Eid Mubarak

EID is the combination of 3 meaningful letters:
E – Embrace with open heart
I – Inspire with impressive attitude
D – Distribute pleasure to all


May Allah this occasion flood your life with happiness,
Your heart with love, Your soul with spirituality,
Your mind with wisdom.

People create culture through their behaviour

An organization is a non-physical entity that is brought to life through its people.

Establishing a culture occurs through people understanding, accepting and developing ownership of the values in order to project a behaviour that reflects the culture of the organisation. This creates brand experience and leads to the brand identity for the organization.

When we speak of people, among stakeholders of a brand, employees are the single most important stakeholders. Yet strangely enough organizations fail to acknowledge this in the brand experience and identity development process. 

An organisation having strong ethics & empowerment, with goals that clearly link to developing individuals and where the employee feels empowered to contribute ideas inspires employees to strive for delivering to the best of his/her abilities. This comes about because the employee likes going to work every day, learns and is appreciated.
It creates engagement.

This engagement leads to specific behaviour that is aligned with the organisational values and manifests as the work culture. Strong teamwork is visible. Positivity is visibly felt and success of individual activities occurs.

Activating a culture creation plan is not easy. It takes time, persistence, consistency and most importantly clarity. Clarity between business goals, functional roles and individual development.

 Culture Impacts Business

As individuals we have our names which give us part of our identity. So also with brands who have their names and logos. But that’s half the job done. As with individuals, our personality and behaviour provide an experience. Together this gives a complete identity, of us, to the other person. Similarly with brands, through employees and their behaviour coupled with organisational processes, a brand stakeholder has specific experiences that lead to having a complete identity of a brand.

The specific experience a stakeholder goes through is purely dependent on two factors:

  1. Employee behaviour
  2. Organisational processes

The impact of behaviour and service quality, in terms of process, creates either a positive or negative perception of the brand in the stakeholders’ mind and affects the buying decision and ultimately on the bottom-line of a business.

Where do we start?


Developing an effective corporate culture is not an external effort. It is purely an internal exercise that needs as much attention and planning for effective implementation, as the regular functions of an organisation.

The leadership of an organisation needs to provide clarity of its business and the brand experience it wants stakeholders to have. This then needs alignment between organisational and departmental goals and desired behaviour of employees.

Changing behaviour is very difficult.

Work habits are part of our individual cultural make-up that we carry with us when we walk into a job. Affecting change requires having a consistent engagement program through which employees clearly feel and get a feeling of pride and value.

Four steps to developing an employee engagement program:
  1. Identify the platform on which the culture would be based. The ethics and social norms it would want to promote and foster among all its stakeholders. Based on this ethical platform determine the values that the brand should stand for.
  1. Inform and internalize these values to the employees by clearly linking them to their work functions and relating back as to how not projecting the same affects the brand and in turn affects the bottom-line. Provide as much clarity to employees here to show the impact on revenue.
  1. Get the employees involved. Get employees to write down, in their own words, how they would project the values in terms of their behaviour.
  1. Ensure measurement. A measurable, performance indicator has to be in place which should be clearly explained to the employee and ensured that comprehension is there.
Keeping the Momentum

Having initiated the program, keeping momentum is extremely important. A structured internal communications program, aimed at regularly highlighting the employee achievements, undertakings and organisational news are communicated, aids the program a lot.

What this does is:

  1. It informs the organisation as to who’s championing the specific activities
  2. It motivates the competitive spirit within divisions and dept.’s to do their bit and get their names on the “communication roster”.

As a team, employees move in one, planned direction, in delivering the desired brand experience. This benefits the brand as all stakeholders receive a positive face of the brand. This, in turn, strengthens their relationship with the brand and leads to increasing revenue.

Why we do not do this?

Current corporate cultures, across Asia, are still largely governed by the old ‘command-and-control’ leadership practices that alienate many of today’s employees.  Instead of people, starting with employees, being the key focal point for a brand in developing its relationships, the focus is on profits through higher sales & lower costs.

Gunning for increasing profits, year on year, is not wrong. Any business needs to be profitable. That’s why it’s in business. But there is a way to be profitable and yet benefiting the community and society it operates in.

We veer away from undertaking a new approach because we are conditioned risk-minimisers & profit-maximisers , through years of learning from the past.

Here’s the catch—as a business leader if you do not put your people first and focus on what benefits them, how can you get them to give a positive brand experience to the stakeholders who matter to you and who pay the revenue the business generates?

 What’s the solution?

Get involvement.

