Making a Bold Move in the Creative Field5 min read
Narek Amirkhanyan (MBA ‘20) has over 10 years of leadership experience first starting in retail then shifting to the creative sector. He owns the “ան : normal” branding agency and is the CEO of Milenium5, a video production agency that specializes in film-making for crowdfunding campaigns. He has launched and is hosting the podcast called “re:arrange with Narek Amirkhanyan,” which has become quite popular in barely a year and a half. Learn more about Narek’s undertakings as he reveals more in our interview with him.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at AUA? What ventures were you engaged in at the time?
I was 28 when I entered AUA. At the time I was the CEO of the PMCH group of companies, a retail chain of stores for children’s clothing and more representing more than one hundred brands. I was managing over one hundred employees. Being an avid reader, I realized that I was missing something in my life — knowledge and network. I didn’t have a chance to study abroad and, actually, I didn’t want to, so I decided to continue my education at AUA. That is the best option in Armenia, in my opinion. At that time, our brand manager was preparing to take the entrance exams for admission to AUA. She briefed me on the application process, which eventually led to both of us being accepted and becoming coursemates at AUA. In just a month I prepared for GMAT and TOEFL and successfully took the exams for admission to AUA.
AUA gave me the motivation to continue to learn and constantly self-develop. After graduation, I decided to quit my job and start my own business. I had the confidence and network to do that. I was firm in the knowledge and experience I had gained at AUA. I had acquired knowledge from my professors as well as my peers. Most of the people in our class were of my age or even older with professional work experience in executive roles in different fields. Also, I became good friends with my professors who are leaders in their fields both in Armenia and abroad.
How did you transition to the creative field? Did AUA play a role in that decision?
Several things contributed to my decision, and AUA played a role as well. I got exposed to new knowledge. Our professor of marketing, Haig Messerlian, who was from the United States, was director of creative services at McCann-Erickson [currently McCann Worldgroup], one of the leading global advertising agencies. He shared insights from his long experience in the field. From a very young age, I was interested in advertising campaigns and used to watch commercials as a hobby. I realized that the media has an enormous influence on people, and I wanted to start something more interesting and creative. The retail field offers a lot of opportunities but it somehow limits your capacity. In the creative field, you are paid to think out of the box and create things that haven’t existed before. I decided to enter this field to fulfill my dreams.
Tell us about your podcast re:arrange. What inspired you to start it?
I have been listening to different podcasts for more than five years, and I have learned a lot. When I was a student at AUA, I used to share what I learned from those podcasts with my peers and professors. I became famous as a “podcast junkie,” who always had some new information to share. I saw that a lot of successful people were doing their own podcasts and sharing knowledge. The network of people I met at AUA inspired me to start my own podcast in Armenian. Those people were not public figures but they were interesting individuals who can add some value to our society, have knowledge and interesting ideas to share. So, I decided to give it a try. I knew that in order to be successful in that sphere I had to engage in podcasting consistently and for the long term. I had a genuine love for podcasting and thought it would not take me a lot of time, so I decided to do it for as long as possible.
I have been hosting the re:arrange podcast for a year and a half now. We are getting more and more subscribers to the rearrange with Narek Amirkhanyan YouTube channel, about 700 new subscribers each month. It took us a year to reach one thousand subscribers and within three months another four thousand subscribers joined the YouTube channel.
How did you decide to join Milenium5? What kind of content do you produce?
I decided to join the Milenium5 production with one of my childhood friends. One of our mutual friends provided DVD rental services in the place where I used to live and that’s where I met Hovo [Hovhannes Yepremyan] about 15 years ago. After university, I went to the army and we lost touch. When I started the podcast, he found me, and we decided to open our production house together as we were both in the same business. In just two or three months we found investors. During the war [2020 Artsakh War], we were engaged in public projects, we met new people, Mariam, Narek, and Gevorg, from TCF. A couple of months later, Mariam called me saying they have a creative production house called Milenium5 and they are looking for a new CEO. I had to reject the offer as I had a partner, and we were engaged in the same business, but they suggested that we both join their team to build the business together. So, we became partners in the business. I have been there for the last 10 months, and we are doing pretty well. The agency is already profitable, and we have amazing videos to be released soon.
Our agency is very creative and provides services to ventures that are just entering the market through crowdfunding or e-commerce. We develop creative concepts with them, which are rolled out through videos, photoshoots, posters, 3D rendering, animation, and in general, whatever is needed for them to succeed. So, at this point, we are doing whatever regular creative agencies do. We work for the international market with companies operating abroad, from the U.S. to China. With every client, we learn something new, get exposed to new information, new culture, new working style, and it all helps us to grow. They have the demand, and we have a high-quality product to offer. The Armenian market is already very crowded. There are major companies that have the marketing budget capable of shooting quality videos or doing interesting campaigns. They have their own clients, and trying to enter the market would mean reaching out to those same clients. It is better to get into the international market. I think we, Armenians, should try to export our skills because if all of us work in this small market aiming to create our separate small niches, we won’t succeed and the economy will not evolve.
A video that we are particularly excited about is going to be out soon. It is on wireless headphones, and those who have seen the video can’t believe it was produced in Armenia. It took us one level up in the market.
What would you advise current AUA students?
I would probably advise them to be more open and appreciate the chance of studying at AUA that many others do not have. There is always something better but what they have now is precious — make new friends at AUA, learn from the professors and become friends with them, get exposed to the new information available to them. Not everyone has that chance, so they should use it as much as possible. The AUA experience is worthwhile, and they won’t regret it years later.