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An article by Fazal Ashfaq, CEO, B Sloutions Pakistan

Fazal Ashfaq emphasizes localization at PAS Dig-it 2.0 Conference 2013

In the latest event held by the Pakistan Advertisers Society in Karachi’s Marriott Hotel on 30-31 October, stakes were high and sentiments ripe when the future of Urdu was discussed in the new digital media space.

Many prominent speakers from all around the world attended this conference, including business leaders and professionals from Google, Facebook,, Naseeb Networks, Mobilink, Engro & others.

Urdu, being the national language of Pakistan, was pressured to be more dynamic to counter the challenges of the fast-changing world. Fazal Ashfaq, the CEO of B Solutions, a digital advertising firm based in Lahore, iterated the need for localization of a brand’s online communication to be more relevant and engaging to the audience in Pakistan. He said that Urdu when coupled with Hindi is the 4th most widely spoken language in the world and so deserves a space in the new economy as much as any other language does.

He gave the following presentation to an eager audience:

The current digital script most Urdu is written in, is an Arabic typeface – Nasqh while Urdu has historically been written in the Nastaleeque script. Lots of work is being conducted in this space & linkages between industry & academia are need to highlight the work being done. Efforts need to be conducted to increase the share of Urdu in the digital languages’ landscape.

According to the research conducted by the team at B Solutions, only about 2% of Pakistanis earn greater than $300 per month, which means that the affluent sections of the society are not only in the minority, but the rarest of the rare. This begs a deeper look at why most marketing communication is still in English, a language not readable by the vast majority.

Moreover, out of the 15% of the Pakistanis who have access to the Internet, only about a minute percentage can read something in English. Hence, the case for localization.

Fans and followers took the discussion immediately to Twitter, as feedback started flurrying in:

Isn’t it contradicting to see many television and print communications tailored to the local population by using Urdu in the ad copy and audio-visuals, whereas the online media hasn’t given the same phenomena much of a thought?

Digital media is known for revolutionizing how you can exactly target those customers who are looking for your product, but it has ironically remained far behind in Pakistan where language targeting hasn’t garnered much support as yet.

Therefore, using Urdu as the medium of language in the digital realm can reach a much greater audience that can been possible with English. The need for Urdu to take up a more viable approach towards becoming a lingua franca of Pakistanis in the digital sphere only emphasizes the doctrine ‘Think Global – Speak Local’ as eloquently put by Fazal Ashfaq.

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