In The Hot Seat – Bipin Pathak

Bipin Pathak, Chief Executive Officer at Percept Gulf tells TMN what he thinks about the advertising and marketing industry as well as the role digital media has played in the region…

Name: Bipin Pathak

Nationality: Indian

Current job title: Chief Executive Officer, Percept Gulf

When did you first arrive in Dubai?


Where did you work prior?

I joined Percept in 1991 in India as Branch Manager and most recently held the role of President – Corporate Affairs (MENA) at Percept Gulf.

What were your first impressions of the advertising and marketing industry in the Middle East?

Initially, I formed the impression that brands were into the aggressive business of ‘hard selling’, which did not focus on a long-term vision for image and brand building. Push marketing was almost the need of the hour and advertising was limited to basic design, creatives, promotions and offers. The market had consumers who were enthusiastic, but they were already attuned to this practice.

Has your opinion changed much?

Yes, and I believe it is because of how the region has evolved, grown and established itself as the most important and vibrant economic region in the world. Today my teams work on campaigns, which have 360 delivery capabilities and target a very streamlined set of consumers, to draw their attention. The tone of conversations with brands has also evolved – they are more passionate about marketing and want to engage with consumers while gaining loyalty. A lot has changed, making the industry so much more dynamic and challenging.

Tell us about your current role…

I am currently involved in building the regional footprint of Percept Gulf and managing its current business relationships.

What challenges do you face?

I’m always driven by new ideas and exciting campaigns or properties. I thrive on seeing these ideas brought to life by brands. The challenge unfolds when the ideas are difficult to implement, despite ‘innovation’ being a huge buzz word around the world.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Everyday is rewarding for me, as I have built this business with a lot of passion and determination. The great opportunities, along with the eccentric and extraordinary team I work with, are the most demanding and fulfilling parts of my job.

Have cultural differences in the region created limitations or an advantage to digital content marketing?

The digital space is very cosmopolitan and enjoys less regional borders in my view. Here, content creation is completely dependent on viewers and their habits, taste, emotions and what’s being communicated, which is also the case around the world.

Has user-generated content (UGC) taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the UAE? How?

We’ve seen user-generated content (UGC) get more engagement when compared to branded content. Users on an average engage more with UGC while over 93% of users find content generated by their peers to be helpful when making purchase decisions. We’ve all gone through YouTube unboxing videos, first impression videos, and videos from bloggers explaining what they like and dislike about a product, before making a decision.

Is traditional marketing still efficient in the UAE today?

Traditional marketing and outlets are not going to go away, at least not for some time. While we’ve seen readership drop, it also means that the publications’ readership has reached a point where only the most engaged are subscribing, which is a desirable trait, from an advertising standpoint. Depending on the target audience, traditional marketing still has its utility, but it has to develop and evolve to sustain its relevance going forward.

How has social media in the region evolved over the years to become an integrated part of the advertising and marketing industry?

Social media has taken the centre stage in the region quite rapidly given all the sensitivities that the region brings to the table. For a consumer, this has replaced calling the brand’s help line. We have seen users ask everything from store timings, to sharing their experiences, positive and negative, as well as product specific questions. This also presents a great opportunity for brands to engage with consumers on a more personal and emotional level. With advances in social technology, Facebook messenger bots for example, we’ll see social media play a greater role in marketing and advertising.

What role does digital media play in building a brand’s reputation today?

I will say a lot! Digital is the new market place in today’s world and it’s very important for any brand wishing to create its reputation, image and relevance – it’s where advertising really takes life. Advertisements are not just standard banner advertisements anymore. Augmented reality and virtual reality are going to play a huge role in the coming months. We’ve seen technology giants like Facebook, Google and recently Apple show a keen interest in using these technologies to make the user-experience more immersive and engaging.

Describe yourself in five words…

Intuitive, enterprising, passionate, focused and dynamic.

Who inspires you?

I draw inspiration from the work of business figures like Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and Harindra Singh, Chairman of Percept, who has been my constant go-to person. A lot of new age business owners also inspire me.

What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?

I love building businesses from scratch. My journey to Dubai in 1998 to initiate and establish Percept Gulf in the region is at the top of that list.

What’s your most overused saying?

Let’s focus on finding solutions.

Five things you can’t live without?

Family, news, music, challenges and cricket.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?

I’ve actually never thought about this! I would probably be in the music industry or producing events.

What’s your favourite form of media?

Audiovisual, so essentially any kind of screen keeps me engaged.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in the advertising and marketing industry in the UAE?

Observe! Start paying attention to your environment and surroundings. Observe people and things around you, and this will give you a good insight into how people react to different things. Look at the way the industry is shaping and where it’s headed.