Maheen Jatoi | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2019

Maheen Jatoi

Head of Brand, Creative & Research (Uber Rides + Uber Eats)


“We must support ideas and creativity with the caveat that they must improve something and provoke thought and emotion”

In less than four years, former P&G marketer Maheen Jatoi has brought a distinctive edge to Uber’s engagement efforts in the region, thanks in part to a sophisticated approach to consumer data and insights. Jatoi is also responsible for brand, campaigns and creative for Uber Rides and Uber Eats, helping the company navigate its Grab merger and overcome regulatory issues in multiple Asian markets.

How do you define innovation?
These days the term is thrown around a lot – mostly people consider it to be associated with large scale technological advancement or ground-breaking disruption. I, however, like to bring it to its most simplistic – improvement. In my view, innovation and creativity are linked and as marketers we must constantly be evolving and consistently be inspired. Therefore, in terms of how I like creating messages, or managing my team, we must support ideas and creativity with the caveat that they must improve something and provoke thought and emotion.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
How I perceive innovative campaigns is those that spark emotion, debate and at times controversy to send a powerful message. In a world where we are consistently silenced sometimes under the guise of political correctness, the Nike “Dream Crazy” campaign with Colin Kaepernick sent a message to speak up in the face of divisiveness, gender bias and victimization. It was fresh, powerful and poignant and it did this by featuring the strength of the featured sports athlete’s challenging moments rather than the weakness or the controversy. Just like those in their campaign, Nike too risked backlash and controversy with people literally burning their product on social media feeds, but they stood in alignment with the message they were trying to send. That to me is powerful and sometimes to engage in debate, you need to stand for something and they delivered this message with a lot of confidence and poise.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Apple and Nike

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
There have been several but one that stands out would be a campaign I led for Safeguard Pakistan at Procter & Gamble where we partnered with Save The Children (US) and constructed hand washing and toilet facilities for 100 schools across Pakistan in 100 days. I was awarded a ‘Gold’ Marketing award for this and to me this was innovative since I witnessed first-hand the improvement in sanitation and health for school children at the grass roots level in Pakistan. Making a real difference and contributing to improve people’s lives is truly what matters.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
More contemporary is Elon Musk. Someone who literally is trying to change the world and has been largely successful (but not without his failures). I think this need to make impact and encourage people to have “crazy” goals is extremely powerful and to me Musk demonstrates this like no other living innovator.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I like to go outside and expose myself to nature. The Botanic Gardens in Singapore is my favorite place to do that and I often just go there and walk around. Nature truly inspires me and reminds me that there is a larger force guiding this universe. That is a refreshing perspective and helps any rut I am in seem so small and surmountable.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
History has a long list of creative thinkers that inspire me. Salvador Dali is the creator of “The persistence of Memory” as well as the logo for Chupa Chups lollipops. To me innovation also beckons versatility and the ability to flex your creative muscles towards many different disciplines. To the industry, we must message to be bold, try new things, cross pollinate ideas across industries and seek to combine two things that do not fit naturally, until they seem natural.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I love children. There is nothing more pure. If I were to do something else that I was passionate about it would have to be teaching children life skills [that] schools do not teach them. Skills like Theta healing, mindfulness and how to harness their creative selves to the fullest.

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not related to PR/marketing/business?
I love reading self-help books and fiction — I enjoyed reading all the 'Conversations with God' books and on the other end of that spectrum the 'Harry Potter' series.

What's your favourite time of day and why?
I am most creative and get the most work done in the mornings but I absolutely love evenings. I feel relaxed and calm at the end of the day and enjoy time outdoors close to sunset.