Browsing through the impressive profile of a committed entrepreneur and philanthropist would make one feel overwhelmed but meeting him in person was far more inspiring as his humble attitude and love for humanity far outweighs his academic prowess.
Continuous Commitment to Knowledge
“My continuous commitment to knowledge did not begin until after my ordinary level when I spoke to my parents and explored my possibilities. After a successful stint at St. Peter’s College having excelled in sports, I was able to complete my London A/Level examinationin six months and simultaneously obtain the Sri Lanka prize for CIM at 18 years. Thus began a lifelong pursuit of knowledge,” said the good Dr., adding that his innate love for marketing secured him his first job in Maldives for a period of time. “My last corporate task as an employee involved setting up the Sri Lankan operations for the world’s largest flexible workplace provider- ‘REGUS’ which is an LSE quoted company with a worldwide presence in over 100 countries. Thereafter I began my entrepreneurial journey and would like to call myself a committed entrepreneur. Yet, my passion lies in social enterprises and start-ups which create an IMPACT in the lives of society.
Being the Differentiator in Real Estate
Dr. Nirmal’s involvement with the real estate industry spans close to a decade and what he and his partners offer is based solely on the client’s expectations, the ability to offer the best ROI and partner with an extensive network of professionals in the business. Finally and most, importantly to produce something they can be proud of architecturally with a functionally focussed mindset.
“Our key differentiator is based on developing innovative solutions by exploring the colossal opportunities available in commercial, residential and retail segments. We achieve this day in day out through a collaborative effort with a large network of global partners who are the best in what they do. We basically redefine what Real Estate is all about! Post war Sri Lanka has many opportunities, and as a company we are uniquely placed to cater to the diverse needs of the market.”
Multi- Stake holder engagements are vital
“In any corporate structure, helping communities should commence from being supportive of its employees through flexibility and compassion. Thereafter, it is vital to engage the multi-stake holders in reaching out to the rural communities by supporting them whether it is to encourage setting up SMEs/Social enterprises, buying products of local communities or sharing its availability on social media. Further, the Government should encourage these ventures through business friendly policies etc…
One cannot help but wonder at the hidden capabilities of the rural communities but the lack of opportunity is a hurdle which keeps them in a rut. We need to start walking the talk by lending a hand which is not based on our terms. We need to identify their requirements and reach out from that point onwards.
Sri Lanka is primed for growth in this area and it is pivotal to strike while the iron is still hot as the saying goes!” It has never been a better time to either be a social entrepreneur or to help such enterprise.
Women and youth empowerment
“Women and youth empowerment is another core area of focus in my life as I believe that women have a unique set of skills which are resourceful in developing any enterprise and they should be encouraged not to merely participate in an economic activity but to be drivers of such activity. Given the right opportunities and training could enable women to come up with new ideas. Women entrepreneurs usually tend to help other women entrepreneurs and thereby create micro entrepreneurship opportunities.
This would definitely be the panacea for many corporate ills as women tend to nurture and extend a supportive hand towards other women and human beings in general which is bound to create a ripple effect.
For instance, I was privy to a differently- abled social entrepreneur who established an apparel sewing business and provided opportunities to widows and victims of domestic violence by teaching them transferable skills in designing and sewing, which will subsequently enable them to set up their own business one-day. We need to encourage more of such entrepreneurs because of the value they create to the economy and society as a whole.
Empowering the youth of today is a challenge as they seek instant gratification and are constantly looking for new adventures, but I believe that with proper engagement they can be guided to explore their unique potential in achieving success in life. The youth is our future! Hence guiding them is indeed our responsibility and not merely a choice.”
The gratification gained from touching a life is priceless
“I love building rapport and spend time travelling as much as I could in order to meet with people who require a listening ear and a helping hand. Relationship building should not be accompanied by a hidden agenda, which means being transparent in your engagements. Uplifting people and communities and having touched a life cannot be measured.”
