Hema Bhatt: Finding Success While Giving Back

“Juggling various roles and wearing different hats—Hema continues to be very much concerned for the community—both locally and abroad around us. Just like its corporate philosophy for operating quietly and without fanfare, Natu’oil and its people contribute extensively to causes and numerous communities around the world.”

While Hema Bhatt’s accomplishments as a successful businessperson and philanthropist continue to mount, she never forgets where it all started.  Hema, one of eight children, was born and raised in Malaysia, approximately one-hour away from the beautiful island of Penang. “My life was well, never a bed of roses. From receiving hand-me-downs to having to fight hard to be heard within such a large family, I never fail to forget all my past experiences, and the impact they have had on my life.” For Hema part of this past is an understanding that, no matter what one’s circumstances, there are always opportunities to give back and the need to care for others. Even though her father was the sole breadwinner and his income required to be stretched to feed her large family, he still emphasized the need to give back to the community. “My father used to cook and send food for the elderly at a care home nearby. He wanted to give them something special at least once a month for lunch.” The ability to manage a business with a worldwide reach while maintaining a connection to the community both locally and abroad are the characteristics that define Hema.

Hema and her husband Haresh are the owners of Natu’oil Services Inc. (“Natu’oil) – An international firm based out of Port Coquitlam. Natu’oil is a premier supplier of oils and fats to industries such as farms, feed mills, bakeries, food manufacturers, and manufacturers of soap/personal care items. They are the largest importer of packaged palm oil to North America as well as the largest importer of energy supplements to dairy farmers in North America.

Hema’s journey into the business world began back in Malaysia, where she specialized first in the travel industry. After the birth of her second child, she left the tourism field to be a full-time homemaker. It was during this time her entrepreneurial spirit started blossoming. She started up a home-based business, creating and delivering gift hampers for all occasions. Distancing herself from providers of Gift hampers consisting of cheap, unhealthy food and useless gifts; Hema carved a niche by providing superior gift baskets. Healthier, meaningful and useful items. The demand for such baskets soared, and she employed several single mothers to help her – thus augmenting their incomes. Again that ability to earn income while giving back very much resonated with her. “I witnessed firsthand how empowered these women became, being able to work and earn some money – often for the first time in their lives.” Hema has always believed in empowering women. “You should believe in yourself. You should not be defined by material wealth – what should make you confident as a woman is to know that there are no limitations. Working hard having a vision and the burning desire to succeed will take you to extraordinary heights.”

While Hema’s business was successful, so too was Haresh’s, who had been working in the palm oil industry, and the couple started weighing options for the future of the whole family. After careful analysis, and process of elimination, they zeroed in on Canada as the PLACE. The couple decided to focus their energies on building the business related to palm oil.

“Palm oil is ten times more productive per hectare than other oil crops, such as soybean, sunflower or rapeseed.” It is also naturally free of Trans Fat, non-GMO and cholesterol-free; its high oxidative stability can help extend the shelf life of finished products; and it has the highest yield and best energy efficiency ratio of any vegetable oil crop in the world, contributing to meet the energy requirements of over 3 billion people.

December 2003 – in the middle of winter, Haresh moved to the Lower Mainland with their two daughters, Dharinee and Nikhita, and Hema joined them soon after. The future giant – Bhatt Group – had its beginning in the family’s rented basement suite. Due to Haresh’s globe-trotting between Canada, Malaysia, and the USA, Hema increasingly took over greater responsibility for the local operations.

The business has expanded considerably in less than 15 years. Global Agri-Trade Corporation (GATC) and Natu’oil are part of the Bhatt Group of Companies involved in the development, marketing and distribution of products primarily from palm and coconut oils into Canadian, American, and European Union markets. With a vision and drive to succeed, the Group continues to grow globally and rapidly. It has established offices in Malaysia, the United States, India, and Canada.  Through superior products, high volume sales, strong international relationships and streamlined services, the business continues to grow at a phenomenal pace. Throughout such large-scale growth, the company continues to maintain its core values of sustainability, generosity and developing caring relationships with partners, customers, and our employees.

In recent years, Haresh has had to take some time off to tend to his health, so Hema has increasingly continued to oversee business operations. In addition to managing day-to-day operations, Hema is directly involved in the Finance, HR and Public Relations of the company. She also relies on a skilled team (the local office has over fifteen employees, and the Group’s number of employees exceed 100. The Group also relies on contractors and contacts across various continents to ensure smooth operations) that she regards as her extended family, working together to achieve the goal of ultimate success.

The company from its inception has also been a responsible corporate citizen concerned about the environment. The Port Coquitlam facility has attained the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard Certification for Storage, a prestigious Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked food safety standard. They are also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and the company’s directors have been involved in the development of sustainably produced palm oil since its inception and they continue to promote the environmental, social and economic benefits of sustainable agriculture. Furthermore, the company has developed a supplier code of conduct, to ensure that their suppliers operate in ways that protect the environment, as well as, prioritizing the safety and maintaining proper working conditions for their employees. “Natu’Oil Services was awarded the Business of the Year Award 2016 by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce for business excellence.

A tightrope between business and home – Hema kept a fully active presence in their daughters’ lives. With Strength, Courage, and Compassion she has been able to juggle these roles effortlessly and is an inspiration to them. While the demands of a fast-growing business were immense, she never forgot the lessons learned from her formative years: of caring for family, as well as, time for caring for others. In addition to supporting Haresh during his recent health concerns, she continues to support her youngest daughter in pursuing post-secondary studies, while mentoring the oldest daughter who has already been working in the group of companies for over a year now. The daughters have immersed themselves, obtaining increased responsibilities within the Group.

“We are a family,” Hema says, “and we will get through this together.” Regarding the latter, where does one begin?

Juggling various roles and wearing multiple hats – Hema continues to be very much concerned for the community – both locally and abroad – around us. Just like its corporate philosophy for operating quietly and without fanfare, Natu’oil and its people contribute extensively to causes and numerous communities around the world. The company supports numerous causes, such as the Terry Fox Foundation, Miracle Connections (support services for the Bhutanese-Canadian community), SHARE Family and Community Services Food Bank, the Power of Hope music program for incarcerated youth, families impacted by the Fort McMurray fires, Eagle Ridge Hospital, BC Children’s Hospital, the Gujarati Society of BC, Indian Summer Festival, Medical Camps in India, and many more.

Hema is clearly a passionate leader who continuously strives for excellence and continues to inspire with her vision, drive and compassion for others. For more information on Natu’oil, please visit the website at www.natuoil.com