Cancer caring through integrative healing

Starting her career around 2013 with a non-profit organisation in New York, that used movement therapy to rehabilitate cancer patients exposed her to the concept of Integrative Oncology.

She brought this concept to India and implemented it in 2018. Since then her organisation, CARER, has been working up close and personal with multiple cancer patients, survivors and caregivers, helping them change their lifestyle and manage their condition better.

Samara Mahindra believes this is where her passion lies. Being able to take all the knowledge that she has gained and access to high quality healthcare, and in turn provide the same to people who need it most.

Here she responds exclusively to some questions from AsiaBizToday.

Which are the services that CARER provides?

CARER provides integrative and holistic therapies in the form of clinical nutrition, physical rehabilitation and mental wellbeing to cancer patients on treatment and post. The objective is to help decrease symptoms, improve immunity, quality of life and work towards decreasing risks of relapse.

What was your trigger and motivation to get into this?

The trigger was when I experienced cancer as a caregiver, while my mother fought it for over 6 years. While we had exposure to high quality medical care, there were no solutions available to manage the other conditions that exist for the patient, such as nutrition deficiency, physically rehabilitation or mental health. Which eventually decreased her quality of life substantially and her resilience to fight the disease any longer.

What have been your experiences in this initiative?

The most important facet required to be a leader in healthcare, is compassion and empathy. The only way we can face the challenges and fight the odds is by getting your team to understand the importance of the work you do and inculcating empathy as the number one trait.

Which are the important factors that keep you going?

Knowing that I am making a difference to someone’s life and giving back in whatever way i can.  Along with this, is persistence, resilience and always listening to your intuition.

Have you faced any obstacles in your initiatives? Any specific challenges because of being a woman?

I have faced multiple obstacles as everyone else. Such as the adoptability or acceptability of what we are doing in healthcare, due to being the first mover in the space. I have never faced any specific challenge of being a woman entrepreneur in India. In fact, it has been widely accepted and welcomed.

Where do you usually find inspiration from?

I have certain people that I look upto, but mainly from my patients and myself.

What’s your proudest moment so far?

When strangers come up to me and tell how CARER has changed the life of their loved ones.

How would you define success?

When you know you have given the best version of yourself towards what you love, which in turn has made this world a better place.

What Advice do you have for other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women?

We have an innate ability to be logical, fair and compassionate at the same time. Every one of us has the ability to make a difference and the key is to push forward and know that you are good enough no matter what.

Happiness breeds success

Belonging to Hyderabad, the second largest city of Pakistan’s most populated province, Sindh, Anum Ali Laghari was motivated to bring about a positive change and wanted to create an impact among the marginalized group of society.

When this realisation dawned, she went about setting up a non-profit organisation, I Help – Touching Souls while still doing her graduate studies. Her passion to give back to the society led her to establish this organization to serve the people in need, as many as possible.

In this exclusive chat with AsiaBizToday, Anum Laghari shares her about her work and insights.
Activities that you undertake?

Currently I am working on two social causes – Educating underprivileged students, who can’t afford formal and non-formal education as well as Working for women’s reproductive rights.

For the underprivileged students, we are running a charitable Street School. According to Pakistan government estimates, around 22.8 million children in the age group of 5-16 are out of school. Pakistan has the world’s second highest number of children out of school due to lack of economical recourses.

The charitable school was established April 2017 with help of friends and family and has served more than 250 students thus far. Currently 45 students are enrolled in the school. We provide free formal and non-formal education along with medical assistance when required and the school also provides stationery and books to the students.

With regards to Women’s Reproductive Rights, I am working with Marie Stopes Society on providing awareness and services on reproductive health rights and family planning to the vulnerable women. I work as District Manager, Operations at Marie Stopes Society. It’s my paid job but for a cause, I supervise around 25 staff members of my team and our private service providers including lady doctors, nurses and paramedics in my district.
Your trigger and motivation to get into this.
I hail from a privileged family and I grew up dreaming to be a social activist to help as many as possible. Lifting up others and transforming their lives has helped me turn my dream into reality. I started my journey of social services to help the one in need without any greed or wanting anything in return.

