This story was originally published in a book written by BusinessBecause editor Marco De Novellis, in collaboration with Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB).
Back home in India after his MBA, Murtaza Jabalpurwala was determined to rebuild his tutoring company from scratch.
Every morning for weeks at a time, he’d wake up, take a backpack, and spend the day walking around Mulund, a suburb of northeast Mumbai. He’d go from one educational institution to another, handing out his business plan and dealing with knockbacks and rejections until he gained some traction.
At first, things were basic. There was no air conditioning in his classrooms. There were no benches or desks—students sat on classroom floors. But Murtaza, with the support of his wife, Vidya, soon transformed the business.
Today, Murtaza Sir’s Tuitions boasts 500 students, 15 teachers, and 8 full-time members of staff—a completely different entity to what it was before his MBA.
For Murtaza, the CKGSB MBA was a journey of introspection and self-discovery—the experience taught him where his true passion lies.
Born and raised in Mulund, Murtaza had to fend for himself from an early age. His father attempted to set up a pharmaceuticals business, but it didn’t work out. Although he’d always tell Murtaza that business was going well, it wasn’t—he had to close down.
At 18, while still at university, Murtaza set up his own money-making scheme: buying lecture notes cheaply and selling them at a marked up price. He also started tutoring kids, teaching math alongside his studies.
“That’s how I supported myself through my university,” he says. “Teaching kids after school is big business in India. Indian parents are very particular about their children’s education—mine were no different.
“But I had that entrepreneurial drive in me,” he continues. “Even then, I think I knew that I wouldn’t be suited to working for others.”
Studying civil engineering at one of the leading universities in Mumbai, Murtaza had an engineering job even before he graduated. But it wasn’t the right fit. He was still tutoring part-time and thought he might quit.
His boss at the tuition company suggested he stick it out a little longer. “He said: ‘If you’re good, I’ll tell you to leave!’” Murtaza laughs. After just five months, aged 21, Murtaza left his engineering job and started a teaching career that would span over 20 years.
Just five years into it, Murtaza left the tuition company to set up a rival institute of his own. “My boss wasn’t too happy,” he smiles.
Murtaza, a Muslim, married Vidya, a Hindu, in his mid-20s. It was a complicated affair—their families were poles apart. But the couple’s bond stayed strong. Together with Vidya—a science teacher— Murtaza grew his tuition business, teaching math and science to high school kids, helping them get into university, and making a name for himself in the local area.
Eventually, things reached a plateau. Murtaza had the urge to try something new. He’d always read about China in newspapers and magazines—its sheer size, its industry, the pace of change—and he wanted to experience it for himself.
Before moving to Shanghai, he shut down his tuition business completely. He sold his assets and transferred his kids to another institute, with the intention of never going back. Still, throughout his MBA experience—in every class, every lecture, every case study—it was always content related to education that piqued his interest the most.
“The truth is, I thought the corporate life looked very glamorous from the outside,” Murtaza explains. “My main aim was to go to China and make a career switch.
“Up till then, life was always a mad rush for me—I never had time for myself. But when my MBA started, it gave me a lot of time to introspect. I sat back and thought about what I was doing in my life.
“I realized that the corporate world wasn’t for me. I was made for the education industry, and I couldn’t pretend to be anything else.”
In China for his MBA, Murtaza took a while to adapt. The food was different, the people and culture were different. Murtaza was out on his own—he’d left his wife and daughter back home in India—and he didn’t speak the language.
But returning to India, and starting his tuition business again from nothing after his MBA, was even tougher. It was a struggle to get it back off the ground. “Then, I started applying what I’d learned from the MBA at CKGSB,” he says.
Murtaza started running his business differently. Before his MBA, 80% of his time was dedicated to teaching, 20% to management. After the MBA, it was the other way around.
He became more practical and was less personally involved. He hired people to do the admin work for him. He rented all his premises instead of buying them. He made sure every teacher he hired had a competitor teaching the same subjects at the same time, keeping them on their toes.
“These were things I’d never even thought of before the MBA,” he says. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you think you can get away with anything, which isn’t always the case. An MBA gives you that holistic view. It helps you take a step back and look at all the options before making a decision.”
Murtaza has no regrets. His MBA experience gave him the pause for reflection that he needed. And it’s helped him build up his business better than before.
Last summer, Murtaza took his entire family—his wife and two daughters—out to China. They met some of his former MBA classmates in Shanghai, and even went to tour CKGSB’s new campus and meet with some of his old professors in Beijing.
“My time in China was one of the most uncertain periods of my life, where I was constantly asking myself: ‘Where do I want to go?’” Murtaza recalls. “In that delicate moment, my classmates, my teachers, and friends at CKGSB helped make things as comfortable as possible for me.
“They worked with me to come up with an answer to that question, and that’s why I feel so attached to them.”