Navlika Ratangee – A Mental Health Advocate Bringing Awareness to Healthier Workspaces & Prioritizing Wellbeing

Navlika Ratangee is the Managing Director at Lyra SA (formerly ICAS SA). A clinical psychologist with diverse experience in workplace wellbeing. She completed her MBA in 2016 as the top student of the program. With executive education from Harvard Business School, Navlika is a seasoned presenter, editor and chapter author on corporate mental health.

Humble Beginnings

Coming from humble beginnings, growing up in Port Elizabeth, Navlika worked in the family shoe making business from a young age. Later the family business extended to a convenience store, and Navlika worked to help her parents after school every day. She also held a part-time salesperson position at a sports shoe store. “This marked the beginning of my career in business,” she states.

Navlika, who is also an Indian dancer, received academic bursaries to study at university, alleviating financial stress on their parents. She traveled overseas on her own money, marking her independence and establishing a strong work ethic. Navlika also actively participated in the community, taking on leadership roles and raising funds for community projects. This experience allowed her to reach girls and women, advocating for freedom of expression and societal advancement. “This experience shaped my love for helping others,” she shares.

Despite growing up in a gender stereotypical Indian home, Navlika learned to ask questions, never accept the status quo, and do things with purpose and intention. She left home to pursue a postgraduate in clinical psychology, being the youngest in her Master’s degree class at Wits, Johannesburg. This marked the beginning of Navlika’s career in psychology. She resonated deeply with the content and felt aligned with her purpose. Starting her journey at ICAS allowed Navlika to combine various passions in their life.

Navlika’s successful journey in the field of psychology

Navlika joined ICAS Southern Africa, now Lyra SA, as a professional psychologist in the role of a telephone clinician in 2007. It was her first ‘real’ job as a professional after graduating. Navlika came to know about ICAS through her clinical supervisor at the time who recommended ICAS as a great place to work at and as a great opportunity for someone starting out in their psychological counselling career. She applied soon after her final board exam and was interviewed quite quickly with an offer to begin the next week.

Navlika had another offer to work in a more clinical role at a hospital at the same time, and she spent time considering which would be the right opportunity for her. From a clinical perspective she believed the hospital role would have been a better choice, but she realized that she would learn and grow more at ICAS, especially in working with corporates and bringing the business element into day-to-day which brought her passions together.

“I am so glad I made the choice to go with ICAS at the time. I immediately enjoyed the working environment, the people I worked with, the company culture, and the work we did to make a difference to the lives of so many on a daily basis,” Navlika asserts.

At ICAS, Navlika had a voice, she was allowed to be creative and innovative from her very first position. She moved across several departments, learning and growing, gaining different business skills, and always loved what she did. Navlika claims that she was fortunate to then be selected to further her business studies, the PDBA and MBA at GIBS were funded through ICAS which took her journey from junior management in the organization to senior management, executive director and then managing director over her 16-year tenure.

Your view of success depends on your take on life

Success is deeply subjective and personal with different definitions depending on the life area under consideration. Whilst Navlika has experienced success in the achievement of many milestones, this concept for her is also deeply philosophical and has evolved over time. Some of the elements that portray her individual experience of success, is the ability to make a difference. A difference to an individual which in turn contributes to making a difference to the collective. It is considered a success to her when someone or something is left better off than when it was found.

Navlika believes that success is a constant work in progress, characterized by feeling at peace in a moment, satisfaction with accomplishments, and the impact on others. It involves emotional and mental fulfillment, as well as excitement for learning and the expansion of opportunities that follow.

Challenges help you learn and grow

Navlika’s take is that challenges provide you with the gift of learning incredibly important life lessons. However, it is the perspective you choose to take from these challenges and lessons that make you stronger. “It is my belief that your approach to every situation will determine whether you can overcome the challenge it presents and turn it into an opportunity,” she states.

Navlika has had to face several roadblocks along her professional journey as well. Experiencing gender biases with clients and in the industry, managing workplace conflict, performance management processes with employees and fighting against all odds to implement industry wide changes.