Your experiences in a leadership position?
Being a leader is difficult. It involves setting the right example and being a role model. For leaders it is important for their teams to act and perform. All eyes are on you, watching your every move as you set the expectations for the team.

If the leadership team is smartly dressed and punctual, then this will encourage the team to replicate this behaviour. They will look at your willingness to roll up your sleeves and get involved to achieve the team goals, they will look to see how you communicate at all hierarchical levels and they will analyze how accountable you are when things are going badly. Being a good role model for your business is vital if you want your team members to be as professional as you are.

Important factors that keep you going?
My passion, will and commitment towards the work I’m doing, keeps me going.

Any obstacles in your initiatives, specifically because of being a woman?
Being a woman I have faced many challenges. In my country there is no debate over the fact that men are given unfair advantages over women under unquestionable circumstances. Unofficial policies exist in private as well as government institutions with regard to the hiring of women, as it is commonly believed that they will either get married and quit, or take days off or leaves during their maternity periods. This is downright discrimination and this, of course, robs women of many good opportunities that places them at a lower position in the society.

Your source of inspiration?
I’m inspired by my father as he has always been a source of support for me while doing all my projects and the other one is the angel of mercy, Abdul Sattar Edhi. His Edhi Foundation runs the world’s largest volunteer ambulance network, along with homeless shelters, animal shelter, rehab centers and orphanages across Pakistan.

Your proudest moment so far?
When I witnessed the students of my charitable school starting to write and read the sentences written in the English language. It was like I had achieved my objective.

Your definition of success?
Happy woman is a successful woman. When you are satisfied and happy from what you are doing, you are successful.

Your advice to other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women?
My advice for entrepreneur women is simple and it is to have concrete goals. Do not be afraid to fail. Failures are great proof that you have taken the necessary risks in your journey.

Don’t just follow your passion; do what you are good at

Starting her career as a lawyer from  1994 to 2007, Chih Ching moved into real estate, investment  and management.  This is where she realised  that she was  good  at  real  estate  concepts and then the transition into   luxury   properties   and   hospitality  came naturally.

With a passion  in  real  estate,  interior  design  and   hotels she was constantly looking to   invent   new   concepts   that   have not   been previously  thought   of   by   others   and   are   lacking   in   Singapore.   When   she was  younger,   she would   save   enough   money   to   visit   and   see   buildings  and  hotels  that  caught  her fancy,  no  matter  how  far  or  exotic  the  destination   was.   Most   of   the   time, her travel   destinations   were  highly  influenced  by  hotels.

Today she is most  passionate  and  determined  to  build  things  that  are  value  for  money.  She believes that the notion  “value  for  money”  doesn’t  always   have   to   be   synonymous   with   low   cost   and   low   pricing.  Instead,  it  is  about  offering  enough  to  make  guests  or  buyers  feel  that  their  money  is  well  spent.

A young Chih Ching always  dreamt of   building   the   most   expensive   residences.   Today,   she would  rather build  the  residence  with  the  best  value.  This  entails  using  quality  and  sustainable  products  along  with  the  best  use  of  spaces.

Ong Chih Ching ,  Executive Chairman & Executive Director at KOP Limited speaks to AsiaBizToday on what it means to be a woman leader in the property development business.

Can  you  talk us through your current activities?
Being   the   executive   chairman   of   KOP   sounds   like   a   glamorous  position,  but  it  also  means  that  I  have  to  be  responsible  for  every  aspect   of   the   company.   While   it   is   customary   for   me   to   give   a  broad  and  overarching  direction,  on  some  days,  I  do  find  myself  dealing   closely   with   my   team   on   small   issues   of   the   business.   I  would  like  to  think  of  it  as  a  hands – on  approach.

What  was  your  trigger  and  motivation  to  get  into  this?
I am  mostly  driven  by  my  sense  of  responsibility.  In  my  position,  I  have   to   be   quick   to   make   decisions   to   help   move   the   business  forward.  Once  we  say  that  we  are  going  to  do  something,  we  will  complete  it  regardless  of  how  difficult  it  is.

