Over recent decades, Scotland has become a country which has evolved through the immigration of new cultures coming to live on these northern shores. Many Asians have moved to Britain seeking a new way of life, and, in Scotland, many have found a place to call home and raise their families.
This has resulted in the Asian community thriving and becoming a real part of Scotland. As a result, Asian businesses now contribute well over a billion pounds to the country’s economy every year.
Oceanic Consulting has acknowledged the potential that the Asian market in Scotland holds as a means of revenue and, through the recent creation of Oceanic Creative, hopes to enter a sector of marketing that it feels is crying out for guidance.
On meeting Oceanic director, Irfan Younis, The Drum is shown into a small office located in the centre of Glasgow, next to Central Station, to meet some of the Oceanic team. This is a group of five, all operating together in one small room, a misleading sight as Oceanic is a company that, following its recent takeover of Effect Design, is expanding quickly.
Younis makes it clear that he is already looking for bigger premises to accommodate the new staff that will be coming on board over the next few months.
Younis, who runs the company along with business partner and commercial director, Vijay Gindha, is a very busy man indeed as he sets about building The Oceanic Group. This will soon also include a hair salon in East Kilbride, to be run by Younis’ wife of three months, who he admits he has barely seen due to work commitments. Despite this, he is calm and thoroughly enthusiastic, full of confidence that the company will lead the way in revolutionising Asian business in Scotland.
“In the past, a lot of black and ethnic organisations would never have considered marketing,” says Younis. “They would never think of marketing their product, it was all a case of indirect marketing. Now, a lot of black and ethnic organisations are waking up to promoting their services, promoting their website and promoting their products or their event by using organisations like us.”
In recent months, Oceanic has helped launch Asian newspaper, Eastern Eye Scotland, bringing the format of the Ethnic Media Group’s paper from England. The company will carry out the PR and marketing of the paper along with its delivery.
“Oceanic Consulting started up about two years ago with the specific aim of helping organisations target the black and ethnic community, but it’s also helping them to understand that community better,” explains Younis. “We have gone from strength to strength over the last two years and we do a lot of consulting work for Strathclyde Police which we’re going to roll out to other police forces in Scotland. We do work for Glasgow City Council and we’re hoping to start some work with the Scottish Executive.”
The agency has also organised several festivals, the most recent of which being the Edinburgh Mela and The World Sufi Festival, which was held in Glasgow. Both festivals attracted over 100,000 people between them.
“What we are trying to do in the organisation is target the communities, whether it’s for services, brand awareness or really selling their products,” continues Younis. “At the same time, we help the black and ethnic projects and organisations promote their products and services to the wider community. It’s a case of finding an equilibrium. We’re doing a lot of work and the company’s gone from strength of strength.”
Younis goes on to explain how he plans to grow the company and his short-term expectations for Oceanic Creative: “We are already looking for more designers – graphic and web people. As we’re growing Oceanic, we’re bringing in account managers to look after certain accounts and Eastern Eye is also recruiting sales people – we’ve got one salesperson already and we’re bringing in another two over the next three to four months. So, within six months, we should have almost doubled the size of the organisation, and obviously with that comes the challenge of doubling our revenue as well.
“We are looking to grow quite rapidly over the next six-months-to-a-year through organic growth and also through raising brand awareness from having organisations target the black and ethnic community in Scotland.”
Oceanic is unashamed to sell itself to an ethnic client base – working with a number of Scotland’s top Asian businesses, including high profile entrepreneur, curry king Charan Gill and his Harlequin Restaurants group. But in doing so, the agency also picked up accounts with major public service bodies (including the police and Glasgow’s council). It is also about to do some work for the Army and the agency is in an early stage of negotiations to work with The Herald. “Glasgow has become very multicultural, one of the first things we did when we went into Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police was to stop them from translating information because illiteracy rates are so high among the elder community,” says Younis. “Everyone can read English now. In India alone, English is the main language. There are forty four languages and English is the main one, so how do you cater for everyone?
“What I’ve been telling organisations is that it’s not about translating information. It’s more about reaching out and communicating with your market and making them see that you’re interested.
“Down in London, there’s maybe three or four organisations that do what we do but no one’s competing with each other. During the first six months that we spent starting this organisation, we spent a lot of time in London – the idea was to get some London organisations to come up to Scotland, but now what we’re finding is that a lot of our business is coming from within Scotland. For us, the London market isn’t as big as it once was. We focus on Scotland and we spend a lot of time educating the Scottish market. We’ve had meetings with a number of the large media buying agencies – that buy advertising for clients like Strathclyde Police and the Scottish Executive – about using the paper and looking at the Asian market and it’s working in our advantage.”
Younis is happy to acknowledge that the company does indeed cater to a niche marketplace, and that clients from outside of the Asian community may well be put off by the image that Oceanic may initially portray: “We don’t make any apologies because it’s the market that we know best. It’s the market that we can cater for and do a lot of work in. Creative Oceanic is going to be our division that will allow us to focus and take part in some of the mainstream organisations.
“With Creative Oceanic, it doesn’t really matter the colour of your pound, it’s all about winning business and being good at what we do. Whereas with Oceanic Consulting, it’s a very niche market. We’ve sown the seeds and we’re now getting the rewards of it.”
Younis continues by explaining why he felt the need to launch a design division: “In the past couple of months, we realised that there was a market for creative work, so we started off Creative Oceanic, doing a lot of design work, both on and off-line. To be honest, what Oceanic Consulting allows us to do is that it allows us to get a back door into a lot of organisations – we can pitch Creative Oceanic while we are there, which is great.”
When asked whether or not the recruits that are brought in will need to be Asian in order to understand the niche area of business that the company works in, Younis is honest. “It is important that they can demonstrate a good understanding of the market, but to be honest, they don’t have to be Asian,” he says. “I went to school and university with lots of different people and, after a period of time, they understood the market very well. So it’s not exclusive, but you have to understand the market, a lot of it is common sense. As with PR and marketing, you have to get out there and talk, communicate and network with people. It’s definitely not exclusive. With the black and ethnic market, you have to be a bit more creative in the sense that you’re dealing with lots of different nationalities and different cultures, so you have to find ways of doing something that relates to all nationalities and all age groups and that’s a real challenge.”
As to what the immediate future holds for the company, Younis is clearly excited. He is currently busy preparing the Asian Business Awards to be held in next week, which will be broadcast on Indian satellite channel, ZeeTV.
“There will be lots of other people that come aboard, but in terms of brand awareness, we spend a lot of time and effort researching the marketing, getting our brand up to scratch and making sure that people are aware of all of the services that we provide. Competition is always healthy so if someone does come along then it’s a good thing, but I often hear there’s lots of individuals or groups of friends that are doing what we did seven years ago. It’ll be interesting to see if they move the idea one step forward and develop it.
“Asians and the media in the past have never gone together as the media has never been seen as a career for Asians, but that’s changing now. If you look at a lot of TV programmes and their credits at the end – it’s quite sad but I do notice these things – the number of Asian names proves it. There’s now a website called Asians In Media, solely dedicated to PR, marketing and media organisations. The fact that The Herald is considering introducing a Bollywood column is credit to that too.”