Early Life

Owais Dagra was born on September 7, 1964 in Karachi, Pakistan.

1964-1976

Owais Dagra was born to a family with strained financial resources. His father worked as a hardware salesman in Pakistan, but his work would be adversely affected by his deteriorating health.

In 1973, Owais Dagra’s father became critically ill with cardiac disease. Focusing on their son’s future, his family wanted to provide him with better living conditions, schooling, and future prospects.

In 1976, the family relocated Owais, who was 11 at the time, to Richmond, Virginia in the United States to live with his aunt who held a low-wage position with the local Red Cross.

1976-1980

When Owais arrived to the United States at such a young age, he experienced somewhat of a culture shock.

Owais enrolled in middle school in Richmond, Virginia. His aunt worked a low-income job, and could not afford to fund his personal expenses because of economic limitations. At a very young age, Owais realized that he would have to take it upon himself, to work, earn money, and pay for his own personal expenses.

Owais started to look for work at the age of 11. The most apparent opportunity he could identify at the time, given his age, was delivering newspapers before school. The only route available was one that no other kid wanted because of its uphill rides. The circulation manager refused to give Owais the job because he had no experience as a paperboy and he was too young.

Somehow, Owais convinced the manager to give him an opportunity. Owais did not own a bicycle to carry out his newspaper route duties, so he negotiated a $100 loan from the newspaper’s circulation manager, with $50 allocated for the bicycle, which he purchased from the Salvation Army, and the remaining $50 for the basket holding the newspapers, plus other required accessories.

Even though Owais was very young, he exhibited a natural ability of “searching for solutions”. This newspaper route helped Owais build and develop a recurring characteristic for his future pursuits of applying “raw intelligence.”

He started to deliver the uphill newspapers by taking longer and more unconventional routes that did not require the level of physical strength of the traditional route. He left for his newspaper route two hours early every day, so he wouldn’t be late for school, and could finish the job in time.

Owais started the route backwards, so that he would be delivering the papers downhill. This re-routing enabled him to mitigate the fatigue associated with the traditional route, although it took more time. The newspaper route became methodical. Owais started to renegotiate other routes and incorporated other boys to run certain routes for him.

A few months later, Owais supported his additional economic needs by serving as a cook at a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

Very early in life, Owais embraced being humble, modest and down-to-earth. There was no shame in working as the local “paper boy” or frying chicken at the neighborhood KFC.

At school, Owais found a new love and passion for basketball. He tried out for the team and was cut due to his height. Being an average 5’6, he lacked the height, physicality and endurance of the ideal candidate. However, he wouldn’t give up so easy.

He targeted each area and planned on improving himself. He improved his physicality by joining the wrestling team at school. To develop endurance he joined the track team and started conditioning himself as a runner.

Owais focused on the skills of the game. He knew he would best fit in the team as a guard, so he trained extensively on free throws, distance shooting and reflexes. He joined the Dana Kirk Camp held at VCU, where he was awarded two trophies for foul shooting and spot shooting. He also made the All-Star team in the county league.

However, due to circumstances about to come in to play in his life, his passion for basketball took the backseat, as he would be unable to continue playing. Nevertheless, this phase embedded in him the value and rewards of unconventional thinking, target-orientation and hard work.

In 1979, his father came to the United States for heart treatment – as his health condition was critical. His father’s health had been failing for years.

Owais’s father clearly instructed him, not to return to Pakistan because he wanted Owais to build his future in the United States. His father saw how much Owais had grown and developed as a person, and he visualized Owais being more successful in this environment than back in Pakistan.

In 1980, due to his father’s deteriorating condition and against his father’s will, Owais dropped out of high school, abandoning a life filled with opportunity, to return to Pakistan. Being the eldest son, Owais felt this huge sense of responsibility towards his two little sisters and his mother, thus feared for the fate of his family should anything happen to his father.

Within two years, his father suffered a fatal heart attack, dying in Owais’ arms.

“True strength of character requires painful actions to attain the moral peaks of responsibility.” 
 Owais Dagra