A Glimpse Into Potential Futures

A Glimpse Into Potential Futures

Earlier this year, WGSN, a global authority on trend forecasting released a fascinating report on their top projected trends in consumer behaviour and product methodology for 2022. Casting its eye on more futuristic developments, WGSN shone a light on exciting concepts such as flying taxis and direct-to-avatar commerce. WGSN also backed some of the more current flavours including crypto rewards and baijiu – the world’s most consumed spirit – to retain their popularity and grow from strength to strength.

With a rigorous research methodology that allows them to analyse the present landscape, identify signals of change, and forecast the immediate and long-term future of industries, their reports are an invaluable resource to business owners looking to inform their strategy and the layperson burdened with an insatiable curiosity alike. WGSN’s Consultant Director of APAC, Helen Sac, spoke to Top 10 of Asia recently in an insightful interview touching on topics ranging from consumer demand to the values of the forthcoming generation.

1) Of the ten highlighted in WGSN’s report on the top trends for 2022 and beyond, which ones do you think will be most pertinent when it comes to Asia in particular?

Much of APAC leads the way when it comes to digital adoption and living online so it’s no surprise that the most relevant trends for Asia revolve around how we spend our time and the world(s) we immerse ourselves in.

We’re already seeing countless examples of brands and retailers leading and experimenting with meta marketing across Asia. Digital Influencers are becoming the norm alongside brands creating new digital playgrounds for consumers to experience and engage with brands and their products.

Anthropomorphic marketing is second nature to us in Asia, where we are fast to engage with our much-loved mascots. With the incoming mass adoption of this in the West, new developments in this arena will elevate character development and execution in new and exciting, yet to be seen ways. This in turn will open up more opportunities for the market to go deeper into this trend which is here to stay.

2) Can you give us a brief insight into WGSN’s research methodology and what sets it apart from other such predictive methods?

WGSN’s research methodology has grown so much over the 11+ years I’ve been in the industry. The acquisition of new technology and data trackers really sets us apart from our competitors. We’re also truly global, our reach spans 128 countries and with that the eyes and the expertise across the globe. We work with over 250 industry experts globally to map influencers, disruptors and changemakers to deliver clear and specific action points for brands and marketers.

Being physically tapped in and digitally plugged in, we can quite clearly identify the signals of change and evaluate, verify and forecast trends.

3) The pandemic has resulted in a shift in consumer behaviour, which in turn has affected marketing trends. How has this impacted existing marketing strategies and what kind of adjustments could we see being made in this regard?

Fuelled by the pandemic, consumer behaviour in Asia is focused on frictionless commerce and further pursuit of tech-enabled lifestyles. A sense of optimism is surfacing and people are aligning purchases with their values and seeking to deepen their connection with local culture. A recent survey by Charles Schwab reported that 24% of consumers are keen to splurge to “make up for lost time”.

It is now important for retailers to keep up with the always-on consumer who is looking for a hyper-relevant and seamless experience, by tapping into hyperlocal strategies to evolve physical retail to strengthen local ties, support creativity and build human connection.

4) How can marketers better position themselves to keep up with consumer demands that seem to be shifting more often now than ever before?

The marketing industry is rapidly changing amid new consumer priorities and immersive technologies. Immersive storytelling formats, relatable brands with personality and a new commitment to more sustainable media and purpose will define 2022.

With metaverse being the buzzword of the year, marketers have to go beyond simple entrance points to power communities and reward consumers. Marketers need to adapt to the fluid shopping journeys of consumers who expect seamless shopping experiences that adjust to the individual shopper journey, ensuring all customer touchpoints are connected whether in-store, in-app or online.

5) In which direction are consumers gravitating and what might the priorities of the forthcoming generation look like?

Sustainability concerns will begin to dominate marketing as brands and agencies address the climate crisis and consumers will start to demand transparency. Brands will prioritise sustainability across departments, including marketing and media, and marketing will be under the microscope as there will be little tolerance for any empty corporate promises.

