Zain Jeewanjee: An Esteemed Celebrity in Silicon Valley
By Imran Hussain Khan Sudahazai
Over the past two decades, Zain Jeewanjee has emerged as one of the most influential and trusted insurance agents (G1G.com) in the Silicon Valley. Starting his business in 1985, Zain has quickly developed a reputation within the financial and insurance circles for taking on and beating the corporate behemoths. Within the space of two decades Zain has grown his business to over 42 states and provides every major service asked of a top notch insurer. His formula for success imbues an innovative mixture of an esteemed family history, entrepreneurship, an astute business acumen compiled with honesty, integrity, faith and self reliance.
One can literally identify each of the mentioned facets when observing Zain in action. You can’t help but notice that Zain is in his element when he is face to face with his customers. They could be Fortune 500 Company CEOs, institutional investors, business leaders or the average guy of the street. Zain treats each of his clients with the same dignity. Within the Silicon Valley area Zain is somewhat of an esteemed celebrity and respected for his support and dedication to charitable causes right across the board. In this interview, Zain discusses his philosophy for success in business and life.
Q. What part of the world do you call home?
A. I live in California so you can say that America is home. However, I was originally born in Kenya, East Africa, but migrated to Pakistan with my family in the 1960s. I stayed there until 1983 and then moved to the US.
Q. Why did you move to the US?
A. I came initially to the US not for migratory purposes but for medical purposes. My young son (Ali) was ill and he required medical attention. So my wife and I came to Stanford seeking a solution and a cure for him. Unfortunately he did not make it and passed away. So we stayed initially just to pay off the medical bills.
Q. What was your first impression of the US when you arrived?
A. Well the US I came to was very different to the US that maybe you are currently experiencing. I suppose that is the same with most places in the world.
However, before I came to the US, I had already traveled extensively. I was also fortunate enough to attend Karachi Grammar School and thus had been exposed to the ‘glam-sham’. So I knew what to expect. However, on reaching California there was a certain ‘Wow’ factor. I had been a big fan of American TV in my youth and avidly watched programs such as CHIPS, ‘Danger Man’ etc…so when I finally experienced the freeways of LA, the diners, the lights and the malls I was mightily impressed but not overwhelmed by the infrastructure and development. However, the American people really captured my imagination. Their generosity, support and warmth were qualities that I was not accustomed to. The Pakistani culture and society I grew up in was so steeped in deceit that at times the corruption and usurpation of law and order became almost acceptable. So to witness a way of life whereby resources and sources were not a hindrance to progress and growth was very inspiring.
Q. How did you adapt to fit into an extremely Western capitalist culture?
A. Well, for me it posed very little problems if any! See it all begins with my grandfather (Alibhai Mulla Jeewanjee) who was this amazing man. He was an enterprising entrepreneur who had begun life really as a stowaway and ended up as the ‘Unheralded King of Africa’. His life story itself is a narrative that we could study alongside some of the greatest names in modern day history. So taking initiative was really in my blood. My paternal and maternal families were prominent industrialists and I had grown up in and around some of the major household names of the day in both Pakistan and Kenya. So when I got going in the US, the environment proved fertile for my style and mindset. People were by and large honest, straightforward and one could operate without source and resource. I enjoyed the company of those who called a ‘spade a spade’ and thus my business progressed very quickly.
Q. How do you view your achievements?
A. I am a very blessed man. I am extremely fortunate. I will never shy away from telling you that much.
As an entrepreneur I have and will continue to take what some people may call risks.
This is the secret to success. You have to engage in activities and seek opportunities that are tied to your dreams and conversely provide within their sphere and domain a service or an ailing to society. It may initially provide you with no certainty to its outcome. In business it’s often said that one is taking a risk. In economics it’s known as uncertainty and in religion you say one has faith! It really depends on how you view life. The ordinary person is not secure enough in his own faith to take risks and thus will always opt for the so-called safe option. These are the so-called known factors such as getting a job or going to college and thus their outcome will always be predictably known. However, the margin for success in choosing the so-called safe option is always limited as the majority of people will go that route and there’s only so much pie to go around!
