My Startup World speaks to Khatch Mikaelian and Josephine Mikaelian of KALIAN Branding, about their company, their startup story, the challenges they faced when starting up and their plans for the future.
Please tell us about KALIAN Branding
In 2009, Khatch launched KALIAN Branding which is a boutique design consultancy where we focus on creating immaculate brand experiences for our clients. Since the beginning, we have been committed to delivering commercially effective design solutions to our clients, whether they are global giants looking for reinvention or local start-ups looking to challenge the category they’re currently in.
Our team’s international background and rich experience aims to deliver innovative results that are both culturally relevant and creatively stimulating. We strive for nothing short of breakthrough ideas that define brand meaning, drive consumer emotion and build brand equity. Through insight, powerful designs and experienced leadership we try to tell our clients’ stories and create beautiful and confident brands.
After many years of client side and agency side experience, strategic thinking and core creative is done in-house by our team that has been working together for many years. Everything is integrated as it’s managed by the authors of the core thinking and brand development. We really pride ourselves on being experts that identify what the clients brand needs after it has been created.
Who is involved in the company?
Our leadership team is comprised of a sibling powerhouse. Khatch Mikaelian is the Founder and Managing Director of Kalian Branding. After being in the UAE for more than 14 years, the Kalian portfolio contains brands that have been developed from scratch in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as the region. Khatch, an Armenian who grew up between Egypt and the USA, graduated from the American University in Cairo and started his career straight after in Dubai by joining the creative department of Impact BBDO.
He later went on to working for a series of reputable agencies including Grey Group and Landor associates where he fulfilled his capacity as Design Director on regional accounts such as Nokia, Standard Chartered Bank and Masterfoods. His role necessitated an approach that was built on the understanding of local market dynamics, regional research and cultural influences, whilst retaining the integrity of the global brands themselves.
In 2009, Khatch launched Kalian Branding and has since been making products and services look as good as they are. He believes his creative background is one of his greatest strengths while consulting and directing brands for his clients.
Josephine Mikaelian, an Armenian raised in Egypt and the USA, graduated from the American University in Cairo in 2004 with a BS in Accounting and a minor in Finance. After 3 years of working in the banking industry in Egypt, she moved to Dubai in early 2006, during the hype of real estate with a focus on Marketing and Communications.
Josephine’s next 10-years of experience in leading Marketing & Communications roles in real estate and master development projects evolved from local projects to multi-billion dollar mixed used developments both within the UAE and globally. Josephine’s extensive leadership and development background combined with the client knowledge and experience made it clear that joining forces with her brother Khatch Mikaelian as the new Managing Partner of Kalian Branding, is the most natural next step for both her career and Kalian Branding.
How did you come across the idea behind KALIAN?
It was all in the name of giving clients what they wanted. We saw a gap in the branding world, that if you didn’t have huge budgets you were probably going to get stuck with substandard work as a brand because you couldn’t afford the big agencies.
We wanted to give people who came up with great products and services an opportunity to be empowered by a strong brand, sort of giving the underdog a winning advantage. Since then, we have provided the same standard of service and quality of work to all of our clients within many different types of organizations.
What is the USP of KALIAN Branding?
We at KALIAN Branding really pride ourselves on getting to the core of the brand essence and getting to the point with our processes. Our leadership team has the double perspective of strategy and creative, and we always bring both together to serve the client and drive the brand towards its true value and equity. We create brands that drive businesses and lasting impressions in their industries.
We also believe that we provide not just great work, but are great to work with. Our relationships with our clients are based on the simple fact that we get along with them and understand their language, whether they are corporate giants or budding start-ups, we have been there and we can really relate to them and what their needs are.
Our design team gives us an edge, all of our designers are graduates in the craftsmanship of brand design, they are not just designers that make things look pretty. They are creating lasting marks and creative languages that stand the test of time.
What challenges did you face when building KALIAN?
It was a bit of a dilemma, because we knew that what we were offering as a service and as a product was on a multinational level, if not better, but it was getting clients to see past the “big agency” names that they felt they needed to be associated with to get a strong brand. This was challenging at first, but once they experienced our customized approach and witnessed the creative thinking and outcome, that feeling soon disappeared.
Which markets do you currently cater to?
Since opening, we have developed brands throughout the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. This year, we entered two new markets – Pakistan and Central Eastern Africa.
What future plans do you have for KALIAN?
We plan to keep growing whilst keeping our core values always in check. Our idea is not to be the biggest, what we thrive on is our relationships with our clients and the team. We believe in giving great talent the platform to build phenomenal brands for businesses who need them.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
There isn’t just one way to start a business, keep your eye on the ball and always stay true to your beliefs and what you are doing. From a branding perspective, don’t let the brand you start with limit the potential of your business. Start thinking about your brand from the very beginning so that it has the scalability that you need and that you envision for your entity in the future.
We are really proud of the fact that KALIAN Branding is now a family business, it’s lovely to know that as siblings we are creating amazing brands for our clients. Together we’re a great team as we bring some really contrasting skill-sets and experience and really challenge ourselves.