Chatting with Tausif Malik, an Indian-American entrepreneur, comes as though we have known each other for long. And, perhaps, that we are jolly good friends or siblings. We connected easily, especially with our personalities and world views aligning on many fronts.
Tausif tells me about his growing up back in his home country, India, as a child from a royal family, and how his early exposure to his country’s politics immensely shaped his perspective about life, media, religion, business and community development.
A long list of Tausif’s relations hold various political offices back home. But Malik is outside —today, America; tomorrow, UAE— running businesses and contributing his quota to the development of host communities.
“I believe in doing and giving,” he says to explain why he isn’t sitting back to “enjoy life” and live large as “real” royals do. “This is the legacy I inherited from my parents. These two acts have propelled me more than anything else. I can’t sit idle for long. I get uneasy not doing some active engagements.”
He adds, “Despite my royal background, there were difficult days while growing up. One time, dad was hit by financial crisis that disrupted the family. We all had to double up. I remember I had to jump from one job to another to gain stability. So, the royal thing hasn’t been a rollercoaster adventure.”
His openness and good command of the English language make him a great communicator. His great sense of humour is another attribute you cannot miss while speaking with him.
Barely 15 minutes into our chat, I learnt a lot from his story, commentary, insights and experience which were enough for me to write a book, or at least give a talk during my next Toastmasters meeting on some US winning formulas for new immigrants looking to try highly effective success tips.
Dr. Tausif’s story is a unique and inspiring one for young Indians, Americans, and relatively any global citizen of the world. He tells me about his initial reluctance to migrate to the US when his father spoke to him to consider it.
“At first, I wasn’t sure America was the next thing for me. But, my dad will not stop cheering me to consider moving to the States. He always hyped that my smartness, kind attitude and friendly behavior would be major assets for me in a place like America. Sometimes, we do not have an idea of what is coming until we are in it.”
His successes come from years of determination, grit and discipline. And, has helped in placing him high and respected by pairs and relations. First, his contribution to politics in America cannot be overemphasized.
Tausif has built himself an admirable public figure status, which contributed to his election as Treasurer and Chair of Democrats Abroad India.
His initiatives, especially those dedicated to reviving reading culture across various age groups such as spelling bee contests, have gained the attention of the media and have been impressively accepted by people in the community.
“If there is anything I have ever achieved, it is through collaboration, futuristic strategizing and management of both people and processes,” he says about literary competitions for school students that he has hosted, financed and promoted.
Prior to moving to Chicago in the US in 2007, he had completed a Master’s degree in commerce from the University of Pune back in India, which he says could have cost him a fortune if taken in the States.
“My doctoral degree was in America. I know how much of my finance went into it. In India, it would have only been a fraction of that,” he pauses as he tries to clarify.
“America is a beautiful place to acquire wealth and grow even as a foreigner. But the system has a calculated way of retrieving its wealth from you through education and medicals. Funding your education in India and America comes with two different experiences.”
The fear of taking loans that could lead to a lifetime of enormous, irreconcilable debt profile for individuals and families is a major discouraging factor even today in the US, he notes.
“Going to school is a thing for the rich class. You don’t want to gamble on loans. This is also true for medical services. It is commonplace to see people refusing to seek the service of the hospital when they are ill. They do this to avoid debts.”
For the sake of helping my ignorance and bewilderment as a Nigerian journalist who is not aware of this aspect of America, especially for someone who had thought every American on the streets has their education covered to the university level without having to go the debt way, Dr. Tausif shares another experience to expatiate how expensive living in America can be.
“I remember a time mom was sick, and we had to rush her to the hospital. The services, from the reception to attendance, were top-notch. Such that you feel so important and larger-than-life for having such treatment. She was admitted after a medical examination. We learnt the ailment was related to the spinal cord. So, the team went straight to work,” he narrates.
“When it all ended. Mom was fine again. We were happy. Days later, we received a questionnaire as a survey. We acknowledged how satisfied we were with the service. It was easy for us to give the team a 5-star rating on the card.”
He adds, “But when our bill would follow, we knew we were on a long ride of a lifetime. A whopping $70K was our service charge. For what I know, it would only cost us about $3-4K in India if we go about seeking the service of the best team or half of the cost if we settle to use a middle-class hospital.”
Like medical services, I come to understand that education is also for the rich -a situation that has left many Americans without a college degree.
Having a bachelor’s degree remains an important advantage in many sectors of the U.S. labor market. As of 2021, 37.9% of adults (aged 25 and above) held a bachelor’s degree, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.
Ten years earlier, 2011 precisely, the share was down 7.5 percentage points at 30.4%, what may be considered low for a country considered as super power.
