Notes from Lahore: Findings Some Values of Sufism in the Midst of Materialism and Terrorism

Greens

Woke up early (again) to take a few shots of our garden to capture the beauty of this land. I carry the oddly amazing city of Lahore in my heart no matter where I go. We live far from the city so we actually get to hear birds and roosters in the morning and see stars on a clear night. Continue reading Notes from Lahore: Findings Some Values of Sufism in the Midst of Materialism and Terrorism

Fraudulent Case of Expired Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn from Jalal Sons

IMG_3877
We regularly get our bread from Jalal Sons and do most of our shopping at its DHA Phase 5 outlet. This is the first time I have come across such a horrible experience with the store in the years of being their loyal customer. My husband and I got a little used to eating good quality bread in the UK and in Pakistan we found Jalal Sons to be doing a reasonable job at making bread. Just that my experience on June 26th 2015 of buying the famous Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn from Jalal Sons makes me want to question so much. Different expiry dates were displayed on the popcorn box containing three bags of popcorn, the outside flaps of the individual popcorn bags and the inside flaps of the popcorn bags. How is that even possible with a brand of ConAgra Foods? I opened up the packaging in the kitchen and told my daughter that the popcorn is bad so she wouldn’t be able to eat it. She didn’t question me because she saw the condition of the butter soaked packaging of the popcorn. We like to eat healthy food in our house and popcorn is an occasional treat for the kids. Why opt for Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn? Because it is healthier than the other popcorn brands available in local stores.

The popcorn box has a printed label of ‘Best by June 13 2016’ displayed on it. Sounds safe to eat. The popcorn bags inside the box tell a different story with a label of ‘Best by March 2016’. Still safe to eat but how come the stamps are all placed in different positions on the bags? How come the bags have a different expiry date from the box? Hmmmm. Upon opening the bags, the moment of truth happens. The stamp of one of the three inside flaps is smudged ((B) – Gosh! its the expired butter I tell you), another inside flap is stamped ‘Best by July 2014’ (A) and the third one is stamped ‘Best by August 2014’ (C). Does it sound like a world famous brand of popcorn to you? The inconsistency is uncanny and frightening.

IMG_3882

IMG_3881

This incident takes place just when I thought that I have had enough with food quality and related marketing issues in Pakistan. Last year I coauthored a business case study on the removal of McDonald’s breakfast tagline of “the world’s best breakfast” from their marketing campaigns. Speaking at the seminar on World Competition Day 2014 on the topic of “Unfair trade practices and loss to consumer welfare”, arranged by the Competition Commission of Pakistan, I spoke about how the consumer in Pakistan is undoubtedly at a loss by malpractices of big players and small ones. I want to be proven wrong but I am still looking for evidence against my argument.

Who is responsible for printing the conflicting expiry dates on the outside and inside of this popcorn box? Is there a factory somewhere in some obscure part of Punjab that prints millions by faking expiry dates? Even the glue on the packaged box of popcorn was anything but original. Branded packaged boxes open in a user friendly way. You don’t have to fight with the box in order to open it well. The entire experience makes me feel like not eating anything – bread, popcorn – anything.

I question as a Pakistani customer about my rights to safety and getting the value that I pay for. Sometimes people have referred to me as a consumer rights activist and I do feel that brands have an obligation to deliver on the brand promise. I am willing to pay more money to Jalal Sons only for getting better quality. The equation makes perfect sense if price premium actually comes with better quality. Its a call for action for everyone to check the expiry dates on every product and in every layer of the packaging vigilantly. Who wants to put poison in a bowl for their loved ones? No sane parent for sure! I would urge everyone who reads this to share the message so that more people are aware of malpractices. I thought of writing this as an open letter to the CEO of Jalal Sons but much to my dismay all the links in the “About Us” section on the website of Jalal Sons are in Latin! (http://www.jalalsons.com.pk/index.php?_a=viewDoc&docId=15). The website also has western models only!

If you have come across similar malpractices, please share your experiences. Lets help more people make better decisions about what they eat.

The Ghastly Alfatah Flyer

Alfatah Shopping MarketingA few years ago we thought of running a blog which would be called www.whataneyesore.com. The idea originated from the poor aesthetics in general and design sense (graphic, visual and UX) in particular that Pakistani marketing collateral suffers from. Most of the creative works are an eyesore. They hurt your senses, your mood, and sometimes make you angry somewhere deep inside. While we maybe doing somewhat decent work in TV advertising and print materials in terms of creativity and skill, the story of digital marketing in Pakistan is a dark one with websites that are shabbily designed and basic information like contact numbers (common sense anyone?) are hard to find. Eventually we decided to pursue more constructive things than this blog as eyesores were too many which would have resulted in content overload. There was so much wonderful stuff that we could create at Obscure UX and that is just what we did.

