UWinnipeg alum featured in Times Study Abroad (India)

Vinay Iyer (centre) with staff from Casa Burrito

Vinay Iyer (centre) with staff from Casa Burrito

Vinay Iyer, a UWinnipeg alumni from India who graduated in 2010 with a BSc in Applied Computer Science, was recently featured in The Times of India publication “Times Study Abroad 2014-15”. The Times of India is the most widely circulated English daily newspaper in India.

Vinay Iyer is also a  finalist for this year’s Future Leaders of Manitoba Awards.

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Here is the essay that appeared in the “Times Study A Vinay Iyer:

IT’S FUTURE PERFECT

I studied commerce at Mithibai College, Mumbai. My parents and I were always keen that I pursue higher education overseas. Moving to a foreign country at a young age has been a tough learning experience. Favourable visa and study permit regulations allowed me to work on and off campus. The ability to make a living at a young age was rewarding. This is the overall growth and development that my parents always wanted for me.

I chose to study in Canada since the educational qualifications offered here are recognised globally. Throughout my study period (a diploma and later, a degree), I have observed that the quality of education has been consistent and fulfilling.

Students in Canada get an exposure to overall development while attending university classes. Education here emphasises activities beyond academics.

I originally came to Canada to become a software engineer and then acquire employment in companies such as Microsoft, IBM, etc. However, newer opportunities that came my way altered my career path in a manner which I never imagined.

As I was completing my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of  Winnipeg, I got involved in extracurricular activities. I volunteered for many university-related events. I was involved with the students’ union at the university. Students’ unions in Canada are powerful and structured organisations, governed by a board of directors and led by presidents and vice-presidents that are democratically elected by students.

The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association is a $3.5 million not-for-profit organisation. In 2007, I ran for the position of vice-president and won with 86% of the votes. In 2008, I ran for president and won again. One of my notable accomplishments with the students’ union was when I opened the first student-run eatery, Soma Café, at the university.

The café served fair trade and organic food items at affordable prices. I also made Winnipeg the first university in Canada and second in North America to ban the sale of bottled water on campus in a fight against commodification of water.

These experiences helped me discover the entrepreneur in me. In 2008, I opened my own restaurant called Casa Burrito. My restaurant, in downtown Winnipeg, opposite the university, quickly became a popular place not only  among the students, but also among the rest in the city. I took my restaurant to some of Winnipeg’s biggest music and theatre festivals where we have always sold out.

In 2011, The Uniter, the official student newspaper of the University of Winnipeg recognised me as one of the 30 most accomplished individuals in the city under the age of 30.

In 2014, Casa Burrito had two successful locations, at which point, I decided to sell the business. I operated the restaurant successfully for six years from 2008 to 2014. In early 2014, I received a good offer from another businessman who was interested in purchasing my business. The offer was good enough for me to accept and so I did. I started the restaurant with little money, worked hard to make it successful, got a good offer and thought it was time to move on. The restaurant is still growing rapidly.

I plan to soon pursue my CPA (chartered professional accountants) designation. CPA is equivalent to the chartered accountant designation in  India with one difference — it is recognised internationally. Eventually, I would like to run for public office in Canada. I am not sure which one yet and whether it will be at municipal, provincial (state) or federal level. Currently, I am spending a lot of time helping some of my favourite candidates’ campaign for the city elections.

While there have been challenges and hardships while studying, living and working in Canada, I would not have it any other way. There has been joy, along with rewards. While the tuition fees are slightly higher than India, the experience
has been life-changing. The experiences and knowledge I gained at the university prepared me to face the tough entrepreneurial life.

Make sure to do your research before you pick a university or a college. Research the city and its laws and regulations before you come. Remember, moving to another country is a big step and often expensive. You must have a plan ahead of time.

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