Words : Indika Madapatha Sellahewa
Photos : Nirmala Dhananjaya
Chairperson and Managing Director of a group of companies in the medical industry and Former Chairperson of the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce, who has rendered an unparalleled service to both sectors in her tenure and turned around a falling business entity with her sheer steadfastness and quick witted intelligence. Lanka Woman is privileged and honoured to be in conversation with her so that its other readers are inspired.
I am an alumna of St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo and began my career at Hatton National Bank before moving to London to pursue further studies in Banking and Administration.
Both my parents were career oriented and I grew up in a household steeped in the concept that both men and women must have careers and women especially, must be financially independent. We are six siblings in the family and I am the youngest of four boys and two girls. My father was a Director of Browns Group of Companies and a former Deputy Mayor for Negombo while my mother was a senior official at the Ministry of Education.
My husband is a medical doctor. He is a shareholder and Director of our Group of Companies. As my parents set an example to me, my children too are used to having both parents have careers and I was very keen for them to gain an education and achieve their dreams. Our daughter is a medical doctor and holds an MBA from Oxford. She is the Medical Director of our hospitals and a shareholder as well. Our son who is a shareholder too holds the post of Director – Administration of our Group of Companies.
I entered into the hospital industry by accident. My husband’s family owned hospital itself has travelled quite a journey from its humble beginnings as the Philip Memorial Nursing Home which was established in 1955 by my father-in-law late Dr. Leo Fernando. He died in 1980. It was on the brink of closure in 1994 but the owning family was financially dependent on the business. I stepped in because I felt compassion and compelled to help in this dire situation. Instinctively I knew what I had to do to turn it around which saw a resurgence. Smart financial decision-making was a priority which led us to overcome our limited resources, clear the loan book and have sustainable financial expansion.
It was an exciting period for me to lead a collective of entrepreneurial and career women who are all focused, ambitious and ready to empower each other. I was determined to put more focus on the Chamber given that we are probably the first women’s chamber in the world and definitely the first in South Asia. I worked on a number of initiatives to give the chamber more visibility, which also resulted in an unprecedented number of new members. Here are few of the most important initiatives we implemented, which paved the way for women in business to gain more traction and for the WCIC to be more involved in macro issues.
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