LUMS Graduate is the First Pakistani to Win the Global PR 40 Under 40 Award
Bilal Lakhani (BSc 2008), has won the PR 40 Under 40 Award by PRWeek, one of the highest honours in the industry globally. PR 40 under 40 recognises individuals who are redefining the role of communications, public relations (PR) and marketing. Lakhani is the first and only Pakistani to win this prestigious award.
Lakhani is a PR industry veteran, who started his communications career in Karachi. For over a decade, he has held key roles in designing and executing communication strategies for Procter & Gamble (P&G) in Cincinnati, Geneva and Karachi. He is currently leading communications for two billion-dollar P&G brands in North America as well as directing their global Influencer Center of Excellence.
In addition to this, Lakhani is an award-winning journalist and influencer, with over 300,000 followers on his social platforms. He’s a columnist for Pakistan’s biggest language English newspaper and has had interviews with the President and Finance Minister of Pakistan. He also directed a series of mini-documentaries on ‘Extraordinary Pakistanis’, which have over 20 million lifetime views.
Speaking about his achievement, Lakhani said, “LUMS was the best and most formative experience of my life and I don’t just say that because I met my future wife in class. LUMS was instrumental in giving me the confidence and global worldview to compete with the best talent in the world. Two specific experiences at LUMS helped shape where I am today. One of them is running for a slot in the first Student Council at LUMS and winning. It was a stunning mandate; one that I was completely unprepared for. Over the course of my tenure, I learned that not everyone who treats you badly is your enemy and not everyone who takes you out for dinner is your friend. I understood the rich nuances that characterised human interactions and realised that the devil is always in the details. This was also the first time that I was fascinated with Public Relations because of the way in which the Student Council’s activities were portrayed in the school magazines. I decided to write for these magazines to clarify our stance. The experience left me wanting more exposure and more maturity.”
After completing his tenure in the Student Council, Lakhani set up a national magazine on entrepreneurship – the first of its kind in the country. “Publications such as TIME, Newsweek and Fortune had always captivated my imagination. Using the LUMS Entrepreneurial Society as a platform, I called for interviews and hired writers, editors, designers, and event managers for the new magazine. The enormous complexity and challenge of leading a 60-member team in publishing a new magazine was a roller coaster ride with untimely lows and meaningful highs. We faced numerous setbacks but kept bouncing back stronger each time we had problems.
“Finally, we got sponsors and went on a marketing blitz; printing three hundred T-Shirts with our logo and having an extravagant launch which was covered by the national media. This was a half a million-rupee semi-failure, and the experience endowed me with the confidence and the maturity to realise that I must specialise in a particular field and not take on every project that I could do well. I learned that my passion for writing had to play second fiddle to the enormous demands placed upon me by the administration and management of the magazine. Both these experiences combined gave me the passion and the confidence to pursue life double hatting the roles of a PR expert as well as a journalist, which I continue to do to this day.”
Lakhani started his career in Pakistan but ended up winning the award in New York City. “Through this time, I’ve worked in multiple locations from picturesque Geneva in Switzerland to rustic Cincinnati in the United States. What I’m most thrilled by in my journey is the realisation that Pakistani talent can thrive anywhere as long as we’re willing to work hard and continue dreaming.”
Lakhani wants to help other Pakistani talent, especially LUMS graduates, believe in themselves, discover their passions and compete with the best talent globally.