Dr Tausif Malik: Entrepreneur, evangelist and Muslim Spelling Bee founder

The new treasurer for Democrats Abroad India, Dr Tausif Malik is the founder of America’s largest community-based Spelling Bee competition (muslimspellingbee.com). The Indian-American social entrepreneur brings a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge to the job; he is the pioneer in creating branding through recruitment advertisement of IT clients in the mid-90s.

"All other major minority groups in the US have their own spelling bees, but Muslims did not,” Malik said. “I didn’t really understand why this was the case, so I decided to go ahead and start one.”

Connected to India engaged with him to learn about his journey from Pune to Chicago and back to Pune again. Here are the excerpts:

The new treasurer for Democrats Abroad India, Dr Tausif Malik
Dr Tausif Malik – treasurer for Democrats Abroad India.

CtoI: Your LinkedIn profile says you are an entrepreneur, maverick, evangelist and artist. How do you manage to be good at so many things?

Tausif Malik: According to me, all my personality attributes are interrelated; for example, one has to be a maverick to take the risk to be an entrepreneur, you need to be an artist to create an image about your work and evangelist to promote your work and business.

CtoI: What is your vision as the new Treasurer for Democrats Abroad India?

Tausif Malik: My vision as an elected board member for Democrats Abroad India (Democratic Party USA’s International chapter) is to create awareness amongst Americans living abroad that they can register and vote for city, state and federal elections through a vote by mail option. America is one of the few countries which offers this option to its citizens, so Americans living in any part of the world can participate in elections. Many Americans living abroad are not aware of these rights.

Currently, America is getting affected on a daily basis due to incompetent leadership. My hope is more Americans living abroad get registered and vote by mail and elect competent candidates.

CtoI: Please tell us in detail about your recent ventures; Muslim Spelling Bee, Muslim Science Bee, Muslim Math Bee, Muslim Geography Bee and Muslim History Bee.

Tausif Malik: The Muslim Spelling Bee was started in 2012 with the intention of being the first-ever spelling competition specifically meant for Muslim students. The competition is open to students of all ethnicities and religious denominations. The main impetus for creating the bee was to provide an opportunity for Muslim students between the ages of 8 and 14 to have such a contest.

All other major minority groups in the US have their own spelling bees, but Muslims did not, hence, I decided to go ahead and start one. It was during the month of Ramadan in 2011 that the idea for the spelling bee occurred to me. I started getting the word out with local friends and community leaders in the Chicago area, but soon found that I was being inundated with requests for more information from organisers around the country. This was surprising as I had only sent the information out to a few people in the local area. I really did not anticipate the kind of level and support this idea got from all over the US.

In 2012, the first iteration of the Muslim Spelling Bee was held, with 460 students participating from cities all over the nation. The bee currently takes place in 11 different cities, with some 55 community organisations coordinating their own regional competitions. These competitions are divided into four different groups, labelled A through D, and each one has several winners who rank from 1-3. Each of the groups is of a different age level: 0-7, 8-9, 10-11, and 12-14 years of age. The winners then advance to the championship round in Chicago.

Two contestants in 2013 were even Hindu students from India, a great sign of how widespread the reach and power of the spelling bee really is.

Dr Tausif Malik: Entrepreneur, maverick, evangelist and artist
Photo courtesy: Dr Tausif Malik

CtoI: You had your initial education from Pune, India and then you moved to Chicago, US, and now you are back to Pune. What brought you back to your roots? Please tell us about your journey and experiences.

Tausif Malik: I was born and raised in Pune (Maharashtra) and now I’m based out of Chicago. I did my schooling from Bishop’s School Pune, studied at Poona College (11th to M.Com) and Institute of Management Education, Pune (PGDBA). I did my Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from Argosy University, Chicago.

