Interviews

Omar Hannan, General Manager, Marketing Ispahani Tea Ltd

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THE ISPAHANI IDEAL

Omar Hannan, General Manager, Marketing of Ispahani Tea Ltd shares the secrets to his success

HITTING MILESTONES AT ISPAHANI
The journey began on 1st June 2000. I started my career with Ispahani and it still belongs to Ispahani. It’s been a great journey for me, because at the time of joining Ispahani I had just completed my MBA, and my two months orientation with Ispahani. When they offered me a full time position I was appointed as Brand Manager. During that period, Ispahani had launched Marshall Chips, marking their entry into the food business. I was in charge of the brand and sitting at our head office in Chittagong for 3 months to gather knowledge of the Bangladeshi market. I transferred from Chittagong to Khulna and stayed there for nine years from 2000 to 2009, and I was in charge of the whole North and South Bengal. It was a fantastic time, especially getting to know the market in depth, and also learning the FMCG sector. After 2009, I came back to the management part leaving the field for the head office. Following this, I became the Sales Manager, the National Sales Manager, Deputy General Manager, General Manager, Marketing and now I am the Department Head of Ispahani Tea Limited.

FEELING OUT THE FMCG SECTOR
Every marketer has some challenges, especially in Bangladesh, because here the FMCG sector is different from those of other countries. There you can find shops in every corner. So this is a very challenging area, in terms of distribution and awareness. The area is very big to cover. So this is very difficult in Bangladesh market, to understand what the brand is, what kind of benefits, if any, you could get from the brand. This is a challenge for not only Ispahani, but the FMCG sector as a whole.
As for reward, every marketer or salesperson thinks reward means growth, or how positively your sales are going up. But for me, the reward is actually consumer satisfaction, the service which we are giving, whether it is satisfying the end users or not. This is the main motto of Ispahani – not to run for sales growth, but to make quality products that satisfies us, which in turn will satisfy the consumers.

THE LIVING LEGACY
Ispahani has a big history. After one year, in 2020, we are going to celebrate 200 years of business in Bangladesh of Ispahani. We established our business in 1820. So this is not a year or a decade journey, it is a 200 years’ journey. No business organization can sustain for 200 years, if the consumers and customers had not been loyal, or given love or faith to them. We always measure our happiness with that of our customers. So we believe, Best Brand, gave us recognition from our end consumers. They made us the top brand of Bangladesh. Whatever we did for marketing, others do much more, but the recognition we got, is from our end consumers.

MARKETING FOR COMMUNICATION
In terms of marketing strategy, we have a very clear concept. We don’t want to make any kind of controversial steps, which would hamper the products of their brands. We are very simple; we want to build awareness for our brand. The very clear strategy is that we are very innovative in the tea market. You can see that from the beginning of the tea industry in Bangladesh, 30 years back, nobody believed they could find tea in a 10-gram packet. Then Ispahani starts thinking from 1983, that tea should come in a branded packet, in a proper way. At that time, tea was found in the market in paper packets. So from 1983 t0 2019, whatever innovation that was introduced in the tea industry, was all from Ispahani. Ispahani introduced tea in a jar, in single and double-chambered tea bags. We introduced it, and others learned. We successfully communicated our concepts with our consumers. This is our strategy, very simple but clearly understandable

A DIGITAL FUTURE
The next thing is digital marketing, but my belief is that after 10-15 years, digital marketing will be the only thing in Bangladesh. People want convenience now, and mobile phones provide it for them. The good thing about digital marketing is that you can target a specific group and reach them with your specific communication. We believe that all other companies, including Ispahani is increasing their spending on digital. In terms of cost, it is more effective than other traditional communication systems. Digital marketing comes with both the good and the bad – such as, sometimes people are intentionally giving negative comments, which creates negative impact about the brand and hampers it. You don’t know which comment, good or bad, will end up becoming viral. Apart from this, we believe that digital marketing is the only way to reach the customer in the right time. In Bangladesh, Facebook is much more popular than other platforms. Even an illiterate person now has a Facebook account, whether he knows how to make use of it or not. All marketers should be very careful before posting anything. This is a big challenge for us and everybody.

A BALANCE OF OLD & NEW
At present time, it’s a combination of all these things. In a media survey, last published, still 84% reach is through TV, but digital increased from 7% to 28%, but still the highest reach is TV. So it’s a combination of both, but you have to plan in a smart way about where you will go to. If it is a mass communication, then we definitely have to go through TV. Basic content remains the same, but some messages are different. The only challenge is the negative marketing, or the negative impact on consumer. It is very harmful. It can actually collapse a brand. Marketer has to be very careful before they upload anything, after considering any and all possibility of negative impact on the brand or company. If you talk about our main brand, Mirzapur, which got the Best Brand, and which I believe is a mass people brand, therefore, we try to keep our content the same, so people can relate to it better. For different brands, with different products, for different customers, digital is the best route to reach targeted consumers. We always keep the challenges of digital marketing in our minds.

FIRST LEARN – THEN DO
This applies for everybody – first, spend the time to learn, don’t be too ambitious. Learn the Bangladesh market. What I learned in my education life is different from the knowledge of real life. Whenever someone is aspiring to start a career as a marketer they should first take the time to learn the market, how it grows, how people are thinking. Second, take the input from the consumers, then go and create something for them. One thing I advise everybody, is to not change their career too much, by that I mean the company. If you’re working for a good company, if you feel that you have a future there, then spend time learning there. At present time, the workforce of Bangladesh is very ambitious. They want to achieve everything in a very short time. This is a bad thing. Without knowing all the facts, if you want to do something, it could have a negative impact on your career. If you think you have the ability to do something, first learn then do. Invest in patience.

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