Few years back, a 13 year old kid, rising above the average teenage scenario, discovered his knack for graphic design and from then onward devoted every moment of his life to it. As a result, now at the age of 19, he owns a 5 years old advertising agency with both national and international clients and also dreams of going global. This ‘no more a kid’ is none other than Atif Ahmed Akkhor, Founder and CEO of IONSKETCH.
I recently had an opportunity to have a chit-chat with this young talent. He walked me down the journey of IONSKETCH till date and I was amazed by obsession to create something unique and his reluctance of acting according to other’s will which is why he found his peace in entrepreneurship.
This is 2nd and final part of our conversation, you can find Part 01 here.
Ionsketch is a designing and advertising agency based in Dhaka. Atif describes it as more of a complex hub of ideas and designs. Ionsketch aims to design for inspiring people and the startup now has a 9 persons team. There are two creative teams who are entitled to come up with exclusive designs and ideas according to the client’s requirements. The Accounts team is responsible to maintain strong and friendly liaison with clients.
Ionsketch has 3 types of clients including short term clients (less than 6 months), long term clients (over 6 months) and small term branding clients. For all these clients, Ionsketch has a solid as well as flexible cost structures and once they approach with their requirements, The Accounts team comes up with a customized cost structure to serve their client’s purpose.
Atif and his venture Ionsketch was awarded as Change maker in Entrepreneurship by Daily Star in 2012. Atif’s portrayal of his extraordinary skills in a poster for UNICEF bagged him yet another ‘Creative Excellence Award’ by AIG.
Most of all, Ionsketch is now a very familiar name in the field of advertising and communication. Attracting corporate and startup clients from US, Australia, Switzerland and landing themselves a project as big as designing logo for Bangladesh’s World Expo 2012 Pavilion in South Korea were several cherries on the top of the cake.
We should definitely not forget that Atif started off at an age when kids find solace in their ‘cool hangout groups’. But this turned out to be a huge challenge for Atif who found solace in chasing his passion which required him to ‘hangout’ with people belonging to his ecology even if they were 10 years older. Without even realizing, Atif, in his early teenage was drifting apart from his friends. Coping with this whole thing was quite a challenge for him as he found the feeling of loneliness very scary.
As Ionsketch started gaining fame, more and more clients wanted to design their contents from it. With this constantly rising clients and their demands, it was initially challenging for him to cope up with work pressure. At one point of time, he had to work all alone as his initial employees left due to irregular payment and change in their interests.
Atif also considers the reluctance of many clients to pay on time even if they are capable of paying as another big challenge. Finally he recognizes the big fishes in the pond as a potential challenge. “We work really hard, day and night for developing out of the box contents. For instance, very recently we indulged our efforts into developing a campaign for a telecommunication brand in Bangladesh. After hours and hours of hard work, a big advertising agency stepped in and made the contract their own. Later, we had to take legal actions to get paid.” says Atif. But according to Atif, all these challenges have only helped Ionsketch to get better in terms of their strategies and their services.
“I don’t see anybody as competition to be honest. If I see someone doing amazing work, I would consider myself privileged to support and encourage their effort. What annoys me is someone providing inferior quality services and that too at higher prices, says Atif, Ionsketch is really niche; if someone requires very detailed and specific services and ready to pay the real price Ionsketch should be their ideal resort.”
Like any startup founder, Atif wants Ionsketch to go global. Already, they have taken the first step towards it by renting an office space in New York dealing with clients there. But what is different about Ionsketch’s future plan is that Atif doesn’t want it to become a massive venture. He believes in unique ideas and business model. Consistent with his belief, he wants to dedicate his services to specific ventures and individuals whose ideas he can believe in.
“I don’t want Ionsketch to be definitive and don’t want it to be bound by few parameters. At the same time I do not want to deliver poor quality products just to increase my revenue. Although, it is a little risky but Ionsketch believes in delivering specialized services that ranges from designing and advertising to marketing and branding. No matter how big amount of money any client offers us, if we do not specialize in what they want from us, we politely reject their offer.” says Atif.
Atif himself is a rule breaker. He loves to think beyond the spectrum of commoners. Atif believes these are few things people often get wrong while starting something:
Investment: Money cant not solve most problem, says Atif. He said if you want to start anything, start it. If you need money then instead of raising money from others, work and earn then start. Chances are, you might fail more often than what you are thinking; the challenge is making your failures less expensive.
Discrimination: Atif thinks that not everyone has to be an entrepreneur but an entrepreneur can come from anywhere. Irrespective of one’s age, sex and background, if he/she is witty, smart and passionate enough, everyone would sooner or later recognize and appreciate his/her efforts.
Legal Procedures: People who start off often fret over legal rules and regulations such as getting copyrights and getting registered. Atif suggests that instead of falling into the complexities of such rules and regulation, one should start small. Start with a trade license, less costly, less hassle.
Recruitment: Hiring the right people or finding the ultimate partner at the initial stages of the company is a complete myth according to Atif. If one has an idea, it should be put to execution even if he/she has no partner. “I found a person willing to be my partner after 5 years of the existence of Ionsketch! I started it all alone. So this can’t ever be a stifling issue for startups”- Atif added.
Atif is an HSC examinee, wants to pursue higher studies like any other kid. He wants to set an example to others that it is never impossible to run after one’s dreams only because he/she is a student. He also encourages parents to let go off their children and help them walk through their trail of passion.
Credit: Story by Fatema Mohammad for Future Startup, Edited by Sabidin Ibrahim, Image by Ionsketch