In conjunction with International Women’s Day 2022, we speak to Sagree Sardien, the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia to find out more on her role in the male-dominated field.

There aren’t that many women who dare venture into the world of cars, and even lesser who hold such esteemed positions, but Sagree Sardien is one of those women. Having taken over the helm of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia from her predecessor Dr Claus Weidner, the brand seems to be in good hands, and are busy rolling out a whole new fleet of Mercedes cars for fans of the carmaker despite the effects of the pandemic.

Augustman Malaysia managed to speak to Sagree Sardien to find out about her role within the company and more. Read on for our interview below.

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Sagree Sardien speaking during the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Tell us a bit more about yourself, and how you got to where you are?

Well, firstly I’m South African as most might have gathered, and I’ve been in the automotive industry for the last 22 years. And not by default I might add, but rather I found myself falling in love with the environment once I joined it; I started off with fleet management and was quite intrigued by the entire industry. It’s definitely a male-dominated space, something which most females wouldn’t want to approach, but I saw it as a challenge. Furthermore, I’ve served in a number of roles and capacities within the industry, not only in the sales segment but also focused in after-sales, training, financial services, generally all across the board.

Then I found myself moving out of Africa into Europe and now finally into Asia, so I’ve had both local and global opportunities within the industry and my holistic approach towards the business has definitely helped me get to where I am now. It’s truly been an incredible journey in various leadership roles, and I’m thankful for these last 14 years or so that I’ve been in Mercedes – and I’d definitely say the organisation has created a great platform to develop women, especially in the automotive environment.

What drew you to work at Mercedes?

Mercedes-Benz is a brand that brings aspiration and passion into the automotive industry, from as far back as I can remember. But it’s also about evolution and continuous improvement, which resonates which my character that always wants to be and do better. Thus, joining Mercedes-Benz, or even driving a Mercedes-Benz, has always been something that’s an inspiration and an aspiration.

What are some of your career highlights?

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Sagree Sardien launching the new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class in Kuala Lumpur

One of the biggest achievements for me would definitely be the successful transformation of the business model in South Africa, where we transformed the Mercedes retail environment into the agency model and it was one of the largest transformations I’ve been part of back then. And to be honest, after we did that, there were a number of other original equipment manufacturers following suit.

The second highlight for me would be the various leadership roles I’ve held, which essentially give you a different level of exposure, so you’re constantly learning new things. The people you meet along the journey, plus the growth and development of both them and yourself is always a highlight for my personal career. And of course, the fact that I started early in the automotive industry as a female, it makes it all the more meaningful and exciting.

And now, as the automotive industry as a whole is on the brink of the largest evolution ever, I really hope to ensure we accelerate the electrification transformation of our organisation as well as the digital transformation to make it a seamless journey for our customers and to make sure Mercedes-Benz Malaysia is essentially future proof.

Was it difficult to win over the male acknowledgement?

Absolutely! You have to build your credibility and win the favour of your male counterparts in the industry, and I really believe my journey only became more and more exciting and challenging. Basically you have to be tough yet empathetic at the same time.

You really have to gain a lot of understanding on the technical components demanded of the industry and thereafter, leadership is leadership, regardless of which industry you’re in. Then, you really have to deliver what you promise, and I found the environment at Mercedes was a great area for continuous improvement, which resonated with me as I’ve great ambition and want to continuously improve.

What are some words of encouragement you’d like to give other women?

If i’m speaking to all my female counterparts around the world, I’d have to say that you have to be bold and confident; don’t be afraid to go out there. We are individuals who can multitask with great skills and can make major contributions to whichever industry we’re in. Many women are already proving it by showing how they operate in various demanding environments. Even those at home, managing children and their husbands alongside work, believe me you posses all the skills necessary to flourish in the business environment. We as women also need to hold each other up, straighten each other’s crown and push as well as inspire other women to journey in the corporate environment.

Images by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia

written by.
Aaron Pereira
Digital Editor
This fine chocolate man, (that is a connoisseur of fine chocolates) prefers real-life conversations and living off-screen, but is slowly and surely embracing the digital, search engine optimised life.

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