Parameters for success in setting up successful start- up/social enterprise
- Be passionate to the cause
- Engage with multiple people – in terms of knowledge and market access
- Be transparent – ethical in behaviour
- The small wins should be acknowledged whilst focussing on execution as opposed to merely planning
- Focus on the customer which is the most important thing and not the idea
“There is more to me than merely being engrossed in business and social work as I am a sports enthusiast and love watching all types of sports. I also enjoy good food and fine wine- with an adventurous spark in terms of trying new cuisines; be it at gourmet restaurants or wayside kiosks.”
Striving for betterment
“It is imperative that we strive to be better than what we were yesterday which involves inclusive, sustainable and continuous improvement, and the all- important no –excuse policy as excuses lead to the acceptance of mediocrity.
I aim to follow the ideology of two of the most selfless sages in history; Jesus Christ and Buddha who were selfless in their quest and reached out to scores of people through interaction, compassion and example.”
My mantra is to keep punching one step at a time!
“I believe that spending time with one’s family requires commitment and perseverance, especially in this day and age when distractions are a mere click away,” revealed Dr. Nirmal who enjoys quality time surrounded by his wife, Tehani and three children; Yanik, Nevaan & Azarya. “It is important to connect with family on a personal level and find the most suitable time to do so on a daily basis in addition to sporadic get-a-ways from the perennial ‘rat race.’
I believe it is important to inculcate the right values within our children and ensure they grow into well-rounded individuals who have the capacity to create a Picasso style masterpiece of what Sri Lanka truly is; a paradise!”
A profound love for Mother Lanka
Dr. Nirmal is unlike many who seek greener pastures in more developed lands as his yearning and profound love for Mother Lanka is evident in the manner in which his eyes light up when speaking about Sri Lanka and its people. “Living out of Sri Lanka never crossed my mind even though I spent many years overseas due to my studies and travelled extensively due to my work. I feel that I have a massive role to play within this landscape which will ultimately benefit the poor and marginalized. I intend to draw out the best out of them and find the entire process both interesting and satisfying.”
“I am thankful for being alive, yet I feel a vacuum which can only be filled by serving the people and that keeps me going,” Dr. Nirmal’s words echo the sentiments of the soulful rhetoric in the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening,”
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep…
PROFILE OF DR. NIRMAL DE SILVA
Dr Nirmal De Silva is a business professional with close to two decades of Senior Management experience in Asia Pacific Region where he has provided leadership to a number of Multi National and Fortune 500 companies. Over the last few years his focus has been on the Real Estate Industry and Start-ups.
Dr. De Silva recently started his new venture Paramount Realty and is serving as the Co-Founder /CEO of the company. He is also the Founder of TYNA Consulting which is a Boutique Consultancy focused on Strategy, Leadership Management and Transformational Interventions particularly for SME’s and Social Enterprises. In addition Dr. De Silva serves on the board of a number of companies in diverse industries such as agriculture, food & beverage, technology, handicrafts, education and consumer goods. Not only is he a well-respected thought leader, he is also a much sought after Start up Mentor, Impact Investor & Public Speaker. He is also an important influencer in shaping up the start -up and social enterprise eco-system in the country. Dr. De Silva is a pioneer member of the revolutionary ‘Ath Pavura’ (the world’s first ever reality TV program) which supports social enterprises through impact investments. The program is now rated as the number one business program in the country by Lanka Market Research Bureau.
Dr. De Silva had the honour of winning the Sri Lanka Prize at the CIM (UK) exam 1999 and also was inducted to the prestigious ‘Golden Key International Honour Society’ for his Outstanding Scholastic Achievement during Undergraduate Studies in Australia. In 2015, Dr. De Silva was recognized by the Government of Australia and was honoured with the Australian Alumni Excellence Award for Business Leadership. He also serves as the Chairman of the Independent Panel of Judges of the Prestigious Property Guru Asia Property Awards which is the region’s largest awards platform that recognizes world class real estate. Dr. De Silva is regularly featured in the local media in Sri Lanka on various topics and as a public speaker he has addressed forums across the region. Dr. De Silva is also a supervisor at Doctoral Level programs at some of the reputed international universities.
By Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne
Photography By: A. Thennakoon