Consumers are growing increasingly climate-conscious and they’re leaning on leaders and organisations to pave a clear path; 51% see governments, 43% see businesses and brands and 41% see the ad industry as most accountable for its decarbonisation. Moving forward to 2022 and beyond, brands and agencies must use climate terminology correctly, from carbon neutrality to net zero. There will also be wider industry efforts such as Ad Net Zero, which is a commitment to “reduce the carbon impact of developing, producing and running advertising to real net zero by end of 2030.

6) Which finding in the report are you most personally excited by?

The marketing paradox! This trend will really bring about unique and novel ways to experience products and brands, like a fresh dopamine hit. We are loving all of the stunning, inspiring new activations that are capturing the emotions and imaginations of the post-pandemic consumers.

Marketers are launching entertaining stunts that enable escapism and ignite emotional connection. We’re getting slightly addicted to these big hits and the less creative, poorly planned ones are falling by the wayside, setting the standards for a new generation of marketing fanfare.

The Struggles, Growth, and Success of Singapore’s Realtor Power Couple

The Struggles, Growth, and Success of Singapore’s Realtor Power Couple

Tyson Yuk and Angeline Ding began their careers in different industries. They met in high school and immediately hit it off as a young couple. Eventually they decided to get married and start a family. It’s been a long and difficult journey, as they will be the first to tell you. But they’ve come a long way since then, finding their calling, and ultimately their success, in real estate sales and management. Things have changed for the better, they’ve been able to learn and grow together in an industry that has been good to them and allowed them to provide a comfortable living for their family.

Despite the obstacles presented by the pandemic and multiple circuit breakers, the couple managed to secure over S$50 million in sales from their overseas investors. This was accomplished despite the investors not being able to view the property in person due to the border closure. Tyson’s forte is finding undervalued property and polishing it into a real estate gem. Top 10 of Asia had the good fortune recently to speak to the couple about their inspiring story. Find out more in the interview below of a tale of determination and success against the odds.

  1. Could you share with us briefly about yourself and your background?

My wife and I have known each other since our school days. We married young and now we have 3 children, my first daughter and son are in school and the younger one is 5 years old. Angeline was initially working as an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines and I was a personal trainer at a gym. As a personal trainer, my career expanded until I became Regional Fitness Director at the Planet Fitness chain, Singapore. I was overseeing 6 mega gyms and managing over 100 trainers.

Later on, I decided to pursue a certificate in Strategic Wealth Management from the Global Academy of Finance and I am certified in Data Science for real estate from MIT School of Architecture.

  1. Could you tell us how you got into real estate?

Angeline moved into real estate because she wanted to spend more time with the family. As a stewardess, she was not able to fly when she was pregnant. So, when she was expecting our first child, that was the turning point in her life when she decided to quit flying and find something grounded. She realised that as a real estate agent, she has the flexibility to work and still be a parent and homemaker. That was important to her, that she could contribute financially as well as be a mother to our kids.

In the beginning, it was challenging and Angeline was struggling, so I decided to help her out with some contacts. I established a list of contacts as a personal trainer, some clients have become friends. Some were ultra-high net worth individuals and they preferred exclusive service. So we started to work together and there was a synergy between us, so eventually, I decided to join real estate full time.

We have been doing this for a decade now and real estate is part of our life now. We really enjoy the work, and the relationships we built and to see our foreign clients feel comfortable and happy in Singapore is fulfilling.

  1. What were your hopes and vision going into the real estate business?

Honestly, when we started off in real estate we just wanted to make sure we had some income for taking care of our growing family. We did not anticipate becoming wealthy immediately. Obviously, our vision is to achieve a comfortable life for our kids, so they can have a good education and a spacious home.

We joined PropNex, this company held a bright future in Southeast Asia. Our boss is a very humble person, he has a classic rag to riches story and that has made him humble and appreciative. I would say he is an incredible mentor and a role model for me. I appreciate everything he and the company does for us.

