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SUCCESSFUL INDIAN OF THE MONTH
Rooma Nanda is currently in the finance industry, working as a residential mortgage consultant. She has over 10 years work experience with various corporates, such as, IBM and Yellow Pages. Rooma has done her MBA from Sydney, and is passionate about learning on a constant basis.  This column is to highlight the achievements of certain individuals who could be a source of inspiration for others. Email 

People who have made a difference in the world have a common personality trait and that is they were born rebels. A heart that does not get restrained by external judgements and believes in its own mission in life is the heart that eventually creates a legacy in the world.

This is how we can best describe our next column guest, Sadhana Smiles, GM of McGrath Estate agents, Neutral Bay, Mosman and Northbridge

Born and bred in Suva, Fiji, Sadhana was growing up to be a rebel as per the traditional norms of a typical Indian culture in her surroundings. She had the spirit of any normal creative human child who would like to experiment with life’s unlimited pleasures but kept getting restricted by the so called man made rules of a limited thinking society, until one fine day her parents decided to give air to her wings and decided to send her to a boarding school in Melbourne.

This was the beginning of a new chapter in her life or perhaps as some people would like to call it her destiny. She was sent to a boarding school in Melbourne at the age of sixteen, where she hated it initially due to the discomfort brought by a huge change. Coming from a comfortable upbringing to sharing rooms and bathrooms was a bit of a shock. Change of diet from curries to vegemite was not easy on a little girl’s taste buds. But as they say ‘the force’ is around you when it wants to help you grow.

She found a guardian in that bewildered state of mind.  Her guardian taught her the fundamental rule of life, that is, “Stand up for who you are and make sure you have a voice that can be heard”.

That teaching changed her attitude towards life and she learnt to embrace the change slowly and never looked back.

Today Sadhana is a proud mother of two beautiful young children, GM of a prestigious real estate company, owner of a small business, Real Change, winner of 2007 Price Water House Coopers Vic/Tas Franchise woman of the year award (she was the first woman in Real Estate to win this award) and 2007 REIV award for Service.

Her past credentials also include titles such as, People & Performance manager at Hocking Stuart, Melbourne’s most prestigious name in RE industry and General Manager Real Estate Institute of Victoria.

Inspite of achieving those big accolades, a humble Sadhana still believes that her real contribution to the society is through a non profitable organisation she runs for Fijian women and children, called LINKS FIJI (www.linksfiji.com).  She was inspired by a Fiji woman named Leba, who died of cervical cancer leaving behind seven children, who had regular pap smear done every year but just after the last one she could not afford $2/- for her bus route to get the results from her doctor. By the time she got to know the reality, it was too late. Sadhana took charge and promised Leba to look after her children and pledged in her mind right there to start off this non profit organisation so other women like Leba could be saved.

 RN: Tell us about yourself, your early education, your family and what brought you to Australia and when?

SS: When I was growing up, I had this tendency to break the traditional rules of a conservative Indian society I was surrounded by. I wore non traditional clothes, made friends outside our cultural norms, did everything possible to prove myself an open and liberal personality.

I was sent to boarding school in Melbourne when I was sixteen to be on my own so I could be disciplined. That did not work as I found independence and started to live even more liberally. Those were interesting times in my life as on one hand, I found this independence but on the other hand, I was terribly out of my comfort zone, trying to adjust to a new society.

The best thing happened to me at the time was that I found a guardian who taught me fundamentals of life. It was a new beginning for me and I never looked back from there onwards.

RN: You have a very impressive track record as P&P manager with Hocking Stuart and GM RE services, REIV and now GM LNS property. You have also been an entrepreneur having your own business and have won 2007 PWC Franchise woman of the year. Tell me, if I were to get into your mindset, how would I see the world differently? Meaning what kind of perception and understanding would it take to achieve this reality? How much is this to do with your early education, your upbringing and then learning afterwards on a constant basis?

SS:  Good question, I am a very driven person and have always raised the benchmark on what I want to achieve in life, I have never accepted the norm that women can’t be paid equal or have equal management jobs, in my mind I have a clear picture of what I want in terms of career, the types of biz I want to work in, people I want to work with and the environment. I also have people around me who push me and hold me accountable, I see the world as I can achieve anything as long as I am committed to it, prepared to do the hard yards, accept that I will make mistakes, learn from them, and push to the next stage. Many see me as a role model which is humbling, I just see myself as me, I have a lot more to do yet, only just started.

RN: What would be a daily schedule in the life of Sadhana Smiles for seven days a week?

SS: I wake up around 6am and go to the gym every alternate day. I then go back home, get ready and get to work by around 8ish. My day is mostly packed with meetings with first line managers. The most hectic days start from 5am and does not finish till late night but that’s only when there is some urgent project pending.

