President of the Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) Rajiv Diptee says men play pivotal roles as fathers, leaders and citizens, and is urging them to use their influence to improve relationships, promote male wellness, and mentor the future minds of tomorrow.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is when good men do nothing,” he told Sunday Newsday.
Against the backdrop of International Men’s Day, observed today, Diptee reflects on his journey in the supermarket industry, and the influential role he, as a man, plays in shaping the fabric of society.
International Men's Day highlights the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities, highlights the positive male role models and raises awareness of men's well-being. This year's theme is Zero Male Suicide.
The 38-year-old said when he became president of the association in 2018, it became his platform for change – a role he describes as not just a trophy position but an avenue for meaningful transformation that will be beneficial to individuals, communities and by extension, the country.
His entry into the supermarket industry was not a conventional one. He joined the family business when he was very young, immersing himself in the complexities of the retail world. But he later attended medical school at St George's University, Grenada, giving that experience much credit for the person he is today.
“The intensely high standards as well as the rigours of the MD programme, I ascribe immense credit for moulding me into a highly functional and agile human being. I should say it took all the raw ingredients already contained within me and refined my repertoire of skills."
But his heart remained in business and he eventually dropped out of medical school.
"While I was successful in my studies, I was called back home to see about matters of business. What was intended to be a short reprieve ended as a drop-out experience for me. Normally, this would have been a negative experience, but the thrill of business pursuits I enjoyed.
"When you come from the supermarket world, it is a constantly competitive environment, and I had my eyes set on expansion. However as someone who comes from a family business will know, all shareholders need to be aligned with these goals and objectives and it was something I set about to convince then that my dreams were worth pursuing.”
Not long after, he was given a second chance to continue his studies at the UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences with the credits he had earned from St George’s University.
“I was able to enter into the undergraduate programme for Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy, which I completed. This was important to my family who held education as a measure of high stock, which is why I also completed my Master of Business Administration,” Diptee said.
When he joined the SATT, it was a turning point for him. Inspired by the likes of Dr Yunus Ibrahim and the late Robin Persad, Diptee found his passion for national service.
His vision for the association extends beyond retail competitiveness, and he aims to make the association a household name. His early experiences in the supermarket sector were deeply rooted in family values and commitment, preparing him for the position he now holds. He said late-night preparations during busy seasons and a shared dedication to the grocery lifestyle shaped his understanding of the industry, but emphasised that such dedication can erode a grocer's family life if he allows it. He said his wife Nadira Rambocas is “the metronomic heartbeat” in his life.
“She is constantly on hand to provide a source of stability and support that is especially considerable for me.” he said.
Diptee gives credit to the men in his life – his father and late grandfather – acknowledging their positive influence on him.
“I admire my father for extolling the true virtue of commitment, firstly to the family business. I also have a profoundly deep admiration for my late grandfather, Seegobin Diptee. These men are my pillars of inspiration. They demonstrated that the dogmatic value of commitment to simple ideologies can create remarkable results.”
Diptee's personal motto, “The biggest challenge you will have in life is you versus you,” reflects his constant pursuit of self-improvement and resilience in the face of obstacles.
“I strive to be a better version of myself constantly,” he said.
“That is extremely difficult when you consider that innately, life is full of difficulties and problems and ‘problem people’. However, laser focus is important. Most people give up when they hit a brick wall. I will always ask myself, ‘How can I work around the obstacles placed in my pathway?’ It depends on you. I always like when people tell me I can’t do something. It gives me fuel to find a way.”
Since assuming the presidency, Diptee has steered the association through many challenges and has spearheaded a series of charitable initiatives, among them flood relief engagements, covid19 food drives, mass vaccination efforts, and contributions to the community's welfare.
Going forward, he plans to continue SATT's positive trajectory. The recently launched Caribbean Food and Beverage Trade Show, aimed at reducing the food import bill, is just one example of his forward-thinking initiatives.
“I do aspire to national service out of a deep sense of nation building, national pride and patriotism. This country has given so much to me, and I have seen so many people who have just needed help. This created such a deep well of empathy within me for my fellow man in this little island. It is why I place so much weight on the chair of president of the Supermarkets Association. It can be a trophy role or it could be a vestibule for change. I wanted to help people, and over the years I think I’ve done that.”
And in the ever-evolving landscape of retail and technology, Diptee said amid the many challenges facing the supermarket industry in TT, such as managing food prices and tackling crime, there is need for a national roadmap to address societal issues.