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HELP Matriculation Centre Alumni Q&A: A strong foundation - in Heer Raj’s view
Heer Raj is HELP Matriculation Centre, Faculty of University Foundation Studies, HELP University alumni. He is currently the co-founder of Raw Creatives, which is a digital transformation agency. He graduated from the Foundation in Arts programme in 2014. Here he shares about his foundation journey, how the skills and values he gained during the year had helped shaped who he is today.
1. Why did you choose foundation in arts, and why at HELP University? So there were several options my parents and I were considering at that point of time, and what really made foundation in arts at HMC stand out was a few reasons. Number one, in the process of us getting to know the different universities, we received the best customer service from HELP University. And I still very clearly remember, it was the first of January when my parents and I went to HELP Matriculation Centre, and then we met this gentleman there who was super friendly, super nice, and we started talking to him. He really explained what the whole foundation programme was. Very articulate, and he really took the time to answer all these questions, and it turned out that that man was non-other than the dean himself, Mr. Dhanesh. So, the fact that he was there taking the time on a public holiday to explain everything to us, really showed the commitment and dedication that the team at HELP Matriculation Centre had at that point of time. So that really sold the course to us, and of course the diversity in terms of the units that we could select from. That really, really caught my attention because it’s not just the usual subjects like statistics or language; there was a diverse selection of units. We learned programming; we learned Critical Thinking Skills, Personal Development and Leadership, so it was really the variety of units that caught our attention.
2. Describe your learning experiences while at HELP Matriculation Centre with some interesting features in your view. Like I mentioned previously, the variety in terms of the units that we could take… It was very fascinating. Some of the units that I took back then included programming. We learned ‘Visual Basic Programming’ which is something not many people learn, but to get the mindset and the thought process behind learning how to code and programme, that was really valuable in many other aspects of business. I really appreciated the fact that we had a lot of hands-on experiences – it’s not just entering into a class, and reading stuff off the lecture slides, and answering exam questions. We learned how to organize events. We learned how to deal with people – with vendors, suppliers, lecturers, your classmates in very, very practical situations. So that was a very interesting I would say … aspect of learning the foundation in arts programme.
3. What other things do you learn/gain aside from the academics? Aside from academics, two things really stood out to me from my time at the foundation in arts programme. The first would be my experience being in the Student Council, HMC Leads. So, I was the president of the Student Council back then, and when you are in that committee, you organize a lot of fun and exciting activities. Some of the activities that we ran included this ‘eraser fighting championship’, with Dr. Fikree back then who was the student advisor. So it was a really fun fund raiser activity where we were raising funds for one of our events. We created this little tournament where people had to compete using their erasers. It was a little throwback to our childhood games, and all the money raised from that event, was used to fund all our other events that year. We also organized our annual ball; we had HMC Rush which was our annual explore race/amazing race kind of event. So the experience in organizing all those events taught me and my peers a lot of things. Like I mentioned previously, taught us how to work with people, how to pitch ideas, how to manage finances. It was really a very holistic learning experience when it came to organizing events. The second thing of course was this specific unit called ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ which I felt, to put it very bluntly, it helped us transit from kids into adults because it taught us how to view the world in a different manner, how to question our thought processes, and how to really identify these little errors and quirks in a way that we think in order to help us become better people. So that was one unit which I will never ever forget because it really helped me to mature and become a better person.
4. What are you doing now and where? So, I own a digital transformation agency called “Raw Creatives”. Essentially what we do is, we use the power of social media to help businesses and brands grow online. So, I started this business about four months ago. People might think I’m crazy to start my own agency in the middle of a pandemic, right? But, the truth is, digital adoption is something many businesses and brands are picking up. And if your brand is not on social media now, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. So, looking at the market, and incorporating my team’s skills sets into the equation, we see that there is definitely a lot of space for us to come in and assist businesses in growing using tools like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, websites and the likes. So, that was what I’ve been working on for the past few months.
5. How did you get into the industry? So, I got into the social media marketing industry by accident actually when I was twenty which was just about the time when I was about to graduate from the foundation in arts programme. I started making YouTube videos for fun. I didn’t know what I was expecting; I just knew that I wanted to have a good time making videos, and I really enjoyed making videos. So, I started making videos for quite some time, and eventually a few other digital creators in the space reached out to me and said, “Raj, do you want to make videos with us?”, so I started doing that. And once I started doing that, brands started reaching out to me, and they said “Raj, we like your videos. Can you do some marketing promotional videos for us?”. So, that has literally been the journey for me, starting from making videos for myself to making videos with brands whether it’s acting as a talent for them or doing the strategy work behind the scenes. The big misconception people have about digital creators, is that you know - they know how to make jokes in front of the camera; they know how to act, but the truth is, the best creators out here, out here in the APAC region, they are both adept at being in front of the camera, and being behind the camera as well. There is a lot of thoughts when it comes to strategy using data to determine what’s the marketing strategy that you should take for your brands. It’s all these little things that you have to take into account when crafting a social media marketing campaign for a brand. So, that’s how I stumbled into the industry, and that’s what I’m doing right now. Both being in front of the camera, and also behind the scenes planning campaigns for brands.