  1. What do you think has contributed most to your success thus far?

I would say the willingness to learn, accumulate knowledge and also lead and mentor others. I always consider myself more of an advisor rather than a broker. This allows me to assist my clients to achieve the best possible deal when it comes to purchasing property. As an effective advisor, I must know the needs of my client. So, I pride myself to have this human connection. Once I know their needs, then I can advise them and help them to transform a piece of undervalued real estate into a valuable property. I also ensure that my clients stay away from the murky waters of commercial real estate and legal red tape.

In addition, Angeline and I always work as a team to make sure we do everything possible to make our clients happy. That sometimes includes overseeing renovation work, cleaning the property, interior fixtures, and fitting in a tenant as well.

For example, when we sold the shophouse at Arab Street, we also found a tenant to fit into that particular shophouse. It works best for both parties since the investor was a foreigner, and Covid-19 restricted them to travel to Singapore. So, we had to step in and assist him to find a new tenant. We managed all the details from the point of sale to the repairs and renovations till the opening of the tenant’s business. That’s gave us an immense sense of satisfaction to see the transformation of the shop.

  1. Tell us more about your particular niche in the industry.

In my opinion, my niche is looking for undervalued properties that can be transformed into very valuable spaces. It’s like finding a raw diamond and then cutting it to bring out the sparkle and create a beautiful space in the end.

Angeline on the other hand is natural at connecting with people. She makes sure that the client has what they need and that their property goes through the needed renovations and adjustments to become a comfortable home. By doing so, the property becomes a safe haven for the family that will soon live there.  These new homeowners are normally also foreigners so we do take extra effort to make sure they feel at home in Singapore.

  1. Tell us about some of the milestones you have achieved.

There are a few milestones we achieved, one of them is, we managed to secure some SGD$50 million, approximately RM150 million in transactions from our overseas clients. This actually took place during the Covid-19 restrictions period. It was a challenging time since our clients couldn’t physically travel here to see the properties. However, through video calls and virtual tours, we were able to communicate with the clients and gain their trust as well as secure the deals.

  1. What were some of the most notable challenges you have faced?

Back in 2008, during the Lehman Brothers crisis, I lost all my life savings that I had invested in stocks and shares. I even lost an insurance legacy that my late mum had left for me. It was definitely a dark time for me, depressed we also were having our second child on the way. I lost my mom to cancer and this was heartbreaking for me because she was the only parent I had and was very dear to me. My mom single handed-ly brought me up, she worked 2 jobs. I wanted to give back for all she did, so I was working all the time. I regret that move because I didn’t spend enough time with her.

To make matters worse, I also lost my capital at a business venture I was part of. This venture failed and I was in debt.  It was a hard phase to go through in my life. This was a hard learning curve in my life. So, with all the strength I could summon up, I picked myself up and moved forward.  I started to redefine the meaning of success in my life. Angeline was always a pillar of strength, and I have to say I wouldn’t be here if it was not for her patience and support.

  1. How would you describe your management and leadership styles?

Yes, in Propnex I was managing my own team, we started the Propnex Luxury division. I was training new agents on how to serve high net-worth clients. Conventionally we are a sales team, with clients’ best interests at our heart. My style is easy, I just set some achievable goals and give them direction to achieve them. They need to be creative and if they have any issues or questions my door is always open. Everything can be discussed and settled in a calm manner, I believe in meritocracy and this has worked so far.

  1. What do you envision the business to be in five or ten years’ time?

Real estate is going to be here for a long time to come, the market is quite stable. The prices in Singapore are still compatible, it is a hub for business in Southeast Asia. We notice that like the report from CBRE says that Singapore has been chosen in 2020 & 2021 to be the Top 3 cities to invest in properties in Asia. These kinds of reports give us confidence that there is still room for the market to grow.

