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Up and Close with Muzamil Hasan

The founder of the renowned “Lolz Studios”

How did you find the gap in the market? From where did the idea of ‘Lol Studio’ came from?

We were the first player in the industry at the time. This was back in 2010. The only person who had created structured content before us was Osmaan Khalid Butt and he moved to the conventional media industry. We didn’t really look for any gap per se. We really liked creating content and we decided to go ahead with it. As time went by, we constantly innovated and tried different genres from satire to social issues to motivational content. The fundamental principle behind all of our content was the same: promoting a feeling of hope in our audience and provide a positive outlook of our country. I believe the gap that we unconsciously filled was one left by the mainstream media which works on the simple mechanism of using negativity as a tool to grab viewers attention. That pushed the viewer to find alternative content online to create a balance.

What are your current revenue streams?

Currently we work with different brands to share their messaging and products within the content. We also make money through Facebook and YouTube monetization but that is mini scale as compared to the brand integration. I diversified into Instagram which has for the past couple of years become the main go-to platform for brands as the cost of conversion for brands on the platform is much less whereas the user’s affinity and the creator’s influence on their lives is much more. This allows for a higher uptake on brand recommendations and therefore a better ROI for the brands that partner with me.We have also diversified into creating multiple E-Commerce brands and we use our own platforms as well as media buying to sell proprietary products that are Made in Pakistan.

What is your team size and what are their skill sets?

We currently have a 13 member team for Lolz Studios, 3 member team for InspireMe (E-Commerce) and 4 member team for Manto (E-Commerce).

What are the opportunities exist in media and entertainment industry for the youth of Pakistan?

The (digital) media and entertainment industry in Pakistan is currently in net practice mode. That means that whatever you see right now will be growing manifold in the next few years. I’ll give you a quick statistic. It’s important to understand that the content industry is primarily an advertising industry as advertising is the primary form of revenue whether you’re selling your own product or selling a partner’s. Last year, the advertising industry in Pakistan spent 1 billion dollars out of which only 3% was spent on digital. This year the expected spend is 15% of the total revenue spent and next year’s projections show a whopping 40% of all revenue being spent on digital. Assuming net growth in revenue spent to be 0, that’s still 400 million dollars being spent in the industry that will be up for grabs. Compounded by the fact that we are currently exclusively focused on local market as only 1 out of hundreds of creators is actually creating English language content for the international audience, there is an incredible opportunity for anyone who is looking to get into this industry in the next 1 or 2 years.

How to capitalize them?

Our biggest failure and blessing has been the delay in the advent of 3G/4G technologies in Pakistan along with YouTube being banned for nearly 4 years. It was a failure because we lagged behind the world in terms of digital content. This is evident when you compare the maturity of Pakistani content vs Indian content. Since 90% of our entire internet audience has joined in the past 6 years, this is also a blessing as it allows us to map exactly how they are evolving as consumers. What we do is to study the user evolution in 2 markets. West and India. People in the west have been on the internet for nearly 2 decades and therefore it allows us to get a very clear understanding of how they evolved and although most people in India have joined the internet not too long before our population did, their evolution has been quiet rapid and studying them allows us to culturally contextualize the evolution of online content consumers. As an example, the next big thing in content is going to be ‘Infotainment’ where people can create educational content in a way that is entertaining. It entirely depends on what you’re passionate about. Could be geography, current affairs, science or history. All one has to do is research from the internet, create entertaining video packages and translate all of it in Urdu. You will see channels like these exploding in the next 2 years.

What are the simple steps to launch a You tube channel and how to make money from it?

Step 1: Identify a genre. (At the core of your channel lies the fundamental idea that your content needs to provide some form of value to the consumer. When the consumer watches any video, they need to inherently learn something from it. Pure entertainment channels are dying and have a big problem with sustainability)
Step 2: Find someone in the west who is already doing it.
Step 3: Start creating content that is similar.
Step 4: Evolve your content into something that is more culturally sensitive to the Pakistani audience.

Step 5: Upload on YouTube. (One suggestion I would give is to be consistent and regular. If you post regularly on a given timeline, YouTube starts ranking you in it’s algorithm and you automatically start getting discovered)
Step 6: Profit.

What is your chief aim in life? Where do you want to see yourself?

At this point I want to use digital media to radically change how we perceive education in Pakistan. Whenever we have the conversation about education, we think brick and mortar schools and fixing the school system in Pakistan is a task that requires a lot of money, willpower, hundreds of thousands of trained staff and years before we can get on the right track. Fixing the school system also means that the millions of people who are above the school going age and have remained uneducated are effectively being written off by the state. Digital media can be used to provide an alternate form of learning where viewers can learn anything from understanding how the escalators work to specialized topics like science and mathematics. The best part is for most part, they don’t even realize they’re being taught something. It’s all happening on a very subconscious level. I am actively working with the Government to structure the digital industry so that we can fuel growth and ensure it grows in the right direction, tackle negative by products of digital media like fake news and propaganda as well as integrating organized curriculum that are very relevant in the modern age including Digital Hygiene. I believe if we can teach kids of tomorrow to self-learn on the internet, then we can create a generation of hyper intelligent youth who will create opportunities for themselves instead of waiting for the Government or the private sector to provide the same.

What is your message for the aspiring entrepreneurs of Pakistan?

Stop dreaming about billion dollar unicorn ‘startups’.Start focusing on creating businesses that make real money. If your business isn’t making any money, getting funded and having ‘millions of dollars of net worth’ does nothing to actualize your dream. I would also recommend looking at the developed economies and reverse engineering simpler everyday ideas that could be very profitable in Pakistan. Unfortunately, our smartest entrepreneurs are trying to compete with entrepreneurs sitting in the Silicon Valley while sitting in Pakistan where the ecosystem is not conducive to such an
enterprise. Considering the economic policy of the current government, there is an incredible amount of money in local production of a lot of different consumer products or other items in the different industries. It takes a little hard work to figure out a local supply chain gaps and opportunities but instead of trying to invent something completely new, our young entrepreneurs can learn from the best practices of the developed world and apply them to Pakistan. We took the exact same steps and the returns on investment in our e-commerce brands have been nothing short of extra ordinary. Remember, you can never truly achieve your dreams unless you are earning the revenue to sustain yourself.

Anything you would like to add?

The current indicators in Pakistan look bad on paper but are extremely amazing for anyone looking to get into the business ecosystem in Pakistan. If your goal is wealth creation, the environment is extremely conducive for rapid growth and revenue generation. You just have to make sure you are actively following the government policies because there are an incredible amount of opportunities being created in the manufacturing, consumer retail and digital sectors.

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