School dropout Asif Sheikh’s UK company has a turnover of Rs 5 crore

Shah Imran Hasan/New Delhi

Asif Sheikh from Srinagar, a high school dropout, breaks the stereotype of the CEO and is the CEO and Founder of Thames Infotech, a Manchester based company with a turnover of Rs 5 crore! He just turned 28.

“I believe that a person who works hard, with dedication and honesty is always successful; he can never give up, even if at times one loses the courage to continue. There were setbacks and at the time I seemed to lose heart, but I didn’t give up,” Sheikh Asif told Awaz-the Voice in a phone interview.

Asif’s success is exceptional given his poor educational background and reaching a position that many individuals with degrees from top-notch universities aspire to.

Asif is not only a successful entrepreneur but also a professional web designer, developer, graphic designer, digital marketer and author. He also gives back to society by giving free classes to students from all over the world.

Sheikh Asif’s work profile is interesting: he worked at a tour and travel company, sold medical equipment for a company and at telecom companies such as Airtel, Vodafone and Aircel.


Sheikh Asif gives a business talk

In 2000, Sheikh Asif was 8 years old when his father’s health deteriorated. His father was a senior police officer. The family was in dire straits because of his father’s illness. Sheikh Asif says his father’s illness remains a mystery as the family consulted experts and reputable doctors but no one was able to diagnose it.

Sheikh Asif told Awaz-the Voice that his mother sold most of the household assets and took out loans to pay for his father’s treatment.

Reminiscing about those days, Asif says he can never forget a particular day when he was studying in eighth grade and was supposed to be writing his exam, but didn’t have a pen. “I went to the examination hall and was worried. My mother found out the reason for my concern, she sold a copper bowl from her kitchen to buy me a pen.”

He says that his mother often sold household goods for the family, mainly to meet the children’s needs.

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Conditions at home were not conducive for Sheikh Asif to continue his studies. He dropped out of school and started working to support his family.

“I went against my mother’s wishes as she wanted me to become a doctor, which is what most Kashmiri parents do, but I gave up my studies to support my financially troubled family,” he said. He was 15 years old in 2008 when he started earning money by doing odd jobs for his family.


Sheik Asif

Sheikh Asif has always been fascinated by computers and spent a lot of time on them. Because of this, he got his first job as a data entry operator at a local tour and travel company at the age of 16. He earned a salary of Rs 1500.

Sheikh Asif said that when his father saw his interest, he took out a loan from a bank to buy him a computer. The turning point in his life came when he saw an interview with Microsoft founder Bill Gates on the BBC.

He made full use of his computer, but the challenge was the lack of high-speed broadband in Kashmir. While the rest of the world had 4G internet, only 2G internet was available in his area.

He quit his first job within two months and began working as a salesman at a local store for four years. Here he honed his skills and learned all the basics including graphic design, web design, etc.

There was another difficult period in his life when his house was washed away in the 2014 Kashmir floods. He used all of his savings to rebuild his home. The family had to start from scratch as all their belongings were damaged and washed away.

In 2014 he quit his job and started his business, but it turned out to be a troubled year for him.


Sheikh Asif’s office in Srinagar

Fortunately, however, Asif got the opportunity to work in Delhi the next year, and being there opened his mind to a bigger canvas.

“The 2014 flood severely damaged our house and we had to repair or renovate it periodically for four years after the flood and finally had to sell the house in 2018,” he said.

Meanwhile he worked at OLX from April 2015 and from there he was offered a position at Trimax Printing and Graphics, a UK based company owned by Tajinder Singh. He worked for the Hayes Harlington company. The company runs an online general store and had no element of graphic design until then.

Sheikh Asif told Awaz-The Voice: “I worked for Chanda Trimax Printings & Graphics. Meanwhile, the valley was sealed off for almost three months after the assassination of a militant in Kashmir. That’s why I went to Delhi.”

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When he met Tajinder Singh in Delhi, he was having trouble with his business. His business suffered from low sales. After seeing his latent illness, Tajinder Singh offered him a position in Hayes, Harlington, UK where Tajinder’s brothers were already working.

Sheikh Asif says he consulted his mother before deciding on the UKL job. He signed an employment contract for 18 months and a guaranteed return ticket to India.

“They told me they changed the name from Trimax Printings & Graphics to Thames Infotech on 6 June 2016,” Asif said.

In the first week of November 2016, he set foot on foreign soil for the first time. But business was not going well there either, so Tajinder’s brother advised him to look for a part-time job in Great Britain to cover his expenses.

“When I was looking for a part-time job I met Rizwan, a Kashmiri man originally from Baramulla District in North Kashmir who came to Manchester in 2000 and now runs the Riz Spices restaurant.

Sheikh Rizwan offered him a place in his restaurant to start a part-time business. “Two months later, I met another man, Hamza Salim, a senior software engineer at Google, who asked me to build a website for his tech company on the condition that I only get paid if he likes my work,” he said .

After approving his website design, Hamza Salim offered him a 50 percent stake in his company.


Sheikh Asif teaches students online

During this time, Asif met many people, including locals and others, and continued to seek opportunities.

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One of those people was Rudrigo Ruiz Karvajal, who frequented the restaurant. He offered me a fairly conveniently located apartment. He told me that his father had started his business from there.

“I got my first order for a logo which I was paid £500 for and I was only expecting £30-40. They gave me another job to build a website for which I was paid £7000.”

“I was wondering if it was a dream. Never expected such a high reward. This order came from the largest grocery chain in London called Zabka.”

On 9th June 2016 Asif acquired UK company Thames Infotech Manchester which currently has a turnover of Rs 5 crore.

It has an office in Advent Colony in Naugam, Srinagar, Kashmir. He employs 35 locals including 32 in the UK and 3 in Kashmir for website design and development, digital marketing, graphic design, personal branding, social media handling etc.

Sheikh Asif told Awaz-The Voice that our company is a leading web design company and has won the awards 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 as the top three in the UK and the Best IT Service Provider Award 2018, 2019 organized by Top Developers USA won, he claims.

Sheikh Asif said he received the first award in 2003, less than a year after founding his company.

So far, Asif has trained around 1000 students, helped 40 companies through the Covid-19 pandemic and published three books – Digitization in Business, Online Business Idea and Starting a Business.

Sheikh Asif has been named Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 by The Fireboxx. There he was recognized by Google as a Digital Marketing Expert in 2018.

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The youth are told by Sheikh Asif to never lose hope and always focus on business. Second, they must avoid drugs. They shouldn’t waste their lives delving into romantic liaisons and heartbreak; these are temporary phases of life and not a goal. “Your personality is your work,” he says.

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