As we are leaving the pandemic behind and international borders are opening again, we do feel foreign investors will be interested to explore properties in Southeast Asia or Singapore in particular. Look, everyone needs a home to stay in and business needs an office to keep working, retail and restaurants are needed. If you talk about e-commerce booming then there is a need for warehouses. Being connected to the internet means you need space for server farms and data centres. So all these are interconnected to real estate.

  1. How do you achieve a balance between your professional and personal life?

I feel that my professional life and my personal life are very much interrelated. I have learned to make smart business decisions and I have learned to become a role model to my children and my wife. I have the support of Angeline to overlook the matters at home. She is a wonderful mom to our kids. I give her all the credit for being a pillar of strength and always being there for me when I need her. She also works, perhaps that is why real estate is a good choice for women, it gives them flexibility and freedom to work and also still maintain being a homemaker.

I am a firm believer in technology and constant change is good for the real estate industry. Innovation is something that definitely helps me to balance my work life. Technology has changed the way we do things and made things easier for all of us. Especially when we were under restrictions due to Covid-19, we worked from home and it was a good experience. We need to admit that, without all these innovators and start-ups we will be stuck with hours of work and miss out on living our life.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in life?

Having a loving wife and three lovely kids is the best achievement. Providing them with a comfortable life is my main role, being a good role model and dad to them. All the achievements financially or career-wise only is important when my family is happy together. Their happiness is my greatest achievement.

  1. What advice would you give to young people hoping to follow in your footsteps?

I have been through many ups and downs in my life and always try my best to move forward. For younger ones, we must remember that connections are very important and that family comes first. In order to succeed, we need to stay humble and grounded. Also, do not let the opinions of others affect your decision or limit who you are. You must know your true value. True success is about paying it forward and knowing how to create value in others.

 

 

Determined Leader Making A Change

Determined Leader Making A Change

“Many leaders promise, we deliver” are encouraging words that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum lives by. He is the current Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. He is one of the prominent figures in the Gulf Region and is responsible for the major transformation of Dubai into the global city it is today. Transforming a nation into a global leader is certainly challenging, but according to Sheikh, the word “impossible” does not exist in the UAE’s lexicon.

The third in a family of four sons, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic Studies since young but began his formal education at the age of 6. He went on to subsequently study at the
Mons Officer Cadet School, the same British military training establishment in England in which Prince William and Harry trained. He was awarded the sword of honour as the top Commonwealth student.

Sheikh Mohammed took over as the ruler following the death of his brother Sheikh Maktoum who suffered a heart attack in Australia back in 2006. He has done wonders since his accession, including launching the UAE vision 2012
which aims to make the UAE as one of the best countries in the world by year 2012. Having a strong commitment to gender equality, he also has undertaken reforms in the UAE’s government. He formed the Gender Balance Council,
placing focus in strengthening and evolving the role of women as partners in the development of the UAE.

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum , Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman, Dubai Executive Council, United Arab Emirates attends the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda 2010 held in Dubai, 29 November – 1 December 2010.

He is also committed to the development of education. Apart from launching the Arab reading challenge, the first project of its kind in the Arab world which uses incentives to encourage children to read more, Sheikh Mohammed also launched the Dubai Cares campaign, a special campaign to raise money to educate children in poorer countries within the region. He matched the public’s AED1.65 billion and made a total of AED3.5 billion to be donated.
Under his leadership, Sheikh Mohammed is responsible for the launch of major enterprises such as Emirates Airline, DP World and the Jumeirah Group. He has also overseen plenty of projects in Dubai which has brought major changes in the nation, including the creation of a technology park, the Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, the Palm Islands, and the well-known Burj Al Arab hotel along with the Burj Khalifa. Sheikh Mohammed launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) to support his vision to promote humanitarian, developmental and community work building on sustainable and positive changes aimed at improving lives. Under his initiative, 42 million people in different countries have benefited from the different projects.

