East Africa

Jawad Jaffer’s take on brands

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By VINCENT OWINO


Jawad Jaffer is the project director of Superbrands East Africa, the first African subsidiary of the London-based international brand that surveys organisations. He spoke with The EastAfrican about his life, work and inspiration.

Who is Jawad Jaffer outside the office?

I am the same person who loves brands. I have visited many offices across the region to see how they are branded.

One day I will write about the best 10 offices I have been to. I have learned that many CEOs in Africa are good at branding.

I also enjoy playing golf. I think East Africa has the best climate for the sport and has the best golf courses. I also like the game because it enables me to interact with CEOs without secretaries or intermediaries.

What is your daily routine?

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I am an early riser. I pray, have breakfast and then head to the gym.

When I get to the office, I attend my scheduled meetings and visit brands’ offices.

When I get home in the evening, I watch TV, occasionally read a book and spend time with family.

How did you bring Superbrands to East Africa?

Being Kenyan, I dreamt of and had a passion for “Brand Kenya”. As a teenager, I loved playing tennis, and I got a scholarship to study for a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing in the US. After graduation, I came back and joined my father in his flower business, ran it for a few years and then I gave it up to start my own marketing firm.

My service at the Marketing Society of Kenya was a way to build Brand Kenya, and, while there, I learnt of Superbrands. I contacted them, but they said they were not ready to have operations in Africa.

We had a back and forth for three years, and finally one of their executives came to Kenya, and they were shocked to find that everything that was in the UK was also here. And that’s when they agreed to set up Superbrands in East Africa.

What is the one event that has changed your life?

When I formed my marketing company, I was friends with one of the Samsung company officials, and I had taken them to see Kenya’s then president Daniel Moi to donate footballs and tennis rackets. At the time I was the chairman of the Kenya Lawn Tennis.

Eventually, I helped him set up the Samsung office in Kenya and I was really hoping that he could give my company business.

But to my surprise, he said, “Jaffer, we don’t work with small companies. Samsung always works with known marketing companies and you are not one.”

That really depressed me. When I told my mother, she asked me to bring him home for lunch. And that changed his mind because after that he started giving me small jobs. I learnt a lot from that experience.

Describe your journey at Superbrands.

It has been a tough beginning. When we first started, people thought it was just another award scheme. But with time, people are learning that it’s not just about the awards.

I have had some great experiences as well. For instance, when we awarded athlete Kipchoge Keino the first Personality of the Year award, it was a really satisfying experience because as East Africans we don’t appreciate our stars as much as we do foreigners.

Read: For super brands, the secret is in the customer’s approval

What’s new in your life?

A few of my golfing buddies and I recently started getting together for dinner and catching up on issues at least once a month, and I really enjoy that.

I am also a proud father of two, both grown-ups now, a boy and a girl. They just graduated and started working abroad.

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