Gurpreet Sidhu

BSc Mathematics, 2012
Entrepreneur with companies including easyFood, salesVAT, mahala9 and realiseOne

Having never applied for a job or ever worked for somebody, I have always been my own boss. This means that every day is different and I am managing both my own time as well as the time of others all around the world. I dedicate at least one day a week to doing charity work, having now setup my own foundation realiseOne, which has recently been granted charity status in the UK.

I like to keep a handle on the figures of my businesses as well as improving the efficiency and productivity of the staff that are employed in them. My schedule is very flexible and I like to work it around the school runs, which means having to get a few hours in early morning as well as in the evening.

As for my companies, salesVAT is a software as a service online platform to help online sellers. Mahala9 is a Sikh calendar project which had a print run of 10,000. realiseOne is a charity utilising its media connections to highlight the causes of other charities.

What’s the best thing about what you’re doing now?

I would say the best thing is being able to control how I can manage my time myself. I get to spend time with my growing family and be a part of my children’s school life. In terms of my work life, I think that I get bored easily doing the same thing and I procrastinate a lot, so I have learned to fill in this void with a positive spin by being productive on different projects at different times.

gurpreet sidhu

What made you interested in entrepreneurship?

Having grown up in a family business environment, I think I always knew that I wanted to run my own business. Mainly because I have so many ideas, and I am constantly thinking of ways to improve or streamline processes. I also love meeting new people and making connections all around the world.

How has your career developed since graduating?

I was already a mature student when I attended Birmingham University; since leaving I think I have become a lot wiser and learned in a very hard way that sometimes it is better to say ‘no’. It is very easy to get caught up with lots of things when you love innovation, but as my wife keeps reminding me ‘climb one mountain at a time’. Fortunately for some of my ventures, I have been able to recruit leaders and have them run the day to day, clearing my deck to concentrate and focus more on the charitable ventures that I have.

What skills you learned from degree or time at university would you say you use most in your job?

I am a great networker and having attended Birmingham University as a mature student, I still managed to make great friends who were 10 years younger than me and we still stay in touch today. I love numbers and spreadsheets and one of my businesses, salesVAT, is all about big complicated data from multiple sources and how to clean it up and make it easy to understand for the small business owner or accountant. This skill of machine learning and automation is probably the most important, which I have tried to apply in all my ventures.

We Are (Third Width)

What motivates you?

My motivation is seeing how successful my parents have been, from starting with nothing. Having arrived from India in 1978 and working in foundries and factories, they did incredibly well. I want to set the same example for my children and achieve financial freedom, so that I can spend more time with family and kickstart community projects all around the world that make a difference. Recently in 2020, the farmers protests in India highlighted the plight of poor farmers all around the world. Our charity organisation helped to raise £500k (including Gift Aid) in just under six hours to help those families who lost loved ones during the protests.

Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?

Birmingham University is a fantastic university that was local to me. This was important as I had recently got married and we were planning a family. I got married in 2008, started university in 2009 and graduated in 2012. In that time we welcomed 2 children so being local was very important, as you can imagine!

How did your time at university help you start your career?

I think the fact that I could juggle starting a new life as well as studying for a degree, really made me realise that anything is achievable if you put your mind to it. I have carried this into my entrepreneurial career, with a ‘no fear’ attitude, and it really has yielded results.

Did you take advantage of any of support services offered by the University?

I did participate with the Business School in a project to help local businesses. At the time I was running an online fashion shop Love Fashion, for which a group of students did a case study. Since leaving university, I have secured investment from the easyGroup, and count Sir Stelios as a business partner in our venture easyFood.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you started your studies that would have better helped prepare you?

As I was a mature student, I think I knew what my priorities were as a student. I am indebted to the friends that I made, as it had been nearly a decade since I had last studied A-Level maths, so some of the study which they had recently just finished and were now applying, I was having to do double the work to play catch up and refresh my memories.

What advice would you give to current students?

I would say as my Maths Teacher Mr Westwood used to say...’Keep it Simple’. Focus during the lectures, don't miss the buzz on the topic and make friends! Hit the bar now and again...The onion rings at Joe's Bar also great!

Gurpreet's favourite memories of the University

“I remember train journey into the campus, meeting new faces every day. Bringing my wife to the campus and introducing her to my friends. Enjoying the lectures as a mature student, and not thinking about the nightlife for the week! I also still revere the dissertation on ‘Fermat’s Theory’ which is my pride and joy to this day, and always brings a smile whenever I happen to come across it.”