14th August is around the corner (literally gali kay nukkar par – the silencer bagair ki motorbikes are already out) and we see the surge of Independence Day fervor all around. I have always been a true patriot but as I have mused in the past, celebrating Independence must also be coupled with positive action.
So I was pleasantly surprised when Peek Freans Sooper, the largest selling biscuit in Pakistan, invited a few bloggers over for a discussion panel. What was enticing were the names of Jehangir Khan, Jibran Nasir, Shehzad Roy, and Saba Gul as the participants. The mix promised to bring several diverse thoughts to the panel and the presence of Umair Jaliawala as the moderator intrigued me further.
I had notified ahead of time that I may be joining in late due to some professional commitments and so I was surprised when I walked in just as the event had really kicked off. Umair was quick to quip in his banter that Pakistanis ko time par na aanay ki bhi azadi hai. And that sadly is seen the truth.
We heard a few brief words from Saadia Naveed, the Deputy Managing Director, of English Biscuit Manufacturers on Sooper and just how it has become The Brand of EBM in effect becoming the identity of EBM even eclipsing the actual Peek Freans brand (of which it is a subset). The advertising campaigns of Sooper have always been very catchy and sticky. Even as I write this the words ‘Sab say aagay, sab say oopar’ echo in my head.
Adnan Ali Bajwa, the Brand Manager of Sooper, then led us through the thought process for the new Sooper Hai Azadi campaign that Sooper was to launch that night on all Media. He spoke of how how Sooper is a biscuit that binds the various elements of Pakistani society, bringing them together in unity through its taste. You will find the laborer in the street enjoying the egg and milk taste just as you will find it being served with tea in the top corporate offices. Thus, they wished to incorporate all the sounds of the Paksitani society in a jingle that linked to the Independence Day. So the evergreen “Mein Bhi Pakistan Hoon, Tu Bhi Pakistan Hai” was chosen but the various sounds of daily life were incorporated (rather beautifully I may add) in the tune. Whether it is the sound of pots clanking, or the sound of a golawala crushing ice, or the sound of rice as it is being cleaned, the tune beautifully brings to life the essence of Pakistani society accompanied with the bright colors of our vibrant country. Indeed as the ad says, Azadi naam hai aik khoobsurat ihsaas ka.
The Panel discussion was kicked off with Jibran Nasir speaking first (he apologized he had a commitment with his mother that took priority to all). And Jibran is one passionate man when it comes to this country and fixing the broken society. While we may not see eye to eye on certain issues, there is no doubt he is a man of action. Each panelist was asked what Azadi meant to him. Bringing up the Quetta blast and the wiping out of an entire generation of lawyers in Balochistan, he didn’t mince any words to what Azadi meant to him. The freedom to have your rights, the right to education, the right to clean water and the right to speak your mind.
(Found a recording of Jibran’s words thanks to Hiba Moeen)
We then turned to Jehangir Khan, the Squash legend as he spoke about the freedom his squash career brought to him. How as a sickly child he was not allowed to play despite being from a family of professional Squash players. How, when his father found him in the courts one day and saw the talent his son had. He spoke of the passing away of his elder brother, a promising squash player due to a heart attack on the court at the young age of 28 and how for a while Jehangir stopped playing because if a fit man like his brother died, what would he a sickly kid be able to do. However, his family convinced him and he went after the championship with a passion to realize his brother’s dreams. And he did so, with 551 unbeaten games. A true behemoth in the world of Squash. His azadi was the ability to achieve something in memory of his brother.
Shehzad Roy, singer and musician turned Social Activist, termed Azadi as the freedom to love his country despite everything. When you fall in love with someone you don’t leave them because they have flaws. Despite majority of his family being abroad and asking him to leave, he still is a Pakistani citizen and lives here because he loves this nation.
Saba Gul, CEO of Popinjay, a high street accessories brand in the US which combines a for-profit model with social entrepreneurship and skill development in villages in Pakistan. Saba described her moment of Azadi when she quit a custom-designed tech job which utilized her two MIT degrees, and decided to move back to Pakistan and start the project that eventually became Popinjay. While I had met Saba several years before when Popinjay was known as Bags for Bliss, I never really had a chance to talk to her about how it is structured. I am hoping to get a chance to communicate more with her so I can understand and also maybe get some ideas for Ihsaas Trust, a microfinance and social uplift organization I happen to be a Trustee of. Unfortunately, Saba left the venue right after the panel and I was unable to talk to her. So that goes on my things to do I guess.
Unfortunately, all of the panelists were not there for the refreshments part of the event (though Jehangir Khan sahab did stick around for some photos with us). Thus, unfortunately I was unable to really talk to any of them in detail (guess they were available in the earlier “networking” time slot pre-event which I missed). I did get a chance to talk to Adnan Bajwa, the brand manager, and found him really passionate about the campaign and his brand.
The evening was capped with some scrumptious bun kababs and aaloo cholas. The best refreshment I have seen at a blogger event so far. So kudos to EBM for that :).
(I am missing from this bloggers pic as I was busy eating the yummy bun kababs…. LOL)