To Karachi for my second visit and a joy it was too. Pakistan has a culture of hospitality that makes others look shallow
Three contributions from Pakistanis stood out:-
Hameed Haroon, CEO of Dawn Media Group, berated the conference for not taking a firmer stand against corruption. Media owners and media agencies collude rather than operating in the best interests of their clients. Dawn has a firm policy of not giving backhanders in return for a place on the media schedule. He also pointed out that the system for measuring circulation figures had been corrupted.
Farhan Hassan talked about Pakistan as not being a discount economy but a Sachet economy-not just in the literal sense of for small sachets of detergent/other forms of single shot, but in the broad sense of low cost, small units that are easily transfered. Such as the pre paid phone card where you can sell on your unused minutes to a buddy ( from the Philipines) or the washing machine for small loads with a see through lid or micro finance banks making small loads to women to set up small business. Innovation would come from “sachet markets” rather than rich markets in all sorts of categories in future.
Irfan Mustafa upbraided the privileged few for failing to show confidence in Pakistan.He had the most memorable phase of the day- “Pakistan is a great product and a lousy brand”. He pointed out that you cannot just let Fox news do Pakistan’s PR you have to believe in the country and talk it up. He cited as evidence the fact that no multinational had left the country and it remained a good place to invest. Fox news may portray the country as a war zone -the American media did the same to the UK when the IRA were active-but the likes of Coca Cola and Pizza Express know otherwise. Interesting facts- Coca Cola per capita consumption in PK is 55 ml compared to 14 ml in India. Average weekly takings in a Pizza hut restaurant are $28,000 in PK and $8,000 on India.The IMF loan to the country at $17.5 billion is peanuts compared to the Greek meltdown and had stabilized the finances
My overwhelming sense is that Pakistan really needs to tell new and different stories (otherwise the insurgency will continue to dominate the agenda.) There is great new writing and a thriving art scene. If India has Jaipur then Pakistan needs its own internationally acclaimed festivals. A concerted effort to create different story needs to be made. People can journey through the country and what a journey that can be in one of the most visually striking places on earth-why not run a competition for young film makers to tell the story of their own journeys through the country-a point of pride for young Pakistanis and perhaps at least start to break down the perceptions barriers of “the Pakistan brand.”