When an optometry student couldn’t pay for his train ticket, a kind stranger stepped in – and ended up helping him start his career at Specsavers. It was 2016 and Vaishal Dave was on a train from Leicester to Birmingham New Street when he realised he’d forgotten his wallet.
The third-year optometry student, en-route to lectures at Aston University, began to panic as the conductor approached. ‘I thought I could talk my way out of it,’ Vaishal recalls. ‘But the conductor said, “You’re going to have to get off at the next stop.”
‘All of a sudden, a guy a few seats down got up and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for your ticket.”’
After buying Vaishal’s £17 ticket, the stranger returned to his seat.
Vaishal says: ‘I felt very relieved and grateful. I went over to say thank you and we started talking. He asked where I was going and I told him I was an optometry student on my way to Aston University. Then he told me what he did. I couldn’t believe it!’
The stranger was Nimesh Popat, then a divisional relationship manager at Specsavers.
After talking for the 50-minute journey, the pair swapped numbers and kept in touch. Vaishal says: ‘I offered to pay him back but he wouldn’t let me! He asked how uni was going and whether I’d found a pre-reg position – which I had, at Leicester Royal Infirmary.’
In September 2017, Nimesh became Specsavers’ director of professional recruitment and retention. Meanwhile, his wife, Hina, had just become joint venture partner for a soon-to-be-opened Specsavers store in Syston, Leicestershire, and was looking for a resident optometrist. Nimesh contacted Vaishal.
Vaishal says: ‘I had an interview and when Hina offered me the position I didn’t think twice – I took it!’
From left to right, Vaishal, Nimesh and Hina
Nimesh says: ‘I was brought up to think that life is about giving, not just taking, so I help people when I can. When I saw this kid was going to be kicked off the train, I thought that paying for his ticket was the right thing to do. I thought it could be my son in that situation in a few years’ time!
‘I get a really good buzz out of helping people, and that’s why I do the role that I do. I get to support our partners, build our brand, increase our graduate numbers, find more audiologists and optometrists and give them the training and development they need.
‘Vaishal is an incredibly enthusiastic young man with bags of loyalty who’d like to become a partner. It will be good for him to be nurtured so eventually he can become a joint venture partner with his own store.’
Specsavers’ Syston store opened on 1 February. Vaishal says: ‘The team is fantastic – everyone’s so helpful and supportive. I couldn’t ask for a better place as a newly-qualified optometrist.
‘Nimesh and Hina are two wonderful individuals from whom I’ve learnt that kindness and belief open doors for any opportunity. I’ll always be grateful for that simple act of kindness shown by Nimesh on the train.’
He concludes: ‘I really believe things happen for a reason. The chances of me getting on the same train as Nimesh that day… the coincidence was amazing. I’d say it was fate!’
Vaishal offers to repay the £17 to Nimesh
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