Among the most prominent PR professionals across the Middle East, over two decades John has grown ASDA’A into a regional powerhouse, with eight wholly-owned offices and seven affiliates in 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, employing more than 200 people.
John is credited with transforming PR from a communications function struggling under the shadow of big advertising agencies, to a thriving industry that attracts global capital and talent to the Middle East.
The former journalist started ASDA’A (the Arab word for ‘echoes’) with an Arab identity and one that nurtures Arab talent.
Securing big wins with clients such as GE, Ford and Nestlé in the early years, WPP took a majority stake in ASDA’A’s in 2008 and it became part of the Burson-Marsteller network, and later BCW.
ASDA'A BCW has also expanded its specialisms over the years, and now has five practices :Consumer & Healthcare, Corporate, Enterprise & Technology, Financial and Public Affairs.
Under John's leadership, the agency's many triumphs include launching the tallest tower in the world, Burj Khalifa, to supporting the UAE in its bids to host the Expo 2020 Dubai and the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi 2019.
John is also behind successful schemes including the Arab Youth Survey, now in its 12th year.
In 2018, he was named among the ‘Arabian Business 100 Inspiring leaders in the Middle East’ and was ‘Arabian Business 100 influential people helping shape the Emirate’. John has also appeared in the list of ‘50 Most Powerful Indians in the UAE’ for successive years.
Judge's comment: "A renowned expert in the region, a true leader with a point of view on all things communications and business related. Sunil has and continues to give back to the industry, and is a role model and inspiration to the regional youth"
Omar Zaafrani, senior vice-president, group communications, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
Under Zaafrani's leadership, the comms team at the world's 12th largest oil producer has secured the social and political capital necessary within the company to place comms front and center of its transition to a forward-looking, progressive oil and gas producer.
In 2019 Zaafrani and his 54-strong comms team - which grew from just two in 2017 - led PR programmes to improve the ADNOC's reputation. These included work to counter the accusation that the state-owned entity was “slow to move” by the international business, including the Oil & Gas 4.0 campaign, a year-long corporate brand building and thought leadership program targeted at the b2b international audience to reposition ADNOC.
Ziad Hasbani, CEO, Weber Shandwick MENAT