I emigrated to Chicago in 2007 to fulfil the dream of my late father Ata-ur-Rehman Malik, who believed that I can have a great future in the US. I returned to India in 2015 to take care of my ailing mother, during that time I launched various startup festivals, including the All India Muslim Business Startup Network (AIMBSN.com), GCC Startup Fest (GCCStartupFest.com), India Startup Fest (IndiaStartupFest.com), GCCStartup.News (GCCStartup.News) and Schoolpreneur.biz, in an effort to empower individuals to achieve economic liberation and benefit from India’s government initiatives Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Standup India and Startup India.

CtoI: In a sentence describe your life as an Indian-American.

Tausif Malik: It’s actually a great combo, being part of India, the largest democracy, and America, the oldest democracy. I love both countries because they gave me a great platform to excel personally and professionally. Life is exciting as I am living as an American expat in India and in US, I was living as an Indian expat.

CtoI: Do you think that the xenophobia which has engulfed America, which started during the elections and continues post the election of President Trump, will settle down? Or is this the new America?

Tausif Malik: I don’t know how far this will go and how it will impact in the long term. But it has truly rallied Americans under one banner, and everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Americans. After the Muslim ban, Americans stood with their fellow American-Muslims across US. I have never seen this happening anywhere in the world. This xenophobia, in fact, has pushed many American-Muslims to contest city, state and federal elections and they have got a lot of support from fellow Americans. I also contested for the same reason.

CtoI: You did your doctorate in Chicago. Please share your achievements and experience as an Indian-American.

Tausif Malik: I was the pioneer in creating branding through recruitment advertisement of IT clients in mid-90s. I had developed and executed branded recruitment advertisement campaigns for Infosys, Geometric Software Services, Scala Mindworks, ITB India, Veritas Software India and others. I had co-founded Crossover Software with India’s no #1 pop star Lucky Ali and later moved to Sultanate of Oman and established Oman’s first PR agency SIMPA PR and Press Club of Oman. I was invited to co-author a book Doing Business with Oman, which has been selling since 2002. I headed major advertising agency networks in the Middle East and India. I teach at major MBA and MassComm Institutes, and a speaker at major startup events and mentors startups.

My Achievements:
Nominated and shortlisted for prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, USA 2016.
2. Past Nominated for Sheikh Muhammad Al Makhtoum ruler of Dubai, UAE promoted Prestigious Global Islamic Economy Award – Dubai Government in association with Thompson Reuters.
3. Panellist with The Guardian Newspaper UK.
4. Community Member on Illinois Muslim Council by Governor Pat Quinn.
5. External Review committee member University of Wisconsin School of Architecture.

CtoI: You are inclined towards start-ups. Can you share your ideas on marginal groups (Dalits and Muslims) still lagging behind?

Tausif Malik: Yes, startups help the youth and individuals through empowerment, as it provides employment and a source of income. But nowadays, the way they are established and operated is highly unprofessional as many are there for quick money. But consolidation will happen before long and they will change from boys to men.

As per the Indian census, Muslims constitute 13-15 % of the population and they best way to connect them to the mainstream is through Prime Minister Narendra Modiji’s policies such as Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Standup India and Startup India.

These programmes can help Muslims in India to earn income, create income and create economic growth. I have hosted two different events in 2016 and we have generated a large business amongst the attendees. Our next event, All India Muslim Business Startup Network (AIMBSN.com), will be hosted in July 2017 in Jaipur. We are also setting up incubators and innovation at minority institutions, so we can inform people about the startup ecosystem, Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Standup India and Startup India and enrol more Muslim entrepreneurs.

Also, we will be hosting All India Muslim Business Startup Network (AIMBSN.com) at global locations where are sizeable Indian Muslims, such as London, Dubai, New York, Chicago, Singapore and Australia. As many Non-resident Indians (NRIs) Muslims want to establish businesses in India, invest in India and support Indian Startup Ecosystem. Hence, our All India Muslim Business Startup Network (AIMBSN.com) connects the Indian Muslims diaspora with entrepreneurship & Indian Startup Ecosystem.

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