It’s not about money, it’s to safeguard community896 views
Good deeds come in different shapes and forms and the Pakistani media is doing a great deed by protecting and promoting Urdu language for Overseas Pakistanis here in Calgary and also providing a weekly free service in Urdu and English language – this is the greatest act for our community. It is the hard work and dedication of four media outlets that make sure every week this continues to happen and not only is the Pakistani community is being catered too, but all the South Asian communities as well.
This is their story.
Shan Ali is the editor and publisher of South Asian Xpress Magazine under the company name of Express Media Network.
He also owns and hosts a radio program called Radio Sangeet Studio. A Radio Show catered for South Asians audiences living in Southern Alberta. He is also the editor and publisher of Weekly Canadian Express and South Asian Express Magazine.
Born in Pakistan , he describes his childhood to be ,”very ordinary like any other kid living in Pakistan; watching T.V., playing cricket”. Ali hosted a radio program in high school, “Bazm-e- talaba” (Student’s Council ) radio program aimed towards high school and college students.
Ali explains, “That’s when I first started being in front of the mic, then I started writing children based newspapers, which was one of the leading newspapers in Pakistan. I think public speaking has always been a part of my life”.
He initially was in Toronto, working at TD bank and working with the media on the weekends. He later on decided to move to Calgary, AB to work in media full time.
Ali explains his thought process at the time, “I thought that I will go into media and I will see if it works for a year or two and if it does then I will do it full time and if it doesn’t then I will go back to Toronto and start working for the Canadian corporate sector”.
Most of the work in his media company is being done overseas. There are about four people in Canada and eight in Pakistan, employees take on multiple tasks to ensure the quality of news is made suitable for audiences.
South Asian Xpress Magazine is mainly sent out to cities in Alberta such as: Calgary, Edmonton, and Fort Murray. Other cities in Saskatchewan include: Regina and Saskatoon.
South Asian Excellence Awards are held by Ali; These shows are done every two years, the next award show will happen in 2017. They will plan to honor six standing South Asians who are business, cultural and media, and sports icons.
Ali explains where the idea came from, ‘‘this was an idea I had in my mind even before we started this company, there are so many South Asian Canadians who are doing amazing amazing work in different respected fields in business and sports and showbiz, politics.”
Ali describes the South Asian Excellence Awards, “It’s a very upscale and glamorous night and not only limited to South Asians, also mainstream community and other multicultural communities are encouraged to attend”.
Initially South Asian Express Magazine started out in the South Asian ethnic language, “Urdu”. It was limited to only the Urdu speaking population, but Ali wanted to expand his business and start an English publication. That way all South Asians can connect through this magazine.
“Why not have an publication that can connect to more South Asians in the South Asian community, such as Punjabi speaking, Urdu speaking, Hindi Gujrati speaking, anybody can read this because the content is all South Asian categories such as Fashion, Bollywood, Lollywood.”
Ali never knew that he would be as successful as he is today; he believes that he took a risk in leaving Toronto. But he is glad he did what he did because it worked out for him.
Ali elaborates, “No matter how smart of a business man you are. Nobody can say for sure that this brand/business will work but if at the same time, if you are determined and you know you are doing the right thing somewhere in your mind you will know that you will succeed”.
Ghulam Mustafa, moved to Canada in 1994, he has been publishing his newspaper for the last thirteen years called Pakistan Post. He also runs a printing business with his wife, He was born in Pakistan , Karachi.
Mustafa describes his interests as a child in Karachi,”When I was a small little kid , I use to be a hockey player and another hobby I had was weight lifting as well”.
Mustafa came to Calgary in 2004 and he noticed that there wasn’t an Urdu newspaper in the Pakistani community. It was then he decided to release newspaper content in Urdu for Pakistanis’ to help them relate to topics back home.
The parent company named Pakistan Post was initially made in Ontario. About seven years later , he decided to create his own company named Pakistan Post West available in Bilingual (English and Urdu) for Calgary.
He explains that initially when he started his business it was difficult because the community was small at that time.
Mustafa elaborates, “Now my business is way better but at the time I started the community was very small. Back then the population was a couple of hundreds but now it is about thirty thousand Pakistani people living in Calgary. It was a very tough time, there was no competitor in the market but now there are four competitors in the market”.
