Manjula Dayal, founder of Dayals Sawmillers Ltd and winner of the Women in Business Awards 2017

Manjula Dayal has been in business in Fiji for almost 30 years and this year won Woman of the Year at the Women in Business Awards 2017. She founded Dayals Sawmillers Ltd in 1994, which is currently a leading processor and exporter of Fiji mahogany and is now looking to expand with a steel rolling mill.

How do you feel about winning Woman of the Year?

I feel very honoured and happy as this recognition is very special; and I am very humbled. After spending almost 30 years in business, this is the first time I’ve received something like this.

How did you start your business?

I started working in my husband’s business in 1990; at the same time I was very much committed with my family, especially my school-aged children.

I got married into a business family widely known in Fiji as M R Dayal & Sons. My husband and I decided that we would establish a business of our own in 1990 and we started an earthmoving, logging and sawmilling business.

The early days were full of challenges. In 1994, we founded Dayals Sawmillers Limited and in 1998 we set-up a large new sawmill in Ba. In 2005, we started the water bottling business known as Island Chill which was sold in 2014. We are now expanding into the steel rolling mill business.

My greatest motivator was the deep desire to succeed in life, not only for myself but my family, especially my children. I have four children, three sons and one daughter, all are married and I have 10 grand-children. I ensured all my children received full education for a bright future.

What were the challenges you faced in your journey and how did you overcome them?

Juggling the business, home and children was a challenge for me. But also as a woman leading an organisation, I was at times faced with negative criticism because it’s largely a male dominated industry. That, however, did not deter me. I always relied on my faith in God to encourage me. At times I think we lack creative thinking, perhaps due to a lack of exposure in life. So I have always tried to continuously upgrade myself by associating with good business companions – not just in business, in my social life too.

I always had a vision for my family to be successful in all we do. I raised four children and when my children were still at school, I joined my husband to help him in his business. It was a struggle in the beginning. We faced a lot of challenges starting a business from scratch.

We had a desire to grow the business to a level where all my children could be part of it once they completed their education. While my husband worked very late hours in the field, I worked in the office looking after the administration and finance of the business.

My husband’s unwavering commitment has always been my inspiration. He has worked extremely hard and has given the entire family a foundation to succeed further in life.

What are your business plans for the next few years?

We are currently investing in a large steel rolling mill. The steel mill will be in full operation by early 2018 that will create jobs for 150 people in Ba. We intend to upgrade our sawmill and have a range of downstream processing for export. We have many other plans that we are working on right now – and I can assure you that in the next five years we will achieve a lot!

Do you have regrets, anything you think you could have done differently?

I am very passionate about my business and I cannot imagine my life without being involved in something that keeps me busy all the time. I feel that I was born to be a business person.

Do you have any advice for other business women?

Life is not always easy for everyone. We all have different circumstances in life and whatever we face, face it with the belief that you will succeed.