Dubai: Dubai-based Alka Malik has always had a burning desire to be an entrepreneur. When the pandemic struck, Malik’s passion to lead a company was put to test.
As managing director of Ascentria Examinations and Tests Preparation Centre, she says while the global pandemic may be hurting company revenues, her spirit and commitment remain intact.
“We are going through an unfortunate period globally, but it shall pass. We are committed in our endeavours and there is no backing off,” said Malik who has been successfully running a coaching centre for Indian students appearing for competitive examinations.
Ascentria is a training institute that prepares students for Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) — an engineering entrance examination conducted for admission to various engineering colleges in India. The institute also trains Indian students for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for the undergraduate level. It was previously called the All India Pre-Medical Test. It is an entrance examination in India for students who wish to study undergraduate medical courses and dental courses in government or private medical and dental colleges in India.
“Many of our students have left the UAE along with their parents. Some have discontinued as their parents’ salaries have been slashed. Our numbers have been impacted, but we will remain strong.”
She said there have been many things to learn from the pandemic. “Whether it is personal or professional, I have learnt to keep an open mind to new perspectives and visions. Of course, two things that immediately strike my mind are that I had never spread myself too thin in the business and this has helped me survive the virus.”
Giving an example, Malik, a cost accountant and an accredited financial valuer, said there was an opportunity to expand her business to open another centre, but she shelved her plans for now. “Thanks to the pandemic, there is a far greater appreciation for limited financial obligation. I was looking at options to open a second centre. But I started seeing signs of a downturn in February. The schools were being asked to take an early spring break for two weeks. I could sense what was about to come. And I put away plans to open a new centre. And I’m glad I did.”
Malik said the pandemic taught her not to fall prey to temptations. “This is the time to lie low and do what is best for you to survive.”
She said following the UAE’s announcement to go digital with learning for students amid the virus outbreak, Malik and her team worked overnight to make it happen. “We sat together, learnt about new digital platforms and shifted our teaching methods to online. That was a learning in itself — adapting to change.”
“Our strength is the quality of teachers we have with us. They are employed with us full time. There are qualified engineers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Their focus is on students and training them to have an eye for detail. When the pandemic struck, my teachers were a pillar of strength. So when you are put in a challenging environment, you shouldn’t fall. Instead, you stand, talk and walk, relying on your strengths.”
“Regular financial feasibility studies must be done of your business. I would like to take this a step further and say use it in your personal life too. There are many unwanted things that we accummulate. And when something like this strikes, you know who is there for you and who is not. So learn those lessons and move on.”