was to leave for Peshawar and pay his heartfelt tribute to the young martyrs at the Army Public School.
Whenever I meet Bharat, he has amazing adventures to share. Not the stuff of Arabian Nights or Sinbad, but everyday experiences that he felt deeply. People, places and nature, things that he viewed differently.
Malaysia Truly Asia showcase
His session and showcase of Malaysia Truly Asia started with a tribute to Pakistan that he titled “Truly Pakistan” in which he shared his experiences in Pakistan and the need to anchor Pakistan’s narrative in the humanity, open mindedness and hospitality that is unique in this region. A touching experience that he narrated was his celebrating Diwali with a group of Pathan workers at a Dhaba who then refused to let him pay. He says that the unexpected kindness and genuine spirit of hospitality was what made Pakistan a very unique experience.
The Malaysia Truly Asia showcase was a lesson in audacity; how in the depths of recession, Malaysia decided to rise above the doom and gloom and invest in a campaign that highlighted the unique character of Malaysia and made it a true melting pot of Asia.
The dividends that Malaysia reaped from this campaign, and continues to reap after almost 15 years of the same campaign idea running consistently are tremendous. Tourism, industry, culture, heritage and all other sectors have benefited.
This is the power of ideas and an example that Pakistan definitely needs to follow. We need to brand Pakistan with its own unique characteristics, or as Bharat puts it: “Pakistani aapko apna bana leta hai”.
Photo above: Bharat (left) receiving a token of appreciation at the Brand Pakistan Conference 2015.
But this time it is not just Bharat who has collected memories but a lot of people at the Brand Pakistan Conference also have very fond memories of him and look forward to listening to him again.
Thank you Bharat for joining us at The Brand Pakistan Conference and being a part of what made it a magical and amazing experience.
Sayyed was a convener at the Brand Pakistan Conference 2015 and is the managing director of Channel-7 and Launchpad Interactive based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Drop us a line or two in the comment box below or email us at email@example.com. For more Thought of the Week articles, click here.