Mustafa further explains that at that time he was the only one catering to the Pakistani community with his content. Therefore it was difficult and he had to invest a lot of time in his hobby. During that time, he was struggling to make money from another business.
“The printing cost way really high at that time… the printing costs are alot cheaper now than that time. I filled all my credit cards and I had to survive a really hard time”.
Mustafa does not make money from Pakistan Post West but he explains it is his hobby and passionate about what he does.
Mustafa expresses his opinion on all media organizations that cover South Asian news. “South Asian communities are all doing their part very well and including us, and their four of us working for the Pakistani community. The Indian people are also working for their community and they are publishing six or seven newspapers every week “.
Shakeel Ahmed, editor and publisher of Canadian Times; an ethnic Pakistani newspaper that has been running in the industry for more than eight years. His newspaper covers the Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and the Indian community across the city and also is available in Edmonton.
Ahmed met Ali in early 2008, although they are competing media outlets; they have always maintained a friendship. Ahmed describes Ali as, “a good community activist and is really good for the community, not only good for the Pakistani Community but good for mainstream society”.
Ahmed believes that Ali is a representative of the Pakistani community in mainstream media and mainstream community as well.
Ahmed describes his first encounter with Ali to be in early 2008; they met each other through mutual friends and when they had breaks; they would go out for coffee. Ahmed describes South Asian Express Magazine to be, “a good source of information and a good source of relationship between different ethnic communities and South Asian communities”
Ahmed further explains the basis of their relationship, “As a media person we work side by side, we have different entities, whenever he need or whenever I need, and we try to help each other in various capacities. If he needs some sort of support, we have more friendliness, more openness, and more transparency“.
Ahmed explains he never thought of Ali as a competitor, he thinks of the competition but he never views him as a competitor. Ahmed views him more as a friend however the competition will always exist as they both have the pressure to put out good quality news to the public.
“The content is the competition, the competitor is a human being but the competition is a totally different thing… This is a good thing for me and him, we have a lot of friends in the media field but he is one of the best friends I have”.
Even though they are both in the same business, very few people are on the same track; they have always managed to maintain their friendship.
Bilal Hafeez Khan, who lives in Vancouver and he runs a community newspaper called Community Times. Khan publishes newspaper in three different languages such as English, Urdu and Punjabi. It runs across Western Canada. He travels to areas such as Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg for his newspaper.
In early 2013, Khan explains his first encounter with Ali,“He is a very good friend and college of mine, when I started my newspaper and I didn’t know many people in Calgary. And all of a sudden… I was in Vancouver, I receive a call and that person was Shan Ali. He congratulate me for starting a newspaper and he said that if I needed any support; He would be willing to help me out with my new venture”
Khan describes the media community when he first came to Calgary, “I felt it was not a friendly environment among the newspaper society in Calgary, Alberta…So I felt, if we unite then it would be better so for that reason; I create a club called Pakistan Media Club here”.
He explains since the creation of the club, media competitors have been more supportive to each other.
Khan describes the difference since then,
“We all are actually working as a team now because we are serving the community and for the betterment of the community. We don’t care about our own interests even though we are running four different businesses outlets as well”.
Khan feels that South Asian Xpress Magazine is a nice, informative media outlet that people can connect with.
Khan describes how accomplished Ali is in his media network, “Shan Ali is working alot because he is publishing a newspaper and a magazine and on top of that there is a radio also….He is a gifted speaker so I’m really impressed with his speaking skills”.
Ali explains that South Asian Xpress magazine will most likely become more digital and online instead of being served in hard copies because everything has become more online these days.
However Ali does see a bright future for South Asian Xpress Magazine because ethnic media tends to have less competition compared to mainstream media.
Ali further explains, “I think ethnic media, they have this edge that you have way less competition compared to mainstream. And it also helps to connect with the community and what is happening within the community. There is that source of information that you won’t find anywhere else. For example if you tune into 660, you will never find what is happening within the South Asian community”.
All four competing media outlets have been successful in providing South Asian news to the public till this day. As I said before, these media outlets provide something more than news to the South Asian community, they provide their traditions and a comfort so they can engage with each other and bring the community together.