Abinesh (Bobby) Narain

On the fast train to success

2019 UNE Alumni Achievement Award Winner

Continual professional development - and a positive outlook - have taken UNE graduate Abinesh (Bobby) Narain around the world. But he is most proud of what he's achieved closer to home.

When Tropical Cyclone Winston struck his Fijian homeland in February 2016, Bobby was in Sydney, where he had created a family and successful business fitting communications systems to freight trains. The category-five storm, accompanied by winds of up to 195 kilometres per hour, killed 44 people and destroyed villages and critical infrastructure.

"The place where I was born, in the north-west, sustained severe damage," Bobby says. So he dropped everything, contacted the Fijian consulate in Sydney and offered his assistance. For the next month, Bobby made his factory available for the receipt and dispatch of donated goods and food, and personally co-ordinated the appeal, organising trucks and fuel, pallets and forklifts to operate the makeshift depot.

"It was a golden opportunity to give back, to help my fellow Fijians," Bobby says. "We were not prepared for the generosity of Australians and managed to fill eight shipping containers, plus send 100 tonnes of emergency supplies by air-freight. All my operational and organisational experience came to the fore."

His efforts earned Bobby the Campbelltown City Council Australia Day Award earlier this year and UNE has now recognised his achievements with a 2019 Alumnus Achievement Award.

After a humble upbringing in Fiji, Bobby travelled to New Zealand to complete his secondary schooling, for "a better education and future opportunities". He remained in NZ for 10 years, working part-time while gaining a Diploma in Electronics and Computer Technology, before a scholarship enabled him to study to become a commercial technician.

"Every day is an opportunity to learn and improve," Bobby says. "I always had an interest in developing myself and motivating others. And learning never stops; it doesn't matter how old you are. With education you can change the world."

Moving to Sydney in 2000, Bobby gained sales experience and launched his own business, then enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in Management and a Master of Business Administration (International Business) at UNE. "For me, the study was about future-proofing," he says. "I did the MBA to address my weaknesses and to learn to view business through a broader lens. I even earned an Endeavour Scholarship to travel to South Korea and China and spent 12 weeks learning Mandarin. The tertiary study was not about making more money but self-improvement. Every module strengthened me as an individual and strengthened my small business skills. It was critical in making my business a success."

That business - Railway Radio Communications - installs and maintains CCTV cameras, radios and satellite phones for trains travelling some of Australia's most remote routes. "Ours is only a small business - we compete against ASX-listed companies for some jobs - but my installation teams are fast and efficient and we fill a niche," Bobby says. "I'm always prepared to be opportunistic and to chase the remote contracts."

The nature of the business means that Bobby can get called out at any time to provide emergency support. "But when I see one of those trains taking containers of wheat to the ports or goods from the ports to regional areas and I know we have installed the communications systems, then I feel very proud," he says. "Those systems ensure the safety of the train operators and the security of those rail services. Without it, the trains couldn't go on the track."

Most recently Bobby has joined Toastmasters International and he's interested in writing a motivational book about capitalising on life's opportunities. "If I can do it, why can't you?" he asks. "I want to empower others to believe that good things can come from small beginnings. That you can make things happen if you put your mind to it, release self-doubt and ignore the naysayers.

"We live in a lucky country, where anything is possible for anybody who wants to make a go of it, unlike in developing countries where discrimination and inequality persist. I could never have achieved this kind of success in Fiji. Sometimes I have to pinch myself."

For more information about the 2019 Alumni Awards