“Getting a good education makes all the difference” –Iftkhar Ali

A successful entrepreneur and founder of ALIQAN Technologies, meet the amazing Iftkhar Ali

“Getting a good education makes all the difference” –Iftkhar Ali

Iftkhar Ali had to swim against the tide to get where he is today. Diagnosed with polio at the tender age of one, he is a prime example of grit and determination. 

Ali did not let his disability stop him. A strong advocate of getting a good education, he worked hard for his MBA entrance exam and got a call from all the prestigious IIMs in India.Today, he is a successful entrepreneur and founder of ALIQAN Technologies.

Meet the amazing Iftkhar Ali.

Tell us something about your childhood. How was your life growing up?

My childhood was no different. My parents treated me like a normal kid. I went to a regular school; I didn’t have any special schooling. My teacher treated me equally. My disability did not pose any problem with the way I was perceived by the people around me. I believe this is the reason I turned out the way I did. I attribute my confidence and self-esteem to the way I was raised and treated by everyone in my ecosystem. 

How sensitive are our educational institutes to the needs of differently-abled students? What do you think is the need of the hour?

In terms of faculty, I think they are sensitive and go above and beyond to enable differently-challenged students. However, our schools lack in terms of infrastructure for people like me. Walking long distances and climbing stairs to go from one class to another poses a challenge. I don’t think our educational institutions are equipped to deal with this. I have never used a wheelchair in my life. I walk with the help of crutches and this is something I struggled with. Ensuring accessibility with infrastructure that is friendly towards the physically challenged is what I feel is needed. 

Was getting into a B-School always part of the plan? What was it like scoring admission into the prestigious IIM Calcutta?

Getting an MBA degree was not my first choice. My parents wanted me to become a doctor. I think those days the choice was always between a doctor and an engineer. I prepared for my medical entrance examination and cleared it, but issues were created for me on the basis of disability, telling me I cannot do MBBS because I cannot walk without crutches. went on to complete my graduation. Post that, my parents wanted me to get a government job because of the traditional mindset of ‘job security’, but again I was not interested in it. It was then that I turned to MBA. 

I cracked the CAT entrance exam and was called to IIM Calcutta and Kozhikode, but because I didn’t have a strong business background, I couldn’t clear the interviews. I got into University Business School, but I wanted more. I attempted the exam again. This time I got calls from all the six IIMs and picked IIMCalcutta.

What do you have to say to cynics who judge people based on their physical ability or lack of it?

There will always be sceptics around you. When I was preparing for my MBA, one of my guidance teachers told me not to pursue the degree as I would never be able to find a job. They told me I would always lose a job to someone who is fit and physically capable. But I proved them wrong and worked in the corporate world for almost 10 years before starting my company. I feel if you believe in yourself, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. I am well aware of my limitations, but I also know my capabilities. So I focus on that, rather than pay attention to cynics.

Why did you choose the path of entrepreneurship?

I realised that I could not work for a corporate for a long period of time due to my limitations. Challenges range from lots of travelling to managing work with someone else’s timelines. The next logical step was to be my own boss. I’m happy with the way things have turned out. I’m financially independent and the business is growing. I’m very optimistic about its future.

The path of entrepreneurship is never easy and you had a whole different set of challenges. But today ALIQAN is already four years old and flourishing. What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur?

Networking. Of course you need a good idea, perseverance to see the idea through, and good market understanding. But the right connections, products and services will make all the difference in giving the visibility built my network right from my days at IIM. In the last four years, I have built strong networks with industry peers. Additionally, getting a good education makes all the difference. I believe it sets you up for success by helping you navigate life’s challenges.

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