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Son of Punjabi Farmer

Concordia University has named an atrium in the John Molson School of Business building after Hardeep (Hardy) Grewal and his wife. (CBC)

Son of Indian farmers came to Canada with $7, former cabbie now owns 2,100 fast-food franchises

By Roberto Rocha, CBC News

Hardeep Singh Grewal, the son of Punjabi sugar-cane farmers, came to Canada from India in 1972 with $7 in his pocket.

Fast-forward 44 years, and the entrepreneur owns 2,100 Subway restaurant franchises in Ontario and the U.S.

Grewal now lives in California, but he stopped by Montreal to revisit his former home — and to donate $1 million to Concordia University to endow MBA scholarships at the John Molson School of Business.

“I achieved with hard work what I wanted to accomplish: my parents’ dream to get an education,” Grewal said at a ceremony at the university Monday.

In recognition for the gift, Concordia has renamed the atrium in the business school in his and his wife’s honour: It is to be called the Hardeep (Hardy) Singh Grewal and Patwant Kaur Grewal Atrium.

Grewal hopes he will inspire future entrepreneurs to work hard and achieve their goals.

“Just have a great work ethic,” Grewal said, when asked what advice he’d give students.

“Work hard, and you’ll get anywhere.”

Working all the time

To make ends meet while attending classes, Grewal worked several jobs, including driving a taxi at night.

“I was working part-time all the time. Wherever I could find a job, I made it happen,” he said.

Hoping to start a new life in California, Grewal and his brother pooled together all the money they had and bought a Subway franchise in Sylmar, a neighbourhood in Los Angeles.

He left his wife in charge of the restaurant, while he worked a job in finance.

“It was a simple business where you don’t have to cook. Just make money and deposit it in the bank,” he said.

But when he saw that the Subway was making more money than his main job, Grewal knew he was sitting on an opportunity. So he started buying more franchises and didn’t stop.

Today, he’s Subway’s master developer in southern Ontario, operating 260 stores in the region.

Along with hard work, he credits education for his success.

“My family was always talking about education. That was my motivation,” he said. “Nobody can take that away from you.”