Aligarh-native Aamir Qutub admits he’d never stepped onto a plane before his flight to Australia a decade ago. Now armed with an MBA and years of hustle, he’s a successful entrepreneur with investments in eight technology start-ups and his own multinational company in Australia.
Amid all this, he’s proud to say he’s an alum of Deakin University, citing his time there as “a turning point” in his life.
“It feels great to be awarded Deakin’s Young Alumni of the Year,” Aamir tells Indian Link.
“Getting to study in Australia was a dream and this recognition means a lot. I hope it will pave the way for other Indian students and their success stories down under.”
During his time at Deakin, he managed to secure an internship at ICT Geelong and was named General Manager within 18 months. It fuelled him to pursue his entrepreneurship dreams, setting up his own digital firm called Enterprise Monkey in 2014.
“It wasn’t easy to find initial clients,” he laughs. “I was striking up conversations on trains and buses, talking to anyone who would listen!”
Today, Enterprise Monkey employs over 100 people, with offices in four countries. Qutub is also the creator and co-founder of Angel Next Door, an online platform that empowers local communities to support each other in times of crisis.
He explains, “I created Angel Next Door during the pandemic with $100,000 of my own money. I saw the need for people to seek and offer help to their neighbours in a confidential, secure setting. In the first few months, we had nearly 50,000 angels join our platform.”
From help with groceries and accommodation to building furniture and even applying for jobs, Angel Next Door hopes to “make kindness viral.”
During India’s devastating Delta wave earlier this year, it pivoted to crowdsourcing COVID leads, enabling half a million people to access and provide help to Indians in need.
As a former international student himself, Aamir couldn’t help but notice how many students signed up to Angel Next Door for assistance.
He adds, “It’s been a tough two years for international students in Australia. More efforts could’ve been done for them, along with temporary migrants.”
Giving back to the community continues to drive the Indian entrepreneur, who is an avid promoter of entrepreneurship in the Geelong region and works with small to medium business and not-for-profits to improve their revenue and efficiency with his specialty in automation and optimisation. During his career, he’s been an Australian Young Business Leader of the Year finalist and has been appointed as Member Geelong Authority by the Minister of Planning.
He’s grateful for his time at Deakin that’s brought him to this point.
“At university, the professor would chat for ten minutes, and students would talk for forty! It was very different from what I had experienced before, and the interactivity contributed a lot to my growth. I think Deakin helped set the foundation for me,” he admits.
Hailing from a middle-class family in Uttar Pradesh, he still recalls the initial culture shock upon reaching Geelong as an international student.
“I was applying to jobs beneath my qualifications, and I still couldn’t get my foot in the door. It felt like I had to start from scratch, and it didn’t help that my English wasn’t necessarily the best at the time,” Aamir elaborates.
He estimates applying to at least 200 job openings and despite his years of experience as a mechanical engineer in India, never received a call back. Facing difficulties in understanding the accent, struggling to make sense of Aussie banter, his initial years in Australia were “nothing short of challenging.”
“I think it’s important to unlearn some things from our culture, like the built-in social hierarchy that stops us from speaking up to someone older or more experienced than us,” he says. “Honestly, it’s important to be shameless in entrepreneurship and not worry about judgement, whether it’s your vocabulary, accent, even appearance.”
His advice to young South Asian entrepreneurs building their career in Australia?
“There’s a taboo attached to failure in our culture that we need to shatter. Entrepreneurship is risky, and you need to take on a lot of challenges. When I was 27 years old and still building my business, I went into $100,000 debt, and I had to fight the thought of giving up. Instead, I picked myself up, critically evaluated my business model, and ended up paying off the debt in 6 months.”
He also encourages international students and new migrants to Australia to embrace the multiculturalism of this country.
“I’d encourage people from the Indian community to integrate and interact with other cultures. Sometimes, our growth can be restricted by merely associating with our own people. Coming to Australia is a great opportunity to embrace multiculturalism, both personally and professionally,” Aamir suggests.