Born and raised in Pakistan, Hamza Ayub completed his undergraduate studies from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Upon graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Accounting and Finance, Hamza enrolled at the Peking University in China for a Master’s in Management, while pursuing professional filmmaking.
Within a couple of years, Hamza went from being a young graduate in Pakistan to a filmmaker and Social Media Manager for world-renowned singer and producer, Akon, in China. And this is his story.
Currently, Hamza lives in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, where his university is located. Known locally as Beida, Hamza describes the prestige attached with its name: “Peking is the equivalent of Harvard here; it is ranked 24th worldwide. Over 9 million applicants apply for admission every year, and only 6,000 get in. It has one of the world’s most competitive admission processes.”
When asked about his decision to go to China for higher studies, Hamza asserts that it was his calling. “The whole ‘Go to the U.S./Canada/U.K. for your Masters’ idea was a bit too “normal” for me, for lack of a better word. Moreover, every article, book and news headline I read was talking about this one massive country in the East that no one seemed to have any clue about. China was always in the news as some sort of mythical creature that the outside world couldn’t quite comprehend.” While reading a book, Hamza came across Huaqiangbei, the world’s largest electronics market, which is located in Shenzhen. It was at this point that everything fell into place for Hamza, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. “The Master’s campus of Peking University was in Shenzhen; Huaqiangbei was in Shenzhen; and Shenzhen was one of the world’s best start-up hubs. I knew I was meant to be there.”
In addition to pursuing a Management degree, Hamza is also running a company that provides Social Media Management and Production services, and has co-working spaces in five cities at the moment. “In Shenzhen, I made a bunch of friends from around the world, one of whom started a small company called InnoMagi. As a filmmaker with a marketing degree, I started making commercials for him and a few other startups around me. Next thing you know, I got scouted by Richard Chiang, the CEO of KonLive China (Akon’s company), and he gave me a contract for running his social media. It’s a YouTube show called ‘Millionaire Dance’, where I’ll demystify modern China from the eyes of big celebrities including Akon, B. Howard (Michael Jackson’s son), Justin Timberlake and Afrojack, as well as promote tech products from Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China.”
When it comes to technology, Hamza feels that China is leagues ahead of the rest of the globe. “I get to see things happen here before they happen anywhere else in the world. If I step out of China, I feel like I step back in time. I feel weird when people ask me for my phone number, or whether I have cash on me. I no longer carry any cash; it’s all on WeChat. You might be using it in Pakistan, but you don’t fully understand the sheer power of this app until you use it here.” For those who might not be aware, WeChat is a free Chinese instant-messaging application, and its users can do just about anything on it, ranging from playing games, transferring money, video calls, ordering food, reading the news, making appointments, and more.
The language barrier was never too big an issue for Hamza. He recalls how other international students and professionals would find it frustrating to learn Chinese. However, Hamza took a different approach: he considered himself to be an infant, and started learning the language like a two-year-old would – word by word, and with constant repetition. Every single day, when he went to Subway, he would make the staff say the names of different foods in Chinese. By listening to the same words again and again, he slowly began to grasp their pronunciation. Hamza believes that the best way to learn Chinese is to listen repeatedly, without getting frustrated or giving up.
China is the hub of real innovation and entrepreneurship, according to Hamza. “If you had a choice between joining Steve Jobs’ team when he was first building it, or stepping into his company at its current stage, which would you choose? Those with an entrepreneurial spirit, the dreamers, and the go-getters will choose the former. Same is the case with China. The Chinese economy is happening; it’s relevant. All the Steve Jobs are alive and kicking, and you can get right in the middle of the action.”
For Hamza, it has been a short but exciting journey, going from sharing small videos on Facebook to actually handling social media for celebrated artists, such as Akon, in China. “Whenever someone asks me about life in China and Peking University, I just show them this video. It summarizes everything perfectly.”
Hamza has an important message for any students who are interested in pursuing higher studies in China:
“This could be the best thing that ever happened to you. If you have the drive, and just a faint idea of what you want to do, China could serve as your launch pad. You will get the right environment, the right tools, and the right guidance to explore your ideas and to turn them into reality.
We grew up watching Hollywood, and we only understand that version of a university experience. China isn’t like that. It’s an entirely different culture, and if you don’t come in with pre-conceived notions, you will do just fine, adjust sooner, and thrive. China is, perhaps, the only country in the world that gives equal opportunities to Pakistanis. Locals here greet you even more warmly when you tell them you’re from Pakistan.
Unlike developed countries, where infrastructure and foundations exist for entrepreneurs to build upon, people in Pakistan have always had to build things from scratch. We, as a nation, are good at that, and we have that drive, that skill. If you took those people and brought them [to China], just imagine what they could create and achieve.”
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