Who is @Kalsoom82 Lakhani ?
Founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate talks Twitter, living in the US and dreams of being a teleporter, ala Nightcrawler.
Kalsoom Lakhani is founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate (i2i), LLC, a global social enterprise intermediary that matches investors with social entrepreneurs in emerging markets, with the pilot market launching in Pakistan in Fall 2011.
Prior to starting i2i, Kalsoom was the director of Social Vision, which provided seed grants and hands-on support for social enterprises, and innovative initiatives in their start-up stages, mainly in Pakistan.
Kalsoom is also a managing editor, and helped launch Think Change-Pakistan- a blog that tracks the social entrepreneurship and innovation space in the country. She also founded and runs the popular blog, CHUP, or Changing up Pakistan, which was established in January 2008 and aims to raise awareness on the issues affecting Pakistan through news analysis, interviews, and contributions by young Pakistanis.
She has written for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Foreign Policy, and Pakistan's Dawn Newspaper. Kalsoom has a B.A. from the University of Virginia in Foreign Affairs and Middle East Studies, and an M.A. from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in International Affairs/Conflict Resolution. She is from Islamabad, Pakistan.
When did you first join Twitter and why?
I joined Twitter about 2 years ago, mainly to use it as a platform to market my blog CHUP, follow interesting people, and get my news more succinctly.
Your blog CHUP has gained prominence over the years, and was nominated for Google awards as well. Tell us a little bit about this.
It was actually really spontaneous. Back in December 2007/January 2008, I was increasingly frustrated with the one-sided depiction of Pakistan in the news media, and felt there needed to be a platform that showed a more nuanced perspective of the country – not being apologetic about the bad, but providing a platform to show the good as well. One day, I sat up and said, “I’m going to start a blog that does just that.” And a few days later, I launched CHUP.
Have you ever had a twitter fight? Which one is memorable?
I think you and I had an argument once, actually! But no, not really- I don’t have the energy to engage people in “fights” on Twitter. Make love not war, man. *insert hippie voice here*
Living in the US as a Pakistani poses its own unique set of challenges. Which is the worst one?
Honestly, I don’t really face too many challenges, other than the fact that I don’t really fit into any one stereotype of what a Pakistani “should” be, at least according to outside perspectives. I’m proud to be Pakistani, but I’m not apologetic about the issues back home, and I’m always willing to engage people in dialogue. I’m also extremely self-deprecating, so I don’t know if that makes it easier to roll with the punches, so to speak.
You are stranded on a desert island but you get to choose with whom. Name them?
The entire cast of Lost, so they can reenact the best television series for me on an island. How perfect is that? We can also eat Hurley when we run out of food.
What is your favorite kind of music?
I like acoustic folk-y rock. Though I also [not so] secretly love a lot of top 40’s music too.
Which one superpower would you pick?
I’d like to be a teleporter, ala Nightcrawler from X-Men. I always wished I could just beam myself places and save time.
What according to you is the most endearing quality in a man?
What does Kalsoom do for fun?
I love traveling, exploring, and trying new things, like eating out, new films, white water rafting, sky diving, dance classes, the list goes on. I also do Thai boxing (it sounds more hard core than it is) and volunteer at the local animal shelter (it is as warm and fuzzy as it sounds).
Which one gadget would you like to own?
An iPhone! I am tempted on a daily basis to throw my blackberry against the wall in frustration. Barry and I have a love/hate relationship.
You visit Pakistan often from your base in DC, which city do you like the most?
Islamabad – that’s home for me. Don’t judge.
Describe the everyday traffic scenario in DC in one word?
You are president of Pakistan from tomorrow, where do you begin?
Appointing a dream team cabinet of innovative people that can help revamp the country, because I wouldn’t know where to start.
Why do you think Pakistanis are in such denial?
I think accountability is a problem in Pakistan. We are in denial because no one is willing to step up and take responsibility for the number of issues facing the country. Scapegoating and pointing fingers are far easier than countering the harsh reality on the ground. We have a serious leadership crisis.
Name the last movie you saw and what you thought of it?
I watched The Help. I was a fan of the book and loved the movie. I cried- I am not ashamed to admit it. And I also was very inspired by one of the characters, who said a few times in the film, “You is good. You is smart. You is important.” Words to remind yourself every day.
If you had one song to sing, which would it, be?
Madonna’s Like a Prayer, not for any particular symbolic reason except that I was in a singing group in college and that was one of my solos. So during every karaoke session, my friends groan inwardly as I belt out Madonna for the umpteenth time. Sorry guys.
What is your favorite dessert?
Chocolate hazelnut gelato. It tastes like Nutella- amazing.
Coffee or tea?
I’m fairly sleep-deprived on a regular basis, so I’m a big coffee drinker.
As far as social media is concerned you have met many a Pakistani in it. Do you think this medium has any hope for the future?
I’ve met many people through Twitter, Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis alike. I really feel like Twitter has enriched my life, because I have met and engaged with some of the most inspiring and like-minded people because of this platform.
Tell us something about your company and what you do with it?
I’m the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate, or i2i, a social enterprise intermediary that matches investors with social entrepreneurs building sustainable enterprises in emerging markets. Basically, i2i believes in the value of entrepreneurs who provide services and support to low-income communities in these developing countries – this type of market-based approach vs. charity can create jobs, generate income, and ultimately alleviate poverty. i2i’s overall aim is to build the broader environment (aka, the ecosystem) that allows entrepreneurship to flourish – fostering local, regional, and global partnerships & collaborations to help social entrepreneurs maximize their potential. Our pilot market launches in Pakistan this September, with the aim to scale in the next three years. (You can join our Facebook page for more updates)
There are many in Pakistan who are losing hope day by day. Is the scenario the same for Pakistanis living abroad?
Yes, I’ve noticed that increased attitude lately, and it’s probably more apparent abroad, when we’re watching the news more than seeing the daily realities. But I also know so many Pakistanis, both at home and abroad, that haven’t given up – that’s what keeps me going.
Which social media tool do you use the most in your communication?
I use Facebook to keep up with people I know, and Twitter for news gathering, learning, and engaging like-minded people on various topics.
What comes to mind when you hear the word, Twitterati?
No offense, but I think it’s a horribly self-indulgent and elitist term, which is not what platforms like Twitter should be about.