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From international student to CEO: Meet the new boss of Australia's largest home and land developer

Stockland CEO Tarun Gupta arrived in Australia to pursue his MBA degree in 1992. Source: Supplied by Stockland

Twenty-nine years ago, Tarun Gupta came to Australia as an international student. He worked as a kitchen hand and distributed pamphlets to pay his tuition fees. Today, Mr Gupta heads one of Australia's largest real estate development companies, and more than 1,600 employees report to him. He shares his success journey and advice for the new migrants with SBS Hindi.

Mr Gupta says he couldn't find work for the first eight weeks and was left with merely $50 after arriving from India in 1992. He then landed himself a job at a local Indian restaurant in Newcastle. 

"I cleaned toilets, cut onions, distributed pamphlets and did whatever the chef asked me to do," says Mr Gupta, the newly appointed and first Indian-origin CEO of Stockland. 

"The chef soon left and opened his restaurant across the street, so the restaurant owner asked me if I wanted to learn how to fire the tandoor [clay oven] and prepare dishes. I said of course because it was a specialised and secure job," Mr Gupta says, adding that his hands bore the brunt from the tandoor's heat in the first week. 

Mr Gupta said Stockland is Australia's largest house and land developer firm.


Highlights:

  • Tarun Gupta is the first Indian-origin CEO of Stockland
  • He arrived in Australia in 1994 for his MBA
  • Australia rewards hard-working people: Mr Gupta 

Mr Gupta, who now lives with his wife and two teenage children in Sydney's most sought-after Bondi suburb, comes from a modest family in India. His father, a retired Indian Police Service officer, and mother had migrated to India from Pakistan during the dreadful partition of the two countries in 1947.

"Our families came with almost nothing as refugees. I draw my inspiration from my father and family who worked hard as immigrants," he says.

The youngest of three siblings, Mr Gupta, credits his success to the ethos he inherited from his parents, who now live next door to him in Sydney.

"My father was an honest police officer and retired as director-general of the police anti-corruption with Uttar Pradesh Police. He used to catch corrupt police officers," the 51-year-old says proudly.

Tarun Gupta (right) with his family at their house in Sydney.
Tarun Gupta (right) with his family at their house in Sydney.
Supplied by Tarun Gupta
 

While growing up, Mr Gupta lived at various places, including Lucknow, Sitapur, Moradabad, Kanpur and Gonda, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, because of his father's transferrable job. He was sent to St Joseph College, a reputed boarding school in Nanital, before his admission to DPS Mathura Road school in New Delhi.

After graduating from Delhi's Sri Venkateswara College, Mr Gupta arrived in Australia to pursue his MBA degree.

"I was admitted to schools in the US and Scotland. But I chose Australia as it was the only country that allowed 20 hours of weekly work back then," he says.

Mr Gupta says the other most important thing for him was cricket and the culture of Australia. 

"I used to follow the Benson & Hedges series in India and wanted to enjoy the game and beer in stadiums like Australians," he says, adding that his elder brother had already moved to Adelaide in 1991.  

After completing his MBA in 1994, Mr Gupta started his career with another property development firm, Landlease, in Sydney and worked for the company in various roles for 26 years. He rose to the ranks of global CFO before joining rival firm Stockland. 

"Under my watch at Landlease, we delivered various multi-billion projects, including Barangaroo in Sydney, Darling Square and Docklands in Melbourne and RNA Showground in Brisbane," he says. 

So what's his secret to success? 

Mr Gupta says one needs to assimilate with the work culture in a new country. 

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do. It doesn't matter from where you start. Just enter the job market and make a systematic goal in your life. Think where you want to see yourself in the next four to five years," says Mr Gupta, adding that he pursued a diploma course in his interest area while on the job.

Mr Gupta insists it is also essential to maintain one's uniqueness in a new country.

"I use many Indian proverbs such as 'sabar ka fal meetha hotha hai' (the fruit of patience is sweet), and 'aam khao guthaliya mat gino (Eat mango, do not count trees), then I translate them into English for my colleagues," he says.

"People find it interesting and unique. If you assimilate, I believe Australians will respond positively too. Don't hesitate in breaking the barriers," says Mr Gupta, explaining how he broke the cultural barriers by inviting his colleagues and friends over for barbeques. 

Mr Gupta says he would fire his tandoor and treat them with Indian delicacies like tandoori (roasted) chicken and naan bread. "I have become the master chef at home."

He says Australia rewards hard-working people and the "sky is the limit for ambitious people".

Listen to the podcast in Hindi by clicking on the audio icon inside the picture at the top. 

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