What international students can learn from entrepreneur Tony Fernandes
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What international students can learn from entrepreneur Tony Fernandes

What international students can learn from entrepreneur Tony Fernandes

It takes a special kind of talent to turn an ailing Malaysian carrier and transform it into the world’s top low-cost airline.

But that’s exactly what Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes did.

The AirAsia Group CEO has had many high-profile ventures since graduating with an accounting degree from the prestigious London School of Economics. We take a look at some of the life lessons that we can extract and emulate from the business magnate: 

Tap into the internet for solutions to problems

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International students – find innovative ways to solve your problems and don’t be afraid to seek help. Source: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP

The internet is at your disposal, so use it whenever you encounter a problem.

Tech in Asia reported that Fernandes said that it was challenging raising money for AirAsia when it was first starting up, including applying for a mortgage and approaching banks for credit.

But the internet proved to be their “saviour,” allowing them to sell tickets in advance, giving them cash to roll until it grew big enough to get approved for a loan.

Similarly, while you may face numerous stumbling blocks as an international student, you can always reach out for help on the internet. Use it to find out more information for certain issues you may be facing in your personal or academic life, or even for reaching out to people for help. 

It’s OK to be ambitious, but enjoy the ride

Having started his career as an auditor at Virgin Atlantic in the UK before progressing to his other ventures, Fernandes has achieved a lot throughout his career. 

Despite having big ambitions to climb the corporate ladder, Fernandes has reportedly said that the best piece of advice he ever received was to slow down and take your time by his previous boss Stephen Shrimpton when they worked together at Warner Music in Southeast Asia, reported CNBC Make It.

Fernandes had just been promoted, but wanted to climb further up the career ladder — and he wasn’t even 30 at that point.

Shrimpton reportedly said: “Tony, you know, there’s nothing that beats experience. Learn a bit. Slow down, because the quicker you go up, the quicker you can go down.”

Similarly, as an international student, it’s easy to understand how you would want to make the most out of your situation, whether it’s signing up for internships at every available opportunity or working part-time to add to your CV.

But don’t forget that studying abroad is a once-in-a lifetime experience – enjoy it! Pursue excellence but also stop smell the roses.  

Don’t take no for an answer


For some, it’s a natural reaction to scuttle away when met with a “no” to a request.

But Fernandes’ advice goes a little differently: “Dream the impossible, believe the unbelievable, never take ‘no’ for an answer.” 

“When I first started AirAsia with Datuk Kamarudin (Meranum), everyone thought we were crazy,” Fernandes was quoted saying by The Star during his book launch in Malaysia in 2017. 

“They said we had no business running an airline and it wouldn’t work. If we had listened to them, we would have given up before we even started and this book wouldn’t exist,” he said. 

Similarly, you’re bound to encounter numerous obstacles coming your way as an international student in university, whether it’s failing to secure a coveted internship opportunity to not getting the grade you were hoping for for a particular subject.

Dig deep, learn from your mistakes and try again until you get that “yes” or the result you were hoping for. Don’t let any other person dictate what you can or cannot do. 

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