Sri Lanka has had a turbulent few years and, through it, our team at Roar Global has continued to persevere and grow. To mark our eighth year anniversary, we hosted our first-ever Roar Summit, an evening of learning, the exchange of ideas, and fellowship. The last three months have been some of the most challenging our country has had to face in over 70 years; amidst the ongoing economic crisis, most of us had spent weeks working from home, so it gave us much joy to be able to gather in one place and reconnect with each other.
The theme of this year’s summit was ‘Building the Future of Media’, which is the vision Roar Global has had for itself since its inception in 2014, when it was an emerging new media platform simply known as Roar.lk. To kick off our summit, we had our founder and CEO, Mustafa Kassim and co-founder and COO, Abdurrahman Haroon, elaborate on this theme through an inspiring talk and presentation that delved into the company’s ever-evolving journey, from an ambitious media startup to a growing media network that is in three business verticals, operates five companies, and has a growing presence across the South Asian region and beyond. While taking us through the many goals and plans we have for the next two to three years and how we hope to accomplish them, they also acknowledged the contribution of the people that make up Roar Global, including those that are no longer with the company, towards our spectacular growth over the years.
“The future of media has always been people. It is each and every one of you who have made Roar Global what it is today by continuously pushing the boundaries of their respective fields,”
- Mustafa Kassim, Founder and CEO, Roar Global.
Next up was the evening’s guest speaker, Randhula de Silva, CEO and Founder of Good Life X, a longstanding partner of our company and with whom we have had the pleasure of working on several campaigns. Her talk, titled“නැගිටලා නැගිටලා ඇතිවෙලා Sri Lanka?”, focused on how Sri Lankans can remain hopeful and see the ongoing crisis in the country as a time of opportunity and innovation, and build a parallel society that creates a reality in which truth and justice prevails, alongside the people’s revolution.
“As much as the initiation of change comes through resistance and revolution which begins on the streets, real change happens when we absorb that into our field of work and into our daily lives. If this energy and ideal is dedicated and channelled into building a parallel or alternative that we believe in, then the old systems collapse. It is only then that real change will begin to emerge,”
- Randhula de Silva, CEO and Founder of Good Life X.
One of the highlights of the evening was a thought-provoking panel discussion between our business unit heads on ‘The State and Trends of the Business of Media’. Moderated by Umair Wolid, CMO, Meta ASP, the panel comprised Andre Howson, Head of Roar Studios; Roel Raymond, Editor in Chief, Roar Media; Udara Hettiarachchi, VP, Client Partnerships - Meta ASP; and Prash Balakrishnan, Regional Director - Media Sales Partnerships, 3P Media. The panel was an opportunity for them to discuss how the economic crisis has affected each of the units and the projects they are pursuing, how they are navigating the many obstacles, and how both the company and the media industry in Sri Lanka can stay ahead of the curve during this time. The session was incredibly informative and insightful (and hilarious, at times) as each speaker also spoke about the current trends and issues related to their areas of work, from reporting during the aragalaya (the struggle) to the rapid growth of brands on TikTok to the introduction of reels on Instagram, and the role Roar Global plays in its own work and what it does with its partners to lead the way when it comes to these developments in the region.
"One of our strengths at Roar is our ability to be agile, and this trait is especially important for the Media team as we're constantly changing our editorial strategy to adapt to what is relevant. So when the aragalaya happened, we had to switch our strategy at the time to start to focus more on news and politics. This is what is great about our teams at Roar, they are able to pivot and adapt quickly when changes happen."
- Roel Raymond, Editor-in-Chief, Roar Media.
“Over the last five years every form of media has dropped in usage and in trust, except online and social media. Therefore, the future of media and sponsored media is decentralised, and companies will need to be able to keep up with this changing trend in order to survive.”
- Andre Howson, Head of Roar Studios.
“We've noticed over 10 years worth of digital transformation happen in just two years in Sri Lanka, where nearly all businesses have now moved away from traditional media spend to digital. So, being a part of the digital landscape is more important now than ever before.”
- Udara Hettiarachchi, VP - Client Partnerships, Roar Digital - Meta ASP.
“We (Sri Lanka) became more internet savvy, especially during the pandemic and now you'll find that there are more people on YouTube compared to how many people watch television. In 2020, YouTube was the 3rd most watched channel in Sri Lanka, so there is a huge move away from traditional media to digital platforms.”
- Prash Balakrishnan, Regional Director - Media Sales Partnerships, 3P Media.
Following a short break, we started the second half of the summit with an interactive session to give our team the chance to participate and feel energised, Udara Dharmasena, VP - Client Success, Roar Digital - Meta ASP, facilitated a fun game, which he cheekily named ‘Roleplay with UD’. As part of this game, he called up some of our team members onstage and asked them to pick a piece of paper, which had a prompt for each one, such as, ‘If you were creating a Netflix series based on Roar Global, what would you call it and who would you cast as its lead characters?” Needless to say, the answers that our team members gave us the laughter and entertainment that we all needed
Ever since we first came up with the idea for a summit, we had decided that it would be one in which everyone would have the opportunity to be seen and heard, regardless of their role or level of experience. Next up on our programme was an informal mic-sharing session, where Mohamed Ameen, Manager - Operations, Density Media; Malinda Senanayake, Head of Growth, Roar Digital - Meta ASP; Hashan Gunasekara, Assistant Manager of Productions, Roar Studios; Hashini Bandaranayake, Head of Client Success, Roar Digital - Meta ASP; Methlal Weerasooriya, Senior Editor, Roar Sinhala; Darren Tissera, Senior Creative Associate, Roar Studios; and Rifkhan Muhammad, Financial Analyst, Roar Global, were able to share updates on their relevant business units and little anecdotes on the experiences they have had recently, such as the time Roar Studios travelled around the North and East of the country shooting two documentaries, what it was like for Density Media to go from a cold email operation to a fully-fledged content production studio servicing clients around the world to the many challenges the Finance team face in a company that works with thousands of brands each month, which we aren’t always aware of.
Finally, to wrap up the summit, we had a much-anticipated satirical comedy sketch by Dominic Kellar, who also featured on our flagship series, The Debrief, and Pasan Ranaweera. Titled ‘What Really Happened on May 9th?’, the performance had us hysterical with an ‘insider’s account’ of the events that took place on Black Monday, which without a doubt, will remain an unforgettable moment in our country’ history.
The concept of a Roar Summit was one that we had dreamed of back in 2018 but could not realise due to the troubling events of the years that followed, from the Easter Sunday attacks to the nearly two years of lockdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we were determined to make it happen and are extremely proud to not just have pulled it off, but ensured that the evening was one in which we were able to align ourselves with the company’s vision and aspirations, improve team rapport and nourish our minds from the many stimulating talks we heard. We hope that this summit is the first of many to come, and look forward to hosting a bigger, better event next year, where we can not just learn from and interact with our team members, but also from our many partners and other industry leaders.