According to Numayer Mahbub, Founder and CEO of UNICOM, a leading Out-of-Home Advertising Company of the country, Out of Home Advertising is an unstructured industry in Bangladesh. As a founder of an Out of Home Advertising company he is on a mission to bring a structural reform in this industry so that people can get higher value and prime sites.
Numayer looks far and aims to change the idea of billboards by adding more value, and by injecting more creativity that will also benefit the society.
Few days back Team FS took a chance to sit with Numayer to talk about his passion as an entrepreneur, to understand out of Home Advertising industry, UNICOM, startup and the state of entrepreneurship in Bangladesh and to get a dive into his experiences of building a business from the scratch.
Tell us about yourself and your passion in life.
I completed my elementary and high school level education in Bangladesh and then went to USA for graduation. Right after my graduation I came back and started UNICOM- an outdoor advertising firm. In Last 4 years I have been enjoying different experiences and literally experiencing a different life because it was a matter of big adjustment after coming back from USA to Bangladesh and doing business here.
I like traveling, creativity, and creative design and am passionate about creative, large size billboards with an edge. In USA billboards are massive and creative, as I experienced there, but here in Bangladesh I even saw hand prepared billboards! However, things are becoming better. I have dream of changing the idea of billboards by adding more value, and by injecting more creativity in this sector.
Briefly tell us about UNICOM.
UNICOM is an ‘Out of Home Advertising’ company and we provide high-premium sites to our clients. We provide sites for hanging billboards according to clients demand. Our main renting places are three international airports of Bangladesh and other rent-able places are flyovers, bus stops, shopping malls, city streets, etc.
I started UNICOM mid in 2004 with Mr. Shabbir Ahmed, my business partner. From 2004 we have been working as country’s pioneering and leading out of home advertising company. As a company, we believe in the concept of having great people and paying them high. As a leading outdoor advertising company we are always concerned about creating superior value for our clients.
We are committed, balls to bones, to satisfy our clients’ demand and we love to help them to understand their needs. We have around 32 personnel in total but only seven personnel works inside the office. Our top line has been experiencing double-digit growth since inception year-on-year starting at nominal amount of BDT 240,000/- in 2006, which to me is just as rewarding as our current revenues.
We are committed, balls to bones, to satisfy our clients’ demand and we love to help them to understand their needs. We have around 32 personnel in total but only seven personnel works inside the office.
What was the underlying motivation behind starting UNICOM?
You may know that Out of Home Advertising is an unstructured industry. From the beginning my vision was to bring in a structural reform in this industry so that people can get higher value and prime sites. I started UNICOM with a vision to change the way how people see and place bill boards and to grab the opportunity to beautify the cities, its bus shelters, air ports, flyovers and streets.
You know such beautification activity is beneficial for the cities and also for the advertisers as well. Like many other Ad firms we are not working with 360 degree marketing activities, PR, or Creative Designing things. Rather among around 450 advertising agencies we have tried to establish ourselves as the country’s leading and largest Out of Home Advertising Company. We have started working at country's highest valued and prime sites i.e. Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, and Cox’s Bazaar Airport.
Many people want to start but often fail to do so, why? What it takes to start anything?
The first thing you need is faith. No doubt, failure will be there but the thing is you need to believe in something! Usually, when you start anything you don’t know when you will find optimum outcome from it. For getting any outcome from anything you have to wait, and this waiting can linger from one year to two years or more. And in this journey faith is the only soul mate you can rely on. Without faith you can’t wait for outcome of something that is uncertain.
Let me tell you one of my experiences: once I started country’s first PR and Marketing magazine namely “Campaign”. I had strong belief that I could take such a great initiative. When I started Campaign Magazine it was the first of its kind in Bangladesh. I had to face a lot of challenges but I managed everything quite well. I did it at my best and I do believe no one could do it more efficiently than me. It was possible only because of my belief. However, it is out of market now. I closed it because the market wasn’t ready for it and even not now. It reminds me, in the long run a venture can either be a success or a failure but to start something you must have the belief that “I can do it”.
The first thing you need is faith. No doubt, failure will be there but confidence of conquering is prerequisite! Usually, when you start anything you don’t know when you will find optimum outcome from it. For getting any outcome from anything you have to wait, and this waiting can linger from one year to two years or more. And in this journey faith is the only soul mate you can rely on. Without faith you can’t wait for outcome of something that is uncertain.
