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Geogy Ross

Get To Know Azleen Abdul Rahim, Former Editor-in-Chief Of Marketing In Asia

If you manage to see beyond what you’re seeing, you will notice that there is a certain pattern in everything

He’s a marketer but an odd one if I may be honest – odd because he’s marketer who prefers to write and share his ideas and thoughts through his writing. Some may know him as the Co-Founder of NSE but most know him as the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing In Asia and this is a sneak peek of his story.

Hey there, Azleen. Welcome to Marketing In Asia magazine or maybe should I say, make yourself at home? If I may be honest, you are quite a mysterious man yourself. Why not walk us through a little on your background and passion?  

Ahahaha, nice introduction up there by the way. Thank you for having me, Geogy. I came from a very humble background. Not many people know this. My mom and dad were primary school teachers. They are Penangites but I was born in Kangar, Perlis. Living a simple life in a very small town influenced me deeply on how I’m living my life at the moment. I don’t have many physical friends and I don’t like to physically hang out with people too. A computer gives me a worldly peace I need, so I guess I am pretty much qualified to be an introvert, right? An extreme one.

I read a lot about two things; money and human psychology. I started this habit during my university days, and till today I still read. Besides reading, I observe a lot too. I observe people physically when I happen to be out there, I observe things that happen on the internet and also all the ‘dramas’ on social media as well. If you manage to see beyond what you’re seeing, you will notice that there is a certain pattern in everything. 

I believe my Marketing journey begins with this. I observe, I understand the pattern and I come up with a strategy. That’s why I love Marketing. This is how brands that I am managing, somehow have the power of making people buy instead of selling stuff to them. And I just love the kick of it. 

Azleen, out of curiosity – behind the name NSE, did the name really originate from your wife’s name? Please, tell us more on the journey of how NSE came about.

Yeah, it is true. Just in case you want to know, my wife has a bakery. This is our first business adventure during our early days together. The registered name of the bakery is Norazizah Surip Enterprise.  So, being a lazy ass Libran, I merely took that N-S-E and registered it as a limited liability partnership or PLT company for my social media wet dream adventure. That’s how NSE started. Now we are almost 10 years of existence. 

In business, our philosophy is simple. To survive in this complicated world, we need two types of income. One is a daily, weekly or monthly income. And the other is a long shot one. Bakery is a good cash business for us. From the money generated, we then created NSE – Social Media Manager which is also another cash business. Bakery is indeed an okay business but I can’t expand it beyond Malaysia. Social media management business, on the other hand, is possible. 

Then comes my ultimate dream, to own a magazine. Last year, I co-founded Marketing In Asia magazine, together with Faiz Suberi.

That’s how my journey looks like at the moment.

What is NSE up to now and share with us that eureka moment when you knew your venture with NSE might actually become a success. 

NSE is very special to me. It will be a platform-based social media management company next year. Well in other words, it means the clients can enjoy better efficiencies when dealing with the company as everything will be done online and real-time. We are going for more automation and less human intervention. The transition is still a work-in-progress though. I hope to launch it on the first quarter of 2020. 

Eureka moment ha? Since existence, we were looking for the right business model. Only early last year we finally nailed it. We follow the Netflix model and it worked almost immediately. Today, NSE is consistently receiving inquiries, leads and paid clients on a weekly basis without much marketing efforts. I realised from that day that benchmark works.

What are your marketing strategies for NSE, Azleen?

Be part of the people’s daily life, this is how we play our game. And this is how we stay relevant. One client at a time. I don’t see any other way. If you or your brand aren’t part of their life, you’re simply irrelevant to them. If they have a problem with their social media presence, we want them to come to us and we will help them for a very small fee. It’s pretty difficult to do business when you’re not relevant. 

You have spent over two decades in the marketing and branding industry doing what you do best, getting vava voom everyday and since 2018 you were actively involved with Marketing In Asia as our Editor-in-Chief. So what made you decide that op-ed and community driven magazine are the best approaches for Marketing In Asia?

If you look deeper at the publication industry out there, be it a traditional or a digital one, both are pretty much dying. Some are dying quickly while others slowly but surely. Why? They are struggling to generate money. Some are being sold for a lesser amount of money despite their millions or billions in valuation previously. 

What happened actually? 

One, people no longer want to pay to consume your content. Two, as a reader, you can see similar content from all over the internet and they are free. Three, people will click x Close when they see ads covering the content they are consuming. Four, ad money isn’t reliable anymore as Google and Facebook really dominate the niche. Five, news have expiry dates. Six, many publications own a huge number of people hence their operational costs are crazy. And seven, when you rely on internal team to work on your content they need to stretch their reach further through paid ads via social media and search engines in order to reach new readers which I personally think is not sustainable long-term.

For Marketing In Asia magazine, our approach to these challenges is by reversing these scenarios towards our advantage through community and op-ed. This is our strategy.

Marketing In Asia started in Malaysia and now we have expanded the readership to Singapore, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Australia, the Philippines, India and some are in the works to be introduced soon – looking forward to it! Can you enlighten us how the marketing, branding and communication have impacted the Asian market, Azleen? 

Well impacted I must say. Thanks to the internet and social media platforms. It is an eye opener to many Asian brands and individuals actually. Now everyone has a better perspective of the subjects and begin to work on it. Asia is rising and the momentum is tremendously crazy. That’s why economically speaking, Southeast Asia and Asia in general are now one of the fastest growth regions and continent in the world respectively. People and brands from all over the world start noticing this and build their presence here.  

The only problem we are seeing at the moment is that most of the marketing content originated from the West. When people try to emulate what they read or consume, it doesn’t work that well here in this part of the world. It’s just different. The way people decide to buy is different here, the culture is different and not every Marketing 101 you’ve read from the western-based publications can be applied here. 

This is where Marketing In Asia comes in. We want to be the go-to-magazine when it comes to anything related to Marketing for the Asian people. Personalisation is key here.

Is Marketing In Asia foreseeing any challenges in the near future when digital transformation is always accelerating, and if yes, what are the solutions?

We are taking things slowly but surely. Obviously we are quietly monitoring the trends happening out there. Agility is critical for us. We must be able to change quickly enough and adapt to the new environment should the market no longer see things as relevant. This is why I am keeping the team very lean, but still full of awesomeness. 

What do you hope to achieve for Marketing In Asia in the next couple of years? 

By the end of 2020, we anticipate to have a strong readership in 25 countries within Asia. That is half of Asia. And by the end of 2021, we predict to be the preferred reference point for all-things Marketing when it comes to Asia. 

When it’s all over, how would you like to be remembered, Azleen? 

I don’t expect to be remembered at all, ahahaha. 

For those who wish to get in touch with you, what is the best way? 

You may connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Geogy Ross is a content creator at Marketing In Asia. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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