“We’ll never make it to our milestones if we can’t make it through our moments”

Sayed Hoosen Mia – life and acumen based on integrity

sayed_miaSayed Hoosen Mia is a man whose life and acumen is based solely on the utmost of character and integrity. He is a man whose word is his bond, which in the world of today, is few and far between. This is how Sayed Mia conducts his life, and how he has attained a level of success that few have been able to reach. Some call him a risk taker and others call him a maverick. Those closest to him just call him dad. And so on this year, 2015, the year of his 70th birthday – we celebrate 7 decades of Sayed Mia’s unmistakable business savvy, his impeccable character, and his boundless philanthropic contributions to so many individuals and organisations in need.

Sayed Mia is a high profile personality who is well known for his connections in the broader South African business community in government, local and international diplomatic circles. He has led and participated in a number of international delegations involving bilateral business and political agreements. He is an accomplished public speaker and panelist and has been quoted at length in a number of financial, business publications. His philanthropy has made him a loved and adored man in all circles in South Africa, in all races and religions.

In the early 1970’s Sayed Mia was an Afrikaans teacher. In those dark days of apartheid, Sayed was one of a handful of teachers to have a university degree in the Indian community. Having obtained his teacher’s diploma in 1968 from the University of Durban, he loved to impart knowledge and learning to the children around him in his classroom and his community. Even going as far in the early 1970’s to sponsor the ‘Time to Learn’ project – a part time homework and study group which Mr Mia sponsored solely off his teachers salary to aid students who had no electricity or facilities at home. To supplement his income as a teacher, Sayed set off on his first trailblazing adventure. He started out in the insurance industry as a part time broker and by the mid 1970’s had excelled to such an extent that was able to secure his own brokerage firm in the socially underdeveloped Lenasia, at that time.

Using his god given talents of lateral thinking and a strong sense of intuition, he was able to propel his brokerage firm into an outstanding success. So much so that African Eagle Insurance approached him to establish an office in Lenasia. Unable to juggle both responsibilities, Sayed resigned from his teaching position and devoted his time, energy and zealous vigour to this new venture. It paid off. Within time he not only became the manager, but also the regional manager and then a board member. He also achieved the distinction of being Man of the year in his company for 6 years in a row. Sayed Mia broke the mould during this time in South Africa when it was both unlikely and unheard of for a person of colour to achieve such a level success.

When the 1980’s arrived, Sayed Mia was known in most circles for his successful insurance brokerage, as well as his philanthropic heart for charities and the needy. The 80’s were also a time for self-learning and furthering education and that is exactly what he did. He obtained a Management degree from the Graduate School of Business at the University of the Witwaterstrand. Sayed once again blazed a trail by travelling to the United States where he furthered his studies both at Harvard University and Masters in Business from South West University.

Upon his return his picked up where he left off. Building a successful business, focusing on relationships in both his professional and personal life, and contributing to the well being of the people of Lenasia. Mr. Mia credits one of his greatest accomplishments to the year 1984 where he built 1000 homes for the Lenasia community, by borrowing R5 Million at his own risk. These RDP homes put a roof over the heads of disadvantaged and most deserving families.

Having spent 25 years with Anglo American Life, Mr Mia is now the director of the SHM Group of companies, with their focus being primarily property based. Having done it all, Sayed Mia has now reached the stage where he wants to slow down a little bit. He’ll still be involved to some extent in the goings on of the family business, but he wants to focus on his social and philanthropic work, as well as the mentoring and leadership of the future generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers and dreamers.

When you ask Sayed Mia what his greatest accomplishments are, you’d expect him to list things like this –
Being selected by The Star Newspaper as one of the “Top 100 Stars of the South African Community”;

Executive member of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce; Vice Chairman of the Johannesburg Institute of Social Services; Board member for the Lenasia School for the Mentally Handicapped, Johannesburg Council of Disabled, and the Child Welfare

A trustee of both the University of Monash and University of the Western Cape

Board Member / Chairman of the Investment committee of Old Mutual / SA Coprorate Real Estate fund.

Sponsorships of fees for many students at all levels of study.

With a list double the above, Sayed Mia is also synonymous for having developed the very first shopping centre of its kind in Lenasia. Named Lenasia Square, it is located in the middle of the CBD. With his community always at the heart of whatever he does and undertakes, he went on to develop 1000 houses in Lenasia South, which was also the first private development of the community. The people were previously being charged 80k per house, while Sayed Mia did them for 40k per house. Because of his philanthropy and incredible acts of humanity he went on to win the Star of the Community Award for Philanthropy in this community.

On it’s own the above is an impressive list, a list that anyone should and would be proud of. But what really impressed me was the answer Mr Mia gave to my question – What is your greatest accomplishment? His answer was “the accomplishments and achievements of my children are my greatest accomplishments”. It was the purest and truest of statements made by a man whose humility and modesty stood so tall in that very moment.

His second greatest accomplishment was the property development that he oversaw and directed. The development of the Trade Routes Shopping Mall for Lenasia and the southern suburbs provided hundreds of jobs for the people of those areas, and that is something he is extremely proud of. Mr Mia was also a major contributor and facilitated the construction of the Gugulethu School in Orange Farm and is a patron of the Smile Foundation, as well as a trustee of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

Sayed Mia is an ordinary man who has led an extraordinary life; a life that has taken him on the most wonderful journey; with ups and downs, some failures, but plenty successes. It’s with his successes that he’s taught us the greatest lesson of all – to share, to give, and most importantly to dare to dream.

Like he says, the world is a tough place, it will knock you down many times – but it’s your choice to get up or stay down. Life is going to throw everything at you; it’s about taking the knocks; sort of like boxing. You have to roll with the punches and know that the more success you achieve, the greater the quality of your enemies become.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that! I’m always gonna love you, no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.”
― Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa

Sayed Mia’s life story teaches us our destiny is inevitably in our own hands. A lot of people have this thought process that whatever  appens, happens. They act as if their destiny is out of their control. They act as if they cannot influence the events of their life. Sayed Mia teaches us that you don’t have to live a life of mediocrity. Your actions and your decisions influence your life so you are in control.

Sayed Hoosen Mia is a man whose life and acumen is based solely on the utmost of character and integrity. He is a man whose word is his bond, which in the world of today, is few and far between. This is how Sayed Mia conducts his life, and how he has attained a level of success that few have been able to reach. He gives just as much as he receives and perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all. That with great influence comes great responsibilities – and on this Sayed Mia continues to fulfill his life’s greatest responsibilities – to be a good man and father, a kind man, a generous man, and a man whose legacy will live far beyond his 70 years.

“We’ll never make it to our milestones if we can’t make it through our moments”

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