My PA mostly blocks my calendar with meetings and she knows my priorities. I need socialising after hours so I try not to do meetings after work. Most busy days have five meetings lined up back to back. I personally do not believe in compartmentalising the week as emergencies happen and you have to deal with those. Overall, I prefer prioritising work as per urgency.

RN: What is the key factor in managing people in big organisations where a competitive environment, especially in sales, can be the biggest challenge for managers? Please also give us your advice on successful and smart delegation.

SS: Do not expect people to be exactly like you. Help them shine. If you want the work done, you can not beat on their head all the time and treat them like children. Work with their strengths, sit down with them one on one and work out the solutions together like adults. If there are skill gaps then train them. No matter how senior they are, they need to be trained and everyone has to be on a KPI’s (key performance indicators).

The best way to deal with complicated situations is to confront them, back it with data and numbers and have an open communication. My colleagues say that I am firm but fair. I believe behaviour is the biggest part of management. A manager has to mimic the behaviour what they want to see in their people. Hold yourself to higher level of behaviour, which is, honesty, transparency, having fun, etc,. You need to show them your softer side. People have to believe in you and in your passion before they start implementing your values in your business.

I believe in Gandhi’s philosophy of “you must be the change you want to see in the world”.

RN: I personally think that foundations of a company should be strong before it looks at growth, which means the processes and people should be properly in place before an entrepreneur starts to stretch it further. What would be your advice for small business owners who would like to grow their business on a steady platform? What fundamental strategies, tools or processes should be in place before creating a momentum in sales?

SS: Yes, it is important that the basics are well founded before growth. You need the people, technology, systems, culture, speed to delivery, great customer service, people who deliver memorable experiences, biz plan, KPIs to hold people and biz accountable to, regular reviews, adjust and go again.

RN: I recently came across an interesting concept in one of Dr Demartini’s lectures that one of the seven powers in human life is vocational power. If you choose your vocation as per you calling, you will never feel the urge to go on vacation because your vocation becomes your vacation. I personally believe in this concept very strongly. So if I were to ask you, if you were to define yourself in terms of your calling, would you feel that strong affiliation with your work?

SS: Yes, I certainly believe in calling and I have found mine. I run a non profitable organisation in Fiji called LinksFiji (www.linksfiji.com). I started this organisation around ten years back and now we are running it from here in Australia. I got inspired by a woman named Leba who had her pap smear every year but missed out on the results of her last one before the cancer engulfed her life. And that was only due to the reason for not having the bus fair for her to go to the doctors and collect her results. I was so moved by the story that I decided to help her children she left behind and hence started helping those women who wanted help and education to improve their lives.

We have a board, supporters who donate funds or services and amazing volunteers all who enable us to visit Fiji on a regular basis.  

Our biggest challenge is fund raising. We would like people to do their tiny bit, even with $2.50/- to pay for a woman like Leba’s bus fair so she doesn’t miss out on her pap smear test results.

RN: Now a question which is on my mind these days. I feel passionate about basics of life; that is learning from your own conscious which is free of information collected from media or external influences and hence creating your own unique legacy in the world the way Einstein, Darwin or Gandhi did. At that point in time there was no media, not many books; quite contrary to the way we are today, inundated by external influences. Do you think an overflow of information is probably diminishing our own talents and hence we are getting distracted in expanding our own creativity?

SS: Yes, absolutely, because the only way you can move forward in life is by believing in yourself. The only challenge in life is that how far you would like to go. Yes, you should read books but follow your own thinking and instincts.

RN: Learning should be a constant in life. How do you choose your mentors for a consistent growth?

SS:  I think we can learn from everyone and find mentors everywhere. When my mum wakes up early in a winter morning at 5am to go for a walk, she becomes my inspiration. When I see someone else doing what I would like to do but don’t do, they become my inspiration. So mentors can be found everywhere.

RN: Tell us about your interests and hobbies. How do you like to rest and recharge?

SS: I like to eat, socialise, read, going out.

RN: Would you like to share your vision with us? How do you see yourself ten years from now?

SS: I would like to grow LINKS FIJI, would like to have financial security so I can create my vocation as vacation, have healthy and loving relationships with my family and children. My vision is also to merge the two cultural values into one. For eg, I am still Indian in my heart and love to cook Indian food at home and I love to make the two cultures merge in harmony.

In the Previous Issues:

Anshul Dayal
Sunil Jha
Shivani Gupta
Dilip Rao
Tinku Band
Sheba Nandkeolyar
Bobby Singh
Anupam Sharma
Vikrant Kapoor - Zaaffran Restaurant
Rashmi Mehrotra 
Dr. Jagnnath Mazumdar
Naville Roach - Fujitsu Australia
Dr Arapaut Sivaprasad - WebGenie Systems
Suda Navada
Jeet Bindra - Caltex
Dr. Bhuvan Unhelkar
Safina Uberoi - My Mother India
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