A person, in his lifetime, goes through all of the life’s phases, laughing and crying, experiencing and learning, facing insurmountable walls and breaking them down. Yes, every life story makes a good read. But there are certain people whose stories become something beyond a good read; inspirational.
In today’s India, where population keeps growing as does unemployment, where an endless crowd throngs the cities for a limited number of opportunities, the biggest priority becomes the creation of jobs. And this can be done by entrepreneurs with original ideas and marketing abilities to make the idea work.
One such person who is a social entrepreneur is Dr. Tausif Malik.
Hi, Tausif. Tell me something about yourself. Where are you from? Tell me something about your childhood.
Answer: I was born, raised and educated in Pune (Maharashtra) and now I’ am based out of Chicago. I did my schooling from Bishop’s School Pune, studied at Poona College (11th to M.Com) & Institute of Management Education, Pune (PGDBA). I did my Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from Argosy University-Chicago, U.S.A.
My childhood was very interesting, both my grandfathers (maternal & paternal) were legends in their own field, my maternal grandfather Shaikh Ibrahim was a renowned businessman from Pune and my paternal grandfather Ahmed Hussein Malik was renowned educationist, hence I was exposed to learn from them and their experience. All this helped in overcoming my challenges and achieving my success.
During the weekends, I would spend time at my maternal grandfather’s store and learn the ropes of the business, interact with suppliers, staff, and customers. My maternal uncle Shaikh Ishaque was an avid reader, so got a chance to listen to him during breaks.
At my paternal grandfather’s home, there were many people who came to visit us to seek academic help and this taught me how to give back to the society.
I went to a convent school so I studied and read the Bible, grew up in a cosmopolitan area, so I learned about Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism & Judaism. My mother read to me the Holy Quran, my mother also taught about Hinduism and respect for other religion, she told me that Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) never discriminated amongst people.
I was an average student during school years but excelled in art and craft, but during college, I excelled. So I tell everyone, that don’t pressurize your children to excel, everyone has a different time to flower.
Describe your journey in brief. Are you satisfied with what you achieved till now? What are your future plans?
Answer: I’m the Founder of America’s largest community-based Spelling Bee competition. I am pretty much excited with all what I do ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi aggressively started pursuing and implementing programs such as “Digital India”, “Startup India”, “Skill India”, “Standup India” and “Make In India”.
I was the pioneer in creating branding through recruitment advertisement of I.T clients in mid 90’s. I developed and executed branded recruitment advertisement campaigns for Infosys, Geometric Software Services, Scala Mindworks, ITB India, Veritas Software India and others.
I had co-founded Crossover Software with India’s no #1 pop star Lucky Ali and I later moved to Sultanate of Oman and established Oman’s first PR agency SIMPA PR and Press Club of Oman. I was invited to co-author a book “Doing Business with Oman”, which has been selling since 2002.
I headed major advertising agency networks in the Middle East and India. In 2007, I immigrated to the USA and established TMA Worldwide in Los Angeles and later moved headquarters to Chicago. I teach at major MBA and MassComm Institutes, speaks at major startup events and mentors startups.
I’m also Founder of “IndiaStartUpFest.com”, “GCCStartUpFest.com”, “Schoolpreneur.Biz”, and “AIMBSN.com”. I am committed to carrying forward the programs of Prime Minister Modi and want to establish E-Cells and incubators at Muslim run colleges and schools.
How did you get the idea to start Muslim Spell Bee? What difficulties did you face?
Answer: I didn’t win a single competition even though my mother took me to over 100 competition. Every time I lost the competition, she would say “Your time will come” and now I’m the creator of America’s Second Largest Competition.
I immigrated to the USA in 2007 and established Asian Lite USA, a South Asian bi-weekly newspaper in association with Asian Lite UK in Los Angeles, California, but the recession in American affected my business and I lost all my savings and moved to Chicago. During the holy month of Ramadan of 2011, I was blessed with this idea of establishing these competitions.
I was short on money, so I registered the website for a year only, developed my own website and emailed about the competition to my contact list. This email became a hit amongst community and parents across the country were eager to register. In order to fund this project and establish, I started driving a cab/taxi, so I can earn and work together. I could have picked up a regular job, but moonlighting during the job is Har’aam in Islam.
In America, Muslims have contributed to the country as well have created events and institutions to help fellow Americans and communities. In fact, Muslim Americans are one of the highly qualified community with an estimated purchasing power of $170 billion.
I founded the idea of connecting communities through education and increase the Muslim students’ participation at the mainstream competition in order to create a future pool of leadership. This idea was developed as Muslim students were excelling in education but were lacking participation in the mainstream competitions.
I observed that competitions give a platform to challenge individuals and this helps in enhancing competitive qualities amongst the students.
Generally, the Muslim community in America would establish a non-profit to conduct community and religious events, but the success rate of non-profit organizations are poor and good ideas and projects die faster due to lack of funding and professionalism.
