I was kicked out of school at 17 & my family of NINE shared a three-bed house – now I'm one of richest men in Britain | The Sun08/29/2023
A MAN who was expelled from school at 17 has now become one of the richest men in Britain.
Vishal Karia, 33, is currently worth a whopping £98million, having founded cosmetics shop Affinity Fragrances in 2016.
The designer wholesaler has quickly become a large distributor of products made by Hugo Boss, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Aramis and other top brands.
But Vishal's success did not come without overcoming huge setbacks in a heartwarming story of rags to riches.
At one point in his childhood, nine members of his family lived at their three-bedroom home in Wembley, London.
But his parents' discipline and hard work – along with his father's entrepeneurial success with a pharmaceutical venture – meant they could afford a place for him at independent school Merchant Taylors'.
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However, life was not easy for Vishal as a teen and he ended up being kicked out from the prestigious school.
Vishal recalls the moment that he was told he would be getting expelled.
He told The Times: "I’d always felt like a bit of misfit as I’d come from a state school — we weren’t well off.
“I was being asked, or told really, that I would be leaving.
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“I was distraught, heartbroken to be separated from my mates. That was the hardest thing.”
Karia, who was plagued by an inability to focus in class, had got CDEUU grades in his AS levels.
He added: “I was being told off a lot for being disruptive. I mean, I just wanted to talk to my friends.”
It took another seven years for Vishal to find out why concentrating at school had been so difficult.
He was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and from an early age was exhibiting many of the symptoms of the disorder without realising.
And despite his early exit from school, Vishal believes the condition is also the reason that he has built a £100 million business in only seven years.
One aspect of the disorder is that sufferers can be capable of “hyperfocus” – an ability to maintain an unusually long, intense level of attention.
He said: “It’s my superpower. My bandwidth is huge.
"I can shoot off in lots of different directions and cover a lot of ground very quickly.
"I can also retain an incredible amount of information. I can remember 3,500 product prices in my head without a problem.”
Affinity’s success, Karia feels, demonstrates that ADHD need not be a barrier to making it big.
Vishal said: “The public perceptions about the condition are often negative.
“People with the condition often get pigeonholed as disruptive, naughty or unintelligent. I’d love to raise awareness of the condition and help others.”
He advises anyone who believes they may have the condition to get a diagnosis and not be wary of taking medication.
It was not until he was 24 that his GP encouraged him to have a test.
Affinity’s growth has been surprisingly fast with profits having risen to more than £8 million on sales of £100.2 million by 2022.
But Vishal says he owes his success to his parents.
His friends and family lent him money to set up Affinity but his parents also remortgaged the family home to provide seed funding.
“I owe both my dad and my mum so much,” he says.
Vishal continued: “Everything I learnt in business, I learnt from my dad.
“Negotiating, pricing . . . everything. We came from an enterprising family and I’d been going on business trips with him since the age of 14.”
Vishal recently went back to his roots and visited Merchant Taylors.
He said: “I was hurt at the time but all my ill feeling to school went away soon after I left.
"The friends I made there are still my closest mates. I learnt languages when I was there, Spanish, French and Japanese — I use them in business all the time.”
On going back he said: “Nah, not at all. I loved it. It was amazing to see how much it had changed.
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"There were noticeboards about anxiety and mental health.
“I want to talk about how Merchant Taylors’ helped me even though I didn’t stay — and how just being academic and good at exams isn’t the only way to be successful in life.”
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