Conversations With An Entrepreneur: Usama Ahmed

Every time you talk to Usama Ahmed, you’ll find him talking about strategy – what will set your product apart, how will it perform in the market, and why should people choose it instead of other alternatives available.

This strategic mindset and creative approach lead to the creation of MasterClass Pakistan, and to Usama in establishing his vision as a co-founder.

But who is Usama Ahmed? A former business grad from Bahria University with a background in marketing and strategy. He’s been associated with multiple brands and agencies, including Interflow Communications and Al Khidmat Foundation. His experience with renowned national and international brands have given him the insights that later helped him change the culinary landscape of Pakistan, creating a revolution that brought the industry to mainstream spotlight.

Read more about how he changed the culinary learning landscape as a co-founder of MasterClass Pakistan in this article.

The beginning:

What started as a marketing journey, shifted to culinary and food consultancies when Usama moved his focus from his job to his family’s business as a restaurant consultant. Once he was part of the industry, the strategist in his head realized that there was a huge gap in the market that was yet to be filled.

“When I started working with my family, I realized that the culinary sector had a huge gap – the lack of hands-on experience in the market. Culinary is all about technical learning, and I was sure people would love to get their hands dirty while learning to cook, but there was no outlet where they could practice that.’

‘That’s when we thought of a brand where students could learn actual hands-on skills on an individual level, be it knife handling, bread making, or cooking. There’s a huge difference in learning from the chef, and cooking with the chef, and we overcame that difference with the help of MasterClass Pakistan.”

Positioning the brand:

Launching the brand was one thing, but the next challenge was positioning it. For some it takes years and for some, all it takes is to establish a vision and promote it endlessly. That’s how his team catered to the task…

“When we initially launched MasterClass Pakistan, the biggest challenge was to differentiate between hands-off and hands-on, and while we did have insights and research backing our brand’s USP, the difficult thing was to justify the cost of our classes. The thing with hands-off classes is that they don’t require extensive investment. You work in a group, cook in a group, and learn theoretically rather than practically. Hands-on is different – you cook individually, and the experience of that activity comes with a cost.’

‘So the first task for us was to describe and clarify what hands-on cooking was. It was a struggle for us – to tell people why we were different, and why they should be part of MasterClass instead of any other institute. But we had to do it, even if it meant spoonfeeding information to our audience. And at the end of the day, it worked! Three years down the line, people still recognize MasterClass Pakistan as a hands-on cooking institute, and that’s what the beauty of our strategy was – it led to our vision translate as an identifying factor for MasterClass.”

Their strategy worked, and MasterClass Pakistan was a success! After achieving that popularity, it wasn’t a surprise to find all of the institute’s classes fully booked, with registrations being made in advance – bringing the brand into the limelight.

Platform Strategy and Planning

One decision every strategist should be prepared for is the selection of the platform where you want to market your brand. People usually find themselves on crossroads while making this decision, but that wasn’t the case with Usama. When asked why he chose digital mediums for MasterClass’s promotion, his reply was pretty straight forward…

“Since the beginning the only channel I wanted to utilize was digital. My investors suggested print media and billboards in the initial stages, but that was very strange for me because being a part of the marketing industry, I knew that digital was the best choice, and without it, we wouldn’t have been able to build this brand even after fifteen years. People underestimate digital media, but theories, practices, and even COVID-19 has proven that it is the only way to go. And brands are now realizing that which is why they’re spending millions on digital, as opposed to a meager 5 or 10% that they used to before.’

‘Considering all these advantages, I think digital marketing is a blessing for marketers. If you want to run a business successfully, this channel should be your first choice. Yes, it’s confusing to decide which platform to select and how much to invest, but you don’t have to do all this alone. You can always opt for digital partners and agencies who can help you decide and get the job done. That’s what we did, and look at where we are today.”

Inspirations and Experiences

Only a one-of-a-kind person could think of a one-of-a-kind brand like MasterClass. That’s what we realized when talking to Usama about the people who inspired him, and when he told us there were none. Why?

“Because I think we’re past the stage of following one particular person for inspiration. I am the kind of person who likes to be connected to the global village, and read about the people who made the right decisions at the right time, be it an organization, a person, or even a country. If I tell you that I am inspired by Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, it would be wrong because their brand, learning, and even resources are much different than mine. So I’d rather be inspired by people with the same resources and case studies as mine. Real inspiration comes from stories you can learn from and cases that you can implement for your business to bring results.”

A lesson for entrepreneurs

Usama’s learning and experience is a great resource for budding entrepreneurs and marketers to learn from. Here’s his advice for brands and individuals who want to grow their brand – whether corporate or personal.

“My core advice for any entrepreneur is to be ready to invest, and don’t expect instant returns. I’ve noticed that in our culture, people invest in property and material goods instead of businesses to gain instant profits. But what they don’t understand is even if businesses can’t give you profits within a day, their long term benefits are huge. Some businesses indeed achieve success and profits overnight, but some brands work for decades before they gain momentum.’

‘Considering all this, my advice is to start with limited resources but be prepared for obstacles because that’s the requirement of every business – no pain, no gain. Because only then you can talk to the right people, get them to pay attention to your brand, and get their feedback – only after which you can call yourself a real entrepreneur.”

Lesson learned…

Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we’re well aware of the struggles you need to overcome before your brand achieves recognition, and listening to Usama’s story inspired us to keep going. It’s natural for brands to go through obstacles time and time again, but Usama and MasterClass’s story has inspired us to endure, and believe in your vision to create a brand that serves millions in its unique way. Not only has Usama Ahmed proven to be a worthy strategist, but has also created multiple successful brands that have shown that he’s truly got the insights and skills that can take a new brand and turn it into something mainstream.

We thank Usama for sharing his time and knowledge with us.

*Article quotes have been translated and edited to clarity and conciseness.

Zainab Abdul Rehman

Content and strategy specialist with a head full of ideas that I never get time to execute.

Explore further 👇

4 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x