PHAR In The Philippines - Interview With Marcus Wight And Prem Bhatia



In an exclusive interview with adobo magazine, Marcus Wight and Prem Bhatia, CEO and Managing Director of Asia of PHAR of PHAR Partnerships,  respectively, reveal PHAR's plans for the Philippines.

“We’re a media and marketing company. We set it up seven years ago. We’ve been operating out in South-East Asia for the last six years,”  Wight explains. 

PHAR has offices in London, Kuala Lumpar, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Clients include AirAsia, Eden Project, David Lloyd Leisure, Singapore Flyer, Apprentice Asia, Library of Birmingham, Kids Golf World Championship, British Champions Series, Expedia, Diageo, Malaysia Tourist Board, Blackberry, QPR, Caterham Group, and SP Setia.

“Both Prem and myself came from a background of sports sponsorship, but when we set up PHAR the focus has always been on transport and infrastructure. So what tended to happen is that, whereas before, sports properties were always found sponsors and people with name stadiums, and that business grew up over a number of years, transport and infrastructure had always sort of not had the same expertise applied to it. And we found that when they were building new airports or new transport places, there was an opportunity for brands to get involved. Large numbers of people, large dwell times, how could we create advertising and partnership opportunities around those transport and infrastructure. That was the focus of PHAR,” he recalls, adding, “I think the sports is very much a legacy of the previous. Now it is things like Manchester Airport or AirAsia or the LRMC[Light Rail Manila Corporation] here in the Philippines, so we’ve tended to focus more on the transport and infrastructure.”

PHAR Philippines Inc. is the official partner of LRMC for sales of their advertising spaces in Light Rail Transit (LRT) 1.

As for the company's name, Wight reveals an interesting anecdote: “It’s an Australian racehorse called Phar Lap, so that’s where the name came from originally, back in the 1930s. So it doesn’t mean anything as far as media and marketing is concerned.”

Both Wight and Bhatia are very much enthused about the opportunities in the Philippines, specifically in transport and infrastructure. 

“The Philippines is, I think, our most exciting country at the moment. When we first started in South East Asia, a lot of the initial work was done in countries like Malaysia or Indonesia or Thailand. And it was really our chairman Tony Fernandes [chairman of PHAR partnerships best known as founder of AirAsia] who introduced us to Mr. Ayala [of Ayala Corporation] a couple of years ago at a conference in Singapore. And from that meeting, we started to progress and talk about ways that we might be able to grow the business here in the Philippines. And that’s how we led to our biggest contractor at the moment, which is working with the LRMC here. Prem spends a lot more time and is responsible day-to-day for running- well, not day-to-day, but overseeing that business for us. So it’s a really exciting piece of work for us,” Wight proclaims.

“I personally think that outside of London, versus South-East Asia, in terms of marketing disciplines it’s probably a little more evolved in South-East Asia. I think the most exciting work is gonna happen here because we’ve- never in the Philippines have you been able to marry advertising, outdoor advertising, with mobile, and with retail. If you look at the LRT 1 now, it’s a brand new station environment, brand new advertising, 200 screens that have been set up across the entire line, digital screens. We’re now introducing- we started this soft launch about two weeks ago, we’re now introducing free wi-fi for the commuting public, and very soon you’ll see retail being introduced, managed by Ayala Malls, within the LRT 1 ecosystem. We’re in the middle here, marrying advertising with technology and connectivity, mobile and retail. I think it’s not easy to do because a lot of pieces have to fall into place, but we spent the last year putting all those pieces into place. And now, if you’re Procter and Gamble or Nestlé, not only are you gonna advertise, but you can actually see how it affects purchase in the retail environment. I think what we’re doing here is pretty unique, and hopefully will become a case study in the months, years to come,” declares Bhatia.