Vikrant Sharma was only 19 years old when he arrived in Australia as an international student. Initially, he sold door-to-door and washed cars, but his perseverance has led him to become the first Indian-born branch secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU).
Mr Sharma, now 34, has been chosen as state secretary of RTBU's Victorian division after Luba Grigorovitch stepped down from the role to run for Labor in November's state election.
As boss of the influential union, Mr Sharma represents over 8,000 train, tram and bus drivers, V/Line conductors, ticket inspectors and station staff, and he said he will act for the betterment of all workers in the state's transport industry.
- Vikrant Sharma, 34, is the first Indian-born branch secretary of the Rail Tram Bus Union (RTBU)
- Mr Sharma started on-the-job working as an authorised officer in 2014 and has worked for RTBU ever since
- Australia's RTBU is a trade union representing around 35,000 workers across the rail and public transport industries, with the Victorian branch covering over 8,000 workers
“I arrived here as a student and as a new migrant, I did not know many people which was a challenge. This challenge is the same for everyone who migrates," he told SBS Hindi.
"I took several odd jobs initially while doing my course but I loved the place and I knew it would give me many opportunities to grow and succeed.”
It was 2014 when Mr Sharma joined the RTBU while working as an authorised officer with the state’s public transport department.
“Being in the union was a natural choice. My father was a unionist and did that for many years,” Mr Sharma shared.
I'm proud to walk in my father's footsteps
Mr Sharma enrolled in a law degree which helped him to pick up the role of industrial officer at the union. He later moved to the role of organiser before taking over as the secretary.
“There is an imbalance of power everywhere in the world. That’s where the role of the union comes in and that has been one of the reasons for me to attain a law degree so that I can fight for people’s rights.”
“In my new role, I aim to fight for members’ rights, workplace issues, creating healthy conditions for transport workers, recognise them as workers rather than slaves,” he said.
Mr Sharma said he is determined to ensure the best deals for RTBU workers so that they become meaningful beneficiaries of the state's infrastructure projects and strategically engage with all the relevant stakeholders.
“My role is an important and a tough one. My vision is to grow our union and ensure that the RTBU is united and strong. I want to work towards creating right and fair conditions for the workers,” he said.
The RTBU sees Mr Sharma as an ideal leader to represent Victorian transport workers and his Indian background gives him an additional edge.
"Mr Sharma's cultural background should serve him well...Over the years our experience has been that Indian members are quite often some of the most vocal and loyal members and I look forward to his example resulting in more Indians ascending through our ranks," RTBU National Secretary Mark Diamond said.
Mr Sharma said that by taking on leadership roles across various industries, Indians can raise the profile of the community and their country.
"Realise your true potential and never be afraid of taking on big challenges, encourage everyone, regardless of where you work to believe in yourself and work towards becoming leaders in your industry," he advised.
Listen to the podcast in Hindi by clicking on the audio icon inside the picture at the top.