Dilith Jayaweera: Guts and Grit Part-02
Dilith Jayaweera: Guts and Grit Part-03
You are considered powerful. Is that true?
Power is both subjective and relative. Power is not something that I aim for. We live in a civil society, and the need for power, I personally feel, has a lot to do with insecurity. I am not an insecure person to need power. I consider myself to be a very strong person therefore I do not need power. Even if you look at the way we operate in our businesses, we follow a model, which is a organic flat hierarchy. We are on first name basis with everyone. Power is not on my list of things to achieve. I would love to think that if there is no power, you can have anything.
Where do you hope to see your companies in the next few years?
The truth is that we never planned to do any of the things we have done in the past. If we look at the origin of Triad it was a sudden decision. We did backward and forward integration and all the other numerous decisions we made, if I look back now I would say that all happened purely by chance.
If we take Derana as an example, I must start from the beginning. During the time we had massive power cuts, the advertising industry did not do well. Half the day, we didn’t have work. Therefore we decided to open a restaurant in Rajagiriya by the name of Oodles. The operating model was to be one where all the staff would work at the restaurant in the evenings. We got together one day and thought why dont we run a restaurant. Oodles was to be a fast food place. We conducted training, designing logos, purchased equipment and everything else that was required. However, we soon realised that the investment required to run an operation like this was massive and the returns would be very little. Furthermore by the time the project came to the point of launching, the power cut was corrected.
We soon started getting campaigns and the staff was busy again. We converted the company into Powerhouse Television Company. This production company never got big business. We gave this to our original partner, Ishini, to run. Due to personal reasons she could not continue with the business and as she was planning to move out of the business we met Anup Chandrasekaran who had worked for the Maharajah Group previously and was looking for a job. We asked him to run Powerhouse Television Company. He started producing Tamil programmes.
Anup brought down the people from Raj TV, India as they wanted to start a channel here. At that time it was very difficult to obtain a license, but they managed to get an appointment with President Chandrika Kumaratunga. They asked us to join them for the presentation. At that time it was essential to have a local partner to obtain the license and Anup suggested Triad as the local partner. The President gave her approval on the condition that the license would be given to the local company and that an MoU had to be signed between Raj TV and Triad. However, terrestrial transmission in Sri Lanka is very expensive and they were not willing to bear the cost. They left and then Anup came up with a proposal to start a Tamil channel. However, we decided to change the medium from Tamil to Sinhala as we could not get into a business where we did not understand the content. This is how Derana came into being.
Then if we look at Sarva Integrated where Chrishantha Jayasinghe is our Managing Director; he was thinking of joining us as a client servicing personality. But we said how can you be an Account Director when you have been a CEO before. We offered him the building in Thimbirigasyaya and asked him to start an agency.
All our businesses have started in an organic manner. We have always enjoyed what we have done and in fact the bottom line is, the last thing on our mind is profiteering. We give the very best to our clients and in the process profit is a by product. We are committed to enhance the value of the company. We reinvest and keep investing. We enjoy the work we do and when we enjoy the work the money comes as well. We are able to live a good life and as a team we work together.
Though I became the face, I never invested as Dilith Jayaweera. These were not my personal investments. I always invested on behalf of the company. Not a single cent has been invested as an individual. Initially we were buying shares through one of our subsidiary companies but now we have Divasa Equity, which is our investment arm. We do everything as a team and everyday in the morning we come in with a lot of energy and we work till about nine in the night. We enjoy living our life in a meaningful way.
Who is Dilith Jayaweera?
I am a very simple person. In fact if you ask a school friend of mine who may not have met me for years and meets me now, he would say that I have not changed at all. Even with the people I work with both directly and indirectly, they will all say the same thing. I have always wanted to be simple because I only believe in the Buddhist philosophy.
I believe in the Atalo dahama. I am not someone who goes behind profits because I know what follows according to the principles of Buddhism. It is in this spirit that we do everything. We have created an organisation where there is no single HR Executive, we have an organic flat hierarchy. We are all friends. We believe in Sri Lanka and that is why our theme is ‘Sri Lanka Can’. We want to celebrate this spirit and take it to the people and tell them this is how we should be. We believe Sri Lanka gives ample opportunity for growth. We would like to be an example to others. We are not the ones who would go behind money and power. Today you may have everything and tomorrow you may not have anything. You should be able to accept things as they are.
Do you wish to enter politics?
Among the many things I could have done, it is politics. I was heavily involved in University politics, which I always highlight in order to emphasise that once outside the University, I have not ever engaged in politics. Many who were with me in University and involved in politics are now engaged in national politics. I have respect for politicians but it is not a sphere that I want to be part of.
I don’t have the commitment to give my heart and soul to this type of activity and involvement. But I do appreciate the commitment of representatives of the people who actually do this day in and day out. I feel that politicians are a section of people that the Sri Lankan people should try to recognise. None of us are perfect and none of the systems are perfect. If you tell me that they are corrupt then the private sector is even more corrupt. Together, the private sector, public sector and politicians should all recognise each other without blaming each other. The private sector cannot afford to blame politicians because the politicians did not get corrupt on their own.
I want to enjoy what I do and I really love what I do. Everyday I come to Triad and I spend most of my time there. I like to write copy I like to draw things, I enjoy sitting at the computer and improving a layout. I like to go and watch a shoot and also edit.
While understanding our limitations we should also look at the bigger picture and widen our perspectives. Sri Lanka is an island and we are a close community therefore we tend to look at things in a very narrow way but it is time for us to take a broader perspective. We can all enjoy our lives, the opportunities are there. Unfortunately due to sociological reasons and narrow perceptions this growth is not aggressive. The growth I refer to is not only material or monetary but also moral growth. We can’t move forward, because we are becoming a society, which is reflected in a negative sense. We should be positive, as a nation we need to be positive. This is the truth and the ultimate happiness of being.