Winning Smiles

Dr Ved Berani, founder and principal dentist of Healthy Smiles Dental Group, Blackburn, Victoria, wins the prestigious national Small Business Award – the first Australian of Indian origin to win the honour.

G’day India’s editor-in-chief, Mr Tonee Sethi, met with Dr Ved Berani and his wife and co-founder, Priyanka, to discuss their recent win of the Ethnic Business Awards Foundation’s Small Business Award. Dr Ved shared, “What made this award very special for us was it was graced by the Honourable Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself and the leader of the opposition, Mr Anthony Albanese (MP); including dignitaries, such as Tony Abbott, multiple members of parliament and ambassadors. I had the opportunity to sit next to our very own Consul-General of India, Sydney, Mr Manish Gupta, which was a privilege and to be able to receive this award on behalf of the Indian diaspora of Australia.”

Dr Ved and Priyanka were among a chosen few exceptional migrants, and indigenous entrepreneur finalists at the 32nd Annual Gala Awards held on the 11th of February in Sydney. When Mr Sethi congratulated Dr Ved and Priyanka on their recent win, they replied, “Thank you very much. We are still on cloud nine because we can’t believe it! We are trying to feel normal, but it feels very good inside.” Dr Ved admits they were stunned with the win because of the amazing finalists, all having inspirational migrant and indigenous stories of overcoming adversity in Australia. While Minister Alex Hawke announced their win of the Small Business Award, the founder of The Ethnic Business Awards, Mr Josef Assaf, was close-by to praise Dr Ved on embracing cultural diversity and his high-calibre contribution to Australia.

“I think with any ethnic group that lives in Australia, and especially of migrant origin, we believe that we have come to this country as a dream, and we need to make sure that we do not only achieve our dreams but also achieve our dreams for our community going forward. To be at the forefront, to be the flagbearer for the Indian community at the national level is indeed a privilege and an honour,” Dr Ved said.

Dr Ved and Priyanka were all smiles as they proudly held their national Small Business Award trophy. However, during his speech, Dr Ved humbly revealed that they would be donating their prize money of $10,000 to a charity and not-for-profit organisation called Sikh Volunteers Australia. “We found the Sikh Volunteer Service Group during the Covid pandemic through a Facebook post and realised that the work they were doing selflessly in serving the community to provide three meals every day as a volunteer organisation was absolutely incredible,” he shared.

Dr Ved and Priyanka were born in Mumbai, India. “I migrated to Australia in 2001 as a student to do my Masters, and straight after that we started our very small dental practice in Blackburn South, 2004, with only two staff members, with our six-month-old child in the staff room with my wife, who also worked in the practice,” he says. “My personal story has started by coming here as a student and doing small, odd jobs and even to a point where I was working at 7-Eleven graveyard shift in the year 2001 where I was robbed at gunpoint. At a junction in my life, I realised how fragile everything was, and it was quite easy to turn back and say this is it and go back to India. But I took that as a challenge, and I said, ‘look, if I survived a gun attack, I think I’ll be all right in Australia.’ So, I soldiered on, kept going and kept working towards the goal, which is to be a contributing member of this community.”

Healthy Smiles Dental Group is a multi-award winning and outstanding dental practice, offering a wide range of quality dental services from general to cosmetic and sleep dentistry. “Being in the east region with the extreme amount of competition around us, we realised about thirteen years ago that we had to do something differently. So, starting with the philosophy of ‘dentistry differently,’ we realised that we have a large number of the population who are afraid to go to the dentist, have dental anxiety, phobias, and avoid dental and oral health treatment because they just cannot cope with the drills, noise, smells. We developed the concept of what we call sleep dentistry,” Dr Ved said. He clarifies that they give patients the option to be sedated or asleep for their dental treatments, “so they don’t have to be aware of any of those stimulations of dentistry, dentists or the environment.”

Healthy Smiles Dental Group also has an exceptional day surgery area registered with the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates with a specialist anaesthetist and team of nurses. Although Dr Ved and Priyanka are proud winners, they acknowledge that it is a team effort to promote and deliver their philosophy of ‘Healthy Mouths, Beautiful Smiles.’ It is a testament to their daily dedication and involvement to service the community six and a half days per week, with quality dental services in a safe and regulated environment using up-to-date equipment and techniques.

No business or individual is immune to the challenges of the Covid- 19 pandemic. “Like everybody else, we were affected by Covid restrictions and lockdowns, equally because dental services were restricted to emergency dental services only, and all elective treatments were cancelled,” Dr Ved said. “During the pandemic, we did not lay off even one single staff member in spite of the practice closure for almost seven months. We supported our practice and all the employees, including casual workers who did not get an income incentive, financially through our own pockets. We ensured that everyone had a roof to live under and food to eat. Most importantly, feel secure morally as well as socially and emotionally in their job.”

From humble beginnings, Dr Ved and Priyanka worked tirelessly for nearly two decades in Australia to develop and expand their business into a unique dental practice. Being recognised, nominated, and winning this esteemed Small Business Award, Dr Ved reminds those struggling or feeling like they cannot make it “to never look back and always look forward. And there is always light, as long as you are doing the right thing, as long as you keep working hard, as long as you have the right motivation, success will come to you in Australia. Australia is a country where if you give it 100%, you’ll get 300% back, and that is a message for every single migrant who might be reading this.”

We congratulate Dr Ved, Priyanka and the Healthy Smiles Dental Group team on this honourable win awarded by the Ethnic Business Awards Foundation. “Every migrant has an incredible story, and I don’t think that there is anyone who has come to this country who has not been through the ups and downs of life,” Dr Ved proclaims. “So, I salute every person who has left their home country to come to Australia to make this their world.”

By Agata Zema