The first Indian-Australian Entrepreneur to win the Times Now ICICI Bank NRI of the Year Award 2016, Mr. DD Saxena, Managing Director of ROBE (Riverina Oils & BioEnergy) shares his journey, his inspiration, his philosophy in life and a lot more in an exclusive interview with Indus Age. Excerpts:
By Nidhi Kumari
You were conferred with the prestigious Indian Australian Ambassador of the Year award for 2015 and now you have won one of the most coveted awards honouring Indians across the globe, Times Now ICICI Bank NRI of the Year Award 2016. How does this feel?
This is a special privilege and it’s great to receive this award in the motherland. Frankly, I am humbled to be recognised at that level.
You’re the first Indian entrepreneur from Australia to win this. What do you have to say on that?
Obviously it shows how difficult it is being in Australia and getting the award in the whole of Asia Pacific. There are many billion dollar enterprises run successfully by Indians in Asia but the complexity of establishing and operating a successful business in Australia has its own serious challenges. This perhaps is the reason for the award.
As an entrepreneur your journey had full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Keeping yourself strong and firm for all these years, require immense courage and valour. What is it that has kept you going?
I am fortunate to have had the support of my family and colleagues; our success has been driven by a strong belief. Having conviction, passion and a clear strategy with a committed organisation and shareholders have been behind me. One needs a lot of resilience, patience and a desire to succeed.
Today, Riverina Oils & BioEnergy (Robe) is bracketed as a shining light in the Agri-Business sector. How would you describe your journey when you had started till date?
It has been an amazing journey. In the beginning the project was plagued by delays and financial difficulties. There were significant challenges in getting this project up. We started Greenfield without any employees. Having invested $150 million we now have the single largest Food/ Agri investment in Australia during the last eight years. We have built the best factory in the Asia Pacific; make the best products (Canola Oil and Protein Meal) in Australia. The only Non Genetically Modified approved in Australia (second only in the world for USA) to market oils. We have ambitions of being leaders in the Australian Market in the next three to five years. Our value added turn over will reach $200 million by next year.
After three decades of heading large corporate organisations making money for others in the food manufacturing and marketing industries. I decided to go out on my own.
The key inspiration was to capture the opportunity in Australia for the Canola Oilseed Crushing and Refining Industry in an environment which is dominated by Multi Billion Dollar Companies. By the end of the decade, I intend for ROBE to be one of Australia’s top five food manufacturers. My inspiration was to build and create a world class enterprise in a country like Australia. Creation is my key inspiration and I would like to leave some permanent stamps behind.
Your philosophy of life is?
My philosophy is to build a great team, have a shared vision and belief to establish an outstanding organisation. By producing the best product in a mature market we have reached full capacity in three years.
My personal philosophy is to remain committed in everything I do in life – family, work and society. I am not motivated by wealth but largely towards creating an impact in the community and have a huge multiplier effect.
In your words, what makes a Leader?
A great leader has full knowledge of their organisation, this is vital to becoming an effective leader. Establish an environment of honest and open communication with your staff and stakeholders. Recognise your own weaknesses and delegate to others who have those abilities in order to achieve the common goal. Always lead from the front and think and act big.
Your advice to young and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Look for opportunities to capture; you have to believe in your vision, not for emotional or intuitive reasons but solid business ones. Then it is simply a matter of showing courage and never giving up.