Akbar Khan has always felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. The only son in a family of six, he was one of the few people to make it past grade eight, not only in his extended family but also his entire village in Pakistan. It was not enough for him to succeed, he felt it was his responsibility to become a role model in his community.
Brought up in a deeply religious family whose patriarch was the imam at the local mosque, Akbar didn’t just learn the lessons of the Qur’an at a young age, he had them memorized. Day after day, he popped down on his floor mat in his two-room government school to take his lessons. After grade five, he was enrolled at a madrasa to become a hafiz, learning the entire 30 chapters of the Holy Qur’an by heart. This was no easy task, especially since he spoke Urdu and the Qur’an is written in Arabic, but Akbar deeply revered the lessons of the religious text and planned to live his life by its lessons.
After completing his time at the madrasa, he continued his education up until grade 10 and then, due to limited options, landed at a private vocational school to earn a three-year diploma for associate engineering. While he learned the basics of engineering and how to repair equipment, his real education came from a committed mentor who taught him the importance of service and putting God and his fellow man at the forefront.
With a diploma in hand, Akbar joined the ranks of Pakistan’s youth who struggle to find gainful employment. In 2016, Pakistan’s unemployment rate was its highest in 13 years. Thankfully, his mentor had his back, offering Akbar an apprenticeship at his repair shop so he could gain meaningful work experience as well as pay his bills. While at the shop one day, he ended up getting a tip meant for a co-worker about an employment opportunity at Nizam Energy, an Acumen investment bringing clean, affordable energy to Pakistan.
Akbar tried his luck and applied for the job. He got an interview, but it required him to travel seven hours from his village to Lahore, the capital of Punjab. His efforts paid off. He got the job. Despite being 45 kilometers from his home, it was a dream come true for Akbar. Now he could see a future for himself while relieving his aging father of running the household and supporting the family.
Soft-spoken yet self-assured, Akbar stands out amongst Nizam’s team. Since his first day on the job, he has followed his mentor’s advice and said “yes” to any task he was assigned. That willingness to say “yes” opened up one opportunity after the next for Akbar, allowing him to gain exposure to different technical and service aspects of the job. As he learned more, his confidence grew. Today, Akbar feels so sure of himself that he knows he can take on any project, no matter how complex. He has now become a mentor himself, a technical mentor to be exact, helping his colleagues learn how to operate and service Nizam Energy’s suite of energy products. He offers advice in a demeanor that is uniquely his?—?quiet, confident and reassuring. After Acumen invested in Nizam, Akbar was promoted to Field Officer, a position that pushed him further out of his technical comfort space and required him to convince others into buying a product as new to him as it was to them. Akbar doesn’t see it as a challenge, but rather an opportunity. He recognizes that Nizam’s customers are just like him—they have dreams for a better future for themselves, their families and communities—and feels this is his chance to live the life of service he always intended.
“I want to contribute to a better Pakistan,” he said. “A Pakistan that we are proud of. A Pakistan that has a positive name in the world. I didn’t know how at first, but now I know I can and, God willing, I will.”