Growing up I witnessed many of my close aunts dabbling in home grown, boutique scale businesses while the men folk set up big industry. This always fascinated me as a young girl as it made me wonder why women didn’t think about going into big business considering they were so good at multitasking and management skills.
As a young woman, when I started my own professional life as a qualified makeup artist and stylist in the late 80’s and then as an actor and television producer in the early 90’s I realized that there was so much room to grow if I looked at the potential of both fields I was involved in as industries with their huge growth potential and future scale.
So early into my on-screen life, I started to think about my professional imaging and where I would like to see my name in ten years. I picked diverse roles that were exciting for the audiences to enjoy and hence my popularity as an actor grew more and more over a very short period of time. I then started to get a lot of multinational campaigns to endorse as myself, and not just as a generic model. I also started to get a lot of work as a host for branded talk shows that then told me I had arrived for sure.
After having endorsed multiple multinational brands for almost fifteen years, I started to think about putting my name to work for my own brand or business. A celebrity’s on screen popularity life cycle is usually very short lived. Having said that, I have been extremely fortunate that my popularity has sustained and grown over the years.
So having made the decision to go into business for myself, I decided that I would like to start my own self-titled makeup line as I had a beauty business background. I researched our urban and rural markets for a few years to see what the customer needs were and what was missing on the retail shelves to be able to launch my line with something new to start setting indigenous beauty trends for our own skin tones and climate. While doing this research I noticed that we had no women in retail and this excited me even further as I now had an added responsibility to break this glass ceiling to encourage other women to come into retail and look at shelf space rather than just a salon-scale setup.
When I eventually launched my color cosmetics brand in April 2004 with just twenty five shades of unusual lipstick colors everyone thought I was crazy to want to do this, as a woman wouldn’t be able to survive in retail with all its huge challenges within a predominantly male community. My only thought when anyone discouraged me in this endeavor of mine was that regardless of success or failure a woman had to try to change the retail space in Pakistan. After all, if one doesn’t try something, one has already failed.
It has been fourteen years since I launched the Atiqa Odho Color Cosmetics Brand and I am proud to say that not only did my brand survive, but it’s ranked up there with all other major international brands in our market with a loyal repeat customer following. A recent study done by a prominent e-commerce company ranked “Atiqa Odho” cosmetics as the number one searched and purchased brand amongst all indigenous brands and number six out of all the international brands available online in Pakistan.
So after establishing my cosmetics business I started to think about how to give back to the younger professionals coming into the business of entertainment. This motivated me to set up a trade conference brand by the name of FocusPK. The first year we launched the conference under the prestigious banner of FPCCI. The second year we were hosted by Iqra University in Karachi and decided to launch our first film market to showcase many student films from various prestigious schools from across the country. FocusPK is a trade related initiative that brings all stakeholders in the entertainment industry together to network in a neutral space and help develop new age content for our screens. There is an annual dynamic national committee consisting of industry leaders that work on FocusPK. Some of the main conference partners are Seema Jaffer, Umnia Iftikhar, Faisal Kapadia and Fareshteh Aslam. Our project head and backbone of the overall initiative is Najeeb Ahmed.
Now we are working on taking the initiative to other cities so that we engage more talent and trade and help the industry grow. FocusPK is designed to help build bridges amongst trade partners and encourage better work ethics in the business of production and entertainment. It covers six main sectors of the media and entertainment industry, Film, television, theater, radio, print and digital. We have entertainment events and multiple speaking sessions with trade leaders sharing their valuable insights and experiences with younger professionals to gain knowledge from. The conference and film market is constantly reaching out to schools and motivating students nationwide to showcase their talent to trade to help facilitate a quicker and easier entry into the professional field.
FocusPK has a vibrant and informative website www.focuspk.net and social media digital sites that keep trade professionals, students and all relevant trade partners informed about where the industry is going so that this community of ours grows stronger and healthier. These official sites are also a good way to reach out to relevant human resource as we do help with introductions and are currently working on our directory services for the website. This I felt was crucial as there is no hiring system in the industry and hence we don’t get enough of a talent pool to fulfill the recent fast growing demand.
Ultimately, if we continue to succeed with developing partnerships under this banner, we shall ultimately get better quality content on our screens, in digital and print media which shall help in developing a stronger soft image of Pakistan globally. Media plays a vital role in the image of a country so content development is a must for us as we have too much airtime currently being utilized for depressive dramas and negative news that travel around the world on satellite channels. This sort of coverage impacts all industries as it scares away investors. Pakistan has its challenges like all other countries but we do also have many amazing things to highlight and share with the world which still needs proper projection via media. I can only hope FocusPK helps everyone in this positive direction.
Besides cosmetics and FocusPK, I now also have a recently setup consultancy firm that offers many merchandising, marketing and PR services to multiple retail and media clients who need help with various aspects of their businesses. Odho Consultancy (www.odhoconsultancy.com) was setup in 2016 and in a very short time is now dealing with many major national brands for whom we plan and manage various launch events, brand campaigns, product development and sourcing, B2B networking and B2C engagement. You can say that this business is a combination of my retail and media experience merging together for other businesses to avail as well.
I have also recently started a company for retail management (RMC) that has high profile retail clients engaging us to open and manage their stores in Karachi specifically. This company has been setup as a partnership with Adnan Hamid who is a retail management expert and has many years of experience in this sector both internationally as well as within Pakistan. We decided to start this venture together as a lot of my consultancy clients had difficulty in the management of their stores and needed a professional team to take over and put in better systems to operate smoothly and work towards growth and expansion faster to reach more consumers and increase their sales volume.
So ultimately, the beauty in business is that you can do so many interesting and innovative things in a country such as ours as we are such a young nation. The freedom one gets in being in business for oneself is such a great thrill. Initial stages of establishing any business is hard work but if you stay the course and work hard then nothing is impossible. You just have to believe in yourself and remember that the beauty in business ultimately shows up in the form of professional satisfaction, a good bank balance and cherished respect from your peers that you have achieved your ultimate goals in life. I would like to believe that I have been leading and not just following others by taking on new and innovative business ideas and making them work. Remember, you just can’t argue with success.