Robin Dhir is master of many trades: he has made great feats in marketing, sales and communication. Dhir is a strategic advisor for Fasken Martineau, president of Twin Brook Developments and has held a director position for various organizations such as the Vancouver Board of Trade and Canada Place Corporation. He has received many highly-acclaimed awards such as a standing on Business in Vancouver’s “Top 40 professionals under 40” and Vancouver Sun’s “100 Most influential south Asians in BC.” Dhir, however, is so much more than just a successful business mogul. He has made great efforts in trying to better the world through his charities and community service. He is the founding chair of “A Night of Miracles” gala which raised over $315,000 this November for BC Children’s Hospital.
Over the years, the gala has raised over $3.7 million for children in BC. Dhir proves to be the perfect balance of a corporate powerhouse and a genuinely selfless community member. Find out about the man behind the event: his background, what his father taught him, and what traits he possesses that allowed him to come to the position he is at today.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what made you follow your father’s footsteps and enter the corporate world?
Ever since I was younger, I would shadow my dad in all sorts of different meetings and events that he would be involved in. So when he became involved politically, I would be there with him at rallies and other events. Being from an Indian immigrant family, I guess it is common to run it more like a family so naturally I became involved from a very young age. And to be honest, I had a lot of responsibility at a very young age as well. For example, I was approached by a realtor on a property we had and I was only 18 years old. I called my father and he said “well, I’m travelling so you have to make a decision.” Being in a position like that, I really felt that I had to smarten up fairly young so I wouldn’t make the wrong decision. Today, I appreciate it so much.
What made you want to start “A Night of Miracles Gala?”
It really resulted from my concern in the mainstream community and primarily in the South Asian media about all the challenges we’re facing: gangs, drug, domestic abuse—you name it. It’s really unfortunate because there is ideology in our culture to want to be the best at whatever you do. It wouldn’t matter if you’re dealing drugs or a practising doctor, or an accountant, or a lawyer, you have this mindset that you have to be the best. And I was really concerned about the image our community was getting. And I was been here for a long time and seen Indians doing such great things in the community and every profession. And I thought these amazing accomplishments were getting overshadowed by some of the negative images that start to take hold. So then, sort of out of the blue, I wanted to start a gala. I wanted to create something the community could own; something positive that we could do. So now we have this black tie event that the community owns and all the proceeds go to BC Children’s Hospital which is an amazing charity. It’s amazing because probably one third of the attendees are non-South Asians so it’s just a great opportunity for BC residents to come together and do a lot of good.
You were named one of the Top 40 professionals under 40 in 2011. If you had to name just 3, who are 3 people you would vote as the top professionals that reside in your area?
First and foremost, Wally Oppal is someone I have always looked up to because he is definitely a trail blazed in terms of making the South Asians known. He always held a very professional image for our community and you know is someone we could all look up to.
Jack Uppal would be the second. Unfortunately, he has passed away since, but he was someone that I spoke to regularity. He always encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing. He was very proud of a “younger guy” (he was much older than I) getting out there and representing our community in a positive way.
And the third person I’d say that is of more recent times (there’s quite a few there to choose from) is someone like Vikram Vij. He’s become a good from of mine and I greatly admire the fact that he is willing to make Indians and India popular when a lot of people were walking away from Indian food or dressing in Indian clothes or anything of that sort.
So I’d say those people are people who are successful and will be continue to be successful and trailblazer in our community.
You are an SFU Business graduate who has accomplished so much since attending the university. What advice can you give current students?
Don’t get caught up in just classes and academics. Be a part of the university itself: join committees, sports, clubs, etc. Make yourself well-rounded, make yourself marketable for when you come out on the other end. Employers today aren’t just looking at academics—yes they are very, very important—but if you’re just academically smart and not street smart, you’re going to miss out on a lot of important career opportunities.
You are a strategic advisor, president of Twin Brook and director of multiple boards. What personality traits do you think best prepare you to take on these executive positions?
I am open to giving myself and sharing ideas. For me, networking is all about sharing ideas and connecting with people. People are often too selfish and only do things for themselves and don’t share themselves to communities and clubs. I have an ongoing discussion with my friends about sharing yourself, giving your time—not just your money. My dad came here in 1969 and he said “this country has been so good to us, we need to give back.” This is what fuelled my desire to volunteer and become an active part of clubs and the community at large.
Is there anything else you would like Desi Today readers to know about you, your businesses or your charity work?
To anyone wanting to be successful: be honest with yourself, continue to learn and don’t forget take care of yourself. Working out and keeping in good physical shape is something I am definitely trying to make more time for because it’s so important. You need to be healthy mentally and physically if you want to be productive in your business and personal life.