May 24, 2023Print | PDF
By Ben Forrest
In his final year of high school, Aneesh Lal (BBA ’11) visited the campus at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University and immediately felt like he belonged.
He was already leaning toward entering Laurier’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program in international business thanks to the endorsements of a family friend. His high school teachers had also spoken positively about the quality of Laurier’s business program. But the feeling that came over him on campus for the first time helped seal the deal.
“It's very warm and inclusive,” said Lal, a distinguished alumnus of the Lazaridis School and a marketing expert who works with some of the world’s biggest brands.
“It's challenging and open as well,” he said. “Laurier has done such a good job of fostering a sense of empathy, a sense of community. That definitely hits home. It’s in my business DNA today.”
A self-described extrovert, Lal gets his energy from interacting with others. He naturally gravitated toward student government at Laurier, becoming president of the School of Business and Economics Students’ Society (SBESS), now the Lazaridis Students’ Society (LazSoc), and sitting on several student committees.
He also pledged at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, took part in fundraisers like 5 Days for the Homeless and became a mentor to younger business students at the Lazaridis School.
“When you're involved in student government, you start leveling-up your interpersonal skills, and your strategic skills,” he said. “You're taking theory and putting it into practice. And you're getting to do it in a safe environment where the consequences of making a mistake aren’t that you're fired. In the real world, that's what happens. So for me to get a chance to do that on the extracurricular side of things really complemented my academics.”
After graduation in 2011, the main thing employers asked about in job interviews was his time as SBESS president. It set him apart from other applicants with similar academic credentials.
“That's what they cared about the most,” he said. “It was different than everybody else.”
In his post-Laurier career as a sales professional, Lal rose quickly.
He worked at several smaller firms before joining large, multinational companies like Coca-Cola and Pinterest — where he was a top performer, focusing on sales.
Then in early 2023, Lal created The Wishly Group, a digital sales and marketing firm that uses insights from top-tier brands to amplify the stories of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“The folks on my team, we've all worked at tier one companies,” said Lal. “When you have someone who's worked at Verizon on brand loyalty, and they've built out some of these amazing campaigns … I can bring in that person.
“It’s not about likes and engagement [on social media]. It’s about the talent that can come up with creative ideas and concepts to help you connect with your audience.”
Two fellow Laurier grads also work at The Wishly Group, and the company’s primary focus is on community-building. They help brands make deeper connections with their audiences by using Discord, WhatsApp, Slack, and other digital platforms that lend themselves well to intimate group discussions.
“The social media part is just the beginning,” said Lal. “Once you have that audience, the big focus is taking that audience and building more meaningful relationships with them.”
Community-building is at the root of Lal’s business philosophy, and he learned a great deal about it by immersing himself in Laurier’s relatively small, tight-knit, inclusive campus culture.
“That's where it all started for me,” he said. “The big part about community is developing empathy for another human being — where they’re from, what’s going on in their minds. And Laurier gives you all the forums possible to learn that.”
As a student at the Lazaridis School, Lal maximized his university experience by making connections that still benefit him today. His advice to prospective students is to do the same.
“Definitely get involved,” he said. “Sign up for as many of the clubs and extracurriculars as you can. This will do two things. One, you start getting uncomfortable, and that's where that growth comes from.
“The second thing it does is tell you what you like and what you don’t like — what kinds of crowds you want to associate with, what types of values you have as your own person … you can only gain that wisdom through experience.”
And while the Lazaridis school has a robust and influential alumni network, grads from other Laurier programs can also help new grads advance in their careers.
“The community at Laurier does not limit to the people you knew in your four years,” said Lal. “Definitely reach out to alumni; reach out to me, any time … I’m really glad I made that decision to join Laurier all those years ago.”