What  have  been  your  experiences  in  this  leadership  position?
As  a  leader,  I  believe  it  is  very  important  to  have  a  vision.  And  I  am  always  clear  of  my  vision.  It  is  about  articulating  and  communicating  the  vision  clearly  to  the  team,  and  I  believe  I  have  done  that  successfully  thus  far.

Which  are  the  important  factors  that  keep  you  going?
First  of  all,  I  am  a  very  driven  and  curious  person.  I  have  a  lot  of  creativity  and  I  am  constantly  inspired  whenever  I  travel  and  would  apply  new  ideas  to  real  estate.  Furthermore, I always  look  for  ways  to  turn  my  inspiration  into  opportunities  to  enhance  people’s  lifestyle  and  fill  up  the  gaps  in  the  real  estate  business.

Have  you  faced  any  obstacles  in  your  initiatives?  Do  you  think  you  have  faced  specific  challenges  because  of  being  a  woman?
Yes,  all  the  time.  Being  a  woman  in  a  male dominated  world  like    real  estate,  we  have  to  always  prove  ourselves  more  through  our  creativity  and  uniqueness.  It  is  also  important  to  be  more  vigilant,  sensitive  and  detailed.

Where  do  you  usually  find  inspiration  from?
From   every   aspect   of   my   life.   My   inspiration   comes   from   my  travels  and  daily  interactions  with  people,  especially  the  younger  generation.   I   am   fascinated   by   the   zeitgeist   of   their   generation.  These   days,   whatever   you   pay   and   play   online   turns   into  something   real.   That   is   something   I   would   like   to   achieve   in  Wintastar  Shanghai — to  create  an  atmosphere  that  is  immersive  and  highly  experiential  and  have  activities  that  are  more  exciting  and  challenging,  which  they  cannot  get  from  their  phones.

What’s  your  proudest  moment  so  far?
I am  proud  of  every  single  project  we  have  done.  But  if  I  have  to  pick  one,  it  would  be  Montigo  Resorts  and  I  think  of  it  as  a  miracle.  In  a  way,  Montigo  has  made  Batam  an  accepted  place  to  visit  and  has  in  fact  become  a  landmark  for  Batam.  Nowadays,  if  you  ask  people   where   they   are   staying   in   Batam,   most   of   them   will   say  Montigo   Resorts   or   have   heard   of   Montigo   Resorts.   Before  Montigo  Resorts  came  about,  I  had  a  vision:  as  long  as  you  create  something  nice,  it  does  not  matter  where  you  are.

How  would  you  define  success?
I think  KOP  has  created  a  lot  of  iconic  projects  around  the  world  such   as   Singapore,   London,   Indonesia etc.   and   currently   we   are  embarking   on   one   in   Shanghai.   All   these   have   led   to   a   trail   of  legacies  and  the  next  thing  is  to  create  a  sustainable  cash  flow.  I  think  it  is  very  easy  to  say  you  have  arrived  but  it’s  more  difficult  to  arrive  and  stay  there.  Success  to  me  at  this  point  is  to  be  sustainable  and  have  longevity.

What  advice  do  you  have  for  other  aspiring  Entrepreneurs,  especially  women? 
First,  do  not  follow  your  passion,  because  passion  is  an  emotion  that  changes.  Always  do  what  you’re  good  at.  Even  if  you  don’t  like  what  you’re  good  at,  when  you  start  to  achieve  results,  you  will  begin  to  love  it.  This  is  especially  for  women,  as  many  young  women   entrepreneurs   have   this   quest   and   urge   to   change   the  world.  While  it  is  a  very  noble  aspiration,  it  is  more  important  to  have   a   real   business   plan   where   the   business   can   be   profitable  and  sustainable.  I  believe  in  living  to  fight  for  another  day.