Who is paying so much to agencies of all sizes to create such eyesores?! We have too many companies suffering at the hands of agencies who do not care about reputation, lack a belief system, and would sell their soul for making a quick buck. I thought of visiting the grand mall that Alfatah launched in Lahore only recently near the all famous Hussain Chowk of Gulberg. The Mall has it all from a Pakistani standard – groceries, imported and local brands, various floors that are categorised thoughtfully, but this flyer was something worth sharing. This is what happens to a brand with a reasonable size in retail but limited experience in marketing communications.

McDonald's backs down after SoM professor's complaint

Here is the link to the article titled “McDonald’s backs down after SoM professor’s complaint” on the FC College website http://www.fccollege.edu.pk/mcdonalds-backs-down-after-som-professors-complaint

Pakistanis Teary Eyed… but Will We Stand Up?

No words can express the grief felt by the people sitting in Quetta with the dead bodies of their loved ones. My mind is feeling numb by Dr Tahir ul Qadri’s long march, the capital being sealed off by containers, the tragedy inflicted on the people of Quetta – what all could possibly happen? I am dumbstruck by the clash of values in Pakistan – the debate of living by principles versus filling everyone’s wallets along the way. So this businessman gives a guest speaker session saying “When I decided to come back to Pakistan from the US, I decided that I would put Pakistan over my principles”. Why so? Perhaps because if he lived by his principles, the imported stuff would never be allowed in Pakistan by the Customs Dept and the others who all want their share of the pie. Another successful businessman agreed that you can’t be in Pakistan and talk about the right way of doing business because that simply wouldn’t cut the deal. If you stand up and say “I disagree”, you are referred to as someone with very foreign thoughts, and will immediately be declared either an idiot or someone with very immature ideas. Lament.

We often wonder why we are in such a state. We sold our values, our heart, our soul to the devil in exchange for some loose change. This country might have some beautiful people, hopelessly talented minds, but our priorities are entirely misplaced. We spend like maniacs on weddings, watch pathetic drama serials, talk behind each other’s backs, make a joke of our jobs, and fully support corruption while running our so-called medium to large businesses. No wonder all the barkat is gone from each and every facet of everyday life. We have too many rotten fish in the pond called Pakistan. And the few souls who still have their integrity intact are the small fish who look around surprised, bemused, horrified. I want to be on the road shouting slogans for Hazara, Malala, the never ending number of media-men, rescue workers, and policemen who die in the name of hatred, sectarianism, violence – alas the youth must rise for us to lead them, guide them, hold them. I think of my daughter and who would take care of her when I am gone. These mercenaries wouldn’t take a moment in killing me – I would be just another number in the pile of dead bodies that keeps accumulating in a country that is so loved by the elders I am surrounded by.

Tantrums of a Foreign Minister

It was Friday, October 26, 2012, just a day before Eid-ul-Azha, when I was sitting comfortably getting my eyebrows groomed at Nina G salon in DHA, Lahore. Before this day, I had a good opinion of the salon and the service they provide to their customers. I was only five minutes away from getting done so I called my husband to come get me. The young receptionist at Nina G walked up, with a sense of urgency, to the girl who was meticulously grooming my eyebrows at the time. The receptionist spoke the following words to the girl in a loud voice (not very characteristic of her), “You are still doing this, while I asked you to get ready to do a manicure”.

Continue reading Tantrums of a Foreign Minister

Pakistan Qualifies for the T20 Semi-Finals

The Indian Cricket team often do a superb job at concealing their stress. They are just not that expressive. But yesterday their stress was so evident, and so satisfying, after the grim defeat that the Pakistani Cricket team suffered at their hands a few days ago. From M S Dhoni to Virat Kohli to our Muslim brothers Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan, everyone seemed to be completely out of their depth as the South Africans kept hitting the ball till Pakistan qualified for the semi-finals. The celebrations began as soon as South Africans made 122 runs. South Africans might have lost the match but they won over the hearts of Pakistanis. It is sad how mainstream sites like Yahoo Cricket (http://cricket.yahoo.com) and CricInfo (http://www.espncricinfo.com/) almost deliberately forget to mention Pakistan’s victories Continue reading Pakistan Qualifies for the T20 Semi-Finals

Muslim Rage: What you will not see on Popular Media

A rare glimpse of what else Muslims can do after a handful of politically incited dimwits have shown rage over blasphemous content “Innocence of Muslims”. Watch Pakistani men and women who care about their country, their religion, and stand for inter faith harmony. Continue reading Muslim Rage: What you will not see on Popular Media

To Pray or Not to Pray at #Espresso

Pakistanis have mastered the art of making a big deal out of small stuff. We lack the ability to let go of matters and taking it easy.

Your son is in love with your daughter-in-law.

Haye haye!

Your son didn’t come FIRST in the class.

Nikamma!

He does not want to become a doctor or an engineer. Continue reading To Pray or Not to Pray at #Espresso