Students in Focus
Sustainable drinking water, equitable education and saving the tigers – Akhilesh Johnson has big plans for the future.
In 2020, Akhilesh Johnson was back home in Vadodara, India, watching the news for any updates on the COVID-19 border closures in Australia. While he had accepted an offer to study a Master of International Business at the University of Canberra, and was beyond eager to begin his studies, ongoing border closures prevented international travellers from entering the country.
“I remember there were many days where I was quite emotional thinking about what will happen to my future – everything was uncertain,” Akhilesh says.
“In December 2021, I finally got the news that the Australian borders were open. I arrived here on 25 December – on Christmas Day. Australia is my Christmas miracle – because from that point onwards my life has changed a lot.”
Having nearly had his dream slip through his fingers, when he finally grasped it, Akhilesh wasn’t going to let anything stop him. Once he started here, he wasted no time in taking on extracurricular activities and jobs at UC.
“I took up every opportunity that came my way; I joined clubs, I got three different jobs on campus, and I joined so many volunteer programs,” Akhilesh says.
“These roles have shaped me in all these areas of my life, they have helped me in acquire worldly, essentials skills that aren’t taught in classes, like public speaking and communication, Excel and the Microsoft suite. They have made me more confident and outgoing.”
His role as a Student Ambassador was his big break and from there, he also secured roles as a Student Mentor and a Tutor with the Refugee Transition Program. He’s also the President of the Canberra Business Society and the Vice-President of the International Student Society.
Through his roles, he’s impacted the lives of countless UC students. As a Student Ambassador, he shows prospective students what university has to offer them. As a Mentor, he is a supporter and a helping hand for new students as they navigate their studies. The tutoring role aligned with his values of equitable education, and having visited rural areas back home to teach children, he felt he had the skills to help make a difference.
This semester, as he takes on his final unit at the University of Canberra, Akhilesh is also busily working away on multiple passion projects, investing in his hobbies and crafting a solid business strategy to make his ambitious startup stick.
“Sustainability is smart business. I want to pursue my own startup here in Canberra, based around sustainable bottled drinking water. The packaging will be made of a sustainable material, not plastic,” Akhilesh says.
“I'm very lucky to be coached by two business mentors that will help me achieve this. Each week we sit and plan out goals and look to how we can move things forward.”
As if his academic and business pursuits weren’t enough, Akhilesh is passionate about a number of other topics.
“There are only 4,000 tigers in the world right now, which is very less. So that is one of the major things that I want to invest my money in – that and cleaning the water bodies, because my business in the future would be mainly water,” Akhilesh.
“One of the things that we Indians are very well-known for is ‘jugaad’ – a word that means ‘to find tactics for getting things done’. I think I have this in my blood, that is why I’m here.”
While his own ambition and drive are major factors in the choices he’s made, Akhilesh says that without the people in his life, he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“My family has sacrificed a lot for me to be here. I absolutely love travel, I have done a lot of trips around the world, but they haven’t had the same opportunity,” Akhilesh says.
“I work so hard so I can improve my savings, so one day I can offer them a good vacation here, fully sponsored by me. Seeing them here would make me so happy.”
As Akhilesh says, people are the biggest assets or the strength that you have, and he couldn’t be more thankful for those who have supported and uplifted him along his journey.
“You can’t build your own company or achieve success by yourself. You need good people you can rely on. That is where my friends come in. I have good friends, I'm very grateful for them.”
Although he doesn’t know what the next year, five or even ten years will hold, Akhilesh is happy to call Canberra his home for now and remains committed to improving himself, his community, and the world.
“I've been to Sydney and other areas of NSW. While I did love exploring there, coming back to Canberra definitely feels like coming home,” Akhilesh says.
“My journey has been a really joyous ride – 2022 was a massive year for me, a year of success, happiness, joy and a lot of positive development and growth.
“I’d just like to work on myself more and make myself better for the world.”