Course studied: BSc Hons Mathematics, Statistics & Finance, 1997
Position at time of writing: Founder & Director of Traveleyes
Interesting fact: Amar is also an accomplished television presenter, and his appearance on 2020’s series of Celebrity MasterChef marks the first time a blind contestant has appeared on the UK series
Tell us about your background
When I was 18 years old, I lost my sight but I still wanted to explore the world. However, when I was approaching mainstream travel companies as a solo blind traveler, I found that no-one in the entire industry was willing to let me travel without being accompanied by a carer. In the wake of this, and after my successful career as the Head of Finance at one of the UK’s largest international telecommunications firms, I decided I would create Traveleyes, a tour operator that specialises in taking blind travellers all over the world (and back again!).
Since then, I’ve worked with media organisations like the BBC and Channel 4, directing and presenting travel documentaries, exploring the reality of what it’s like to explore the world as a blind person. From Beyond Boundaries in 2004 to 2019's Travelling Blind with Sarah Pascoe and Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul last year, I’ve been all over the world as part of my quest to show that sightseeing isn’t just for the sighted! As well as travel, though, I’ve also taken part in programmes like How to Get Fit Fast and Celebrity MasterChef, trying to change public perceptions about how much we blind folk can really do.
Why did you choose Strathclyde?
I hoped to get myself off to a really good start in life, and I knew that Strathclyde was the place to do that. Its Maths, Stats and Finance course really stood out to me as an opportunity to set myself up for the kind of career that I wanted, and the fact that it was close to my family in Glasgow was just an added bonus!
What has been your most memorable moment from your career so far?
This is a really tough choice to make, but if I had to pick just one moment it would be winning the first ever Stelios Disabled Entrepreneur Award, presented by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou back in 2007.
By that point, I had founded Traveleyes and started presenting on TV, but it was all still quite new to me, so receiving the award really felt like a kind of confirmation or validation that I really needed at that point. It told me “Yes, Amar, keep doing what you’re doing because it’ll all work out!”
What is the best part of your job?
Getting to meet such a huge variety of people! Whether I’m travelling, running Traveleyes, or presenting a documentary, I get the chance to meet so many different people on almost a daily basis, and everyone is just so fascinating! I think it’s one of the things that got me so interested in travel in the first place, actually; the potential to just get out there and strike up conversation with all the people you meet can be so inspiring, and it just makes me want to go further and further afield, discovering all these different ways of life as I go.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Without getting too specific, I’d say my focus right now is on trying to find new ways to change people’s mindsets, both generally and in the way they think about vision impairment. There’s a lot going on right now, and I know from my own experience that in times of personal adversity or massive change we can end up feeling quite overwhelmed, but the important thing is to try and remember that every crisis can be used as an opportunity for improvement.
For example, when I found myself being rejected by travel companies, I realised that it just meant that I had an opportunity to found my own! I know things are really difficult for a lot of us right now, but I’m optimistic that we’ll soon start seeing a lot of people turning lemons into lemonade and really changing things for the better.