To change the world.
For Gen Z-ers, it is expected of us, and at the same time, a daunting responsibility. For the majority of university students, it’s a responsibility they will shoulder in the future. However, there are a few Gen Z-ers who have stepped forward and decided to change the world—right here and now. Mikas Agarwal is one of them.
Agarwal, in addition to being a second-year student at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) specializing in marketing, works as Chief Digital Officer at Akran Marketing, his family’s business, and as a Promotional Product Distributor, boasting a team of more than 55 employees and maintaining offices across Canada. As the self-proclaimed “young blood disrupting the ad specialty industry,” Agarwal is a recognized rising figure in the marketing field. Just this year, he was awarded the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada’s Momentum Award and was named one of the “Top 30 Emerging Leaders Under 30” by FoundersBeta—and he isn’t done yet. His journey is just starting, and he’s planning to reach far greater heights.
Agarwal shared that much of his success, and how he chose the path he is on, stemmed from being born in an entrepreneurial family invested in a diverse portfolio. He explained that “being in an entrepreneurial family is fun, because [my family was] always making the impossible, possible.”
An anecdote Agarwal shared that best describes this situation was how his father received a commission from the High Commission of India. In 2015, the Indian Prime Minister came to Canada, along with 250 delegates. The High Commission of India charged Agarwal’s father to get phones for each one of the delegates two weeks in advance of their trip. The Agarwal family specializes in marketing and real estate–not telecommunications. However, that did not deter Agarwal’s father. He went to Fido, bought 250 phones, reached the purchasing limit of phone numbers in one account, called the vice president of Fido to clear the purchase, and managed to get all 250 phones.
Agarwal reminisces about how, when he was 10 years old, after all the phones were bought, he and his brother Manav Agarwal “put the sim cards in the phones, and went above and beyond, and labeled the back of each phone with their phone number so that each delegate knew what phone they had and what their phone number was.”
This story really impressed me regarding how the Agarwal family works. As Agarwal explained, “We work 24/7, always thinking about how we can serve the client better in any way possible. Sometimes, my father will come up with an idea, I’ll pitch an idea, my brother will pitch an idea, my mother will pitch an idea and together we’ll come up with a solution.” At the core, they’re doing whatever they can, as a family, to make their clients’ impossible demands possible.
Growing up in that kind of environment led Agarwal to grow up thinking anything is possible. “Growing up we’ve had this open mindset—if I want to do this, my dad will let me do it. If I want to buy this, he will let me buy it. Anything and everything he would let us do.” As a result, Agarwal and his brother grew up trying almost everything out–both even ended up building a computer from scratch!
Eventually, the brothers found their passions: Agarwal in marketing, and his brother, Manav, in finance. As Agarwal puts it: “The freedom to explore has allowed us to figure out what we want to do in the future, and now we are essentially ahead of the game, because we know what we want to do, and we are not still experimenting.”
When I asked Agarwal about how he manages work, university, and clubs, it was the only time his ever-present smile faltered ever so slightly. “It’s not easy, that’s the simplest answer. My brother and I put in 30 to 40 hours a week in work, plus studying, plus clubs, and events.” Agarwal also admits that he has had to make some sacrifices to make this schedule work. “I mean, some sacrifices have to be made in order to be successful, whether it’s in your social life or hobbies,” he elaborates.
Agarwal reveals that one reason he can manage his schedule is from the support of his family. “If my brother needs help, I help him. If I need help, he helps me. If my parents need help, me and my brother help them. Essentially, we are all in this together,” he shares. Another reason he can power through his schedule, he explains, is his passion: “When you are in that mindset of working hard, and you love what you do, you love the work you do, you love what you study, it just goes through your mind. For me, I just love what I am doing so much that it’s a part of my life. That’s all it is.”
Naturally, Agarwal’s passion has been built up throughout his time at UTM. “I had never been a fan of university,” he admits. “I thought I could do something better with my life, time, and effort.” However, after joining UTM, he realized that wasn’t the point of university. “The point of being at U of T is really about the environment. Toronto is full of opportunities, and U of T combines that with the hardest curriculums academics-wise, a large amount of extracurricular activities, and an amazing group of students…. The stuff I learn in class, maybe 30, or 40 per cent is relevant… but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the person you become out of university.”
He confessed that both the interesting experiences, like living in residence during his first year, and the amazing experiences, like participating in ACE Nationals in Toronto and becoming the VP Internal of ACE, have helped him evolve into a better, more mature person. “Any university could have taught me the same things U of T taught me in the classroom, only U of T could provide the environment where I could grow as a person. So, I’m glad to be here.”
Looking towards the future, Agarwal has grand aspirations to live up to his name as “the young blood disturbing the marketing scene.” In his own words, Agarwal claims that “the ad specialty industry is a bit slower in adapting to this era’s high-speed technological innovations, and as a Gen Z-er, I want this industry to move along with the times. I have so many ideas and plans in my head that I want to put on paper and execute, but I just don’t have time to do it now. So, calling myself the ‘industry disruptor’ is a promise to myself that I will change the industry.” His plans include expanding Akran Marketing from Canada to an international scale—a mission that he admits is difficult. But that’s the peak he’s aiming for. He also admits that he wants he or his brother to show up on the Forbes list—and with Agarwal’s passion and drive, I think it’s only a matter of time.