Surround yourself with fearless women

Having worked in Branding, Marketing & Sales in Events, Hospitality, Property &  Real Estate development, Shan Wong has always been drawn to job opportunities that involved executing  new ideas and developing a new brand. It is something that has given her great satisfaction to create campaigns or initiatives, and see it through from infancy to eventual revenue generation.

Feeling blessed to have risen to leadership positions in her career, she credits this largely to the people she has had the privilege to work with. Shan believes that she is most successful and effective when her team shares a common goal and operates in an environment of friendship, teamwork, open sharing, and mutual respect.

Making an unconventional move in her career, she quit her job in marketing for Keppel Land in 2016 to take on her family’s business in the construction industry. Shan Wong, currently the Managing Director at Let Hoe Building Materials Pte Ltd is based in Singapore and shared her experiences in this chat with AsiaBizToday.

What is your current line of business?
I manage Let Hoe Building Materials, and we are a distributor of wood panels, timber and veneers imported from America, Europe and Asia. The company was established in 1982 by my late father,  and over the years, we have provided our wood veneers to many landmark interior projects for high end hotels, condominiums, boutiques and restaurants in the region.

What was your trigger and motivation to get into this?
With Keppel Land, I was posted to Guangdong as part of a Pre-Opening team to create the brand and positioning of an iconic waterfront lifestyle project. It was a challenging posting with a lot of milestones to achieve in a short amount of time, but surviving the intense experience was life changing for me. Although I returned to a comfortable position within the company 2 years later, to head a Marketing team that manages 7 products within the Hospitality division, I felt unfulfilled.

When I first returned from China, my mother approached me with the intention to retire. I wasn’t ready to change gears then, but I’ve always had a feeling of gratitude towards the family business. Although I had a business that belonged to my family, I have spent my entire career working on other people’s businesses. This realization, accompanied by my mother’s retirement, triggered me to join Let Hoe.

What have been your experiences in this leadership position?
Having been in the market for almost 40 years, Let Hoe was already a mature business with a loyal following when I took over. Our employees, suppliers and clients had been with us for decades. However, although stable, revenue growth was sluggish. The challenge for me was to study the processes of a well-oiled machine, identify potential blind spots and initiate improvements in branding, sales, HR, procurement and operations. The business was stuck in a time before the internet. Our SOPs and business methods were outdated and inefficient. Hence the past 3 years have been spent rebranding, restructuring and going online.

I have been told my strength is in people management, and if that is true, I am surely putting this skill to good use in Let Hoe. The initiatives I have introduced inevitably created discomfort in stakeholders, but I am determined to ensure our culture remains one that is based on friendship, teamwork, open sharing and mutual respect.

Which are the important factors that keep you going?
For the first time in my career, I have the opportunity to grow a company that belongs to me. Knowing that I am in the position to empower and improve the lives of employees who have been with us through generations keeps me motivated.

Have you faced any obstacles in your initiatives? Do you think you have faced specific challenges because of being a woman?
The construction industry is 90% male dominated, and from all walks of life. I have had some uncomfortable things said to me, but I don’t see them as obstacles or challenges. Just for laughs, I will quote remarks that have been made to me by older, and mostly well-meaning business associates.
1. ‘Oh that’s nice you have decided to get into the business. Don’t you have any brothers? No? How about your husband?’
2. ‘You are quite attractive. But this industry is more suited for men. You will soon understand.’ Throughout my career I have experienced varying degrees of gender bias in the workplace. But I have learnt to navigate my way through and excel regardless. On the contrary, I credit a lot of my successes to being a woman. Sometimes in business negotiations, being underestimated gives us the upper hand.

Where do you usually find inspiration from?
I have a strong support system of resilient girlfriends who own successful businesses in tech, e- commerce and manufacturing. I draw inspiration from their stories.

What’s your proudest moment so far?
My proudest moment happened in 2019 when the business saw a 20% growth in revenue. When all is said and done, all successful initiatives should have a positive impact on revenue.

How would you define success?
I would measure success with happiness. For me, happiness follows the peace that comes with finding your purpose in life and walking in it.

What Advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women?
Be fierce. Surround yourself with other fearless women, as courage is contagious.