Prita Kemal Gani, founder and CEO of the London School of Public Relations (LSPR), is often dubbed one of the most influential women in Indonesia.
The LSPR, which was established back in 1992, currently has over 5,000 students and the institution has consistently received an “A” rating from the National Accreditation Board for Higher Education. Prita told Indonesia Expat how implanting positivity will take us far in our lives, especially in the least expected ways.
Hello, Ibu Prita. Could you please share your early life and background with us?
Hello, it’s lovely to have you here today. Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I was born to a Minang mother and a Javanese father. Unfortunately, I lost my father when I was five years old. My mother, who was only 29, was pregnant at the time, too. She eventually gave birth to my sister, who sadly, also passed away at only three months old. It was an unimaginably difficult situation for us. Hailing from a matrilineal culture, my mother raised me and my three siblings by being an entrepreneur. She managed a few hotels before owning one. Obviously, she expected me to continue the family business, so I went on to pursue hotel management.
How did you end up in the world of public relations?
After earning a diploma in Hotel Management from Trisakti University, I landed a job at the Hilton Hotel, Jakarta. At that time, I was assigned to the Public Relations (PR) department. I realised that PR was, indeed, an intriguing sector. Unfortunately, there was not much exposure to the subject back then. I was determined to explore the area further, and expressed my desire to study the subject to my mother. I ended up completing my undergraduate degree in Public Relations at London City College, which is now City University London. After some time, I went to the Philippines for my MBA. I had initially intended to study in the USA, but my mother said that the Philippines would be a cheaper option. I’m glad I went there. Filipinos are very Americanised since most of the lecturers graduated from the USA. Therefore, they use the American curriculum.
Did you establish LSPR after coming back from The Philippines?
It was a gradual process. I started looking for a job in Indonesia before completing my MBA. I was finally employed at a fitness centre which was located at a city-centre hotel in Jakarta. The fitness centre, Clark Hatch, was run by an American company that was based in Seattle. They were in dire need of PR professionals who would effectively inform clients and potential members about health and proper nutrition, as well as ensure proper communication between the staff and gym members. The company provided me with a PR manual and further training in PR. This is where I learned invaluable, practical lessons in the PR world. Eventually, I became the PR director and started working very long hours.
I was introduced to my husband by a journalist. Before marrying him, I was contemplating other career options. My husband, Kemal, who is currently director of Swa Business magazine, was a very busy journalist back then. As working professionals, we had to find a sustainable solution for our marriage to work out. At that time, I was also serving as a lecturer for a short PR course. There was a need for expertise in the area, and I loved to share my knowledge for posterity. After a mutual agreement, I decided to start my own PR course in 1992.
How did the short course develop into LSPR?
We initially rented a small office space and trained different people from all sorts of backgrounds about PR. Some of them were marketers, business professionals, personal assistants, and many more. Despite being busier than ever, I had the luxury of working flexible hours. The course started growing rapidly, so we started offering students diplomas and advanced diplomas.
In 1998, when the financial crisis struck Indonesia, many parents were unable to send their children abroad. They started wondering if LSPR could offer degree programs, instead of just diplomas. Education is seen as an antidote to any nation in crisis. Back then, the Minister of Education, Malik Fadjar, issued a decree which eased institutions wishing to upgrade their educational qualifications. That was when we started offering degree programs.
LSPR currently offers both undergraduate and post-graduate courses, holding regular and international classes. In the regular class, 50 percent of the materials are in English, while the international class covers all materials in English.
Could you please tell us more about the demographics of LSPR? Are there many international students?
There are 3 campuses- in Sudirman, Bekasi and the new one in Bali. Our campus in Bekasi is a lot larger; it is in a 15-floor building with special rooms for performing arts, dance, and state-of-the-art equipment for audiovisual and lectures.
We have over 5,000 students from different countries. We have students from China, India, Germany, the UK, and other Southeast Asian countries. Many of our international students have joined their expatriate parents living in Indonesia. However, after the age of 21, they are required to have their own visas.
Our post-graduate program in Executive Communication also manages to attract plenty of international students, especially professionals looking to improve their communication skills. We have a lot of people from embassies and consulates from Italy, South Africa, Japan, and South Korea. Our post-graduate programs are more flexible, with options of one, two, or three sessions per week. However, we try to limit the number of students to ensure convenience and mobility, so the lectures can take place effectively. We do not wish to sacrifice quality over money. For instance, students wishing to join the September 2020 intake will have to settle fees in July 2019.
What differentiates LSPR from other universities?
Here at LSPR, we choose to only focus on one area, namely communications. Our lecturers, materials, and research are specifically catered to communication, which is found in every line of business and is technically essential in every organisation. We do offer programs in marketing, entrepreneurship, tourism, and others, but they are all under the branch of communications. The LSPR has been accredited by The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examination Board, which was originally only meant for commonwealth countries. As I was familiar with the curriculum, I applied to the British Council for accreditation. That is how LSPR earned “London” in its name.
Does LSPR have any partner universities and exchange programs?
Yes, we have 50 partner universities from all over the world. Some of them are Edith Cowan University in Australia, The Hague University in the Netherlands, Osaka International University in Japan, Purdue University in the USA, Sogang University in South Korea, and DIMA or the Dong Ah Institute of Media and Arts in South Korea – which mostly involves K-POP studies. We also collaborate with Salford University in Manchester for media studies. A special exchange program has been arranged with ZEBAT or Zealand Institute of Business and Technology in Denmark, which involves the exchange of a few lecturers and a few students each semester. This particular program is funded by Erasmus.
How do you feel when you hear success stories of LSPR alumni?
I feel so rewarded when I attend a wedding and the organiser happens to be alumni of LSPR. I have travelled the world, visited embassies in London and Norway. Some of the staff happen to be our alumni. Recently, a friend of mine, the Indonesian Ambassador in Norway, mentioned that a lot of LSPR alumni have worked for the government.
We also conduct a 30-minute lifestyle talk show called “The Entrepreneur Diaries with Prita Kemal Gani.” The show airs on LSPR’s channel and our YouTube channel. Here, we feature notable alumni pursuing entrepreneurship and creativepreneurship. Many of our alumni have also chosen to enter the showbiz and entertainment industry. It brings me immense joy to be able to witness their success. The seeds we sow finally come back to us in the form of fruits.
Do you have any advice for women juggling both a career and their personal life?
Women have the advantage of being multi-taskers. As unconventional as it is, aside from hard work and having sufficient time-management skills, I believe in praying and having good judgment towards people. I am a firm believer in the law of attraction – positive attracts positive. You can if you think you can. Always learn to see the good in others, as this will take you far in life. A lot of my relationships have been based on this, especially with the lecturers and staff who have stayed with us from the very beginning. I am very grateful for what we have achieved.