The Red Book – Yaseen Theba Profiled

Merloni’s Yaseen Theba is enthusiastic about the role that SME’s have to play, both in the marketing industry and the broader economy.

“I saw a real need for a provider that could service SME’s and start up companies with the same skills and technology that the big players offer, but still provide personal face-to-face relationships with clients. No individual can be the best at providing every service, so I created a team where we all add value,” Theba explains. He adds that his role as director overseeing sales, production and finance helps to ensure that management work with their teams to create profitability.

He believes that the company’s success may serve as a signpost to other smaller businesses, and that it, therefore, has a role to play in the development of the marketing industry. “We’ve illustrated that branding and marketing are even more important for start ups and SME’s. Many believe that campaigns are only for bigger, national companies. We provide the same skill, but run campaigns to reach the selected target market.”

That said, it’s not easy for a smaller player to take on larger industry counterparts. Theba reveals here that the key here is self-belief and having the confidence and ability to overcome the challenges presented by the industry – qualities he would urge any industry newcomer to adopt.

Of course, it takes more than faith in oneself to deliver results, which is why Theba says that the agency has placed enormous emphasis on ensuring that it is geared to for corporate clients. “As an industry newcomer, its vital that our clients – which includes the likes of Standard Bank, Fruit & Veg City, SITA and Deloitte and others – remain satisfied with our work. This is a constant challenge, especially when there are branding giants that specialize in certain parts of marketing.” He says the agency has overcome this potential obstacle by providing excellent turn around time.

What of the recession – surely smaller businesses are more susceptible to the whims of the economy than larger players? Theba takes a pragmatic view here. “As a ‘young’ black businessman I don’t really understand the hype around the recession, because we were always tight on cash. Finance was not readily available. We grew up building our own cash flow. But looking at the situation from my clients perspective, I strive to ensure that they know that they can still continue with their strategies on the budgets they have available.” Often, he adds, this means looking at new mediums like online and mobile marketing, which offer great value for money as well as effectiveness.

That said, he doesn’t believe that anyone has the perfect answer to the budget question. Merloni addresses it by looking at the figures, and trying to maintain a balance. Planning for the future also helps. Speaking of the future, what does Theba predict for the industry during 2010? “This is the year of the FIFA World Cup. We have to ensure that our out-the-box creative ideas get our brands the right exposure both locally and internationally.

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