I established these competitions based on the Islamic knowledge that Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) encouraged to do ‘Tijarat’ (business) to elevate the community and secondly the fundraising from the community is conducted to only help the needy in the neighborhood.
The initial response was tremendous but didn’t turn into actual registrations, until January 2012 one month before the competition, it was the registration of Asiya Khan. That registration proved that this idea does work and finally, 340 students registered.
During this competition launch, I lost his younger kid cousin Salah Shaikh in a drowning accident in Pune, India, I wanted Salah to spear this project, so I can work on earning funding for this project. This loss was not only emotional but I lost my greatest support.
I worked tirelessly day and night to collect information and call all the Islamic organizations, schools, Masjids to help promote the event and the result was the competition was successfully hosted by the Host Schools.
For the first finals, I chose historic Des Plaines Theatre, Des Plaines Illinois to create a grandeur effect for the finalist. The finals went off well and were covered by media, Now I’m known as The SPELLING BEE man in the community.
I went back to doing multiple jobs and business to fund the project, but my mother started losing her body movements and on Eid ul Adha of 2012, she lost all the movements, I rushed her to the hospital only to know she has to operate immediately or she might die. His mother Razia Malik survived, but she had lost the ability to live a normal life and she needed rehab and personal care.
One day I received a call from Community Leader from the Aga Khan community Saddruddin Noorani, he said: “Tausif I want to tell you something, but before that, I want to ask what is the Muslim population of the work?”.Tausif replied around 1.5 billion. He said Allah SWT chose you… unite and conduct an educational program to showcase Muslims are for peace and development….keep up the good work…”.
Time and again people email, call and meet and tell me “Tausif thanks for uniting the Ummah, no other project has ever done that……Thanks for doing it for the kids….
I want to make a donation, but I always say no donation only Dua for the project and my ailing mother.
I tell everyone, let’s contribute back to the community, neighborhood, and country and this is what our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said and did.
This project would not be possible without the Islamic values and Prophetic guidance, Duas, and support of the Host Schools-management, principal, teachers, students, and parents.
Finally, Muslim Spelling Bee has been launched in UK and India; now World’s first Global Muslim students competition.
During our talks, you mentioned about your mother. And I can read about the same in many interviews. What is the importance of the mother in a person’s life?
Answer: Without mother…. there is no existence of oneself, she bears you for nine months, nurtures you with her milk, she struggles throughout her life to give you the best. In Islam, it is said that under the feet of the mother is the heaven (Jannat) and her heart is connected to the Almighty directly, so taking care and respecting your parents is very important. Even in our Indian culture, Mother is the supreme creation and her respect is of prime importance. We love our country and we call her “Bharath Mata”.
I’m what I’m …because my mother; she supported me during all my success and failures …she constantly prayed for me and my success, she invested her savings in my ventures and wants be to motivate others and contribute to the growth of India -Bharath Mata.
In the modern age, we are losing our culture and forgetting our parents and our motherland…I request all readers to respect their parents, seek their blessings and contribute back to their motherland.
What are your views on Muslim ban in America? What do you think about Donald Trump?
Answer: The ban is unconstitutional and recentIy a federal appeals panel has maintained the freeze on President Trump’s controversial immigration order, meaning previously barred refugees and citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries can continue entering the United States.
In a unanimous 29-page opinion, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit flatly rejected the government’s argument that suspension of the order should be lifted immediately for national security reasons, and they forcefully asserted their ability to serve as a check on the president’s power.
The judges wrote that any suggestion that they could not “runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”
Coming back to startups, you are a speaker at major events, what do you feel about the current start-up ecosystem?
Answer: The startup ecosystem is happening, but the serious investors are shying away, as many have burnt their monies. The majority of the start-ups are copy cats and the founders are not interested in building their businesses but are more interested in selling their stake; this shows they not interested in their businesses.
The other challenge is that startup ecosystem is dominated by IT or Technology related businesses and ex IT professionals who are now investors. Hence, the challenge comes is very difficult to find a serious or unique start-up and experienced investors who can be mentors or guide to these startups.
To break this cycle we have launched our own startup fests “IndiaStartUpFest.com”, “GCCStartUpFest.com”, “Schoolpreneur.Biz”, and “AIMBSN.com”; where we are focussed on developing entire ecosystem, where there is no “IndiaStartUpFest.com”, “GCCStartUpFest.com”, “Schoolpreneur.Biz”, and “AIMBSN.com” language, technology & gender barrier.
What is your message to budding entrepreneurs?
Answer: Build your product and brand, instead of wasting time to solicit investors, focus on building a customer base, increase revenue and build a great team. Once you achieve this, investors will directly approach you; in fact you won’t need any investor as you would be profitable.
Believe in your self, if you are facing challenges try to find a co-founder or hire a mentor who is expert to guide you. Finally, seek blessings of your parents, this provides “HOPE” and hope is the best driver for success.