When Dr. Tausif launched RiseBack, a digital facility mandated to deliver affordable education to Americans, he invested his resources and social mobility asset (after years of working in Advertising, Marketing, Research, Creative, Editorial, New Media, AV and Management), to close the gap.
“I have had a wonderful career spanning years in various media ends and business. Happy to have contributed to the launch and pivot of numerous companies both in America and India. I think it’s time I worked for something that will last beyond me through educating the next generation with the RiseBack initiative,” he says smiling such that I can feel his conviction.
While trying not to be completely mesmerized by his words and display of clarity, I had known from the start that my decision to interview Dr. Tausif would be like telling the story of a chief story teller given his years of experience working in the media and holding the position of Managing Editor of The Desi Times, the largest circulated and most read of all Indian/Pakistani/South Asian newspaper in Chicago Illinois between 2011 and 2018.
In a June 2022 interview with Connected To India, he highlighted his roles while in active career service, and what he transitioned to after bowing out.
“I was the pioneer in creating branding through recruitment advertisement of IT clients in mid-90s. I had 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 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. [Now] I teach at major MBA and MassComm Institutes, and a speaker at major startup events and mentors startups.”
In the interview, he went on to mention how his works, facilitated projects and community development advocacy earned him accolades such as being nominated and shortlisted for the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, USA 2016; nominated for Sheikh Muhammad Al Makhtoum ruler of Dubai, a UAE promoted Prestigious Global Islamic Economy Award by the Dubai Government in association with Thompson Reuters; selected as panellist by The Guardian Newspaper UK; considered as a Community Member on Illinois Muslim Council by Governor Pat Quinn; consulted as External Review committee member at the University of Wisconsin School of Architecture.
“Tausif is a personable individual that gets on well with those around him. He is focused and dedicated to producing his very best at all times. He has shown that he is able to deal with uncertainty And dislocation…,” says Zahur Khokhar, a senior cybersecurity architect who went to school together with the serial entrepreneur.
With this background and wealth of experience, Tausif’s RiseBack idea comes at a critical time when the need to salvage the situation becomes even more essential as the gap created can be linked to increasing crime rate amongst youths in the United States.
BBC, in an October 2022 publication, confirmed the existence of criminals in America. Titled “US crime: Is America seeing a surge in violence?”, Jake Horton, writing for BBC Reality Check, noted that crime lingers in many states in the US. According to data from the Chicago Police Department, as of 16th of October, 2022, Chicago, regarded as one of America’s notorious cities, has recorded over 500 murders (545) between January and October.
“If more people go to school, more can get a job, and we can drastically reduce crime rate this way,” Dr. Tausif tells me, noting that one of the vision of Riseback is to see America crime-free.
His RiseBack idea gives Americans the opportunity to obtain Undergraduate degrees, Master’s degree or Diploma certifications from the comfort of their homes and communities through e-learning channels while enrolled at accredited universities in India, Dubai and elsewhere at minimal and affordable tuition.
The initiative comes perfect for an American economy as it is only reliant on internet service, an aspect that America is doing relatively well.
In 2022, approximately 89 percent of individuals in the United States can access the internet, up from nearly 75 percent in 2012, according to data obtained from Statista. The data source adds that the United States are one of the biggest online markets worldwide and (that back) in 2018, there were more than 312 million internet users in the United States.
“In the 21st century, lack of funding should not stop anyone to go to school.” To emphasise, he adds, “At RiseBack, we believe a university degree should be commonplace as this will impact our economy and rapidly help us grow even faster.”
Wondering how RiseBack was different from existing online universities and why he has chosen Indian universities above others, he informs me how his team offers career-tailored guidance to their candidates, and how Indian Universities have produced some of America’s leading executives and founders working in Google, Twitter, Meta, Tesla or other global big tech companies.
Exhaustively, he explains how cheap RiseBack is making education, and how they are already building on the success recorded in America to expand footprints into Dubai, Middle East, Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
“Our American students see us as their last hope, and they have flung in groups to us. Where else could they have found tuition as low as $100 or less each semester? As long as it is about getting them a degree to serve as wings to their career, we are ever willing to help. One unique thing about us is the fact that once your enrol with us, we do not leave you to yourself.” He explains what he meant citing free career guidance service, “We offer assistance each thing you need us as a candidate under RiseBack. We are equally willing to help with recommendation letters to companies in case our students need some internship placements to garner work experience that may lead to employment in the long-run. At the moment,” he adds, “we are opening a centre in Dubai to expand our tentacles as we sign up more schools and students across the world.”
As my culture with most of my interviews, I ask where he sees RiseBack in the next few years, and he says, “The mission is to build a digital facility that will help more people around the world -not just Americans- access affordable education that will be beneficial to them, their families and countries.”
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