Published in Slogan (Jan 2009)
She loved to communicate even before she learned to speak. It was quite inevitable that she would excel at public speaking one day.
Sidra Iqbal has used her natural ability wisely and made use of every good opportunity that life has offered. As a public speaker, youth trainer, brand consultant, PR practitioner and media anchorperson, she is an inspiring example for the young generation.
Exuding tons of confidence and a charismatic spark, with a dream of becoming someone whose opinion mattered, Sidra Iqbal instinctively took to debating and public speaking while she was still in school. She rose to prominence in college (DHA, Karachi) when she became the youngest finalist of the Prime Minister’s Shield – a competition put together by the Higher Education Commission in which over 132 universities participate from across the country.
Luckily, DHA College was also invited to participate in the English Speaking Union’s competition that year (1999). Sidra was first selected from Karachi and then from Pakistan to represent the country abroad. She became the first Pakistani to win the prestigious English Speaking Union’s International Public Speaking Championship in London. Emerging as a winner from amongst 58 participants from 28 countries, she was honoured with a visit to the Royal family at the Buckingham Palace and awarded the winner’s certificate by HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Sidra participated in many other such competitions later and had the privilege of visiting several countries for this purpose, such as Japan, Australia, United States and Cyprus. Youth forums, conventions and training programmes happened concurrently with the progress she made in her academic life – completing her BBA and MBA from the College of Business Management, Karachi.
Sidra also got a training opportunity at the British Council, Karachi in 2000. She designed and executed the summer public speaking workshops called Speech Craft. In 2003, she was asked to use the same concept and launch TCS Hyde Park Juniors. This was a popular training programme and championship series in which over 200 young participants enrolled to receive training in public
speaking and personal grooming.
After graduation, Sidra’s first job was with City School Network as the marketing head. She then took a brief sabbatical and wrote for a journal published by Boston University. For one of her pieces on advertising, she interviewed Taher A. Khan, Founder and Chairman of Interflow Group. He was launching TV1 at that time and asked Sidra to join.
“I started off as a marketing person there but even before the channel was launched, I also became the producer of a show and finally, when the personality of the show had to be selected, I ended up hosting it,” says Sidra.
After that, Sidra also worked as the Content Head at ARY. In summer 2006, she was awarded a full scholarship to attend the International Relations Summer Programme at the Oxford University, UK.
“Interest in International Relations developed at a young age,” says Sidra. “For example, when my friends were discussing which college they wanted to go to or when I participated in international competitions. In 1999 and 2000, everyone was talking about the Millennium Development Goals; about what was happening in the country and how we can have a more equal place in the world.
“Moreover, as a debater and public speaker you need and want to generally know about what is happening around in the world; hence the course in IR.”
On her return, she pursued anchoring, hosting shows like Corporate Coffee on PTV News. This show is still running.
“When we designed the programme, we thought we would reach out to the corporate world only but a major chunk of our viewership comes from management students all over the country.”
Some of the other notable shows she has been a part of include Baaton Baaton Mein (ARY Digital), KIVA Circle of Wisdom (TV1) and Red Talk with Sidra Iqbal (Radio1 FM 91).
While hosting and producing shows, Sidra was once again approached by Taher A. Khan; this time to work at Ogilvy & Mather, Pakistan. From November 2007 to October 2008, she served there as Vice President, Public Relations. This is when Sidra also got a chance to train and work at the Ogilvy Hong Kong and Singapore offices.
Now Sidra works freelance as a consultant and a media anchorperson. She has recently returned from an official visit to the US. She had been invited for the 16-part drama series, ‘Khuda Zameen Sey Gaya Nahin.’
“We were invited by the Ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Mr. Hussain Haqqani. He put together a media show at the Embassy of Pakistan inviting the most prestigious media representatives from CNN, BBC, PBS and others.
“This media show was related to the launch of ‘Khuda Zameen Sey Gaya Nahin,’ in the US on PTV Global with subtitles. The story is based on operation Rah-e-Nijaat and how the people of Pakistan are fighting against extremism.
“We received an incredible response in Washington. People there were moved by the stories, the music and the characters.”
Sidra has started hosting a new show called ‘Crossroads with Sidra Iqbal’, on PTV News. It covers socio-political subjects. In the show, Sidra addresses the civil society about anything major that is happening. She aims to bring viewers at a juncture where they have to determine the way forward.
Speaking in general about her achievements so far, Sidra says, “I have always been a dreamer. Television, communication in general and corporate communications are subjects of passion for me. My philosophy in life is to keep growing and keep learning.
“I wasn’t always sure about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. But God has always been kind and given me so many opportunities. I try my best to take advantage of them. It doesn’t matter whether the opportunity is small or big.
“The work I do has to be exclusive. I give it my heart and soul because my name is attached. I firmly believe that whatever I have achieved is all because of my mother’s appreciation. Without her support, I wouldn’t have been even one percent of what I am today.”
– By Ayesha Hoda