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Home | Successful Indian of the Month email a friend
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 
Our column guest for this month is not only a highly accomplished, well regarded and an eminent figure in his professional field but more importantly he is respected as a truly great man in society. As the saying goes, "The measure of a truly great man is the courtesy with which he treats lesser men." - our column guest for this month is a fine image of this saying.

We are honoured to introduce to you Mr Neville Joseph Roach AO - a humble paragon, currently Chairing a large number of high profile organisations such as, Fujitsu Australia Ltd, Australia India Business Council and Smart Internet Technology CRC. He has previously chaired groups such as the Committee of Enquiry into Temporary Business Migration, the National Multicultural Advisory Council and many more. He is also on the board of Directors of organisations like CEDA, SBS, OneSteel, UNSW Foundation and TAFE Global, to name a few.


Q: Mr Roach, first of all, tell us when did you arrive in Australia and what brought you here?
Mr Roach: I came to Australia in 1961 through New India Assurance, a Tata group company at the time. I first came to Sydney and moved a couple of years later to Adelaide. At that time, reflecting the White Australia policy that was still in force then, there were only 27 Indians in Adelaide! Initial adjustment to the new environment was very challenging, however Adelaide, being small and with so few non-Whites, proved to be a very good environment in which to meet highly 
placed personalities in the Government, professions and business which brought good results later.


In 1965, I joined IBM Australia in Adelaide and then moved to Melbourne as a Systems Analyst. In a short time, I moved into Systems Engineering management and was eventually given responsibility for the Southern region of IBM. In 1980 I left IBM to join Fujitsu as National Systems Engineering Manager.

Q: You have been on the board of directors of many leading organisations, such as, OneSteel, NRMA Building Society, AIIA, CEDA, SBS, UNSW Foundation, TAFE Global and AARNET. How have you been managing so many entrepreneurial activities whilst keeping high positions in top companies?
Mr Roach: My extra-curricular activities largely began after I became CEO of Fujitsu Australia, and were initially closely linked to that position. The early impetus came from the need to lift Fujitsu's profile in Government and Business circles, helping to set the policy agenda and to enhance Fujitsu's credibility as a major IT and Telecommunications supplier. My first appointments were mainly to Government and Industry bodies and were not that all that many. Most of the current somewhat larger portflio of appointments, including those in the private sector, are fairly recent, and have generally occurred after I handed over my full-time responsibilities as CEO of Fujitsu in January 2000.

Q: What does it take to be at a level where you are today?
Mr Roach: In my case, extreme hard work has been a dominant factor. The rest is all good timing and a lot of luck. However, to enjoy good luck, one must give luck a chance and this involves taking risks. I took a very serious risk when I resigned from the New India Assurance company without any job to go to and without any certainty of being allowed to stay in what was then White Australia. The job with IBM was the lucky break that followed. Leaving a good job at IBM to join Fujitsu, when it was only beginning to establish itself as a significant company outside Japan, was also very risky. But it proved to be the start of a career that took me much further than I would probably have gone had I taken the safe option of staying with IBM. More recently, resigning as Chairman of the Council for Multicultural Australia and the Business (migration) Advisory Panel, was fraught with danger of some sort of backlash. But the huge support that I have been fortunate to receive has made it all worthwhile.

There is another key factor which has always kept me going and that is the strong survival instinct that dominates the psyche of man who, like me, were brought up in the unimaginably competitive job environment in India in the 50's and early 60's. Jobs were very hard to get and, once you got a job, you could not afford to lose it. So you worked as if your life depended on it, which it did. And, as the best way to survive was to do better than anyone else, competition with your peers became second nature. The thought of reporting to one of your colleagues was very hard to take because it meant you had fallen behind. The only way to avoid this was to try and get promoted first by demonstrating that you were the best person for each higher job, including, if you had the staying power, that of CEO.

I would also stress the importance of turning seeming difficulties into opportunities. For example, many people ask how difficult it was for an Indian to get on in White Australia. Well, it had its challenges and my wife and I were  breaking new ground. Ignorance of India and a generally patronising view that it was a relatively backward country had to be countered, especially if one wanted to succeed in the developing IT industry. But I always thought that being an Indian was an asset and a unique one given how few there were in Australia at the time. So I made it a point of wearing my Indian-ness, India's rich culture and history and my Indian education on my sleeve. This gave me a much higher profile than many of my Australian-born colleagues and also gave me many opportunities once relations with India and Asia became important for Australia. Of course I am also proud to be Australian, but my Indian origin remains a source of pride and a great asset. 


Q: Having been on the advisory council of the top business associations, what advise would you like to give to the upcoming businesses here in Australia?
Mr Roach: The fundamental key to a successful business is to define clearly why anyone would like to buy your product or service from you. If your judgement about the value of what you are offering the market is sound, you have won half the battle. Therefore, for most start-ups, success does not primarily depend upon the size of the market or even market share; first and foremost it depends upon the need for or the benefits of your product or service which can stimulate demand. Even a small percentage of a niche market can be enough to make a business viable. The other challenge is to be able to sell your offering for more than it costs you to provide it. These probably seem like very basic principles, but most businesses that fail do so because they do not meet these simple fundamentals. 

Q: Being involved with the premier educational institutes in Australia, what would you advise prospective Indian students weighing options offered by Australian institutions as against those in the US or Europe.
Mr Roach: I realise that, mainly because of historical reputation and tradition, even now, most Indian students might prefer prefer going to the US or Europe, and only choose Australia due to our cost-effectiveness. However, the quality of Australian education is very high and our best institutions compare very favourably with those in the US, Europe or the Asian region. As more and more Indian students graduate in Australia and succeed globally, Australia will become the first choice for many more, not only for the competitive cost, but also for the high standards. Moreover, the quality of life that Indian students enjoy in Australia will increasingly make coming here a very attractive option. So Indian students are definitely not choosing second best by coming to Australia. Our challenge is to convince more of the best to choose Australia first.

Q: How do you create work- life balance being so active?
Mr Roach: I have been working 6 or 7 days a week for most of my working life and definitely in the past ten years or so. This has clearly not been very fair to my family. Looking back, I wish I had created a more balanced approach to my work and personal life. 

Q: Success has different definitions for different people. How would you define success?
Mr Roach: The most obvious definition of success is reaching the top of one's career, with the income and status that goes with it. But this is too narrow a definition. One's family is far more important than one's job. Therefore creating a good work/life balance and achieving both personal and professional success is a better definition. Probably the most important measure of success is making a difference. If, in your own mind and heart, you can look back on your career and say that a few good things happened because of your efforts and involvement, and, if your near and dear ones did not pay too high a price for your ambition but themselves feel you have made a positive difference to their lives, then you can feel very successful. And, if you gain public recognition for making a difference, then you're a very lucky person indeed!
In the Previous Issues:

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 Anupam Sharma Bobby Singh Sheba Nandkeolyar
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