Sushil Sukhwani was driven to Bond University by the spirit of adventure shared by so many early Bondies and he typifies the sense of entrepreneurship that has become part of the academic DNA of the place.
The Class of 1991 MBA graduate drew on his own personal experience in discovering Bond University to found Edwise International, a pioneer in the field of global education and India’s leading study abroad consultancy.
Mr Sukhwani’s path was supposed to lead him to the US, but a rigid entrance criterion he believed did not properly recognise his qualifications prompted him to explore alternative destinations.
It was at that time that Bond, then a fledgling institution just about to welcome its second student cohort, sent a representative to India.
“In India if you wanted to go and study for a US MBA you had to have completed a four-year bachelor degree,” he said.
“I had a three-year bachelor, but I had worked in my family business full time through my degree and I had great GMAT scores and I had everything else right.
“So, when the US said you can’t come here because you only have three years, I got p….d off.
“Bond had just set up and they had an agent fly into India who did a seminar in a five-star hotel in Mumbai. I attended and it made me realise there was a destination called Australia that I had not considered.’’
With the seed planted, he embarked on what would prove to be, in those pre-internet days, an arduous mission to learn more about what was available in Australia.
“I went to the High Commission in Mumbai and asked them about study in Australia, but they didn’t know anything,” he said.
“They gave me the number for the High Commission in Delhi, but I couldn’t get anyone on the phone, so I took a 16-hour train ride to visit in person.
“I learnt that they also didn’t know anything about study in Australia.’’
By now the idea had become an obsession so he reached out to a distant relative in Sydney in a desperate search for answers.
It was a stroke of luck that his relative’s neighbour worked in the education sector in Sydney and was able to pass on some information about a tertiary education fair in the Harbour City in May.
“I convinced my dad to let me come out here on a holiday with two other friends and we attended the fair where I found out what universities had MBA programs and which were the top-ranked,” he said.
“Then I travelled up and down the east coast where I visited five top unis in Sydney, five in Melbourne and three in Brisbane.”
Mr Sukhwani then made the trip to the Gold Coast to see the sights.That was the night of the World Cup soccer final in which West Germany defeated Argentina and Mr Sukhwani, a passionate football fan, stayed up all night to watch the game.
“I didn’t sleep and I was tired, however since Bond was the reason I came to Australia in the first place, I came to the campus and immediately fell in love with the place,” he said.
“It was the most advanced campus. I had visited 13 other unis and no one had the tech, no one had the beauty and no one had the integration and the cosiness.
“They were offering a Harvard curriculum fast-track MBA in one year.
“I couldn’t find a better fit, the only thing missing at that stage was the pedigree.
“There was no history to Bond because hardly anyone had graduated.”
Once he settled at Bond the story of his journey to the Gold Coast began to spread across the faculty and a business opportunity dawned on him.
He returned to India with a team of professors to recruit students for his alma mater and was the first recruitment consultant in India along with his classmate Ravi Lochan Singh.
He received some funding from the university to establish his business after presenting a white paper on his idea to Vice Chancellor Professor Philip Lader.
Mr Sukhwani reports that the flow of Indians students abroad is now drawing close to pre-COVID levels with his own business at 80 per cent of the pre-pandemic high.
“Students are now going all over the place,” he said.
“The four destinations that get the most - US, UK, Canada and Australia - are all at their best offering moment.
“There was always a moment where someone had a weaker offering, maybe for a political reason, but right now all destinations are hungry.
“It is more competitive than at any other time.”