The Unlikely Entrepreneur
“In Life, you always get more than what you deserve or less than what you deserve – You never quite get just the right amount. If you get less you must work harder & smarter, and if you get more then you must give back”, says entrepreneur Aditya Jha, who immigrated to Canada from India via Singapore and Australia and transitioned from being a top executive at Bell Canada to becoming co-founder of a couple of software companies and now a restaurateur (Prego Piazza) and a confectionary (Karma Candy Inc.) owner
Aditya is also a leading philanthropist ; he founded his private charitable foundation (POA Educational Foundation) in 2001 and has created endowments at four institutions (Ryerson University, York University, Trent University and George Brown College), and these endowments grant total of thirteen bursary awards ($42,000 annually) in perpetuity to students. He was the Chairperson for UNICEF Canada India HIV/AIDS campaign ($3 million) and one of the Cabinet Members for Ryerson University Business School’s capital campaign ($72 million). He is also working to build a school for the children of landless farmers in India and bring computers to kids in Nepal.
That he is one of the biggest success stories of an Indian migrating to Canada and getting due recognition in his adopted country is evident from the following facts
Aditya is Member of the Order of Canada (Canada’s highest civilian honours- recognizes lifetime outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation) and is recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He was conferred Honorary Doctorate (2009) by Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business Management. He is honoured into Champions of Public Education in Canada Hall of Fame (2013) by The Learning Partnership. He is the Canadian Immigrant magazine’s (Toronto Star) Top 25 Canadian Immigrants 2010, South Asian Philanthropist 2010 (Mid-week news magazine), and Top 30 Most Influential Indo Canadians (India Abroad magazine- Power List 2009). The Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) awarded its 2004 Technology Achievement Award for his achievements in the field of Technology. He received CEO award, President’s Award and was also selected as President’s Club member for his professional excellence at Bell Canada. He is recipient of community service awards and recognitions from various national organizations.
Aditya is the appointee of the Government of Canada to the Board of First Nations Financial Management Board. His academic appointments includes: “Member of the Board of Governors” of Sheridan College of Technology & Advanced Learning, “Entrepreneur in Residence” role at the School of Business, Centennial College and “Advisory Council Member” of Dean, School of Social Services, Ryerson University. He served as board member of two TSX listed public companies and on Government of Ontario’s Ontario Investment & Trade Advisory Council. He was the National Convenor of Canada India Foundation (2009-11) and has also served on the Board of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce and as International Coordination Committee Member of Non Resident Nepalese Association.
Before venturing into entrepreneurship himself, Jha hadn’t actually given the idea much thought. “I just wanted to have good position in a big company, have a company car and lead a good life,” he says, pondering over his past. But while working at Bell, he frequently met with hi-tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, California. “When you see many people doing the things that you are doing, it is a validation of your capability. So you get the confidence that you can do it, too,” he says.
“As immigrants, we are a better recipe for this country’s success at a time like this … because we have a very conservative approach, are down to earth and bottom-line focused.”
However, he cautions ambitious newcomers to first test the waters through work experience. “Learn as much as you can by taking up new assignments and go beyond the call of duty. You can be very smart, but you have to translate it into relevance. And that comes only when you understand the environment,” he says. “Learn at someone else’s expense, unless you are an exceptional person.”
Jha, who puts in up to 14 hours a day, adds, “It is also not about how smart you are, but how hard you work — that’s the key to success. As immigrants, we are a better recipe for this country’s success at a time like this … because we have a very conservative approach, are down to earth and bottom-line focused.”
Aditya’s entrepreneurial pursuits have included both start-up technology ventures as well as brick and mortar turn-around businesses ranging from software product development, IT services businesses, chocolate manufacturing business, fine dining and fast food restaurants and Real Estate investments with business presence in Canada, USA, Thailand, and India. He co-founded a software company, Isopia Inc., after having a successful career at Bell Canada as General Manager, eBusiness and Product Marketing. In July 2001, despite the downturn in the technology industry, Isopia was a major acquisition by Sun Microsystems Inc., USA.
He is the National Convenor of Canada India Foundation (CIF), which focuses on public policy advocacy for deeper engagement in Canada India corridor and at CIF he led signing of $10 Million endowment for setting up Canada India Public Policy Centre at the University of Waterloo. He is passionate about New Canadian’s support for education at several universities. He works closely with several successful Indo-Canadians in guiding their philanthropic giving to mainstream causes. He is actively involved with the New Canadian groups of Indian, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, and Pakistani origin in Canada as well as is passionately involved with the aboriginal community of Canada.
Aditya is now associated with following positions:
- Founder & Chairman, POA Educational Foundation
- President & CEO, dgMarket International Inc.Board of Governors,
- Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advance Learning
- Entrepreneur in Residence, School of Business, Centennial College
- Advisory Council Member, School of Social Services, Ryerson University
Aditya Jha was born to an indigenous Nepalese family of Maithali ethnicity in Janakpur, Nepal and grew up in Sitamarhi, Bihar. His father was a lawyer by profession and practiced law in district court (Sitamarhi). Upon completion of his secondary education in a village near Indo-Nepal border, Aditya went on to pursue post-secondary education in Delhi, India. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in sciences from Hans Raj College Delhi University, he went on to do M.Sc. Mathematical Statistics at Kurukshetra University and PG Diploma in Computer Science from Kurukshetra University. He further invested four and a half years from 1979 to 1984 as a Research Scholar at the School of Computer and Systems Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University before visiting Paris, France for Mainframe computer training with CIT Alcatel for six months. He was the recipient of University Grants Commission’s Junior and Senior scholarship and Research Associateship from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. He was very active in student politics and student union activities and worked underground with those who were working against when Emergency measures suspending democratic rights in India were promulgated. He played leadership role with the largest student organization in India as General Secretary for Delhi and Haryana state and was on the National Executive of the national student organization when he was just 22 years old.