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The University of Sheffield engineering grad who founded a social media agency at 22

university of sheffield
Ashvin Praveen and Lizzie Tan co-founded Whacked, a content-driven social media agency when Praveen was studying a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Sheffield. Source: Ashvin Praveen

What were you doing when you were 22? 

Most of us were in class, figuring out life or stressing about homework deadlines. Ashvin Praveen, however, was editing videos and designing graphics. Not for fun, but for real clients.

He was doing it for Whacked, a content-driven social-media agency, the one he co-founded while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Sheffield.  

“The cool thing about uni education in the UK is we get these really long summer breaks where we can pretty much do anything,” Praveen tells Study International.

“In my first summer break, I did a digital marketing internship. In my second summer break, I started an agency.”

What started as a freelancing gig with his business partner has snowballed into a team of seven helping business leaders connect with their audience on LinkedIn through relatable content.

Most of their clientele are in finance and weren’t aware of how the social media platform could help them or felt it took too much time to create content.

university of sheffield

Praveen (pictured at the centre) together with his parents during his graduation. Source: Ashvin Praveen

Where it all started

Praveen discovered his passion for marketing in his first year at uni when he joined iCUBE.

This non-profit student-led organisation encourages entrepreneurship and innovation amongst Malaysian students in the UK, Ireland, the US, and Australia. 

“Before uni, I had zero understanding of business and entrepreneurship. I didn’t even know this space existed,” he says.

“Once I started learning about business from the student organisation and the activities I was taking part in, I learned about marketing and how important it is in business.”

His biggest takeaway? Seeing what it’s like to work with students who have a startup mindset. It showed him how a small group of students can still deliver a big impact. 

“They weren’t going to be satisfied with just running an event with 10 or 15 people inside,” Praveen says.

“They wanted a solid event with loads of turnout, including virtual audiences and professional guest speakers.”

university of sheffield

Praveen (pictured on the bottom left) together with the University of Sheffield’s Malaysian Night film team at a friend’s backyard for a live screening of “Love Lisa.” Source: Ashvin Praveen

Fueling his passion for marketing and content creation

The University of Sheffield mechanical engineering graduate feels grateful to be surrounded by a group of friends who were keen to explore new hobbies and interests.

One of them was Edward Ong, a Malaysian Youtuber who does music covers on YouTube. “I was staying with a bunch of international students and I came across him,” he says.

“We became friends. I told him how I was interested in videography. He asked if I wanted to shoot a video for him and I was like ‘Heck yeah, let’s do it'”.

That video, an acoustic fingerstyle guitar solo arrangement for Alan Walker’s “On my way” song,” now has over one million views.

In his second year, Praveen would go on to co-found Whacked with his business partner, Lizzie Tan.

At first, they had less than a thousand followers. Then, after many pitches, the duo secured their first clients.

“They were reaching out to us saying that they got this project and [asked if we] would be able to help. That’s really how Whacked started off,” Praveen shares.

During his final year, Praveen worked with a team of international students to create a 32-minute short film called, “Love Lisa” as well. 

In two weeks, they wrote a script, created a whole production plan, and filmed the video — with minimal experience in video editing, colour grading, or storyboarding.

university of sheffield

Praveen (pictured on the right) together with Mohan Raj, a 26-year-old content strategist at Whacked for a LinkedIn audio event. Source: Ashvin Praveen

How being an international student at the University of Sheffield helped him manage a Gen Z workforce

It can be difficult for a young business leader to manage and work with a group of the same age.

Still, the social media agency owner believes that those from Generation Z (people born in the late 1990s through the early 2000s) can deliver impact when given a direction or goal.

“We are so resourceful. We grown up with the Internet. We know Youtube — inside and out. Information isn’t a barrier anymore,” says the University of Sheffield graduate.

Working with British engineering students also showed him how you can get a lot done with little time.

“Say we had a meeting on a Friday. Monday to Thursday, you would have no communication,” the mechanical engineering graduate laughs as he recalls working on group projects.

“On Friday, all the key information is delivered within 20 minutes.”

For those who are considering making the switch to marketing, Praveen advises: “Try and observe the data that come from your post on various social media platforms.”

“Figure out whether you are really passionate about that. There’s a lot you can learn by posting on various social media platforms and looking at the numbers.”