Ajinkya (AJ) Jagdale’s first day in New Zealand wasn’t as easy as it is for many new arrivals.

When the then 18-year old landed at Auckland Airport from Mumbai, India, en route for Taranaki to study a degree in hotel management at Pacific International Hotel Management School (PIHMS), AJ discovered his luggage hadn’t made the trip.

“I had an hour and a half to track it down, then run to get my connecting flight to New Plymouth,” he says. The day went from bad to worse as AJ dislocated his shoulder shortly after arriving. His new teachers had to take him to the hospital for his first night in the country.

Fortunately, AJ’s fortunes have well and truly turned around; since that day in 2005 he has built a successful business and a life for himself in Taranaki, starting by learning the many intricacies of hotel management.
“My mum placed huge importance on making visitors to our home feel welcome, and my dad taught us the value of working hard,” AJ says.

The Jagdale family was focused on education and his parents sacrificed a lot for him to attend a good boarding school in India. The school had international students from all over the world which heled open AJ’s eyes to other cultures and made him curious about travelling and studying abroad. It’s perhaps unsurprising that when AJ met the team from PIHMS at a study fair in India, he made the decision to come to Taranaki to study at the specialist hotel and hospitality private training academy, where students live on site in accommodation run just like a hotel.

“To be honest I knew very little about New Zealand before I came here - just a bit about the cricket team,” he says. But after getting a part-time job in one of New Plymouth’s burgeoning up-market bars, AJ quickly built a wide network of friends and business contacts.

“The owner Mark Louis was a great mentor, welcoming me back whenever I returned from an industry placement, part of the learning process at PIHMS. He became a friend, a mentor, and now a business partner.”

AJ and Mark have teamed up to create a string of successful of restaurants and bars which are winning favour with Taranaki locals and visitors alike. But it’s the life beyond the often tough hours of the hospitality sector that have kept AJ in Taranaki.

“This is the perfect place to run a business and still have a great lifestyle,” he says, while acknowledging that meeting his wife Kate, a Taranaki local, was also a factor in the decision to stay.
“There’s just so much to do here; arts, culture, sports and lots of business opportunities. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be!”
During their days off the couple like to visit the beach walk the dog and catch up with friends. And It’s been easy to keep in touch with family back in India, even with the demands of owning a business he manages to get back to India to visit family and friends once a year.

AJ’s advice to people considering moving to Taranaki for study or work is, “get to know kiwi culture, find out how they do things and respect that, but at the same time make sure you retain your identity. People will understand what is like to be somewhere new and will help your through any challenges that you face.”