6. Can you share some insights about the current trend in your industry? So, the social media marketing industry right now, there are several trends that we can look at. The first is brands learning how to use Facebook and Instagram advertising to grow their business. Now, this is very important because in the past, whenever you do post something on social media, the algorithm – this system that determines who is going to watch your post, and how many people watch your post, they were a bit more relaxed back then. But now, if you want your brand to grow online, especially on Facebook and Instagram, there’s no denying that you have to buy advertisements; you need to know who to target, how to target them, what kind of creative assets that you have to use, it’s all really, really important. And brands have been very adept and very quick at picking out how to create the most engaging ads, and what is the right media strategy to promote themselves online. So, the first definitely has to be Facebook and Instagram ads. That is the current trend, and it’s going to be there for a really, really long time.
Now the second thing is, my personal favourite, TikTok videos. TikTok has been around some time now, but it’s still a lot of room for brands to experiment with TikTok, especially if your demographic is a much younger demographic. The thing I like about TikTok is, it’s super creative, it’s very raw. The content is not overly planned and overly thought out, which really appeals to the mass market, really appeals to a wide majority of people. So, there’s a lot of room in TikTok for brands to really capitalize on. And the third is, this new app called ‘Clubhouse’. So Clubhouse is something like a live podcast or a live conversation. With the pandemic happening right now, it’s very hard for people to meet face to face, so Clubhouse was designed to mitigate that issue. What you can do is get a bunch of people, enter into a room, have a conversation, and that same conversation can be streamed live to multiple people across the world. So, there is a lot of raw power in these conversations, and I believe Clubhouse is really the pioneer of that. So, talking about trends and what brands can do, definitely look into these three things, Clubhouse, TikTok and Instagram and Facebook advertising because there is a lot of potential for your brand to grow if you can create the right content on these platforms.
7. How has the foundation programme benefitted you till today? There a few key lessons which I have taken during my time in foundation which I still practise until today. The first definitely came from the Critical Thinking Skills unit that we took. Being a business owner now, managing a team is not an easy job at all. Not only do you have to think about other people, but you have think about what you’re thinking about other people. There’s a lot of self-reflection that comes with the process of running your own business. And if I did not pick up that skill while I was back in foundation, it will be a really, really challenging process now for me to be able to balance the multiple sides of running a business. Not saying that it’s easy now, but it is definitely much easier having the ability to look at your thoughts, question your thoughts, “why am I thinking that way? Is this a smart decision to do? Am I able to pull myself out of the situation, and look at a situation from multiple perspectives.” I think that’s a very, very valuable skill that I learned from my time back in the foundation in arts programme.
Secondly definitely it is the experience of organizing events, working with people, troubleshooting and solving problems on the go. We really got a lot of that experience back in the foundation in arts programme. Mainly because we were always thrown into the deep end when it came to things. And, we were lucky that our lecturers knew how to balance. They would say “Okay Raj, you go and solve this problem” but when we really, really hit a dead end, they’ll be there to support us. So, it’s good that we made all these mistakes, and we had all these learning experiences in the foundation programme. So that when we do go out to the real world, we are much more prepared to face these challenges and these situations. I would really attribute a lot of my progress in running my business and being in the events line and in the social media line to all these little experiences that I had back in foundation in arts programme.
8. Can you share some advice to students who wish to pursue your field? The most important skill that somebody needs to have if they want to enter the social media marketing industry is to have adaptability. The world of social media evolves and revolves on a daily basis. Everything changes so quickly. Something that could be relevant on Monday will become absolutely irrelevant in twelve hours. So, you need to be able to be fast; you need to be on your toes, to really observe trends and learn new skills and techniques as you go along. So, if you really want to be in this industry, you need to be fast, you need to be able to learn fast, and thankfully those skills are all learnable. You can learn all the skills. You just got to push. You need to have a bit of a drive, and I’m pretty confident if you have the love for social media, if this is something that excites you, you’ll be able to pick up those skills. So, “too long didn’t read” – that’s a term that young people use all the time right? You need to be adaptable.