Selina Rashid Khan at the Lotus office 3

If you’re associated with the Fashion or Lifestyles industries in Pakistan and you don’t know Selina Rashid you’re probably not as ‘with it’ as you think. Safely, the pioneer of PR as we know it in the fashion industry today, Selina is the founder of the PR powerhouse LOTUS. The one common name behind most big brands in Pakistan, Selina started her PR firm upon returning to Pakistan seven years ago. Today PR firms are mushrooming left right and center but we know who made this lackluster job so fancy! Here is ascript of our conversation with Selina ‘Lotus’.

Who is Selina Rashid Khan?

I currently define myself as a Motherholic, Workaholic and a Wifeacholic.

Many say careers begin as early as childhood. When did yours begin?

Mine definitely began later in life. It was at college and university that I became more independent and open in my thinking. I have however always been cautious as a person and it was therefore not till my 20’s, having first worked in PR in England, that I decided to go the entrepreneurial route.

Speak to us about your journey from childhood to today – who was Selina Rashid then and who is she now?

That’s a long journey, given that I am 31! In summary, my journey has been one of happiness and challenges both – as I am sure everyone’s is. I am at heart the same person I always was: cautious but willing to take measured risks, well meaning with a strong belief in ethics.

Did you always dream of being an entrepreneur?

No. It just felt right at the time.

What did you want to be, if not Selina Lotus (as most people know you now :))?

Frankly, I always wanted to be a professional singer! (note to readers: go back a few seasons of Coke Studio and you may get a glimpse of someone familiar).

Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle choice. Do you agree?

It is definitely a lifestyle choice. Being an entrepreneur and business owner means there is a lot of pressure, all the time. Not just the pressure of work itself but that of everyone who you work with. To be a responsible employer and PR firm, you have to be on top of everything all the time.

We understand you are a new mother of two and that PR is a 24/7 job. How do you create a balance between your personal and professional life?

Honestly, it’s been a struggle. Being a mother of 1, I managed to balance everything fairly effectively. Now with two kids, its taken me more time to adjust but I’m getting there. I really admire all the mothers around me for being able to raise such wonderful kids, maintain happy homes and perform well at the workplace.

What was the defining moment when you realized that Public Relations and Client Management was your calling?

I didn’t have a defining moment as such. It is a field I am passionate about and I had great people around me to encourage this passion and to help me channel it into a proper company.

What is the greatest challenge about running a PR giant in Pakistan?

The greatest challenge used to be explaining the difference between PR and Advertising/Events to clients – I am so grateful that is no longer the case.

Currently, I perceive there to be 2 main challenges:

  1. Skilled Professionals: There are some wonderfully talented people out there who are not guided/mentored enough at the school/college level on how to develop their talent into a more disciplined approach in the workplace. Abroad, I feel responsibility, discipline, commitment to ones work is taught at every stage of the schooling process. It is also honed further at ones workplace. Here, it seems to vary quite heavily, perhaps because PR is still very new as an industry, and therefore there is a marked difference among PR professionals operating in Pakistan.]
  2. Benchmarks & Standards: In order for any industry to develop, companies need to adhere to and abide by a set general code of ethics. At the moment, because the PR industry is a fledgling one, all of us seem to be operating as we please and therefore each one of us is establishing different and sometimes not so positive precedents with clients and the media. There is an extent to which PR is black and white in terms of do’s and donts, and perhaps we need to sit down and agree on those and then implement that, in order to help create a more informed and credible industry.

What do you love the most about your job?

The satisfaction; Knowing you are making a positive difference to public perception of specific people/projects/brands/events.

What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you while on the job?

Being offered a very large sum of money to have an article planted in a newspaper.

What does a day in Lotus look like for you?

At the moment, it looks like a few hours away from kids, in which I cram in as much as I can! Ordinarily, it should start with morning papers, moving on to emails, meetings, planning and strategy.

We understand you began Lotus from one room and a single employee. How did you do it?

I first started off my parents dining table alone, then moved into my dads store room at his office and hired a wonderful girl who believed in what Lotus was capable of, and then eventually, grew and expanded into the premises we have today. I am proud of the fact that everything happened organically and therefore gradually. As I said, I’ve always been cautious in my approach and therefore let our growth come slowly and naturally, as opposed to coming as one big bang, which to me is not sustainable.

We have spoken about how you made Lotus what it is today. But how has Lotus made you who you are?

Lotus is me and I am Lotus. It is very personal and also very professional. I value my business and clients as much as I do my family. It is because of the company and the people we have worked with that I have developed and grown as a person.

How do you disconnect from work?

I don’t…!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?

To be positive. Its that simple and that effective for me.

What would you say is your style statement?

I love a good classic handbag

If you could change one thing about the way this industry works what would that be?

I am grateful that Lotus has been an integral part of how the industry came about to begin with in Pakistan and we have grown alongside it. In many ways, this has allowed us to help shape what the industry has become today and that has been very helpful, as it means there is much less that we want to change! The only thing at this point that really should change, is the obvious friction between Karachi and Lahore – be it in business, fashion, retail etc.

How do you see the PR industry moving forward in Pakistan?

Positively. For instance, in the 7-8 odd years that Lotus has been around, a lot of PR companies have opened up and a lot more event planners have started integrating PR into their company vernacular, which means more client and media industry exposure. We now also have more international companies affiliating with local agencies to open up PR offices in Pakistan – all of this brings new standards, business practices and exposure to an otherwise very new industry.

What would be your advice to young people aspiring to join this industry?

Work hard, stay focused and be loyal to your work. Take time to learn and understand PR and to give it your best – the rewards will be multifold.

Written by Foha Raza
Assistant Editor.