Made by newcomers, for newcomers: a conversation with Arrive co-founder, Shikha Bhuchar | RBC Ventures

Made by newcomers, for newcomers: a conversation with Arrive co-founder, Shikha Bhuchar

Arrive makes it easier for newcomers to access the information and assistance they need to make a smoother transition to Canada. We sat down with Arrive co-founder Shikha Bhuchar to hear about how Arrive helps newcomers reach life, career and financial goals in Canada.

To learn more about Arrive, please visit www.arrivein.com.

Arrive was one of the first ventures in the RBC Ventures portfolio. Tell us about the early days and how it has evolved. What does Arrive offer newcomers that sets your service apart?

SB: Newcomers come to Canada with dreams and aspirations for a new life, uprooting what they know to create a new life for them and their families. But, in most cases this comes with significant challenges that start from before a newcomer moves to Canada.

My family uprooted their lives and moved to Canada when I was young, with the same hopes to create a new life for us. They were highly educated with a Masters of Engineering and a PhD in English, but they couldn’t get jobs in their fields. In fact, this hard truth forced them to take survival jobs for several years, while going back to school to get Canadian credentials. All of this to give my sister and I a better quality of life, one that they could only dream of. My co-founder, Tricia Jose, and her family had a challenging experience as newcomers as well, having come from the Philippines to establish a new life here in Canada only to face uphill challenges.

Unfortunately, this is all too common and Tricia and I believed that we have an opportunity to build something that could improve the outcomes for newcomers to Canada. Newcomers, which includes permanent residents, temporary foreign workers, international students, and refugees – make Canada a richer place. We are building every day to make Arrive the primary destination for the one million newcomers that are coming in the next three years to find success in their lives in Canada.

In our earliest days, we gathered insights from hundreds of newcomers in WhatsApp groups, picking up families from the airport, and working with different settlement agencies. Through all of these personal interactions, we learned that the biggest motivation to come to Canada is also the biggest challenge that newcomers face: which is to find meaningful employment. This was our “a-ha” moment and Arrive started its journey.

We were excited and very motivated to be part of the solution and support newcomers with programs to help set them up for success in the place that they were going to call home. We experimented with a broad range of services to help anyone on a newcomer journey. The beauty behind Arrive is that our platform is made by newcomers for newcomers, and every single member of the Arrive team is committed to supporting newcomers to Canada. We bring our personal journeys and passion for this space to our work every single day. On Arrive, newcomers can access free tools, resources and personalized programs to help them prepare for career, life and financial aspects of life in Canada.

And then the pandemic hit. How has Arrive stayed relevant to prospective and current newcomers to Canada when the country’s borders were shut to immigration?

SB: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many unforeseen challenges, taking a toll on people all over the world. For newcomers, this meant their plans changed overnight. Putting dreams on hold indefinitely has led to increased anxiety with no clear end in view. In the early days of the pandemic, all we wanted to do was say “We are here for you”, so we stepped up efforts to help newcomers navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic through daily news, articles and resources. Eventually, we narrowed our focus to be where newcomers need us the most -- which is while they are still in their pre-arrival home countries.

Our research shows that it takes upwards of 13 months on average for a newcomer to prepare for landing in Canada. This includes a lot of research, preparing documents, finding temporary housing and then landing. Each phase brings up its own challenges, and Arrive aims to guide newcomers step by step throughout each of the phases. The anxiety faced in regular newcomer journey, coupled with the uncertainty of what immigration will look like post pandemic, makes us believe newcomers need the support more than ever, and Arrive is here to help.

Sometimes this means challenging misconceptions. Newcomers are faced with a reality that they may not be prepared for when moving to Canada, usually when it comes to topics in career, finances, and life. All of these are common themes that Arrive tackles every day. The Arrive App and our blog is constantly updated with resources and tools to help our newcomer community through worksheets, e-books, and live webinars. Once in-person events are allowed again, we’re excited to make those connections too.

What immigration trends do you see emerging from the pandemic? What needs to change?

SB: Interestingly, the pandemic has boosted newcomers’ interest in moving to Canada. This country has always had an extremely positive reputation for the life and opportunity that exists here. The Government of Canada’s plan for immigration over the next three years are the highest levels in Canadian history since 1913. As we progress through the pandemic, the government has shifted focus on promoting newcomers to stay in Canada, and has recently invited more than 90,000 temporary residents and international students to become permanent residents in 2021 through six new immigration streams. This will help maintain immigration levels to historical norms, and also keep the economy going. As we get through the pandemic, we are also seeing the government start to invite newcomers from outside of Canada to prepare for their landing.

Newcomer contributions to the economy is also noteworthy. Newcomers are naturally entrepreneurial, having to start a new life in Canada, so it’s no surprise that data has shown that more newcomers are starting businesses here. This is also important to note because immigrant-owned businesses create a disproportionate number of jobs in Canada.

One other trend is that newcomers are also moving away from larger city centres such as Toronto and Montreal and choosing more rural, up and coming regions of Canada. This is happening because the cost of living is more affordable in these areas, and many provinces are putting in programs to further entice newcomers to move including opening up new job opportunities and subsidized living.

You’ve helped thousands of prospective and successful newcomers understand what it takes to get to Canada. Tell us about a newcomer that you’ve helped.

SB: The entire Arrive team is proud to have helped more than 100,000 newcomers to Canada over the past three years. In our journey to build this company, we have helped many newcomers understand what it takes to move, how to find a job, or set up finances to reach their goals. We are here for them every step of the way.

Memorable moments of Arrive’s journey is when we find out a newcomer has made a successful transition to life in Canada, especially when it comes to their careers. One such story is about a newcomer we met at one of our resume building events. She came to this event with the hope of meeting other newcomers and to learn about how to create a Canadian resume. She had applied to more than 50 jobs each month for several months, none converting to any offer. A few weeks after the Arrive event, the newcomer shared that she not only got an interview, but was offered a full time job – all because of the support she received from us! These are moments we will never forget.

Any final words of wisdom for those who wish to move to Canada?

SB: A big part of the success of Arrive is because of the team behind it, many of us are newcomers, or have newcomer stories that bring us together. Our team has a sense of passion to support newcomers and solve for their pain points, each person comes with unique ideas and perspectives on how we can best be there for this important community.

If I were to summarize any bits of advice or guidance for prospective newcomers, it would be to remember these two words: preparation and patience. Whether it be preparing for the job market, preparing for the move, preparation is your best tool right now. As you think about coming to this country know that it will be different – norms and expectations will not be the same as what you had back home, and that’s okay. You will learn through talking to others, learning on blogs and resources available. It will be hard but it can get easier with your effort.

And finally: patience. It may take a bit longer, but don’t give up, it will be worth it. You came here for a reason, write this reason down so that if/when times get difficult you can always remember your why.

To learn more about Arrive, please visit www.arrivein.com.

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Mike Dobbins