Surinder Arora, owner and chairman of Arora International Hotels, rose from a challenging background to become a global business leader. He recently spoke to pupils at Reach Academy in Feltham, revealing how hard work enabled him to climb to the top.
“You’re young and have lots of opportunities waiting for you, but you must work hard to achieve these opportunities.”
This is what Surinder told a Year Nine class at Reach Academy in Feltham, as he spoke to them as part of our Guest Teacher Programme, which takes take senior business leaders back into the classroom to teach a lesson and share their experiences in one of our partner schools.
Surinder shared with pupils the many challenges he faced as a child: born in India, he was adopted by his aunt and uncle at two weeks old and was, he confessed, a lazy student and rule-breaker in his youth. He moved to London to live with his mother aged 13 but with minimal English, he ended up being held back a year at school. As a result he didn’t like studying and struggled with his A Levels, while his mother worked seven days a week to support her family, whom she rarely got to see. Through huge amounts of hard work and determination, Surinder managed to overcome these difficulties and become one of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs.
As he told the story of how he got to where he is today, Surinder explained to the pupils that the main lesson he wanted them to take away was that, despite all the struggles he endured, he always worked hard, and that none of what he has achieved would have been possible otherwise. He stressed the importance of education and reminded pupils that educational achievements are with them for life: “You must remember that you may lose your money, or perhaps your job, but the one thing no one can ever take away from you are your qualifications.”
The buzz after his talk was palpable and showed just how inspiring it is for pupils to hear from someone who made it to the top despite the odds. Tommy, a Year Nine pupil, said, “I learned that you don’t have to go to the best university or get a First to be successful; you just need to be hard-working and try your best.” Discussion with pupils following the talk turned to luck versus hard work, at which point the hotelier imparted that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity and opportunities don’t come without hard work.”
Another pupil asked Surinder if he could list his steps to success and was provided with the following recipe for success:
“Number one —never give up.
“Number two — always have dreams.
“Thirdly — be sensible and realistic.
“Number four —do things step by step.
“And finally —take risks, but always calculated risks.”
As Surinder left the school, he commented that he wished he had such a wonderful school to go to and would love to go back to his school days. As he said goodbye to the Reach Academy, he left the pupils with a final piece of advice: to pursue their dreams, do what they enjoy and work towards their ambitions, whatever they may be.