Portugal-based business and technology consulting firm S4 Digital announced on Friday that it had acquired a 70% stake in Pakistan’s digital marketing and advertising firm Bramerz for an undisclosed amount.
A day earlier, S4 Digital announced acquisition of a majority stake in Karachi-based HR Ways, an HR outsourcing company. Between the two companies, S4 Digital would be making a multi-million dollar (but short of double-digit millions) investment into Pakistan.
The acquisition marks the end of a climactic journey for Bramerz marked by stiff competition from traditional marketing and advertising companies, and the beginning of a new one. Founded in 2006 by Badar Khushnood, Amer Sarfaraz and Zeeshan Saleem, Bramerz was an early entrant in Pakistan’s digital services market and has since bootstrapped its operations, reaching revenues running in millions of dollars.
In this journey, the digital marketing and advertising firm has lost some of the major clients it worked with, such as PepsiCo and CocaCola. This was because the increase in digital spending at corporations lured traditional marketing and advertising firms with better financial muscle and industry contacts to cut right into the market share of newage firms such as Bramerz.
Consequently, Bramerz turned its focus towards providing services to small- and medium-sized businesses. After the acquisition, Bramerz and its partner are now looking to accelerate their presence in Pakistan and regain that lost market share.
But above all, the new owners and old founders, who own the remaining 30% in the company and will be around as managers, are planning to leverage the presence of S4 Digital to offer Bramerz products in global markets.
Taking Bramerz global
There are two aspects of the Bramerz deal: one is the product where Bramerz comes into play and the other is the hardcore software and technological expertise of S4 Digital to make the Bramerz products better and offer them in European, Middle Eastern, African and American markets.
“Bramerz has two very very strong products: one is the Fishry eCommerce platform and the other one is Publishrr solution for media and content management solutions. We can take these technologies and implement them globally,” says Amir Khan of S4 Digital.
Khan is a partner at S4 Digital where he also serves as the EVP (executive vice president) of global delivery. The company was founded in January 2021 by him and other associates as a subsidiary to S4 Global which holds 70% shareholding in the company. The company seems to have grown really quickly, making enough money to carry out three acquisitions in a year’s time.
Besides the two in Pakistan, S4 Digital has earlier acquired a Portuguese tech firm. The remaining 30% of S4 Digital is owned by Lisbon-based technology company, Bravantic Group, which has an intercontinental presence and serves big clients in the financial services, energy, healthcare, education and telecommunication industries.
It is exactly this presence of S4 Digital and Bravantic Group that would give Bramerz the access to offer Fishry and Publishrr products in other markets.
“We would also be accelerating Fishry in Pakistan. We are going to make significant additions, improving the product and investing in marketing. We would basically be investing for more market share,” says Khan.
From Bramerz’s perspective, too, this fits right into their plans as Khushnood tells us. “The intersection of marketing and technology is what Bramerz brings to the table. It is something that can help S4 and their clients as well. While S4 is a hardcore tech company from which we can benefit,” he says.
“All three co-founders are of non-tech backgrounds and now as technology gets more complicated and complex, the repurposing and replatforming of our products needs more sophisticated tech and architecture. That is where S4 Digital’s experience comes to the table and that is something other firms will also follow.”
The acquisition also notes a pleasant divergence from venture capital investments, and presents strategic investments as the alternative to VC investment, which is currently running dry. Despite being around for decades, Bramerz has shunned VC investment even when it was in abundance. According to Khushnood, VC is probably not the best investment for every use case. “I think established investors can benefit the larger industry more in our case.”