A man of many talents, Sheikh Mohammed is an avid equestrian as he was introduced to horse riding at a young age. He is also a poet in his native Arabic language. He began writing poetry when he was schooling and cited his father
as his greatest influencer in his development as a poet. His poems were even published in newspapers but under fictitious names as it was important for him to be sure that people admired him for his poetic skills and not just for his status.

He currently has twenty three children in total, fathered from 6 different wives. His six daughters married into royal families in the Middle East. His family wealth is estimated to be ‘in excess of’ $4 billion.

Building the Beverly Hills of Asia

Building the Beverly Hills of Asia

Faith Tang’s contribution in shaping the Hong Kong real estate industry to what it is today has made him a legend among the island’s glitterati. Together with a group of like-minded partners, Faith helped built Icon City Group, Hong Kong’s first local boutique multi-discipline property consulting firm. Today, the company has carved a formidable and unparalleled reputation as being one of the best in the industry. Having recently retired from Icon City Group, Faith is fully embracing his role as Director of Instant Bonus Development Sdn. Bhd. In this issue of Top 10 of Asia, he talks about his next adventure in building the Beverly Hills of Asia right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Despite hailing from Hong Kong, Faith Tang, Director of Instant Bonus Development Sdn. Bhd. and former Chairman of Icon City Group, is happy to take on the challenge of educating his fellow countrymen about Malaysia’s real estate treasures. “Malaysia’s property prices was and still is the cheapest in Asia, capital to capital,” says Faith. “From the first time I stepped into the country many years ago, I felt right at home. The political situation is relatively stable, the people are easy to get along with and they have a fantastic ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ programme. These are very compelling reasons to invest in the country.”

Faith had set his sights firmly on real estate for as long as he could remember and the passion for all things property has never waned even after 40 years. In 1974, he attached himself to a British surveying firm as a trainee surveyor. Possessing zero real estate experience, he had to work doubly hard to prove his value to his British mentor. His hard work and determination paid off, landing him a partnership role in the firm. He then joined a property valuation agency, Thomas Ng and Associates International Ltd. (now known as Icon City Group) in 1986 as an associate and later on, found his niche in managing private investments in real estate funds.

An ardent believer that there is no better investment than property investment, Faith has successfully guided many an investor into making profitable returns through his funds. “It is evident throughout the world that the value of a property will always appreciate in the long term. If you have the holding ability, you will not lose your investment and your returns will be high and secure,” Faith explains.

Witty, calm and incredibly insightful about human nature, Faith is always on the lookout for clever investors. “It’s easier to work with people of the same mind-set, who won’t question your every move. Speed of execution is essential at times, and you wouldn’t want to be bogged down by petty arguments.” His criteria for choosing investing partners are those who are willing to learn about the industry and who would not balk during times of economic turmoil.

His real estate investment funds offer a unique proposition to the average Hong Kong investor who have HK$2 to HK$10 million to spare. “HK$5 million can’t get you anything in Hong Kong, to be honest. The big fund houses are not interested in these types of investors, but I see an opportunity in this niche segment. I would gather about ten of these investors and form a substantial investment fund to invest in development projects,” says Faith. “The investors are encouraged to be actively involved in the whole property development process as they are my co-investors and partners. They are confident that the projects will be successful because I have invested my own money into it.”

His professionalism and credibility in the industry have led many Hong Kong celebrities, including Stephen Chow, himself a savvy property investor, to his office door. Many of them not only became his investment partners but also lifelong friends. According to Faith, turning a client into a friend is the recipe for success. “For many stars, it can get very lonely at the top as they don’t know who they can trust. Just being there for them and spending a lot of time to know them made a world of difference. That’s how I earned their trust and friendship.” As a testament to his strong connections to the entertainment industry, international artiste Alan Tam is one of the many star-studded investors to Faith’s first Malaysian project, the Robsonhill Residency. Fondly dubbed as the Beverly Hills of Asia, the project is slated for completion in 40 months and will be an exclusive residential complex unlike any other.