Navlika shares her experience of being kind to herself and focusing on the ‘WHY?’ behind her actions. She wrote down her objectives, which served as a constant reminder of her goals and dreams. This period made her stronger and showcased her personal achievements. By juggling these three aspects, Navlika achieved success, including becoming the top MBA student. Navlika also emphasizes the importance of being kind to oneself, measuring oneself against oneself, and focusing on the task at hand and personal growth.

“I was certainly pushed outside my comfort zone and remained open to the experience in order to gain new skills, knowledge and insights. I have strong belief in having a growth mindset comes from the challenges I faced in this time,” she proudly states.

Thriving as a champion in the mental health industry

Leading from the heart involves taking people on a journey without pretending to have all the answers. Navlika believes that being a leader in this industry requires staying updated on trends and demonstrating thought leadership. In the realm of wellbeing, client organizations seek solutions to enhance employee productivity. A love for one’s work drives leaders to give their best and make a significant impact in the industry.

Mentioned below are some recognitions Navlika reveals she received as a leader:

  • Feedback from my team from junior manager days to date on my leadership style. It means everything to me to take people along with you, lift as you rise.
  • Being the youngest executive board member at ICAS at age 36 and became Managing Director at age 39.
  • She was invited to be the editor for the book “Improving Mental Health in the Workplace,” which was published by Knowledge Resources, recognising her contribution to the field.
  • Being recognized as an influential woman in leadership is a personal achievement, and I was honored to be featured in GIBS Acumen magazine alongside other women leaders.
  • Being recognized for ICAS Southern Africa recently been rebranded to Lyra SA, as a Top Gender Empowered Company in South Africa with the following achievements:


  • Finalist at the coveted Standard Bank Top Women Awards for Top Women Business in the Health and Pharmaceutical sector 2022
  • Winner at Standard Bank Top Women Awards for Top Women Business for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2022.
  • Finalist for Top Empowered Business: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2023
  • Finalist for Top Empowered Business Leader 2023
  • Winner at Standard Bank Top Women Awards for Top Women Business in the Health and Pharmaceutical Sector 2023
  • Finalist for Top Woman Business Leader 2023
  • Featured in the Top Women publication.

Lyra Health SA (formerly ICAS SA)

ICAS Southern Africa, part of ICAS World, is Africa’s leading provider of behavioral risk management services and employee wellbeing programs. Since its inception in 1999, ICAS has supported over 940,000 employees in over 1200 companies. ICAS SA has recently been rebranded to Lyra SA after a 2-year integration plan with Lyra Health in the US. We shared a vision for setting a new standard in global mental health care and together have a mission to transform access to life-changing mental health and wellbeing care. It offers services across the wellbeing spectrum, related to employee wellbeing, managerial consultancy, occupational performance solutions, learning and development, executive medicals, executive wellbeing, and organizational development consultation. Client organizations benefit from reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, improved employee retention, a reputation as a caring employer, and mitigation of future risks. Lyra is fostering a culture centered on care and purpose.

The benefits for the employer include having access to experts and assistance to get the support they need for a number of wellbeing related issues including mental health, legal support, financial guidance, incapacity concerns, upskilling opportunities, a reduction in stress and anxiety, sustained behavior change and the confidence and security knowing they and their family members are supported 24/7/365.

Lyra offers high-tech call centres, multimodal access points, and a multidisciplinary team. It advocates for positive mental health, employs advanced technology, adopts international best practices, and maintains high ethics. The company values innovation, quality, and integrity, driven by its commitment to achieving results for clients.

Vision for the future of Lyra SA (Formerly ICAS Southern Africa)

Lyra Southern Africa aims to improve mental health and wellbeing in Southern Africa by spreading awareness and implementing wellbeing solutions. The company aims to shift the focus from crisis to thriving individuals, making a positive impact on the African landscape. Although employee wellbeing services are not yet mature across Africa, Lyra Southern Africa can play a significant role in making wellbeing more mainstream. The company’s vision is to spread awareness, educate, and demonstrate value in making a difference in people’s lives.

