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May: Asian Heritage Month

Member Feature: Alim Somji

May is Asian Heritage Month, and we're promoting some of our Asian Business Owners! This feature spotlights Alim Somji, Executive Vice President, Jaffer Group of Companies.

What inspired you to start your own business?

My father started our businesses as his second career in 2005 and, once I completed University, I joined the business in 2008. Our approach has largely been opportunistic; we've entered into businesses and properties that were undervalued or positioned poorly and reinvested to create larger returns. My father was a lifelong entrepreneur, as his father and mother were before him in East Africa, so it was only natural that I did the same.

What does being an Asian business owner mean to you?

I believe that the South Asian community has been immensely successful over years of immigration to Canada. I am extremely proud to be of that history and grateful that my parents chose to take the risk and uproot their lives to come to Canada. We are privileged to live in Canada and be able to operate our businesses in a relatively safe, equitable environment that simply does not exist in other parts of the world. I think many of our forefathers have set a strong example of how the transition to Canada can look. With so many newly arrived people in Edmonton every day I feel we have an important part to play to create welcoming and safe environments to get settled and start growing as our parents did.

Do you feel your cultural background influences your business practices or strategies? In what ways?

We try to be as flexible as possible, with respect to working hours, medical/holiday days, and times off during the week because we are family focused and expect others to be as well. Cultural practices and holidays are different and we intend for people to be present with their families on the days and times that matter.

Similarly, however, we do place an importance on coming into the office and interacting frequently. Building relationships is extremely important culturally and we feel business is no different. It may not be the most productive but it does allow interpersonal relationships to be built that are responsive and resilient as times change.

Also, those Indian expectations allow us to bring forward to our clients some of the top-tier tech and we want our clients to do really, really well. If we're able to be a small part of it, we're extremely delighted.

In what ways do you celebrate Asian culture within your business or with your customers?

We try and celebrate the days that are important to us - Eid, Navroz, and other Muslim holidays - in addition to those that matter to our staff. Many of our employees volunteer to help their communities celebrate different religious and cultural events and it is important to us to be as supportive as possible to enable them to contribute fully.

Alim Somji
Alim Somji, Jaffer Group of Companies

Jaffer opperates in a number of different industries, including the real estate and construction business, the hospitality business, and digital transformation.


LinkedIn: @The Jaffer Group

Instagram: @thejaffergroup


Is there anything else you would like to share about your business, heritage, or experience as a business owner?

I am part of the second generation of Asian entrepreneurs - I was born in Canada - yet we are undoubtedly still heavily influenced by the practices and approach of our families. I have been extremely lucky to have my father as our business leader and an invaluable mentor to assist with this but I certainly feel that the influence of our background comes out in our interactions with others.

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