By Desi Today News Desk
Jas Teja has worn many hats during his lifetime. He is a successful businessman who owns multiple gas stations, is a Dj, a wedding photographer, an assistant director, a builder, and an electrical contractor. Jas is a great example of the Canadian dream, immigrants see when they come in this land of opportunities. With limited means but lot of passion, Jas came to Canada with his family. Desi Today got a chance to sit down with him and know more about his secret mantra behind success.
You have done so much for your community, but have not really highlighted your achievements. Why do you prefer to stay behind the scene?
As a reserved person who mostly keeps to himself, it’s uncomfortable for me to talk about myself because honestly, I don’t feel like I have really achieved much in life that should be written about. After talking to friends, they encouraged me to share my experiences, and that’s why I’m here.
Please tell us about yourself and your family? Where were you born, when and how you landed in Canada.
I was the youngest out of my 8 brothers and sisters which placed me in a very unique position. I was an observant kid, and I learned a lot from watching my siblings and how they faced challenges in their lives.I can say that I really benefited from that in my own life. Being part of a large family also forced me to learn to cooperate and collaborate from a very young age. That became very useful to me later in my life.
My dad served in the Indian Army, and he also had a taxi business. My mom stayed home and took care of us. I was born in Delhi, but my family is originally from Punjab. My parents were seeking better opportunities, and so they came to Canada in 1979 as landed immigrants. I was only 13 years old when I began a new life with my family in Vancouver.
Tell us about your early days existence in Canada, how this country supported you in achieving your dreams?
I was a quiet, reserved kid who mostly kept to himself. I remember feeling excited to be in Canada and I was definitely eager to learn the culture and language, but I also remember times when I was scared to go to school. I looked different, I spoke no English and there was a lot of racism. Those were the hard times.
On top of it, as immigrants, the goal was to settle down, have a home of our own and become financially stable. But finances were limited, so I was working multiple jobs and studying to help my family. From strawberry picking to working at White Spot to DJing and wedding photography, I took any work opportunity I could, to earn money for my family.
My big break finally came in 2005 when I saved up enough money to buy my first gas station. This was a big moment in my life.
When I was 6 years old in India, we had a chance to purchase a gas station, but at that time my dad couldn’t afford it. I overheard him talking about it, and felt sad for him. I wanted them to have every success and have what they deserved. Purchasing my own gas station felt like life coming full circle. In a way, I was able to fulfill my dad’s dream.
It also finally felt like the hard work was paying off. It made me appreciate being in this incredible country, where hard work and perseverance can make dreams a reality.
You are known as the person who brought Bollywood closer to the South Asian community? Please share your journey and experience with us.
As a kid, I always had a passion for Bollywood films. I was fascinated with filming, directing and the entire production process of making a film. When I came to Canada, I teamed up with a few investors to open a movie theatre called Regal Cinema in Vancouver on Kingsway. At that time, we were the only theatre in BC running Indian films. The theatre was always jam-packed! I used to manage the theatre and worked as a projectionist. We also organized a couple of major shows for the South Asian community featuring famous Bollywood actors. These shows would have up to 15,000 people attending. They were so popular. A few years later, I had the chance to work on a Bollywood film as a first assistant director with my close friend Deepak Grewal.
An entertainer, a businessman, a retail owner – you have managed so many professions in one life, what is the secret behind your success?
There is no secret. Success means a lot of hard work, commitment and passion. You have to be open to be a lifelong learner and that includes learning from your own mistakes. If you’re willing to work hard for your dreams and are passionate about what you do, then they will surely come true. And no matter what you do, be honest to your work. That is so important. There are no shortcuts to success.
What are some of the life lessons you have learnt and the wisdom you would like to share with all those young people out there who want to take a risk in their life but are scared of failure?
I always chose the opportunity to learn. I never had any judgement around the work I was doing – whether it was picking strawberries or working in the kitchen at White Spot, I knew there was something to learn no matter what I was doing. I would encourage kids to seek out opportunities to learn. This proved to be invaluable in my life. Now youngsters spend a lot of their invaluable time on computers and video games. Instead, I would encourage them to step out and get all the work and world experience they can at the young age.
Any time, energy and effort you put towards your dreams and any work experience you gain at a young age is like an investment. It likely will not pay off immediately, but it will most definitely pay off later in your life. Find your passion, follow it through, be patient, and I can guarantee that it will all come together later in life.
Finally, what you decide to do in your life needs to be your own passion. It can be no one else’s. When you know the passion and you are personally invested in it, the stakes are high. This was such a motivating factor for me, and it’s what drove me to succeed. It may feel scary to take a risk and you may be afraid to fail, but in all honesty, it’s only through taking risks that you can actually succeed.