It is with great pride that we will be presenting the Grant’s Desi Achievers Awards at the Grant’s Gala on October 13. This is an award about entrepreneurship, courage to be the best, to make a difference. It’s about talent, struggle and breakthrough.

Both William Grant and my father, Peter Mielzynski Sr., an immigrant from Poland, displayed the same characteristics – in 1887 when William Grant & Sons was formed, and in 1979 when PMA Canada was established.

We have been honouring achievers in the desi community for over 12 years and I am always amazed at the outstanding quality, hard work, integrity, passion and vision each and every one of them has.

Most of our achievers came to Canada with nothing but a dream. Through a lot of sacrifice, hard work and determination, all of them reached their goal and have been an inspiring example to future generations of South Asians coming to Canada.

They have been a source of great pride, contributing positive growth in the community.

William Grant and Sons and PMA Canada have been very proud to be associated with Desi News and the South Asian community for so many years through the Achievers series.

I wish all of you the best and cheers to all our achievers in the past, present and future.

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President and CEO, PMA Canada


BALDEV MUTTA is the founder and CEO of Punjabi Community Health Services which offers programs in the areas of mental health, addictions, settlement services, geriatrics and social enterprise, etc., helping, on average 3000 clients a year. Baldev tells newcomers to talk to their children about their dreams. “You’ll be done with your mortgage in time,” he says, “but how will your child value your culture or learn compassion if you don’t sit down with them?”


CAROLYN ABRAHAM’s daughter Jade was in Kindergarten when she asked her mother a tough question. “Mom, what are we?” Carolyn brought her skills as a science journalist to the search. The result, her book The Juggler’s Children won glowing reviews. Writing it gave her an appreciation of the connectedness of humanity, she says. “No one is 100 per cent any one race. We are all products of a mixing bowl – each slice of cake is different, but the same.”

GURWINDER GILL is the Regional Director of Health Equity and Inclusion for William Osler Health System. She has worked with the World Health Organization’s international task force for culturally competent hospitals and pioneered the first culturally appropriate long-term care day centre in Peel for those with Alzheimer’s/chronic disabilities. Gurwinder is committed to equal access to quality and safe health care for everyone.


GYAN JAIN has contributed to the building of Toronto as we know it today. The development business he began with an initial investment of $16,000 has an annual turnover of $5 million now. He has run soup kitchens and served free vegetarian meals at the Good Shepherd Ministries. He was the driving force behind the Jain temple which is being expanded to include residences, a community centre, school and hospital, etc. “I have done my best and I leave it for others. I am happy,” he says.


MEHREEN & HELMI ANSARI launched Grosche, their own line of tea and tea- and-coffee-related products in 2006 in their laundry room. It is now an international brand exported from six warehouses to 29 countries. Their safe water project has provided safe drinking water to thousands of people in South Sudan, India, the Philippines, Malawi and Pakistan. “I know we still have so much more we can do,” says Helmi. “Our brand mission is, Every cup fills another.”

ISHITA AGGARWAL received the YWCA Young Woman of Distinction Award for her work in gender equity and empowering women when she was just 24. She is a Top 30 Under 30 Leaders honouree. She launched Science4Girls to highlight the contributions of women scientists and founded Mom’s The Word, a network of on-call volunteers that run travelling workshops to support and educate pregnant women and new mothers. “I have always wanted a more meaningful life,” says Ishita.


JAKE ANAND launched Softron Tax by working to raise the money to buy computers. Today, Softron Tax is a household name with 25 branches across Ontario, with 45 full-time employees, the number swelling to over 200 during tax season, helping over 70,000 people get help with their taxes. He also trains people, many of them newcomers, who find it difficult to find employment in their own fields, for a rewarding career in the tax business. “I am happy I am able to help people as an entrepreneur,” says Jake.


JANAK KHENDRY Internationally-acclaimed dancer and choreographer Janak Khendry’s distinguished dance career spans over fifty-five years and he has given more than a thousand performances in different parts of the world. He is invited by major museums and universities in Canada and the US to perform, lecture and conduct workshops. He describes dance as his life. “The more I dance, the more I am thankful for this great opportunity I have been given,” says Janak.


KANTA ARORA was the first Indian woman appointed to Ontario Social Assistance Review Board in 1985. She launched the first Hindi talk show in Canada and is the founder of several community organizations. She founded Arco International Languages which provides interpretation and translation services in over 100 languages. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a wide spectrum of causes. “When I take up a cause, I give it my all,” says Kanta.

