Exploring Ad space

Two childhood friends, Umar and Anil, separated by circumstances for over two decades, come together to find their creative space in Kashmir’s growing advertising business. Saima Bhat reports   

Anil and Umar
Anil and Umar

Both Umar Jeelani and Anil Raina, vividly remember how they zeroed in on advertising as career option after they quit their lucrative and well established jobs outside Kashmir. More than business it was the urge to overhaul Kashmir’s ad-world which they felt is still in its infancy.

After mulling the idea for sometime Umar, a management graduate and Anil, a software designer, formally registered UA.ad Agency in August 2013.

But making inroads in a market which is already saturated by established players was not easy for Umar and Anil. “It was a tough call to leave our established careers outside Kashmir and comeback to start everything afresh,” says Umar who has 8 years of marketing experience and has worked with some of the reputed multinationals located outside Kashmir.

On Anil’s part, who was barely 5 when his family migrated to Delhi after militancy broke out in Kashmir, coming back and establishing a business was mountainous job. “I had visited Kashmir just once since 1989. The place was completely alien for me,” says Anil who left a lucrative job offer in New Delhi for sake of UA.ad Agency. A native of Handwara in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, Anil counted on his designing skills and international exposure that he had gained while working for London based Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) ad agency. “Ad agencies in Kashmir work in a traditional manner. They are like traders who simply facilitate between clients and newspapers. There is no creative element involved,” feels Anil.

After working for DDB at their London office for one year Anil come back as recession had hit the market. “I worked in Delhi briefly before taking a job in New Zealand,” says Anil. “Working abroad with reputed ad agencies gave me necessary confidence and exposure.”

Filled with hope and dreams, both Umar and Anil, entered Kashmir’s ad world with what they believe is professional approach. “For us ad making is not confined to brokerage between clients and newspapers, we believe in creating ad campaigns rather,” says Umar who claims to have worked on poll campaigns for political big-shots including incumbent union finance minister P Chidambaram. “We wanted to infuse some professional and creative challenge in Kashmir’s ad making market.”

The young duo was aware that going against the set norms won’t be a cakewalk, especially in a place like Kashmir where businesses flourish on goodwill and personal ilk rather than professionalism and work.

But all they wanted was a chance to prove themselves in the market. And it did not take long before they got their first assignment. “We still remember our first ad camping. It was for Safa Sheer Milk, and we literally put our every creative bit into it,” says Anil. “It was a successful campaign and client was highly impressed by the way we had handled his brand,” recalls Umar. “The best way to announce your arrival in the market is to let your work speak for you. And that is what our first ad campaign did for us,” says Anil. “Our ad campaign for Noora Hospital has been a great success as it set standards in the market,” feels Anil.

In last six months of its operation UA.ad Agency has garnered business worth rupees 10 lakh. Both Umar and Anil feel that Kashmir’s advertising sector is yet to be explored to its full potential. “There is no concept of long term ad campaigns as existing players have fed market with clichéd material. We want to change that mindset,” says 26-year-old Umar who at one point of his career wanted to pursue Nano Technology. “I took admission in a Bangalore based college through a local agent. But I was duped. That episode taught me a lesson and helped me to tread with caution in life,” says Umar.

 Before trying his luck in Kashmir’s ad world Umar scanned a number of options like e-business, adventure tourism etc. but could not back his ideas with necessary capital.

With a dozen reputed businesses in their kitty as clients UA.ads are happy to find their feet in Kashmir. “We only take a limited number of clients at a time so that we can do justice with their campaigns,” says Anil who looks after the creative part of the campaigns as well. “Before taking any project we study the market and then suggest a campaign,” says Umar.

There is lot of scope for professionals in Kashmir as the market is ruled by those who lack creativity and knowledge, feels the enthusiastic duo.

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