A strategic focus on enhancing the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the University of Houston is getting significant support from prominent alumni and respected Houston business leaders Mohammad Ali Lakhany and Emad Lakhany and their family. The generous gift will support the University’s planned Innovation Hub, as well as research on economic inclusivity at the C. T. Bauer College of Business.
The Innovation Hub, to be constructed on the site of the current Technology Annex building, will serve as the nucleus of innovation and entrepreneurship on the University of Houston campus. In recognition of the gift, the second floor of the building will be named the Salma and Hashim Yousuf Lakhany Entrepreneurship Floor – a tribute to their parents who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s and built a successful business legacy in the United States.
CSM Group is a boutique family company that specializes in restaurant franchising, telecommunications, hospitality and real estate development. Starting with a single Del Taco restaurant, Salma and Hashim built an enterprise that encompassed other popular brands such as Hardee's, Carl's Jr., Popeyes, and expanded into the textile and banking industries. Hashim Lakhany passed away in 2009.
"My brother Emad, sister Lina, and I are thrilled to make this generous gift to the Bauer College of Business and the University of Houston’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives,” said CSM Group Chief Executive Officer Ali Lakhany, who earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from UH in 2007.
“Our parents, immigrants to this country, have always instilled in us a profound belief in the power of entrepreneurship and the importance of giving back. With this contribution towards the Innovation Hub, we are honored to have a floor named after our parents within this remarkable building,” he added. “We are excited about the boundless opportunities this space will offer to students, entrepreneurs and innovators. Together, we look forward to a future of endless possibilities and positive impact."
Scheduled to open in 2026, the state-of-the-art, 75,000 square-foot Innovation Hub will provide an immersive environment to market ideas and conduct commercialized research, expanding university-industry collaboration to leverage the strengths of academia and business for developing creative solutions. The facility will house the top-ranked Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, Musa and Khaleda Dakri Center for Economic Inclusion, Energy Transition Institute, a large makerspace, innovation programs and Presidential Frontier Faculty labs and offices.
“This institution has been instrumental in my journey to success, and it holds a special place in my heart not only because I am an alum but because it allows me to honor my late parents' legacy,” said Emad Lakhany, the company’s chief development officer who graduated from UH in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in supply chain management.
“Having my father’s and mother’s names on the entrepreneurship floor is truly a dream come true. As future entrepreneurs embark on their studies here, they will always have a reminder that if my father could overcome such challenges and succeed, then anyone can achieve greatness,” he said, adding that his father arrived in the United States with only $200 in his pocket and a modest loan from a family member. “This dedication serves as a beacon of inspiration, illuminating the path for generations of aspiring entrepreneurs to follow.”
The gift will also establish an endowed research fund at the Musa and Khaleda Dakri Center for Economic Inclusion at Bauer College. Established last year, the Dakri Center builds on Bauer’s award-winning SURE℠ program (Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship), which trains students in business development while simultaneously educating and enabling under-resourced entrepreneurs in the community to launch sustainable businesses with a huge societal impact.
“The Lakhany family exemplifies Bauer’s spirit of entrepreneurship, giving back, and making a difference to the community. Their generosity will propel Bauer’s mission to provide a world-class entrepreneurship education, fostering economic growth by launching small businesses, and empowering our students to become future leaders,” said Paul A. Pavlou, dean of Bauer College and a Cullen Distinguished Chair Professor of Information Sciences.
The Lakhany brothers were honored with the Entrepreneurship Award at the second annual Bauer Gala on Feb. 24, 2023. The Bauer Gala is the college’s signature event to celebrate business excellence with Bauer alumni and leaders from across the city of Houston.
“The Dakri Center is dedicated to combining experiential education, rigorous academic research and real-world expertise to train our students in human-centric skills and empowering under-resourced entrepreneurs from our local communities. The Lakhany Family gift will expand our resources and strengthen our ability to conduct this cutting-edge research and support talented individuals who can contribute to the success of the University and Houston’s economic growth and success,” said CEI Executive Director Saleha Khumawala, Musa and Khaleda Dakri Endowed Chair in Economic Inclusion and Professor of Accounting.