MINA MAWANI is President and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. She was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and the first female CEO of the Aga Khan Council for Canada. Mina has been recognized as one of Canada’s most influential and inspiring women leaders. “It is very important to me to support Canadian women and girls to achieve equality,” says Mina. “We can be the drivers of positive social change.”


NANDINI JOLLY is the president and CEO of CryptoMill Technologies and foresaw the development of security solutions to tackle external and internal threats to confidential and sensitive information. As one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women, she is recognized as someone whose entrepreneurial spirit has influenced the business world and who serves as a mentor to other women. And yet, she doesn’t see herself as a mentor. “That implies I know better,” says Nandini. “I want to build a sense of self-worth in women.”


NURJEHAN AZIZ is the driving force behind Mawenzi House, known for publishing over 200 titles and working with over 80 authors. They focus on Canadian authors and subject matter, people writing about African, Caribbean, Asian, women and LGBTQ issues. Several of the authors they have given breaks to have gone to make a name for themselves, notable among them, Shyam Selvadurai. “When a book gets the attention and the reviews it deserves, that is so rewarding,” says Nurjehan.


RABINDRANATH MAHARAJ’s book Adjacentand was one of the most anticipated books for 2018. He has won a slew of awards for his writing and his contribution has appeared in Canada 150 Stories. Rabindranath captures emotions that many of us struggle to express. The sense of belonging, of coming home, for one. Where do immigrants truly belong? “The concept of home changes over time,” he says. “But to me, home is where you feel the most comfortable. Home is where you understand things.”


RAJ ANAND is a former Chief Human Rights Commissioner of Ontario. He chaired the Working Group which presented recommendations to the Law Society of Upper Canada to address issues of systemic racism in the profession. All recommendations were approved. “When I went to law school, my goal was two-fold – to become the best lawyer. And to effect some social change with my work.” Raj is a partner at WeirFoulds and has been recognized in the 2019 edition of Best Lawyers In Canada.


RITESH DAS Juno-nominated tabla virtuoso Ritesh Das founded the Toronto Tabla Ensemble in 1991 and has toured Canada many times as well as touring Australia and Europe. He was awarded the Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition and has served on the music committee of the Toronto Arts Council. Ritesh wanted to bring whole communities together through his music. He tells his students not to run after money or fame. “Go after the art form and success will follow. Don’t learn something to impress others, satisfy yourself.”


RITU BHASIN walked away from her career as a successful Bay Street lawyer when she realized corporate success was not fulfilling her. She launched her own consultancy, offering diversity and people strategies, and dedicated her life to helping others become more empowered and live authentically. She wrote The Authenticity Principle. “Don’t shy away from the real you,” says Ritu, who has made it her life’s mission to advocate for those who experience oppression because of their cultural identities.


DR SHARADA SRINIVASAN has been conducting research on daughter discrimination and daughter elimination for nearly 20 years. She has looked at the impact of daughter deficit, and the policy responses to prevent it. Canada Research Chair in Gender, Justice and Development, she is examining ways to create a favourable environment for daughters. Her dream project, one she has begun in India, is to show that daughters’ contributions are valuable, too.


DR SIYARAM PANDEY is being hailed as the scientist who has possibly discovered the cure for several types of cancer. His research has led to dandelion extract being approved by Health Canada for clinical trials. While he cautions against visions of a cancer-free world just yet, he is hopeful. “When I hear from the metastatic stage 4 terminal breast cancer patient whose blood cancer markers have come down, I know I will keep doing what I do,” he says.


SONIA FARUQI left behind a successful career as an investment banker to embark on what she describes as an “accidental journey into the secret world of farming”. Years of research and undercover work culminated in Project Animal Farm, described as a must-read for anyone who is curious about the food landscape and wants something wholesome for the mind, body, and soul. Sonia’s latest book, The Oyster Thief, was published this month.


DR VINAY BHIDE Is someone with a PhD in Physics and an Alankaar from the prestigious Gandharva Mahavidyalay in India a musician who is a physicist or as a physicist with a passion for music? “Both!” says Dr. Vinay Bhide. “I have always thought of myself as both a musician and a physicist.” Internationally-recognized in his field, Dr Bhide has performed all over India and Europe. “Composing keeps my brain alive,” he says. “Music is my meditation. It frees me. Music brings me peace.”