Issue 11/2016

From Lawyer  to Celebrity Cook

From Lawyer to Celebrity Cook

It takes a lot of passion, confidence and conviction to venture into a completely new career path and to find immense success in it. In 2010, corporate lawyer Adam Liaw chose the less travelled road when he entered and won the 2010 MasterChef Australia. He then quit his job, and  within five years, three best-selling cookbooks, a popular TV show and numerous newspaper article contributions, Malaysia-born Adam is still as passionate as ever to help improve people’s lives with home-cooked meals. Recently, he shares with Top 10 of Asia his recipe for success in cooking and in life.

Adam Liaw, who moved to Australia at a young age, was already making waves in the kitchen long before winning the second season of MasterChef Australia. Once a month, Adam and his seven siblings will take turns to prepare the family meals to give their mother a well-deserved break. “I was eight when I prepared my first family dinner,” he recalls. “It’s great when you make something and everyone around you is so appreciative and enjoys it. It makes you want to learn more about it.”

Adam became a qualified lawyer at 21 and worked for six years in Tokyo as an in-house lawyer for The Walt Disney Company. But his passion for cooking never faded. He returned to Australia in 2009 to take part in MasterChef and over 5 million viewers watched him won the title in July 2010.

“Cooking is a much harder job than being a lawyer. There is more pressure, speed, and more effort involved in improving myself. As a lawyer, you get to a point where you are comfortable with everything. I do read articles and go to conferences once a month to keep up-to-date with my skills. But with cooking, I have to learn and do research everyday on new techniques to be a better cook. I’m loving it!”

He owes his vast culinary influences to his heritage – his mother is English-Singaporean and his father is Hainanese Chinese – and his travels in the many countries he has worked in during his time with Disney. Still, Adam believes in keeping it simple so that anyone can pick up the skill. “I believe cooking is fundamentally important. There’s no other skill that you can develop than has a greater positive impact on your life every day.”

According to Adam, when he creates new recipes, he is not merely focused in wanting to make something tasty or creative. “I try to solve problems in food, whether it might be providing a balanced diet for a family, or a simple solution for a weeknight dinner (for busy people), or trying to teach someone about the basics of Asian cooking like I do in my new book,” he says. “There are more recipes flying around on the Internet these days than there ever have been, but we still don’t cook particularly well at home. I’d really love to change that.”

Known for his trademark warm smile and topknot, Adam calls himself a cook, not a chef, as he believes there is a big difference between the two – one cooks in a restaurant and the other, at home. “Chefs do fantastic and inspiring things in restaurants, but the average person eats more than 90% of their meals at home. I love food and I love cooking, and I think it’s more important for us to focus on the way people eat at home rather than how we eat in restaurants. Home cooking is about culture, health, time, family and quality of life. If I can help people cook better at home and improve their lives, I think that’s a more positive thing than just giving them a great evening out at a restaurant.”

Since winning Master Chef Australia, Adam’s life has drastically changed. “There is a huge variety in what I do now. One month I might be filming a TV series in Sweden, the next in a photoshoot for a new book in Sydney, then the month after that doing an advertising campaign in Singapore, or at my desk writing articles, or in my test kitchen working on new recipes. It sounds exciting and fun (and it is), but my biggest challenge is to give every individual thing I do a 100% focus.”

Adam is also travelling more these days but makes it a point to incorporate quality time with his family as much as he can. “I make sure the time I do get to spend with my family is active and genuine. Rather than just staring at the TV together, I’ll teach my son how to cook, or head down to the park for a family picnic.”

To Adam, having a family has been more rewarding than anything else that he had done. “My personal successes – my successful law career, winning MasterChef Australia, publishing my books and making TV shows – they’ve all been fantastic experiences, but it wasn’t until I started a family that I felt that success was something that could be shared. It’s really changed my perspective on why I want to do well,” he says with a smile.

