By Renu Mehta
TORONTO: His journey in Canada began as a refugee when he arrived here almost 15 years ago with a few dollars in his pocket, but a big dream in his heart.
Landing in Montreal with just $350 in his pocket, Mohammed Anwar had nowhere to go.
Holding a diploma in hospitality and speaking broken English, he went from door to door in search of work. He washed dishes, distributed flyers, and did everything possible to get that first `Canadian experience’.
Finally, his first breakthrough came in a hotel in Dorval when he told the hiring person that he was willing to work without pay. He was asked to show up the next day at 9 am and his work began with mopping of floors. Seeing his hard work, dedication and determination, he was soon hired as a houseman and a few months later promoted to assistant manager.
“Those were hard days,” says Anwar who calls Canada the land of opportunities. “There was not much money, but I was determined to succeed in my new adopted country. I strongly believe that if you are willing to work hard, you can achieve your dreams in this country.”
But back then, he didn’t have enough money to survive.
“I used to play cricket but could not afford to buy shoes to play. I would play in slippers bought from the dollar store. When people asked me why I would not wear shoes, I would tell them that I suffered allergy from shoes on the feet. I couldn’t tell them that I had no money to buy shoes,” says Anwar.
In the hope of finding more opportunities in Toronto, Anwar decided to move to the city and started from zero again. He began to send his resume to various hotels in the city and finally was offered a job. But the money still wasn’t enough. So after his day job, he began pizza delivery in the evening, still barely affording to pay rent and meet other expenses.
It was expensive to live in Toronto, he reminisces.
“I remember I once had to deliver pizza in a hotel in downtown Toronto in the winter and the doorman would not let me park my car. He said go park outside, even though he could see I had pizza boxes and it was freezing cold. So I had to park on the street and delivered the pizza with the drinks bag slung around my neck. When I went back, I had a $60 ticket, an expense that was very painful. Ironically, years later, when I drove my brand new Mercedes to the same hotel, they offered to park my car for me, showering extreme courtesy and attention.”
Meanwhile, with his heart set on owning his own business, he quit both jobs and got a cab license.
“I decided to drive a cab to try and meet other people to get more ideas about better opportunities. I spoke to many different people, collected business cards, etc. I also thought that I could probably start my own security company, so I completed the Police Foundation program but that also didn’t work,” says the gym enthusiast who spends many hours a week working out.
After a few weeks of research, he decided he would initiate an employment agency that would help other people find jobs, as he knew first hand how difficult it was for some people to get a job. And so Merit Services was born and his journey to help people find employment began to take shape.
“One of my biggest challenges was to be part of this industry, finding employers. I went door to door to build linkages to employers and employees,” says the one-time Canadian refugee.
Today, Merit Services has three offices in Toronto and boasts a huge database of job seekers and employers. The company helps people get jobs in construction, labour, administration and finance. While many recruiters favour individuals who are currently employed and looking for a change rather than those who are unemployed, under Anwar’s leadership, the company focuses on fresh talent, and helping those who would do wonders if given the right opportunity. Anwar also has a mandate to help students and newcomers where they find co-op placements for students and also for international students.
With offices in Concord, Brampton and Scarborough, the organization is poised for growth and he has plans under way to open offices in Oakville, Hamilton and Barrie soon.
The company will now venture into immigration for everyone, particularly students. Anwar says his passion is to encourage and provide knowledge and leadership to the younger generation.
“I want to focus on motivating the new generation including proper guidance, providing opportunities and mentorship,” says Anwar. “I don’t want others to go through the same pain that I had to go through.”
One piece of advice he has for everyone is to be never late for anything.
“I find that nine out of ten people are always late. My advice is arrive early, sit down, relax and bring your anxiety down, be it for a job, interview, meeting or other.”
Anwar also believes in giving back to the community. Through his company, he plans large-scale fundraising events to raise awareness of a local need and encourage local unity.
“Through these opportunities, we gather in kind donations such as canned food, furniture and appliances for a needy family and diapers and toys for a new mom.”
Donations are made through various NGOs, including Humanity First and Food Bank. The company also supports several donation camps such as organ donation, blood banks, tissue donation.
Anwar’s journey has been tough, but continuous and growing. And all because of a dream he had to make it, to achieve success in Canada.
“Why only in Canada. I want my business to be world-wide. If you don’t dream, how will it be fulfilled,” he says. “Work hard. Never give up. Keep your objective in your mind and it will be achieved.”