Michael Weinzettl on Asif Amin Tibet Baqual, Founder and CCO of BlackSheep.Works, Srinagar, Kashmir.
We all know that Sir John Hegarty, apart from possibly being the most famous adman alive, has a second mainstay (not that he needs it) as a wine producer in Languedoc. He's surely not the only advertising creative who dabbles in other professions. One of the most unusual of these is being an exotic sheep breeder in the Alpines of picturesque Kashmir. This, however, is exactly what Asif Amin Tibet Baqual does - besides being the founder of Kashmir's very first strategic and creative ad agency. For all of those who cannot immediately place it, Kashmir is a geographical region in the far north of the Indian subcontinent and to this day a disputed territory, now administered by three countries: India, Pakistan, and the People's Republic of China.
Perhaps not the easiest territory for going into the ad business and Asif admits that. “Starting a creative agency in Kashmir is a bit scary, but then if an idea is not scary, it’s not an idea at all," Asif quotes one of his creative favourites, Lee Clow, whose creative philosophy has inspired this proud Kashmiri and his team of mavericks to take the fledgling market by the horns and launch Kashmir’s exclusive strategic and creative hothouse, BlackSheep.Works. The agency's name has of course to do with Asif's second love but then – and here is another parallel to John Hegarty – just think of Bartle Bogle Hegarty's logo!
“It was a humongous feat to pull off. For starters, Kashmir is the longest disputed region on the UN’s heaped platter of unfinished business and holds the top slot for being the world’s most militarized zone in the Guinness Book of World Records. The economy is as fragile as peace, the way businesses here operate are as rigid if not impenetrable as its bureaucracy, and the red tape as sticky as Araldite. It’s like going into the battlefield with the hands tied behind ones back," Asif tells me with a lot of enthusiastic fervor that shows his steely resolve to make it happen in Kashmir.
Asif believes it's a calculated risk and his creative expertise as a proficient problem solver for some of the top brands on two continents will come in handy for BlackSheep.Works to make its mark in the market. Asif hails from Kashmir, of course, but got his Bachelor's degree in Mass Communications (Honours) and a Master's in Multimedia from mainland India. After finishing his studies he worked for Percept (H) AMO in Mumbai, moved on to Webchutney in New Delhi and after about five years headed for East Africa. Joining WPP Group Agency Scangroup's SCANAD office in Kampala, Uganda, and then moved on to their Nairobi headquarters. He worked on accounts as diverse as Nissan, Nestlé, Kaplan, and Toyota to name a few.
"Every market is different like every brand. Each comes with their own set of challenges and idiosyncrasies. Kashmir is unique in so many aspects. Its cultural nuances offer deep insights into how information is consumed in this part of the world. Its rich legacy of literature curated in so many local dialects spreads a vast canvas for creative expression. Communication problems here may be typical but Kashmir’s psychographics demand atypical creative solutions," Asif concurs.
Asked to describe the newly founded agency in Srinagar, Kashmir, Asif says that “BlackSheep.Works is driven by a high-octane collective of home bred creative professionals who are well adept at giving creative expression to Kashmir’s sophisticated sensibilities and cultural nuances." Asif's partner and co-founder is Suhail H Naqshbandi, Kashmir’s well-known cartoonist and ace graphic designer and illustrator who brings with him rich experience and consummate skills as a communications expert that he has honed working for international design companies in mainland India for over a decade. “Suhail understands the social landscape of Kashmir well and knows how to blend in the world class value of visual design to local aesthetics," Asif tells me.
"Kashmir is known for its exquisite handicrafts, mesmerizing landscapes, warm hospitality and now BlackSheep.Works aims at showcasing its juicy creative acumen to claim its rightful place at the international creative arena," beams a proud Asif.
We wish the fledgling agency the best of luck and are looking forward to featuring their work in the pages of Lürzer's Archive.
To see BlackSheep.Work's first house campaign, check out their website: www.blacksheep.works, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @dotBLACKSHEEP
Panoramic view of Asif Amin Tibet Baqual's farm in Kashmir.