Issue 10/2015

 

Lighting Up Life’s Darkened Paths

Lighting Up Life’s Darkened Paths

Taking a firm stand for what one believes strongly in is virtuous but spreading the awareness to others by utilising one’s gift is noble. That is exactly what Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the internationally renowned documentary-maker and journalist from Karachi, Pakistan has dedicated herself to achieve in her life. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia speakswith the feisty filmmaker on her myriad of experiences, accomplishments and some secrets to her success.

While mainly focused on the themes of conflict and social justice, most of Sharmeen’s films revolve around the consequences of war and the ways in which it impacts marginalised communities. Her work has taken the visual activist all over the world, from Afghanistan to Timor Leste in search of compelling human interest stories. It is easy to drone on and on of the director’s long list of remarkable feats and triumphs, which include two Emmy Awards and an Oscar, making her the first Pakistani to be an Academy Award recipient. However, all achievements begin with inspiration and it is no different for this social artist.

“I started writing for local papers and publications in Karachi at the age of fourteen, and pursued print journalism while I was in college in the United States. My decision to pursue documentary filmmaking was motivated by the aftermath of the World Trade Centre tragedy on 11 September 2001 when the world’s focus shifted to Afghanistan and Pakistan.” That was when the visionary scholar realised she had a unique vantage point as a native Pakistani who had spent a substantial amount of time in the US. “I hoped that I would be able to successfully tell stories from the East to audiences in the West. Soon thereafter, I made my first film, ‘Terror’s Children’, which was about Afghan refugees in Karachi. I felt an instant connection to the medium, and haven’t looked back since!” says Sharmeen with an obvious tone of excitement.

Working closely with real people and documenting their hardship does not come without its own unique challenges. The difficulties faced by Sharmeen and her team often differ according to the nature of the film in question. However, the main concern is almost always the security of everyone involved in a project, both the subjects and the crew. “Most filmmakers have to grapple with security concerns and that sentiment is amplified when you are leading a team into some of the most dangerous parts of the world,” admits the mother of a 3-year-old girl.

Sharmeen puts her heart and soul into each of her films and some of the most gratifying moments for her as a filmmaker are when her films achieve the tangible changes that they are meant to do. She firmly believes that documentaries truly serve their purpose when they are used for social justice or activism.

“For example, I made a film last year about the efforts of a young educationalist, HumairaBachal. Humaira ran a make-shift school out of a rented room in an urban slum in Karachi. She was eager to open a state-of-the-art facility but didn’t have the funds to pursue the project. We successfully used the film in partnership with Catapult and Gucci to raise enough money to fund Humaira’s school, which will now provide high quality education to thousands of children every year. Moments like these are what reminds me of why I chose this career and why I believe that such stories need to be told,” says Sharmeen who cites her father as her role model and mentor.

The harder the road gets, the more resilient the filmmaker becomes. Bearing no regrets of the past, the award-winning journalist reveals that she always looks at each project as a learning process where there is always an opportunity to learn something new. What then motivates her to push forward and keep working every day? “It’s the nature of the stories that I cover and I regard those opportunities to do so as a privilege for me,” reveals Sharmeen. “From acid attack survivors who are fighting legal battles to the struggles of transgender populations in urban Karachi, I am always amazed at the sheer will and determination of the people that I meet. They motivate me to continue my work despite of whatever challenges I may face.”

A significant struggle Sharmeen faces everyday is finding the right balance between her work and personal life. “I am fortunate to have a husband who takes pride in my achievements and a family that has always valued hard work and determination.” She readily admits that attaining the perfect equilibrium is easier said than done. “It isn’t always easy and there are definitely still times when I wish that I had more hours in a day!”

When asked about what she would like to see herself doing in the next ten years, the acclaimed documentarian has this to say: “I would like to have many more documentary films under my belt and would consider venturing into fiction films if the right project comes along. I also hope to mentor the up-and-coming young filmmakers in Pakistan as they start their careers in documentary programming.”

Issue 7/2014