The Atypical Business Marketer: Hassan Alsagoff, Regional Head of Marketing at Grab Malaysia

By Delani Philips

This is the story of Hassan Alsagoff, the Regional Head of Marketing at Grab Malaysia.

After he graduated with a business degree in marketing, Hassan immediately made a play for the big boys of marketing but fate, along with his appreciation for creativity, nudged him towards ad agency M&C Saatchi instead.

After several years, Hassan came to a realisation, “As a planner, you do a lot of research and you see the trends going around the world, but I felt that agencies weren’t catching up. It seemed that we were missing out, so at the age of 26, I started my own agency focused on social media and event marketing.”

Passionate about connecting the two, and with the belief that in order to have great social content you need to have strong offline activities, WAGO, a consultancy that provided unconventional creative solutions to solve conventional brand problems was born.

By challenging the norm, you can come out on top.

“There were a lot of naysayers saying ‘you’re too young, you won’t get clients’ but the industry was on the brink of change and two big things were happening: people were going digital but they didn’t know what they were doing, and companies were starting to be more open to working with independent shops.”

Hassan also turned his youth into an advantage. Brands were eager to reach the young, and WAGO stepped in to connect them. But Hassan, although successful, was itching to do something more, he said, “We were not one hit wonders but I got bored and wanted to help people build their social media presence. It was hard to do that while working on client briefs.”

Hassan was keen to work with start-ups, but although they were purpose-driven, they couldn’t afford to pay him enough to make it sustainable. He ended up investing in them, taking an equity stake to coach and guide them. This led to the formation of Qeerad which focused on seed stage investments, and ran training programmes for corporate brands and government agencies like Cradle.

Qeerad was later acquired by a global organisation called Mountain Partners who were expanding across Southeast Asia. Hassan stayed on briefly as the CEO of Mountain Partners Malaysia, bringing in proven technology from mature markets into emerging markets.

After a whirlwind 8 years, while Hassan was on a well- deserved sabbatical, a former client recruited him to join Grab in 2019.

“Grab’s Regional Head of Marketing and Brand Sulin Lau took an unconventional bet on me. I had never been a client marketer, I was not used to corporate bureaucracy and processes. But Grab was in a unique position, they needed to grow extremely fast and were looking for a marketer with tech-related business acumen.”

Hassan’s first 100 days were difficult and he said to Sulin, “You hired me for a reason, so give me a mission and I will deliver but I’m not going to do things the typical way. I believe that’s why you chose me.”

To make a difference, you don’t have to be an activist; you can be a marketer.

In the few years that Hassan has been with Grab, not a year has passed without them winning Brand of the Year at the Effie Awards. But Hassan insists that it is not about him, “Awards are about humbling yourself and taking what we internally think is great, and putting it out there for our marketing peers to validate. It attracts new talent and keeps existing talent motivated. It’s also about paying it forward, because your best work can inspire even better work in others.”

Hassan has also leveraged Grab’s technology and scale with additions such as Grab AudioProtect, a ground- breaking safety feature, that he believes can help to keep them relevant. The #SisBoleh campaign showcased a 171% surge in female driver sign-ups and a 13% increase in the number of female drivers, while the recent #SavewithGrab campaign reinforced the brand’s commitment to affordability that serves all Malaysians in the current economic climate.

Work fast, live slow.

Hassan joined Grab because he wanted to make an impact in Southeast Asia, and his appointment as Regional Head of Marketing in 2022 has him poised to do just that. “I’m good at leading teams and building culture from the ground up. I’m very good at managing stakeholders but more importantly, I will teach the team to be business marketers.”

While regional roles are naturally challenging, Hassan believes that you also need to change the way you work when your team consists of CMOs. “They are very talented, smarter than me, stronger than me. individuals who are experts in their country so how do you bring new value to them? You can’t directly influence what they do, but you can indirectly inspire them,” he explained.

Hassan focuses on building a team culture where the teams are empowered to make decisions, and by making sure that every decision is based on data. He enables training and skillsets that help them leverage this data so the team can be consistently strong and unfailingly fast. And he believes that once personal ambitions are aligned with the company’s, everything will fall into place.

From a personal standpoint, what keeps Hassan motivated is that companies who come up with great solutions often don’t reach enough beneficiaries…

“That is the gap that marketers play in. If you want to make a difference in the world, you don’t have to be an activist; you can be a marketer. I want to partner with someone who has built something amazing.”

Hassan Alsagoff is a winner of the Malaysian CMO of the Year Award 2023 (Best of the Best).

This article is excerpted from the coffee table book Who’s Who In The Malaysian Marketing Landscape – a ready reference to the leaders who are making a transformative difference in the industry. Available at

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