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An Inspirational Hour with Sita Lakshmi

By Diya Chandnani

In the recent Inspirational Hour at HMC on the 8th of November 2017, the first semester students of the September 2017 intake were privileged to have Sita Lakshmi, an alumna of HELP Matriculation Centre come by and give a talk. From her days in HMC to being a well-established and successful businesswoman, Sita shared with the students what she has learnt and experienced throughout her journey.

Having dropped out of her accounting degree at the age of 35, she was as lost and vulnerable as anyone would be. Realisation soon dawned on her that accounting was not something she wanted to do. Taking the plunge, she decided to join HELP University to study something that she was actually interested in, psychology. However, studying psychology meant she needed to complete HMC’s Foundation programme as her previous diploma was not valid. That was how, at the age of 35, she joined a programme in which her classmates were people half her age.

When she first joined HMC, she felt out of place but not for long. Her classmates were not as focused as she was, and it was a struggle to find a balance. However, after finding a good set of friends, she knew what needed to be done. She was focused on where she wanted to be and did not compare herself to anyone around her. “I had set up a plan, listed down my goals and walked towards where I wanted to be,” said Sita. After completing the Foundation programme with a string of Distinctions, Sita qualified for the merit scholarship, which enabled her to start on her degree in psychology at HELP University.

Doing the degree for her was an even bigger challenge. She paid for her degree with the income that came from a side business that she had. Selling exotic souvenirs online for six years, Sita steered her business to success. At one point, she was even ranked the highest earning seller on eBay. Simultaneously balancing her business and her studies, Sita got through it all with a lot of independent work and strict discipline. She needed to put in an immense amount of hard work, cooperate with her friends and most importantly learn to work as a team player. For her, it was important to choose groups or course mates who were serious about their work too. “We must make sure we do our part and make sure they do theirs. That in turn, keeps us motivated to go ahead with our work,” said Sita.

Graduating with 1st class honours in 2015 was a great accomplishment for her. In addition to that, she graduated with a huge network of friends she had made while studying for her degree. Sita then went on to start her second business venture, opening a guest house. This time however, she was adamant about finding a business partner as running a business alone has caused her to experience burnouts. With her second business, she learned the importance of teamwork and cooperation. Complementing each other’s strengths, she and her partner led the business to success. With the success of her second business venture, Sita then decided to take a leap by starting her third business venture, opening a cafe with yet another partner. It is too early to say much, but things have been good so far, and she is excited to see what is next to come.

She is now very content with life and ready for her next adventure. Being a mother of two children, she has learned much more about herself and intends to discover more. Identifying herself as a philanthropist as well as an artistic person, her next aim is to have an NGO supporting abused women and indigenous people. She also aims to expand her business by opening more cafes around Malaysia.

Before ending her speech, Sita advised the students to stay calm and not be overly stressed. “I was figuring out what I wanted to do after my degree while doing my degree – just live in the moment at times,” she said.