An Exclusive Interview with HUNAID H. LAKHANI, Chancellor –
After graduating in Business Administration from The American College, Los Angeles, in 1997, Mr. Lakhani graduated from the Owner-President Management Program at Harvard Business School, USA, in 2006.In 1998, Mr. Lakhani initiated Iqra University to offer international quality education to the people of Pakistan. Iqra University is chartered by the Government of Sindh, recognized by the Higher Education Commission, and is ranked as the No.1 private university in Sindh by CIEC. Iqra University has seven campuses in the major cities of Pakistan with about 10,000 students.Mr. Lakhani brings with him over ten years of experience in the housing industry. During this period, several projects were completed by him including Hunaid City, Karachi, Cecil Apartments, Murree and Gulshan View, Karachi.
BM: Tell us a bit about your professional and educational background?
HL: I started my business career at the age of 16 when I was in my first year; not only did I start commercial exports but was also engrossed in construction work during that time. I certainly learnt a lot through my work. I studied Business from Commerce College then joined Greenwich at the same time I started a small factory of sports socks since I was already exporting them so I wondered why not manufacture them and increase my earnings. I suffered losses and realized that it wasn’t my piece of cake, I decided to wrap up and carry on with my education. I went to London then to the US, did my Bachelors then came back and started a Business school in 1998. When I got the charter by the name of Iqra University, it was one of the few universities of the country in the private sector. I guess the biggest hurdle for me while getting the charter of the University was my age as I was only 24 at that time! Gradually we opened up campuses in different parts of the country like Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore. I was blessed to be able to set a good facility.This is how I started off in the education sector meanwhile I was also involved in construction because that was a family business and I wanted to keep my father contented.
BM: Give us a brief history and background of IQRA University?
HL: It started as a very small college by the name of Asian Management Institute from there it flourished, got the status of a degree awarding university in the year 2000 by the government of Sindh, we got a separate charter by name of Iqra National University in NWFP and I was also helping a friend in making a university in Faisalabad so I was lucky to be involved in many private sector universities.
BM: What inspired you to become an educationist?
HL: I had always been inclined towards business schools as I was from a business family, although when I was in college business studies was not considered as worthy career, students would mostly opt for medicine. On my return I realized that there was demand of a business school so without second thoughts I started construction of this university. From that it’s a success story!
BM: What is your opinion about the present day education system?
HL: Education today is very different than how it used to be. In the past people would do their masters in subjects that interested them like Persian or poetry and so on, which aren’t viable anymore. In current scenario the higher education has become further moreexpensive and students tend to invest in courses that they feel will help earn a better livelihood rather than just serve their interest. That is why most of the countries have gradually started opting for the American curriculum due to its diversity. It molds the student in a way that helps him become a well-rounded person. So it’s improved in my opinion and its improving day by day.
BM: What is your role in the university?
HL: My University is my passion, I am not directly involved in what goes on. My role is to present the university with its overall vision from the development side to guidance of management and planning of the strategies. I like spending time with people who create knowledge & the university has a splendid faculty which is why it runs so smoothly.
I’ve always felt that this is how I am able to give back to my country. Our country has a large sum of population out which 50% is the youth. Very few manage to gain education and from those few the sum of the ones attaining higher education is even fewer. So my goal is to educate more people to help them build a better future and do something for the country as well and I’ve been very successful with it.
When I started a fashion school everybody opposed it even my own team but the fact was that Pakistan being a textile exporting countryhas to have people in a sector which is strong to be able to break the cycle of economic crises and textile is one of those sectors that can help do so.
BM: Why did the name of AMI change to Iqra University?
HL: A good friend of mine who was following up the charter of Islamabad called me up one day and questioned me why we follow a charter that only offer business studies or specifying it to management studies. He explained to me of all the other fields that will grow and were growing at that time and advised me to change the name to Iqra as the name was available and reason being that the word ‘IQRA’ is the first word of Quran which is why we decided to change the name from AMI to Iqra University.
BM: What is your biggest inspiration in life?
HL: My inspiration comes from my father whom I’m very lucky to have. He’s been very strict yet had balanced it out with all his love, support and encouragement. When I talked to him about opening a university he immediately offered me property and funds so I’m lucky to have a father like him who’s always willing to help me out, listen to me and push me to achieve more and work hard.
BM: A brief of the work that you have done for social well being?
HL: I’m involved in social work and encourage my students to join my organization that serves people apart from that we have a small orphanage beside the university where we have adopted 11 boys and 1 daughter and recently we adopted another orphanage of Pakistan sweet home, our sweet home is known as Iqra sweet home and the Pakistan sweet home is owned by Pakistan Bait- ul- Maal. We train them in different skills so that they are able to get jobs and earn a living for themselves. Along with that we are also trying to develop a degree program based on skills for these children.
BM: Any message you would like to be conveyed to the youth through this platform?
HL: A message I would like to convey through this platform is that if Allah chooses you to help someone or if you’re able to help someone then HE will help you and I feel it serves as a key to success. I encourage my students to join me and serve others and this is what our country needs, every individual playing a part in helping one other.