In this excerpt adapted from an exclusive interview, Sanjay Shah talks about how he succeeds as an entrepreneur and shares some tips to help others start and grow their businesses.
Shah is a philanthropist and entrepreneur who lives with his family in Dubai. With a background in London’s financial sector, Shah discovered his true calling when he combined his love for music with his passion to help the less fortunate and founded Autism Rocks in 2014.
You’re an entrepreneur and philanthropist. What would you say is your biggest motivator?
Sanjay Shah: Passion is what motivates me, whether it’s a passion to assist those who need help or a passion to see an idea through. If I don’t feel strongly about a new business venture, it’s not going to happen. Passion, along with focus, is the difference between success and failure.
Autism Rocks certainly came out of passion. How did you come up with the idea?
Sanjay Shah: When my youngest son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), my wife and I, of course, headed straight to the Dubai Autism Centre to see what treatment options were available. We were shocked by what we found. The centre was completely overwhelmed with requests for services from families who could not afford to pay for them. We immediately donated two minibuses to help transport families to the centre but knew we needed to do more. I was no stranger to giving to a variety of causes, but now that I had firsthand knowledge of what it’s like living with and raising a child with ASD, here-and-there giving was no longer enough. Our financial situation was sound and my wife and I decided then and there to come up with a way to help.
After a meeting with Snoop Dogg in 2013, the idea came to me: Why not combine my love for music and my passion to help others to create a way to raise money and awareness for autism? Autism Rocks was born.
By Sanjay Shah
What’s it like to live with autism?
That’s a complicated question. “Living with autism” means more than being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), of course. Millions who can’t be placed on the spectrum nevertheless “live” with autism as parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, teachers and friends.
Like the needs of all other children, the needs of kids with ASD change as they age. Their needs are situation- and environment-dependent, too. Let’s take a closer look at what it’s like to live with and support someone who has autism in three common situations: home, school and the post-secondary world.
Millions of children around the world live with autism. Every day, thousands of kids are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There’s a good chance you know someone who is directly or indirectly affected by autism, even if they’re not particularly forthcoming about the experience.
But how much do you really know about autism?
ASD is a complex condition that we’re only just beginning to unravel. The good news is that we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress toward understanding ASD in a relatively short timeframe. The bad news is that we’re still a long way from where we need to be.
The coming months and years will be pivotal. Charities like the Autism Research Trust (ART) are stepping up to fund critical research into the causes, progression and treatments of ASD. Innovative organizations like Autism Rocks are doing their part to raise funds for groups like ART and increase their visibility in an increasingly crowded philanthropic landscape. And, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to donate to Autism Rocks and its brethren, even if you’re not on the invite list to any of its star-studded shows.
What about where the rubber meets the road? What are the researchers whose work depends on these charities actually doing? And can we point to tangible progress that gives us hope for the future of ASD treatment?
Let’s take a look at a few of the most promising areas of autism research. For more detail, check out ART’s periodic progress reports.