As telecommunications in Pakistan spread at a rapid pace with tele-density of 70.91%, 3G and 4G subscribers above the 35 million-mark and mobile commerce gradually becoming a way of life, it is not surprising that consumers have developed a compelling interest in the workings of their mobile operators.
With five telecom operators (now four after the Jazz-Warid merger) all vying to win their consumers’ pockets and hearts, supremacy is bestowed on the one with the largest market share and Jazz has held that position for a long time.
But as Jazz entered its 25th year, it seemed destined to become another legacy brand – leading operator yes, but sans ferocity. And just when one thought the corporate’s golden days had passed, it blindsided everyone with bold strategic moves and collaborations, and even bolder marketing campaigns.
“I am the sort of person who will give you the freedom to go out of the box, the leeway to fail and the confidence to rise again”
To understand this radical change, we caught up with a formidable proponent of Jazz, the Director Marketing, Shahbaz Maqsood Khan. Deemed a revolutionary as he refuses to be a cookie-cutter prototype from a draconian and dull corporate environment, the man seems determined to shake things up at many levels.
Perhaps it is his international and local experience at prestigious multinational companies or his vivacious personality that bolsters his resistance to the mundane and paves the way to a cultural upheaval of gigantic proportions at the corporate. This in turn leads to a greater sense of empowerment for employees and aids a homogenising of knowledge and skills.
The need for this is explained by Shahbaz as he quotes Sam Sinek: “Customers will never love a company until its employees love it first.” Gone from Jazz is the stuffy red-tapism that is the staple of corporates, replaced by decentralisation of decision-making entities, accelerated by a fun and energetic environment that is reflected in their productivity.
Now there stands Jazz, a corporate that is always willing to explore, experiment and excel. Shahbaz attributes this as a potent effect of the leadership of CEO Aamir Ibrahim under whom the higher management shares a singular vision of Jazz’s goals and destiny.
There’s a change in the air, in the corridors of Jazz and it’s all about how it interacts with the world. Stress has been replaced by passion and this phenomenon owes its existence to an unprecedented flexibility to experiment.
“I am the sort of person who will give you the freedom to go out of the box, the leeway to fail and the confidence to rise again. Be fearless in taking risks or forever condemn yourself to complacence and mediocrity.”
And it was a risk to step out of the safe zone and launch Jazz X handsets with a saucy Nargis Fakhri campaign that had the nation divided into extremes in their reaction to it. A move that – as Shahbaz’s smile reveals – was worth taking.
“While people play safe, I take bold actions and own them. I don’t want my brand to be a boring one and have the same old run-of-the-mill communication that every other person has.”
One thing was for sure: the communication was neither boring nor ignored, making Jazz X a brand no one could and would forget in a hurry.
Fresh off Jazz X’s success, news arrived that Jazz has collaborated with the ever-entertaining Lahore Qalandars for the Pakistan Super League, 2016. The communication itself drew so much attention that the TVC became the most watched one on Facebook with almost 7 million views. The Qalandars may not have fared too well in the PSL but the collaboration segued beyond the cricketing event to transform into the largest cricket talent hunt in the world, the Jazz Rising Stars. Drawing in over 113,000 youngsters from all over Punjab to try out for a chance to be a part of the Lahore Qalandars team 2017, the finale was played out to a jam-packed Qaddafi Stadium in September 2016. While two were selected as part of Lahore Qalandars Squad 2017, the top thirty were taken under the wing of National Cricket Association, awarded scholarships and flown to Australia to train with the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers teams. The sheer size of this whole affair indicates that Jazz is extending beyond its commercial interests and exerting serious muscle into bringing international cricket to Pakistan.
“As Richard Branson says, business is people coming up with an idea to make a difference in other people’s lives, Jazz too wants to create an impact in the lives of the talented Pakistani youth here. This is what Dunya ko Bataa Do is all about!”
Dunya Ko Bataa Do, the relaunch of Jazz – or the shedding of the grandpa persona of Mobilink – brimmed with the promise of activism and positivity. One could ask if such a decision was merited and to what end.
“We were forcing consumers to love a brand when their hearts still wanted Jazz. You can’t be customer-driven unless you do what your consumers love or will love. Therefore, Jazz is back.”
Jazz is back, Shahbaz puts it, under the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) model as an ecosystem of mobile services ranging from voice, data mobile commerce, handsets, incubators cells and much more to amalgamate equity for the single brand Jazz which intends to spearhead the digital revolution in Pakistan.
But then, ‘digital future and digitalisation’ are words almost each telecom churns out on a regular basis. What would Jazz do any differently is the question. It seems that the corporate has it all sorted out:
“We aren’t into lip-service. Aside from the various innovative and accessible products and services to enhance digital inclusion in Pakistan, we are creating headways in IOT and ICT. Jazz National Incubator Centre has been established in partnership with the Ministry of IT to enable entrepreneurs in the tech industry with international exposure, seeding funds and technical expertise.”
One wonders what else can be expected from the powerhouse that is Jazz. Looking at the man at the helm, Shahbaz, who seems like he has something up his sleeve, whatever the endeavour, communication, initiative or collaboration, it will not be anything less than exciting or controversial. And Pakistan is richer for it.