What do you think about advertising industry?
Basically, Advertising industry consists of two segments. One is research segment and another is execution and implementation. If I tell you about the situation of visualization, design, creative segment-it has become very advanced, spectacular and up to the standard. It has improved and standardized through expertise of international Ad agencies as they have strong brand image and job capability.
Moreover, national ad agencies are also doing well. I think this designing and visualization section will do much better in the coming years.
But, the out of home advertising is poise to be structured. Now it lacks proper policy and smart planning. If we want to enter into the city corporations or any other places, it won’t be possible if govt. don’t help us.
Moreover, here people aren’t conscious of preserving the beautification activities done by outdoor advertising. There are some security threats for out of home advertising industry as the thieves stole away grasses, banners, lights, wares etc.
What are the few major problems in this sector and how do you see the future of this sector?
I think major problems of the Out of Home advertising industry are, the existing Policy is not in favor of the business people, bureaucratic bottlenecks are at its highest level. Proper planning is almost absent. Roads, shops or cities nothing are planned.
Because of imperfect planning billboards can be broken down on pedestrians or may cause destruction over anything. If any casualty occurs it goes far on and creates loss which is a great risk for this industry.
In coming days this industry has enormous prospect. New city corporations are being declared where new advertising places will also appear, new international airports are to be edified, many flyovers to be built and in the future subways will be built, many more shopping malls will also be opened and all these places will be the places for outdoor advertising.
As a marketer, do you think a startup should have a special marketing plan?
For a startup firm it’s tough to manage a separate marketing budget. It’s because when you start it's quite impossible to manage any plan exactly. Basically, time helps to decide what needs to be done at that time.
As a startup you can make a marketing plan and then check it out how far you can execute it. To me a startup is a one-man-show firm where a person alone does all marketing activity and at that period no plan works. But, when your company will become an established firm then you can take further initiatives for marketing, then can make extensive marketing plan.
Tell us about few major obstacles you faced at the beginning and the way you outperformed those obstacles.
While running my venture I faced serious problem with building an expert sales team. Personally I am a good sales person but my sales team wasn’t like me. I had provided them a smart commission and incentives but it did not work.
However, we have luckily retained all of our clients. That happened because of our great customer relationship and our value proposition. I think we have a shortage of skilled manpower here in Bangladesh.
What do you think, what are few major challenges for young entrepreneurs in Bangladesh?
In Bangladesh people start a venture without knowing much about the industry and without having a clear understanding of the business which is dreadful. They even do not have any draft plan of what they will do in the next few years. They don’t know where they will go after 5/6 years. This is a common problem among the young entrepreneurs.
In Bangladesh people start a venture without knowing much about the industry and without having a clear understanding of the business which is dreadful.
If I tell you about challenges, though many people think money as the biggest obstacle, I don’t think so. Building something that has a demand in market is difficult. I think if you can create needs of the people and if you can find proper business idea, finance will come. Biggest challenge lies in making something that has a demand in market. If you can solve a problem and make something that has a need in the market you have business.
Many people say we have opportunities in Bangladesh but literally it is tough to find a profitable business venture from the existing opportunities. It is really hard to do something that has a real market value.
Moreover, time has changed, in last two decades new businesses’ growth opportunity lessened as many more giants occupied the major market segments. Furthermore, Bureaucratic bottlenecks are huge. Where a little business opportunity exists, bureaucracy makes it tiny.
What are the skills, you think, an entrepreneur should possess?
An entrepreneur or a business person needs to have drive. Drive makes things easy. Moreover, an entrepreneur needs to define peoples’ need, understand need, and create need. It’s crucial for doing and building business. Thus, entrepreneurs should be creative in making product or service and need to be proactive in sorting out opportunities. One must love what he is doing, must show passion, and should not think it as mundane work.
Having belief and understanding of what you are doing is also critical. One must do something structured and think deeply how far he/she can go with it.
An entrepreneur or a business person needs to have drive. Building a business is hard, drive makes things easy.
[su_note note_color="#f9fafd" text_color="#4e8df6" radius="16"]Credit: Interview by Ashiqur Rab and Muhammad Zakaria[/su_note]