A tribute to Akbar Ali [1943- 2016].
My father, Akbar Ali, was born on May 6, 1943. He was the youngest son of his parents. He had three older brothers and a younger sister. His father passed away when he was very young, so he and his siblings were raised by their mother and he started working while he was studying to support his family.
His first job was at a printing press, but he soon moved to National Advertising, a well-known advertising agency in Karachi. In a short span of time, he learned all there was to know about client servicing and was able to attract sizeable business for the company.
After proving his mettle at National Advertising for almost a decade, and making it to the top tier there, Akbar Ali decided to establish his own advertising agency – Mass Advertising – in 1973. Over time, Mass Advertising proved to be a game changer for Pakistan’s advertising scene and bagged numerous APNS, PTV and PAA Excellence Awards, in addition to various performance awards from clients and NGOs.
Thanks to a career that spanned over five decades, many of my father’s friends and colleagues considered him to be one of the pioneers of advertising in Pakistan. He reached the highest rung the hard way; tireless effort, hard work and unflinching faith in himself, coupled with dedication and determination. All this made him a visionary and a role model for many people.
Akbar Ali became a member of the Executive Committee of the Pakistan Advertising Association (PAA) in 1991-92, and Chairman, Zone ‘A’, in 1992-93 and 1993-94; in 1997, he was elected as Chairman. He was also the President of the Public Relations Society of Pakistan (PRSP), a lifetime Executive Committee Member of Medical Aid Foundation (MAF), and Chairman of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry’s (FPCCIs) Standing Committee on Press and Print Media (2008).
He was also a pioneer in the electronic media; in the 90s, under his leadership, Mass Advertising became the first media sales representative for the Zee and Star Networks in Pakistan, and introduced Pakistani advertising to satellite channels.
Many people who worked for Akbar Ali remember him very fondly. For instance, Summaya Buttla, who joined Mass Advertising in 2003 as a Creative Head, recounts that she thought that since he was one of the pioneers of advertising in Pakistan, he would be bossy and a bit of a seth. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was not at all like that; instead, he mentored her and she came to consider him a father figure who taught her a great deal.
She remembers that his “informal way of speaking, caring nature and above all, the fact that he appreciated my work and praised it, always gave me the incentive to do my best and make him proud.”
Akbar Ali was a philanthropist and thanks to his efforts, he built the Jama Masjid Akbar and a school for Islamic studies in Korangi; he contributed regularly to the Medical Aid Foundation.
My father was in his mid-20s when he married my mother. As a father, he was always an inspiration to me and my sisters Saima, Shazia, Mehnaz, Afsheen and Bushra. I have never seen a person as modest, humble, honest, polite, jolly and helpful as he was. He was always optimistic and advised people to stay positive. I cannot recall a time when he was depressed; he was a very strong person with a likeable personality, which is why everyone enjoyed his company. Apart from being a prominent figure in business circles, he was also respected and admired by our extended family members as I remember a lot of his friends, many of whom called him Akbar bhai, came to seek his advice regarding their personal or professional matters.
Akbar Ali loved travelling and he did most of it with his friends and colleagues from advertising; he represented Pakistan at several AdAsia Congresses in Bangkok (1986), Lahore (1989), Kuala Lumpur (1991), Tokyo (1993), Bali (1995), Jaipur (2003) and Singapore (2005). His other hobbies included reading (his day began with his favourite newspapers – DAWN and Jang) hosting get-togethers and spending time with his family.
Unknown to many people, he was a philanthropist and thanks to his efforts, he built the Jama Masjid Akbar and a school for Islamic studies in Korangi; he contributed regularly to the Medical Aid Foundation.
Akbar Ali has been a role model for me and my sisters; I am proud to be the son of a man who truly devoted his life to becoming a successful person – not just in professional terms, but also as a father who mentored his children in so many ways and helped us become principled and disciplined individuals.
M. Dawar Ali Khan is Director, Mass Advertising.