First Day: The trailblazing businesswoman who followed her heart from India to Australia


She left behind friends and family to move to Australia at 20. Now, Rohini Kappadath is now an award-winning businesswoman on a mission to help other women rise in the ranks.

When Rohini Kappadath moved to Australia at 20, she was keen to meet as many new people as possible - but there was one issue.

"In India there's this huge notion of respect, so you really don't call anybody older by their first name," she says.

"So I would hesitate [in Australia], not knowing what to call them. And then somebody would say, 'Oh call me Rachel,’ and I would think, 'I can't really call you Rachel, because you are an older person and I haven't learnt how to do that yet.'"

Before she left, Ms Kappadath's parents had objected to the idea of her coming to Australia. But she was determined.

"I actually followed my heart to Australia, I must admit," she says.

"It was a rather bold step at the time, but I was quite the adventure seeker and I was really looking to come to a country to create a life of significance."

Since moving to Australia, Ms Kappadath has carved out a successful career as a corporate entrepreneur and businesswoman, and had three children now aged between 20 and six.

Last year, she was awarded a Telstra Victorian Business Woman award and used her acceptance speech to outline her mission.

"Our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently said, 'There’s never been a better time to be an Australian,'" she told the audience.

"And it is my intention to play a valuable part so we can soon say, 'There has never been a better time to be an Australian woman.'"

Blue skies

Like many new arrivals, Ms Kappadath was struck by the beauty of Australia when she landed in 1987.

"The blue skies," she says. "The beautiful blue skies and the picture-perfect landscape."

"The sparkling blues of the waters and the way the waters changed colour all the time."

Were you born overseas? We'd love to hear about your first impression of Australia as a new migrant. Contact us on or via Twitter @SBSNews using the hashtag #FirstDaySBS

But there was a lot she missed about her old life.

"I think there's such an attraction to silence in Australia," she says. "But coming from India, we are so used to the incessant sound of horns going everywhere, the various sellers of things - the fish seller or the person selling toys - and I really missed that.

Ms Kappadath says she spent her first decade in the country working hard - she was employed by an American software company and eventually led its sales team - and making a name for herself.

"I found that I was accepted very easily," she says. "I was young, I was eager to do a lot and so I rose very quickly."


Ms Kappadath has lived in Australia for close to 30 years but keeps close ties with her home.

"I am really privileged to have created a professional life that leverages my depth of expertise, insight and know-how of India, so my work takes me there regularly," she says.

"My personal life draws me to India as well. I have a whole other life there."

Today, Ms Kappadath works as the director of cross-border business for Melbourne firm Pitcher Partners and specialises in helping businesses form links with Asia. She is a regular public speaker and is enthusiastic about helping others make gains in the professional world.

"I pride myself in being a really great leader, somebody that actually knows the art of bringing out the best in the other, and I enjoy doing that," she says. "I enjoy being the best I can be and I really enjoy watching the next person being the best they can be as well, in whatever field that they chose."

And she is grateful to the country that has given her so much.

"Australia has given me the opportunity to get to know myself as a professional, as a mother, as a wife," she says.

"Australia has given me a wonderful life based on really strong family values. It's given me the opportunity to raise a family. It's given me tremendous skill sets that are valued the world over."

This story was produced as part of the SBS series, First Day, airing on SBS World News throughout January.

Source SBS

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