Mr. Nazim Farhan Choudhury is not only the man behind running Adcomm Limited, one of the largest and oldest advertising agencies in Bangladesh, but also an exuberant individual with both a passion for and expertise in investing in great business ideas. Last month, we sat down with the serial entrepreneur to discuss a plethora of topics ranging from his creatively recounted childhood memories to his philosophy of powering game-changing ideas into life.
While getting into advertising was not predestined both him and his sister were taught to fall in love with the creative process from an early age. He says, “Being pressurized into this field of work was not a part of my upbringing and it was rather accidental but frankly my fascination started back when my mom used to bring us here to complete our homework while she did her work.”
Six months before his MBA started, out of boredom he joined Adcomm- which later made for a happy accident to remember. Despite being the son of the founder, he was made to join at the management trainee level with a stipend of BDT 2500. Till date, he makes it a point to never address her as ‘maa’ within the office premises and sticks to Mrs. Choudhury or ma’am. On the first day of work, his ‘ma’am’ handed him two briefs and adventitiously asked him for a plan. The project involved dealing with a corporation launching biscuits and another one launching a cellular phone. Riveted by the cases, Farhan ardently took on the projects, and out of that came the beloved brand of Energy Plus Biscuits and City Cell’s first phone.
Not stopping there and getting a taste of greatly executed campaigns Farhan chalked up one successful campaign after another. He got so engrossed in the process that he decided to stay and little longer and delay his MBA program, but little did he know that his growing love for the field would keep delaying it to the point where he would spend 25 years working in the industry work and still never go for an MBA.
His mother, Geeteara Safiya Choudhury has always adhered to advertising products that are good enough for her and her family to use personally which did at times make it difficult for her children. Farhan admits to always having to use products that his mom was advertising which meant that they weren’t free to try out ‘the new cool things’. Geeteara would go as far as checking retail shops to check whether they were properly stocking the products and Farhan, still young and impressionable, was quick to pick the attention to details from his mom.
He enjoyed the privilege of joining into advertising just when it was taking off to grow by leaps and bounds in Bangladesh and currently shares the pride of being at the forefront to shape the industry as the Managing Director of one of the largest advertising and communication agency. They got continuous opportunities to do new things. He humbly conveys, “We failed more times than we succeeded but we always tried doing something new. Even today we have meetings with about three new projects to be launched and that is what makes work simultaneously challenging and exciting for us.”
On the radical shift in the industry, he says that it’s mostly coming to notice in terms of change in the medium of communication or promotion, but he firmly trusts that the fundamentals still stand at the same point, and change will not seep into it. He outlines the only thing that changes to be how we are interacting. To clarify he points out that despite drastic changes of media, the one big question still stands: ‘why is a brand important for a customer?’
Farhan theorizes that at the heart of the brand stands the purpose of the brand which doesn’t change no matter how we are communicating it. The brand story deserves to be told in ways that adapts to the changes and plays out to reach planned goals.
The man with a strong inclination towards entrepreneurship admits to harboring it from a very early age. Every summer they would stay with their aunt’s house who was a great cook. That is where his first business idea took birth. He laughs to say, “My sister and I came up with an idea that we thought would make us millionaires. We wanted to sell the morsels of food that our aunt would make for us.” At just the age of eight, he thought about making money because he had a considerable amount of exposure to how business is done. America was growing through a boom in commercialization during the ’80s and all the media channels were all about it. “My sister and I didn’t know what we’d become then but we always knew that we were gonna be in business,” says the celebrated serial entrepreneur of our time. That spirit was always there.