ANJU SAHNI: Leading by example

Youthful looking Anju Sahni sits at the helm of one of the top three security firms in East Africa; actively participates in temple activities and runs several other charitable activities on top of managing her own family. All these roles she tackles cheerfully, deeply believing that women can accomplish just as much as men do. “Our strength and quality as women comes from our ability to listen to our hearts, the trait that makes us more caring than our male counterparts,” she states. “Women, we have power to accomplish a lot, and we have to accept it. This is not however easy for we in the third world, but we have to strive to achieve within the space we are given,” she challenges.

As one of the spiritual leaders who, under an outfit that brought together different religious leaders in Kenya, participated actively in the search for peace during Kenya’s post election violence of 2008, Anju believes that positive leadership is key in transforming society. “We worked hard long hours, praying and seeking God. The whole search for peace taught me that we can make a difference through our own people,” she states. A kind spirited person, Anju’s talk revolves around improving the lives of other people. This is the reason she participates actively in different forums. Although sitting at the helm of Securex Agencies Limited, her passion to see people’s lives transformed positively keeps her engaged in the welfare of workers.

Such thoughtful engagements with staff may in a way portray her roles at the firm, as conflicting given staff welfare is often the passion of employees and not directors. But Anju believes the knowledge that makes directors successful should be shared indiscriminately with staff to motivate them to become better, and in turn give their best to their employers. “I have lots of ideas on how to improve the welfare of our staff, one of them being to start a company savings scheme to encourage them to dream bigger,” she states. The firm will celebrate its fortieth anniversary this year, and Anju already has great ideas on how to give back to employees in appreciation of their service.

Her work as a director of the firm is however not always smooth sailing. She has faced and overcome stereotyping where a working woman is taken less seriously than her male counterpart. “Those who call our firm to talk to the person in my position get surprised when they hear the voice of a woman on the other end of the line, but I have learnt to take all that in my stride,” she shares with a chuckle. “Society has to accept that today’s woman wears different hats, for instance, being a modernist at the professional front, or a traditionalist at the temple and at home, if called upon,” she asserts. But Anju is disappointed that there are fewer women in religious leadership because she believes the principles that govern the world are borrowed from the scriptures.

It was only a hobby
An engagement that started as a hobby nearly 20 years ago became so involving that Anju hang on, rising through the ranks to become one of Securex Agencies Limited’s directors. “I started off at Securex as a part time assistant, coming in to help whenever there was a lot of work,” she recalls. Using her background in mathematics and information technology, she streamlined systems, introducing pay slips and other accounting tools that eased work at the firm. “As these systems took root in the company, so did my engagement become longer term. Soon I was not even able to spend time with my young children, or go on family holidays,” she remembers with no regret. She went for her first family holiday in 2000.

Anju’s commitment to the firm, originally owned by her father-in-law, kept her going even when things seemed to get tough. She would wake up early to prepare her children, drop them in school then proceed to work. She would later pick up her son – the younger of the two – at lunchtime and take him home for lunch then leave him taking his afternoon nap before returning to work. In the evenings, she left work early to pick up her daughter from school. “This meant carrying work home, which compromised the time we shared as a family… A lot of people did not understand the depth of my engagement in the firm, leave alone my passion and commitment to the processes I had started,” she states.

This string of commitment runs through everything the 44-year-old mother of two does. Her priority was always her children and that is why she remained focused in their wellbeing. For instance, she took time off work to be with them during school holidays. Because of the proper order of priorities, Anju has managed to raise her children in the best way possible, supporting her husband through all business ventures, while also juggling between her involving work, her spiritual engagements at the temple and her contribution to the community.

“I take my roles very seriously. This is me, to a point that our employees sometimes make fun of me. But that is me, playing the role of a motivator – encouraging those working under me to always try their best before bringing anything to me to handle,” says Anju. “I am not scared of work, in fact, it makes me feel blessed,” she adds. She faced difficulty handling all her roles at the start and “balancing everything – social life, children and work – was quite hard, but as a woman you have to do all perfectly.” Today she has created a perfect balance with her children safely tucked away at a university in the United Kingdom. “In the security industry, utmost caution has to be taken in everything one does as just a little mistake could cost lives… I wonder if I would have been this involved in work had it not been a security firm,” she ponders aloud.

Hard work a norm
Born first of three siblings in a middle class family in Delhi, Anju grew up in an environment where hard work was the norm. Her hard working father only retired recently as a senior civil servant in the Indian government. Anju’s younger brother is the vice-president of Walmart Stores in India and her sister is equally successful. “Our family was very close and loving towards each other… we were not spoilt, in fact the whole family shared one car throughout my childhood,” she recalls her early days, drawing sharp parallels with contemporary times where families live extravagantly.

She has lived by some of her mother’s acumens, for instance in striving to make a difference in the life of the person nearest to you. A very charitable woman, Anju’s mother always strove to make a difference in the lives of the workers she employed, by influencing their way of thinking. “I believe strongly in the importance of making a difference in the life of the person nearest to you,” she states. As the administration and logistics director, Anju encourages all workers of Securex to plan ahead and save as much as they can. Just like her mother, she does the same with her domestic workers.

Anju believes that a person is a whole being, whose different facets cannot be separated. Meaning, if a person is going through a high or a low in life, it affects the whole person irrespective of whether it is health or financially driven. As such she always strives to address the whole person, covering work and other aspects of their lives. She runs her own life similarly. “Balancing my professional, social and spiritual sides determine who I am at the end of the day. The same applies to other people. If one of my workers, for instance, is not delivering, then I search for the reason beyond his professional life.” She also has a strong belief in the universal law, some of her favourite thought lines being: “What goes around comes around” and “Never hold back”, meaning, she gives her best always and never keeps away what she can share.

Married at the age 20, Anju was not even able to sit for her last exams to complete her degree in mathematics in Delhi, India. “According to our beliefs, my date of marriage was either to fall in April or December, yet I had to leave with my husband for England in April,” she explains. Believing that education never stops, Anju has done several subsequent courses that have helped her keep up with her work. Marrying early has worked well for the couple, giving them opportunity to bring up their children while still energetic.
“We don’t feel left out when relating with our children because the age difference is not so great. The other day my daughter said she was proud of me,” says Anju cheerfully. The couple strives to set the best example for their children, and they have succeeded.

More about Anju…
• Believes in spirituality as opposed to religion
• Practices out of living meditation, yoga and walking, to keep fit
• Is a basketarian (eating only fish and sea food, but not meat) and goes for natural cures and remedies for health challenges
• Won’t talk about her charitable engagements as a principle
• Is very cautious about what she says
• Answers to her husband who is the managing director of Securex
• Has a wonderful relationship with all her relatives
• Cooks for her family after work
• Visits her family in India twice a year
• Reads a lot