Did you make a conscious effort to become a brand, or is it something that just happened along the way?
A At the start of my career I had no idea where I would end up. I just worked hard and picked a variety of interesting characters for my television and film projects. This seemed to have worked with the audiences as they kept requesting to see more of my work on screen. A few years into my career as an actor, I realized my mass public pull and then decided to become a brand and develop several businesses around my name.
When did you realize that you wanted to do more than acting?
A I have always been inclined towards the creative and performing arts. Having started my professional life as a qualified makeup artist and hair stylist, I just went back to the beauty business years later when I felt I had established myself as an Urdu speaking mass market artist name via television, which could launch a beauty brand and much more. When you get the interest of the middle class audiences, you have really hit gold as that is where any business has the potential to succeed due to its consumers volume levels.
You decided to launch your own make-up brand in 2004 (Atiqa Odho Color Cosmetics). Why did you decide to get into the cosmetic industry?
A When I was working as a stylist in the 80s I could never find good quality cosmetic products at affordable prices in our markets. I started to research for many years on how to solve this issue and finally found very good ISO certified suppliers that helped me fill this gap for our domestic consumers. I also discovered while researching for the project that there were no women in retail in the beauty business. I found this to be a very disturbing fact as cosmetics is all about women. So why were they not in ownership roles and just end consumers? I knew I had to be a part of bringing this change in the country and hence pioneered in retail as the very first internationally developed, indigenous celebrity cosmetics brand.
Fourteen years on, how do you feel about the progress Atiqa Odho color cosmetics has made?
A The last fourteen years have been very exciting and extremely challenging. I have learnt a lot being in retail. Our market has changed with the big international brands coming onto our shelves officially, and not as smuggled goods only. The grey area brands are flourishing as well. So it’s still a lot of work trying to stay afloat due to all these new changes, but I am proud to say that we have, over the years, built a loyal customer base that comes back for their favorite items. This fact in itself tells me that we are moving in the right direction. Brand building with custom made items is always very hard, but my team and I shall keep at it as failure was never an option. I feel so proud when we get online orders from far of and remote small towns of Pakistan. My dream to deliver a good quality product at an affordable price to women all over the country has come true. It gives me a thrill to know that a woman sitting far from the urban centers also gets to enjoy my labor of love at her doorstep for a price she doesn’t feel guilty spending. Afterall, everyone has a right to vanity.
Focus Pakistan is something that you are extremely passionate about. How did you come up with this idea?
A After spending many years attending entertainment industry related trade conferences around the world, I just got tired of waiting for someone else to develop and host something similar for us in Pakistan. So when I was given an entertainment and production committee by the FPCCI to chair, I decided to form a committee consisting of likeminded people from our industry with me to be able to make this wish of mine come to life. Fortunately, FocusPK16 was a huge success. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, our trade came together to mingle and discuss relevant issues and find solutions. We had strong government representation as the Information Minister Marriyum Aurengzeb also attended the two-day event and got to hear our concerns. This made the initiative even more successful as it was a good public and private meet and greet, which converted into some fantastic results to help our trade partners.
The business of entertainment is one of the most lucrative industries in the country, and it was FocusPK that brought that to our attention. Would you agree?
A I think the people in the trade have always been aware of the potential of the business of entertainment, but FocusPK has just opened up space for others to dive in. We are trying to engage banks to look at this industry as a serious business with tons of financial recycling potential to support. We are also very keen to help develop new talent from all areas of the six pillars of entertainment we currently cover, film, television, radio, print, digital, theater.
Focus Pakistan was very well received when it was launched in 2016. In its second year however, the response that you got was overwhelming. Tell us about that?
A 2016 was our inaugural year and in 2017, we made a statement in the trade that FocusPK is an annual event and shall continue to build bridges and bring people together to improve the quality of content. This initiative is also focusing on the ethics of our trade as it’s a very young industry and needs a lot of consistent support and direction. We also launched our film market project this year, which was very well received by all, and shall continue to be an annual feature as well. The film market is helping young professionals get a quicker and easier way to meet the trade and network for jobs and projects. We also need to find new talent as there is so much airtime available and not enough capable professionals to keep feeding our needs in broadcast.
In your opinion, what are the biggest hurdles the Pakistani entertainment industry faces, and how do we overcome them?
A Like all young industries, we do have many development challenges. This industry needs time and support to grow into a well formed all rounder and we shall get there. The people in the trade have a responsibility to give back to the business of entertainment, if we don’t do it, then who will nurture this young industry.
What advice would you give young people who want to work in the entertainment industry?
A Our industry looks very glamorous from the outside, but actually it’s a lot of hard work. Don’t step into it unless you are willing to put in the time and effort and stick it out through the rough times. It is also a high profile field to be in, so there is a lot you have to give up in your private life, which doesn’t always suit everyone.
What does the future hold for Atiqa Odho?
A I will be celebrating my 50th birthday in February this year. I have made a promise to myself at this high point in my life. I want to live well, enjoy life, work hard and contribute back to society as much as possible. I don’t want to be remembered as someone who didn’t leave much for others to enjoy. I would like to impact as many lives in a positive way while I’m here as seeing others happy gives me true happiness as well. Most of all, I would like to see my three children as settled as possible. I am blessed with wonderful children and they have always been my first priority.