Growing up, Dato’ Sri Vijay Eswaran learnt a lot about leadership from his father, a prominent youth leader in the 1950s who lived by the principle of ‘service above self’. Inspired by his father’s values and raised in a traditional Malaysian Indian family, Vijay completed his education abroad and dutifully entered the corporate career that was expected of him.
“As a boy born into a middle-class family, I was following a set path,” shared Vijay, who studied economics and political science in the UK. “It was much later, when circumstances forced me to evaluate what I was doing with my life, that the idea of becoming an entrepreneur began to take root. No one in my family had ever tried their hand at business, so I didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice.”
After spending 13 years abroad in the UK and the US, which included a stint in corporate America, Vijay returned home to Malaysia in the early 90s. It would take a few more years and a move to the Philippines before he embarked on his entrepreneurship journey. In 1998, Vijay and his partners founded the QI Group, guiding the startup through an economic crisis and sticking to their defining tenet of ‘Raise yourself to help mankind.’
"We had read an interesting anecdote about the great Indian humanitarian Mahatma Gandhi’s time in South Africa and his campaign for non-violent resistance against the discrimination of Indians there in the early 1900s," he explained.
“Many people volunteered their services to support his movement, including a young man who had just dropped out of university. The young man came to Gandhi, who asked him how he could contribute. The young man said he would do anything that was needed, from cleaning the premises to odd jobs and errands. Gandhi apparently told him, ‘We have plenty of people to do that. What we need are doctors to tend to the sick, lawyers to defend our people and teachers to educate the young. So go make something of yourself first so that you are in a position to help the community. You need to raise yourself first before you can help others.’
"Inspired by this story, we coined the phrase 'Raise Yourself To Help Mankind'. In its simplest form it means empowering yourself, before you can help someone else. This philosophy has held us in good stead for over two decades because it is the driving force of everything we do.”