Featuring: Primila Samtani, Senior Partner, Abacare Hong Kong
Female Fingerprints is a new monthly feature created to highlight women around the globe who have had an impact in their local communities. Each month throughout the year I will share some of the best and brightest stories of women who are making a positive and lasting imprint on our world.
Who is the woman of substance? A biblical proverb says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth” or substance. Whether with our time, talent, money, or resources. That is how we are called to serve. Again in another proverb it says the woman of substance is “strength and dignity are her clothing and she smiles at the future. She speaks with wisdom…She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
As I reflected on what it means to be someone of substance, my mind was instinctively drawn to someone who truly exemplifies those qualities.
Validation of Commitment
Primila Samtani, a Senior Partner at Abacare in Hong Kong, has spent her career building a business that transforms lives and protects clients’ best interests with trust, care, and integrity.
It is no surprise that she recently received a high honor, the Abacare & Datong “Star of Devotion Award 2021”. The award is in recognition for outstanding performance and significant contributions to the development of the company.
A much-deserved award for this unsung hero, a validation of her commitment, integrity, and fortitude in providing personal time and service by building client relationships one at a time for the past twenty-five years.
However, none of us reach the achievements we desire, in our lives, careers or pursuits without dealing with the hurdles and the long road that lies ahead. Those obstacles that stand in the way and re-direct us from our dreams.
A Change of Plans
Undeniably a woman of substance, Primila chose to enter a male-dominated industry – insurance. She was one of the first women (if not the first) in Hong Kong to enter this field. Although not a glamorous endeavor, insurance serves a valuable purpose in the lives of families: reducing financial uncertainty, mitigating risk, as well as ensuring coverage for health and loss.
However, her newfound career did not come easily. Primila’s inclination to pursue her university studies in speech and drama were brought to a screeching halt when her family’s business partnership dissolved. Her father urgently needed her help working for the family.
Devastated to learn the turn of events, she reluctantly agreed to assist, and put her future plans on the back burner.
The interim position soon turned into an extended one, as her father was affected with ill health. He subsequently passed away, leaving her and her older brother to manage the family business. Though disgruntled, Primila hid her discontent over her unexpected fate.
An Audacious Approach
Primila faced her circumstances with seva (selfless service) and courage. She considered her grieving mother and wanted to take care of her. She knew her mother would be distraught if the business was to fail. Her brother needed her support as well.
Dealing with difficulties requires audacity – courage to carry on, believing that opportunities will come. Not only was she riddled with guilt that often comes with tradition and culture in families, she was trained in bookkeeping and accounting by her father, which essentially sealed her role in the business.
Where she once dreamed of speech writing and drama, her life became one of mundane tasks and trials. The daily grind of a small business.
Instead Primila wanted to be with younger friends, travel, enjoy fashion and life. Robbed of her youth, and deprived of her freedom, she had visions of breaking free once she got married.
But in Hong Kong, it is difficult to afford life without dual incomes. So, Primila made concessions and stayed on with the family business. The joy derived from raising two children was countered by the disappointment of not achieving her aims.
Somehow life seems to throw us little surprises that, at first, appear to be of little significance. Women of substance tend to recognize these moments as more pivotal than they appear.
In 1995, Primila’s brother introduced her to Patrick-Marie Herbet. Recognizing something special in her, Patrick offered her part time work at the insurer, AIA Group.
It was not an easy for Primila to train with her new mentor. She feared the cold calls she had to make, didn’t know the product well, felt incompetent and intimidated by the men who made callous remarks. They felt she should stay at home and succumb to her duties as a “housewife”.
Ironically, the turning point came when she broke down in front of Patrick and admitted failure. He refused her offer of resignation. He remained adamant that she could do the work and mapped out a plan for her.
He allowed her time to regain herself, then guided her on product training. Primila received consistent encouragement – that she would be better than any man in the field.
Most importantly, she would succeed once she believed in herself, embraced her self-worth, and put into application all of the training she received.
Spurred on by the motivation, Primila completed her product training, finished a business administration course, and received her diploma. As her confidence grew, she began to proactively face her fears, such as traveling to China to meet with potential clients.
Propelled to New Heights
Simultaneously, she continued to work with her brother in the family business, raising her two children and supporting her mom, while starting a new career. But it was her new calling that propelled her to new heights.
Primila’s duly deserved success was celebrated with recognition and trophies from AIA Group for two consecutive years for the achievement of highest corporate sales.
Then in 1997, Primila joined Patrick at Abacare Hong Kong and dedicated all her time and energy to the new venture. They started with two persons and now proudly host a team of eighty with offices in Singapore, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Primila is dedicated to providing leadership, coaching, and mentoring for her team. She believes that transparency and inclusivity are the key elements to running a successful business. Her job is to deliver clear goals and objectives to her team. Her cardinal advice to her team is “know your product, learn it well and then go out and deliver service excellence.”
Just as she was finally able to breathe, sit back and enjoy her success, Primila was faced with adversity. A young single mother with two children to provide for, only to discover a new adversary: cancer.
It was a lonely juncture in her life. Faced with surgeries, chemotherapy, her daughter in university abroad, her son about to go to university abroad, an expanding business – it was a challenge she faced single handedly.
Armed with strength and dignity, she was able to battle her illness. Her will to be well for her children guided her and she healed.
But Primila’s battle with cancer provided a much-needed insight on life and work balance. She was never someone to remain idle. However, the health issues ironically enabled her to make allowance for quality time with her children; to practice hospitality in her home, and in her community.
She dove into her cooking, joined a women’s group, volunteers at her church. She enjoys having her friends over for Mahjong, a game of strategy, which she finds is a good way to exercise her mind. She even took more time for herself with a daily walk.
Primila professes that it is important to have an education, to be financially independent, not to be afraid of hard work, to be persistent. Her impact on the lives of family and community are testimony to her values.
Her rich legacy to her children and community continues to grow as she continues on making the most of what she has been given.
Who is the woman of substance? She is someone who makes the most of the resources she is given. She leaves her mark on the world simply by being her best in each endeavor and by sharing her life with her family and community.
“Clothed in strength and dignity. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all”!
Travel Bucket List: Istanbul, Jerusalem
Philanthropy: Malawi Children’s Mission, sponsoring a young girl whom she communicates with through writing letters. “This gives me joy!”
On Empowering Women: “Have a voice. Assert clear boundaries without feeling guilty. Learn life skills. Be independent.”