Research inspires journey into politics

23 October 2020

“It is the people” says the newly elected representative for the Christchurch Central Ward of the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board when asked what inspired her to run for election again in 2020.

  • Sunita Gautam

    Sunita Gautam is completing her PhD on the immigrant entrepreneurship sector at the University of Canterbury.

After finishing first runner-up in the previous election, last week’s by-election result saw the University of Canterbury (UC) PhD candidate and tutor Sunita Gautam successfully secure the seat.

“People and business are my two passions,” said Gautam “And I see this new role as a thread that brings people together to advocate and support each other in the local community.”

Gautam has a strong vision for the Christchurch Central Ward, and sees it as a place where all people feel safe, valued and have a sense of belonging.

“To foster this togetherness, wellbeing and harmony, I put my hand up for community board,” said Gautam. “I am committed to advocating for the interests of my community by promoting open communication and improved consultation, to ensure the people’s voices are heard and influence decisions about our city.” she adds.

Gautam is completing her PhD on the immigrant entrepreneurship sector and said attendance at the 2018 Labour Party Conference gave her confidence in her research topic but also affirmed the relevance and timing of the topic.

“The experience of making policies was exciting because I observed how a simple idea [this thesis] could make an impact in the real world. The insights of immigrant entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses gained from my research will be an advantage for me to communicate, relate and facilitate the business communities of my ward,” says Gautam.

Under the supervision of Associate Professors Michaela Balzarova and Herb de Vries in UC’s Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Gautam has formed an understanding of what drives Indian migrants into self-employment as well as what they found helpful or inhibiting during their early days.

Associate Professor Balzarova says Gautam has a passion for understanding how entrepreneurial theories influence current Indian migrants’ rationale to start their own business and how this impacts on communities.

“This study has many implications, firstly to those that wish to start their journeys towards self-employment and secondly, to policy-makers that can take Sunita’s findings into consideration while developing new policies that condition New Zealand’s business environment,” said Balzarova.

“Seeing Sunita grow as a researcher, deliver preliminary findings to various representatives of New Zealand government and now succeed in this election is a very fulfilling for us as her supervisory team, and we’re thrilled for her.” adds Balzarova.

Originally from Shaktinagar, a small town near the holy city of Varanasi in India, Gautam moved to Christchurch as a newlywed with her husband nearly twenty years ago. Today, along with her academic pursuits, Gautam also serves the community as a Justice of the Peace, marriage celebrant, volunteers as a business mentor, project mentor and a Judge at the Young Enterprise Scheme. All while being a busy mum to two teenagers.

Gautam fills the seat left vacant following the death of long-serving community board member and former city councillor Sally Buck.

For further information please contact:

UC Communications team,, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168