Malaysia's Bright Young Things: Raisa Sufian, Business Development Director At VaynerMedia
With her bubbly laugh, goofy smile, and witty charisma, Raisa Sufian is one of those people you meet and instantly like. No sooner had our discussion transitioned into the ebb and flow of digital media trends, she was doubled over next minute – all thanks to an inside joke from her father Dato' Sufian Majid, who was crossing the room.
She may be the brilliant director of business development for renowned digital consulting agency VaynerMedia, but at heart, Raisa’s a daddy’s girl. The eldest daughter of Dato’ Sufian and Datin Alissa Fitri has come a long way since her cover girl debut for Malaysia Tatler March 2014.
She had also made headlines for obtaining first class honours and the coveted 2009 Westfield Trust Prize in English at the University of London. Her star has taken her places, ever since.
The 29-year-old is currently based in London, and plays a key role in setting up and expanding VaynerMedia’s first foray beyond United States. It couldn’t be more apt a time to to catch up with the very grown-up Raisa, who gave us an insight on what it takes to be a game player in the buzzing digital startup scene.
A master of strategy
“I’m a massive geek! I love learning new things, and the great thing about strategy is it’s all about looking at different things, breaking them down and synthesising the information to produce a better recommendation.
As an English undergrad, my focus was on critical theory, which is all about human structures - culture, politics, science, to economics – and how they’re built from our interactions. I learned how we create and react to these narratives to make meaning from our lives.”
Enjoy the ride, wherever it takes you
“After graduating, I joined a management trainee program at CIMB but left to pursue my Masters in Communications at Columbia University. I then interned at an agency where I met a colleague who later introduced me to VaynerMedia.
The company Gary Vaynerchuk has built fascinates me, as it’s all about figuring out how to grow business in a world that’s been disrupted by technology. It's been five years since I joined and we’ve grown from 65 to 800 people. To see that growth and how our structure and services have reacted to change has been truly rewarding.”
Wake up to something that excites you
“In business development, you’re always trying to understand that intersection of what your client is looking for, and what their business actually needs.
We work with clients across the board, from consumer packaged goods to entertainment, from banks to retail, and so on.”
"You end up understanding how these businesses operate and learning something new from each project.”
Seek reactions and results
“We’re always seeking to understand consumer attention - what channels people are paying attention to and what type of content they consume. Many companies still have a top down approach to marketing but that structure fails when you live in an omni-channel environment.
Communicating though social and digital media is akin to speaking to a person – how can you convey a message to make people care, and ensure that you’re saying it in a place where they’re actually listening?
Most importantly, we’re result-driven. Nowadays, consumers have choices so brands have to stand out even more. Instead of riding on follower numbers and impressions, the magic of digital lets you react and optimise to people’s actions.”
“It helps to have a CEO with a clear vision and goal. His mantra was to have empathy – you have to understand your colleagues’ different interests and KPIs to work together. Working in digital, you have to be effective, react and be nimble, which only comes from working as a unit.”
“We’re interested in where people are spending time. The two core areas are mobile videos (particularly on Facebook) and digital influencers. Mobile is the new television and we’re always looking to create ‘thumb-stopping content’ that stops people in their feed, and targeting it at relevant audiences.
Digital influencers have the same effect as traditional celebrities but now people have more choice who they follow, interact with, and listen to through YouTube and Instagram.”
Listen to the market
“Most people market what they think will work instead of checking top app download lists, or testing out micro-content to their audiences for insights. Instead of trying to predict, just listen to the market; the data’s all there, you just have to do the legwork to find it.”
Relating to one another
“I think the only thing you keep learning is how similar people are, wherever they are in the world. Sure there’s some cultural kinks like language and humour, but if you scratch the surface, it's almost surprising how similar we are, how we’re driven by the same needs and wants, despite where we’re from in the world.”
“I think the only thing you keep learning is how similar people are, wherever they are in the world.”
Make the best out of it
“I tend to just focus on the now since I feel like you genuinely never know what will happen in life. Take Syria for example, they used to be a fully functioning society and now the place is half bombed. Life’s weird like that. The most you can do is make the best out of what you have, live life to the fullest and be a good person.”
Photos by Shaffiq Farhan.