Involvement is the critical element. Intuitively we all understand what involvement is and how powerful a force it can be. When we are told to do something, we do it and then tend to forget about it. But when we are involved in something, we tend to be possessive and own it on an emotive level.  When emotions come into play, passion is there, thereby enabling a strong, positive experience to take place, leading to forming trust. When trust grows, relationships are strengthened leading to repeat usage and referrals.

The question to ask—is there involvement?

Involvement requires that a strong group process is in place. A process where the meetings and interactions take on a deeper meaning than just to meet in order to agree to the content of the meeting. A deeper meaning where one focuses more on honest conversation, high involvement and participation leading to strong, high trust relationships.

Once a strong group process is in place leading to strong relationships based on individual involvement, implementing the rest of the plan in terms of content and communication channels and programs, is not hard, as each independent employee, driving those functions, believe and own it. As a result of which, each interaction is on a more personal, emotive and honest platform. All of which lead to having a positive brand experience output.

What’s the benefit?

By taking the pains of involving & engaging employees and defining the culture, organisations can build up a very strong competitive advantage that results on both a strong brand identity as well as a healthy bottom line.

A positive and enriching brand experience is the output of having involved and engaged employees. Such experiences become the differentiator for a business vis-à-vis its competitor and leads to increased business through referrals and re-purchase thus impacting positively on the bottom line.





Brand experience has a higher impact than advertising

brand+experience+quoteA brand experience is the total experience one has with an entity and the perception one has of that entity. One of the key areas where this experience is strengthened (or destroyed) is the way the brand’s eco system (its’ consumers, partners, vendors) perceive the employees of the brand they interact with.

And this has far greater an impact than the advertising of the brand.

In Asia current corporate cultures are still largely governed by command-and-control practices that alienate many of today’s employees. Whereas employees are (and should be) the key focal point for a brand in developing its relationships.

By putting employees at the center of the brand experience it changes the way senior management think about their organisational culture and the ways that the culture creates rewarding employee experiences which translate into positive and enduring customer experiences.

In-spite of all the talk of ‘people are our main asset’ the road to ‘employee-service-profit chain’ success is mired in obstacles!

If employees are distrusting and alienated from their organisations, what are the chances that they will provide customers and colleagues  with a positive brand experience? And a positive experience is a must in order to have a usage of the brand and, more importantly, to get referrals.

From the organizational perspective employees need to have emotional maturity to understand and align their individual professional goals with those of the business. Often times, emotional maturity is not on par with intelligence maturity in the employee. And knowledge, intelligence and skill are often confused with emotional maturity.

  1. How do we get employees to strengthen and increase their emotional maturity?
  2. How do we get employees to build trust with the brand in order to be  engaged and involved in the organisation’s growth plans?

Engagement programs are one solution. Unfortunately they are just what the term states—engagement, as perceived by the organisation,that is they provide a one-way street of communication. Commanding what should be the perceived brand image communication, providing content to gain a commitment. But not really providing any means of employee development or initiating engagement or involvement from the employee.

The missing element is involvement and having involvement is critical!

Intuitively we all understand what involvement is and how powerful it can be. When we are told to do something, we do it and then tend to forget about it. But when we are involved in something, we tend to be possessive and own it on an emotive level. And when emotion comes into play, passion is there. Where passion is present there is a strong, positive experience taking place.

This is the platform on which trust is built.

When trust grows, through engagement & involvement, the quality of the relationship increases rapidly on the positive scale leading to an enjoyable outcome of interaction between the brand custodians and its stakeholders. The cycle is completed when repeat usage and referrals occur.

This does occur simply because of human psychology. We like being around people who are collaborative, have a positive attitude and are helpful.

Thus when an organisation is managing cultural change a top priority is to have the employees’ involvement.

And this involvement requires that a strong group work process be in place. A process where the meetings and interactions take on a deeper meaning than just to meet in order to agree to the content of the meeting. A deeper meaning where one focuses more on honest conversation, high involvement and participation leading to strong, high trust relationships.

All  simple, effective and, yet in a corporate set up, at times, hard to do elements (for various reasons)

Once a strong group process is in place it leads to strong work relationships based on involvement to a common cause. Then implementing an engagement program, in terms of content and communication channels, is not hard as each independent employee, driving those functions, believes and own it. As a result of which, each interaction is on a more personal, emotive and honest platform.

All of which lead to having a positive brand experience output.

This Ramadan create your legacy

Ramadan Legacy

Finally it’s here!

In March I had written about a talented group of Muslims who had developed a RAP– Ramadan Action Plan. Read about it here.