Those who chose the entrepreneurial tract are often motivated not by security or money but idealist goals that are independent of material gain and security.
They want to become providers and thus are actively seeking to employ people and support society. They want to develop and raise institutions that are benefiting society and from an Islamic perspective it’s a very Islamic thing to do! The Prophet (PBUH) was an entrepreneur of the highest order. Engaging in entrepreneurial behavior develops and enhances leadership skills, raises your ability to rationalize and contributes to the growth of others. That’s the formula behind real success in any field! When you are prepared to take a risk into the unknown for the benefit of others and not just your own!
Q. How well do you think Pakistanis have done in the West?
A. Extremely well. There is no doubt in that. Here in the US we are probably at the stage where the UK Pakistanis were in the 70’s and 80’s with regard to penetrating all tiers of society. In reality we are just beginning to dominate both corporate America and governmental agencies. Just look at some of the top bankers, physicians, doctors, scientists, pioneers in technology and biomedical fields. They are all from a Pakistani background. So we are clearly a multifaceted and talented society that has thrived well both here in the US and UK. I think that speaks volumes with regard to Pakistan’s potential and capability. Our people really are some of the brightest and best on the planet. It just goes to show that a fully evolved and functional system based on meritocracy will always harness the latent potential of people into a viable productive force.
Q. What is your advice to any budding entrepreneur willing to go it alone?
A. Firstly: Listen attentively to all those people that say you can’t and then listen to them some more! Then use their negativity as fuel for your ignition!
Never be undeterred by anyone’s opinion. Only you have the potential and only you can make or break. Allah has placed the world before you. Set yourself on fire and the world will help you burn!
Follow these principles:
- Make sure the market space is big enough for you to seize a sizable chunk!
- Make sure you are addressing a problem area and therefore, providing a solution. Allah helps those who help others!
- Make sure you are working two jobs. So even within your own organization make sure you are responsible for two significant roles!
- Partner with those people who have the experience. Spend time with those who have attained the success you are seeking! Formulate your own board of advisors!
- Never forget that you are just the driver and all those on the ride are going to the top with you. Never forget those around you. There success is your true success!
- Be aware of your surroundings! Always know where you are in the market place!
Q. What is the single most important thing that you would recommend for success in life?
A. Salaat! Especially Fajr! That’s it! Done deal! Fajr is the key to all glory! Just look at it! It’s primed for optimum behavior, attitude and timing. You wake up before the sun rises to a synchronized system that accounts for daylight savings to the millisecond! You then go through a process of ‘wudu’ which begins with an act of purification and ends up harmonizing your body and mind. A drop of water on the back of your neck and spine will get the whole of your nervous system into gear! Then you engage in the physical action of ‘Salaat’. Essentially this is a holistic exercise. The Hindus do Yoga, the Chinese Tai Chi and the Muslims Salaat. When you add the spiritual prayer and recitation, you have a complete programming system for the body to begin the day with! Beautiful! This is perfection! No man can fail who performs his Fajr Salaat! You are ready and awake to face the day!
Q. Who do you aspire to?
A. Anyone who gives more than he receives! People like Gandhi, Jinnah and my grandfather.
Q. If you were to lose everything tomorrow what would you do?
A. I would build it all back again! Carry on! There’s no other way! You get back onto your feet and keep going!
The way I would do it is through my life principles. The three D’s:
Firstly Dream: Imagine your goal; then generate and garner your Determination to a point where you become your Dream and finally Do It! Go out into the world every second, every minute of the day and realize your dream by doing it! Simple!
Q. In your eulogy what would you want to be said about you?
A. “A good man! Don’t really know what he did, but people say he was a good honest man with principle!” That’s it! People should know that I was just a good man. Tried to do the right thing! No more, No less! It’s for Allah to judge the rest!