Mumbai— “The minorities entrepreneurs play a significant role in the development of India. They play a pivotal role in shaping the future of India. They have the capacity and capability to change the landscape of India and the world,” these were the opening words of India-born renowned American businessman Frank F Islam when he was sharing his success mantra with a select group of Muslim entrepreneurs in the financial capital of India – Mumbai.
The occasion was 8th All India Minorities Business Summit & National Brand Awards hosted by Maeeshat Media Private Limited.
In the very beginning of his speech, and before narrating his own journey of success – from Azamgarh to Aligarh to America – Frank appreciated and encouraged the awardee businessmen and all budding entrepreneurs from minorities.
“Before I get to my formal remarks, let me state that for those award honorees, this day is your day. Let me extend my congratulations to those of you receiving the awards here this evening. You are doing God’s work. You are doing people’s work. For those of you minority entrepreneurs who are not receiving awards today, this day is your day also. I am certain you will be recognized at this summit at some future date. For those in the audience who are contemplating becoming entrepreneurs, I say join us. We need you, your fellow minorities need you, and India needs you,” said Frank and added with stress: “Indeed, what is needed for the future of India and the world is Entrepreneurial Leadership and Civic Engagement.”
He said his own journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur had five phases: Getting a good education, Doing my apprenticeship, Becoming an entrepreneur, Building a strong and talented team who shared my vision and values, Staying the course, Broadening my horizon.
Frank’s Successful Entrepreneurial Journey
Frank was born in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh and got early education in his town and then in Varanasi before moving to Aligarh Muslim University for graduation. From AMU, he went to America and the rest is an inspirational story. He narrated his journey:
“I went to the United States from India to pursue the American Dream. I got my bachelor and master degrees in computer science at the University of Colorado. That gave me the knowledge that I needed to go into business. When I graduated with my advanced degree, I was not prepared to go directly to owning a business. That’s because I didn’t know how businesses operated. I had no real exposure to business prior to starting college. I knew I needed experience before launching my own venture. So, I worked with two major information technology firms in the Washington DC area for about a decade to learn the ropes and the ins and outs of doing business with the government. That gave me the skills and real-world grounding that I needed to start my own business.
After doing my apprenticeship, in 1994, I purchased the QSS Group for $45,000. Within thirteen years, along with my key management team, we took that firm from a workforce of 1 employee – me – to more than 3,000 employees and approximately $300 million in revenue. That was an excellent trajectory for the business. I had a role to play in that success.
But, when people ask me how I became successful, I respond that it was not me, but we who made it happen. My team of talented senior managers was central to everything. Success in business is a team sport…I must talk about passion and persistence. Those are the ingredients for “staying the course.” They were essential because my journey was not a straight line. It was not always easy. And, the final destination was not certain.
During the early years, there were several issues to be dealt such as: Will we win the contract, will I get the bank loan, will I be able to make payroll. There were some 24-hour days and many sleepless nights. For the first several years I was in business, I worked seven days a week. What enabled me to prevail on the journey was a belief in myself and those around me and the opportunity presented by the American Dream.
Success taught me to move forward. As importantly, failure taught me to never go backward. From the time I started my business, I knew implicitly that you needed to move ahead and that if you did not you would be left behind. Thus, failure is the first step to success.
In 2007 I sold my company to Perot Systems. That allowed me to establish a private foundation that supports educational, cultural and artistic causes in the United States, here in India, and around the world.
That was my journey and now I am in a new phase of which is the philanthropic engagement. And, I can tell you in all honesty and humility that is the most personally rewarding time of my life. As I made my journey, I always tried to do the right thing. An old American saying is that managers do things right and leaders do the right thing.”
Empowerment of Minorities
In his speech, Frank stressed civic engagement and steps for empowerment of minorities.
“I know that you Summit award winner and others here tonight, are already engaged. I know that I am preaching to the choir. But, as I conclude my remarks, I would like to make one request. That request is to ask you to join with me in committing to do even more by intensifying your focus on the empowerment of minorities,” he said and counted education, employment and elevation as three key areas for empowerment.
Elaborating the third key point ‘Elevation’, he said: “Elevation is enabling the minority individual who has been educated and who is employed to raise their sights, to realize that any thing is possible, to understand that education and employment are steps in the journey. As those of you minority business leaders here tonight know, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Addressing the Muslim businessmen, Frank said: “You are the difference makers. That is why I ask you to continue to provide those minorities in need with a hand-up and not just a hand-out. Help empower them through the 3 E’s: Education, Employment and Elevation. Do well in your business so that you can do good for other minorities and for India. Invest in other minorities by sharing and giving back. Make your success India’s success.”