First, learn and master your knowledge about the way your industry works and the bureaucracy around it. Second, pursue new ideas and imagination that no one else is doing; do different things and create a niche. Third, if you can dream it, you can do it. But you have to work at it, not just dream. Fourth and finally, there is no substitute for hard work. Don’t look for any shortcuts because there aren’t any.
Do you go back to Pakistan often?
My business takes me back home at least three to four times a year. This allows me to keep close to my family there and forge a connection for me and my children to our cultural roots. I believe we must never, never forget our roots and where we came from. And we have to give back in any way, too, either through philanthropy or creating jobs. Our company, along with the United Nations and Gates Foundation, is working with some nongovernmental organizations to help improve literacy and reduce poverty in rural parts of Pakistan.
What was your view of the United States when you were growing up?
The land of opportunity where dreams come true.
Did reality match your expectations?
Yes, and more than that. What my family and I are today is because of America embracing us and providing us with the opportunity to succeed. In 1997, when my wife, Aiesha, and I decided to become entrepreneurs and leave behind our steady careers, I would have never imagined this kind of success today.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a foreign-born entrepreneur?
There are many but the most funny would be us hosting Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in June 2006 for two days for a taping of their “Simple Life” television show. We taught them how to pray as Muslims, in addition to educating them on many of our Pakistani traditions and cultural values.
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