MOROCCO - Telecoms & IT
CEO, Bonzai Agency
A graduate of the University of Montreal and HEM School, Mehdi El Morjani is currently CEO of Bonzai, a global marketing and design agency based in Casablanca with offices in Miami and Paris. He also acts as a mentor for the Entreprendre network, a network of associations of business leaders specializing in entrepreneurial support since 1986.
What main challenges did Bonzai have to address during the pandemic?
For Bonzai, the pandemic has been extremely challenging. Within two weeks, the year’s order book ground to a sudden halt. All clients stopped both their media and non-media investments, and our regular contracts were put on hold. Practically overnight, we could no longer see what was in line for us. Like all the companies, we took rather drastic measures, especially in terms of human resources management. However, this crisis has meant that we could accelerate the pace of Bonzai’s transformation. Over six months, we managed to do what could have taken us five years to achieve if it weren’t for the crisis. In the beginning, Bonzai was a branding agency. It was a benchmark for corporate and luxury brands some years ago, and it became a player in global design. Today, we are working as much on topics such as space, brand, and strategic design as we are on process design. We were able to quickly revamp what we wanted to become and expand into a market that we were unable to reach previously. We were fortunate to have players calling on us in order to manage their own crisis, for example. We helped them with their crisis management day and night. In turn, we were able to achieve tremendous turnover, which made up for any shortfalls we may have experienced through the absence of the traditional economic operators. In Morocco, as opposed to other marketplaces, we began to see light at the end of the tunnel from June 2020. It was then that we started signing contracts again. The 2020 financial year fell below 2019 by 7 percentage points. This small fall is, in itself, a great result, especially when viewed alongside the fact that business volume fell by 50%. In other words, the market has evolved. We can compare this to previous margins for buying and selling; in 2019, we only sold fees and services with extremely narrow margins.
What has the impact of the digital growth meant for you?
In 2015-2016, we embarked on a digital transformation by taking on the best collaborative tools and CRM tools, and we made working on Hangouts and Meet company culture. This acted as a safeguard for us, for we had not been culturally savvy with these tools, their use at the start of lockdown may not have gone so smoothly. As it is, we were able to work fairly smoothly. We were, however, deeply affected by the distance, and we decided to return to the office in September. Some people are still working from home and may never return to the office. I pushed hard to defend flexibility all the way, and this shift in mindset has turned out to be a success.
Do you have any regional development plans?
In September, we announced the acquisition of a Parisian agency, Surfaces. It acts in the somewhat specialized area of place marketing. It is a marketing strategy that promotes places such as museums and cities. We took on this agency, which has a solid track record in France and Europe, to foster external growth and internationalization. We had already sought to do so from Morocco for several years to no avail, and this agency offers us the skills and the image to reach the global market more effectively. We will soon announce the acquisition of a company in Morocco, and we are taking strong interest in the US market. I am not necessarily in favor of moving our business to other African countries, as we do not have that much to bring to them, and the challenge lacks ambition.
What are your goals for 2022?
We are having a great year thanks to the turnover from services in 2020. We have benefited from Bonzai’s historical activity, with the restarting of traditional communications, as well as from the new services that were set up in light of the crisis.
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