Now the group has just launched a fabulous app– Ramadan Legacy app— the world’s first fully featured app for Ramadan that provides an excellent way of planning your Ramadan in the digital format. The app aims to enhance your experience of Ramadan through combining smart technology and beautiful design with spirituality and learning, all to help you organise your worship to make Ramadan easy and enjoyable.  It has launched on the Apple and Android App Store on Friday 12th June 2015.

“Ramadan Legacy is a tool that allows Muslims to create, track and build their Ramadan Legacy. Imagine in five years time looking back to see what you felt and achieved five years ago, in Ramadan. It combines smart technology and beautiful design with spirituality and learning, all to help you organise your worship to make Ramadan easy and enjoyable.”– Ramadan Legacy

Winds of change blowing on Islamic finance

A distinct trend emerging in the global Islamic finance industry is the rising number of professionals opting out of the corporate rat-race and entering entrepreneurship. 

The question is why?
  • Does this have a correlation with lack of talent development in the industry?
  • Or with the lack of Islamic finance being used by other industries?
  • Or a lack of professional standards where technical competencies are concerned?
  • Or a lack of vision within the industry?
  • Or the lack of convergence between Islamic finance & the Halal industry?
  • Or simply the lack of tangible progress?

Food for thought for  later as the global Islamic finance industry is, indeed, getting affected by all these issues and needs to address them quickly.

From the professional perspective, to get an insight into what’s driving professionals in the industry to trade-in a secure pay-check for the uncertainty and flux of entrepreneurship, I met up with Mr. Shakeeb Saqlain— CEO of IslamicBanker.com .

Here’s the interview published in Business & Finance April 2015 issue:


The Crying Child That Created a Mission


This is a re-post of an article by a dear friend of mine Marc Romano . I am sharing this in order to help Marc spread the word and assist him in obtaining the financial support the school requires. Please read on and do share with your social network.


One-evening last week, while on a walk, I met a young child who was in tears and a mother who couldn’t seem to console her. I asked if she was okay and if there was any way I could help. The mother explained that her daughter was told her school, The Cobblestone School, would be closing down for good at the end of the month.

Cobblestone is an independent, Nonprofit school located in the heart of a historic part of our city. It is funded by its own resources and not tax dollars but depends greatly on charitable contributions. I was very familiar with the school and what it has represented to the children and the teachers who make it so special.

Click here to continue reading

Why You Should Undertake a Brand Risk Analysis

As brand marketing professionals we delve into the structural issues of developing a brand and often invest heavily in the brand building process but do not take into account the associated risks or undertake a Brand Risk Analysis on those risks .

As the importance of brand for an organisation has grown over the years, the risks too, have proportionately grown.

The global financial crisis triggered major socio- economic changes and issues of transparency and trust along with growth of social media usage, have been catalysts in moving brand risk to center stage and in the limelight.

Brand risk management should be identified, measured and managed within the enterprise risk management framework of an organisation.

Given that brand risk is multifaceted—strategic, operational, financial, regulatory and are often managed by organisations in individual silos or through departmental based planning– being able to get a true picture of potential brand risk is poor.

Brand risk evaluation and planning doesn’t deserve such silo based approach but a much more strategic and integrated approach.

Let’s start with “What is brand risk?”

Under traditional risk management, which is originally the domain of the finance department, brand risk has no definition. It comes across as an output from other identified risk areas such as lawsuits or adverse regulatory decisions or supply chain issues.

In layman terms we can define brand risk as threats to the brand equity or threats to the brand differentiators that make consumers choose one product or service over the other. Thus brand risk can be defined as anything that threatens:
1. The sustainability of current and future demand for a company’s product or service
2. The company’s commercial freedom

The key internal areas where brand risk is, usually, generated are:
1. Poor manufacturing quality
2. Poor customer service (brought about by dissatisfied or not-in-sync with the brand philosophy employees)

External areas are:

  1. Behaviour by consumers—boycotting the products or services of the company due to change in perception brought about either by a change in the brand differentiator communication or experience OR due to changing social values
  2. Retail space capturing, buying out of stocks, removing stocks on display etc tactics by competition
  3. Political or community opposition to the brand to do business within a geographical region which limits its ability to develop.

The value of approaching brand risk, in a comprehensive manner, by looking at the brand all round from the point of view of answering the question— “what can affect the sustainability of the brand?”– provides a useful framework for risk analysis.

Such an analysis can aid in corporate planning for business growth as well as in being a measurement for brand equity as a value.