Navlika strives to ensure that Lyra SA continues to be a place of work where people feel valued, where they feel they belong, to thrive as individuals. “Creating a meaningful workplace and workspace with a purpose driven agenda is part of our today and tomorrow,” she states.

Fostering a culture of integrity and innovation

A culture of care, integrity, and innovation requires a leader-led approach. This involves consistently incorporating these values into all aspects of the workplace. One way to achieve this is by creating a space for open sharing, implementation, and support for ideas. Encouraging employees to see the bigger picture and feel proud of their work is crucial for innovation and care. Accepting failure and allowing it to happen quickly is essential. Navlika advocates for the lean start-up approach, that encourages risk-taking and learning, ensuring a successful outcome and process.

Quality is one of Lyra’s core values. Ethical and clinical best practice enhances their ability to act with integrity. Permission to fail and try again. Her leadership style is one that is collaborative, allowing problem solving to take place within teams creating space naturally for autonomy and innovation.

“My approach is to do the above openly and transparently, so we continue to build on a foundation of trust and foster a culture of diversity and inclusivity,” Navlika says.

Navlika’s responsibilities as Managing Director

Some key responsibilities in Navlika’s role of Lyra SA Managing Director include:

  • Strategic Leadership
  • Operational Management
  • Financial Management
  • Responsible for organizational culture
  • Managing relationships
  • Crisis and Risk management
  • Thought leadership
  • Innovation and Growth

As an MD Navlika is also responsible to report to the Board of Directors on the performance of the business which involves the constant monitoring of performance of the business (key operational and financial metrics).

Encouraging the future generation to prioritize wellbeing

Navlika emphasizes the importance of mentorship for MBA and PDBA students, emphasizing the need to stay updated with mega trends and embrace change. She wishes to influence the younger generation by creating healthier workspaces and prioritizing wellbeing.

Navlika believes that new generation leaders take wellbeing more seriously, but there is still work to be done to groom leaders in understanding their roles in leading wellbeing within their organizations. “Leaders have a profound impact on company culture, employee lives, experiences, and life satisfaction. Encouraging difficult conversations and enabling leaders to do so will set them up for future success. I always advocate for leaders with EQ (Emotional Intelligence), AQ (Adaptability Quotient), RQ (Relevancy Quotient), SQ (Social Intelligence), CQ (Cultural Intelligence), and PQ (Passion Quotient),” she says.

A unique approach to the concept of work-life balance

Navlika, who describes herself as an ‘authentic person,’ doesn’t subscribe to work-life ‘balance’ as this suggests spending equal amounts of time, energy and resources in work and in life. Instead, she advocates for work-life integration, recognizing that work is part of life and not separate to it. She believes work is a crucial part of one’s identity and source of life satisfaction. This approach reduces guilt and encourages children to see that work brings joy and motivation. Navlika believes that it is essential for children to see their parents’ love for their profession.

Navlika discusses her approach to leadership, emphasizing the importance of work-life integration and vulnerability. She highlights the challenges faced by women in leadership and the need for a strong, dedicated team. Navlika emphasizes the importance of mental health checks, feedback, and self-reflection within the leadership team. This fosters a growth mindset, self-awareness, and improvement, which positively impacts productivity, motivation, performance, and sustainability. Navlika’s commitment to authenticity has contributed to a positive workplace culture.

Navlika’s personal goals

Personally, Navlika’s focus is to continue growing so that she can continue to contribute in a relevant way. This means constant upskilling, stretching herself outside of her comfort zone, taking people along the journey and having fun whilst doing so. This is what she wants to instill in her two boys as well, together with the importance of just being a kind human.

Navlika’s message to aspiring leaders is: Stay true to who you are, love what you do. Remember that leadership is a journey not a destination. It is a role that comes with great responsibility, but also immense rewards. Use your power to empower others.