Monika Navandar

The Bold Soul

Monika Navandar pulled herself out of poverty with sheer hard work and the desire to excel in life.

She is a fighter. She is a winner. She is a top HR expert with the heart of a philanthropist. Monika Navandar is a braveheart who pulled herself out of penury by sheer hard work and a desire to excel in life. Despite the extreme circumstances of her early life, she fought her way out and rose to become a woman to reckon with. Her life story is the kind that legends are made of.

"My father’s deteriorating health forced my mother to work. She came from a conservative Marwari family and had never worked before, so she started stitching clothes for people and making shampoo at home which she would sell for some money. The hardships we had to endure were inexplicable,” says Monika.

“I was only 16 when my father expired and with a younger brother and mother who needed care, I took the mantle of being the head of the family. My first job at 16 was collecting cable TV dues from houses but the money I earned from that job was not enough and since I was a good singer and dancer, I performed at various shows to earn more to support my family and my education,” she reminisces.

The only thing in their favour was the siblings’ brilliant academic minds. “We had nothing, the only reason we got an education was because we were very good in studies and our teachers and friends helped us,” she says.
It is not only academics that Monika excels at; she is also an avid sportswoman. She has competed at the State and District level in many sporting events like Badminton, Short Put and Discus Throw. In fact, she still continues to participate in competitions. She has also won many awards. “Sports in a way moulded my personality. It taught me discipline, competitiveness, team spirit and never to give up till you succeed,” she reflects.

Right after obtaining her engineering degree, she started working in a BPO in order to earn and shoulder her responsibilities. Despite having a B.E. degree in computer science, she has always worked in HR and the reason behind that choice was, “I wanted to work closely with the management rather than being a software programmer. So I chose to work as a trainer, a decision I am very happy with. Always a keen learner and analyst, my work sparked my interest and curiosity towards ‘the hows and whys of a business’, and the strategies and processes that shape successful businesses globally,” asserts Monika.

Always having people mentoring her to further her career, she now mentors students from Oxford, Wharton, Rutgers, Cornell and Michigan universities to name a few. “I mostly give them sound career advice and if possible connect them to the right people in the industry. I am also reverse mentoring some senior leaders in the Pharma and Biotech companies,” she adds.

Monika believes the factors that have helped her in her journey through life, have been her family and friends, the mentors who always guided her in the right direction, and her networking skills along with her insatiable thirst for knowledge. She has been an HR professional for more than a decade now and has worked with companies like IBM, HSBC and Volkswagen among others. Her exceptional work in the HR management field is being recognized by the World HRD Congress. She was invited to be a Keynote speaker as well as a moderator for one of the D&I sessions on their 25th anniversary and also received the ‘Diversity Leadership Award’ at the World HRD Congress in Mumbai, this February.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Monika plans to build an education trust fund in her mother’s name, to sponsor the education of underprivileged children. “My mother has been my inspiration in life as she battled all sorts of adversities for her children. She taught me and my brother to be good human beings and always aspire to do better in life. Our hard work and perseverance has paid off, and both me and my brother live in our own houses, travel the world with our mother and have friends all over the globe,” says an elated Monika.
“Ever since I started working full-time I have been contributing to various organizations like Teach for India, Operation Smile for cleft lip and cleft palate conditions, Helpage India, Prayatna – for people with special needs, and a few other non-profit organizations,” Monika adds.

With fire in her belly and kindness in her heart, this millennial is raring to go and conquer new horizons and make this world a better place to be for as many people as she can help.


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