Sir Cyril de Zoysa
Sir Cyril de Zoysa left an indelible mark on the history of a nation – not merely on a chapter of Sri Lanka’s business annals. He was an industrialist, philanthropist, lawyer, senator and leader in the Buddhist revival movement in what was then Ceylon.
In 1949, Sir Cyril established Associated Motorways (AMW). Even though it was a time unfamiliar to entrepreneurship as the nation emerged from the era of colonialism, he saw the potential of putting to use the natural resource of rubber with which the nation was so abundantly blessed to the indigenous manufacture of tyre rebuilding and rubber goods.
AMW also ventured into the production of Sisil refrigerators (a brand familiar to this day) and motor vehicle tyres, and his foresight led him to joint ventures with more mature and experienced partners. These enterprises produced bicycle tyres and inner tubes, and Yuasa automotive batteries, and rebuilt giant tyres.
His diverse array of enterprises also extended to the transport sector with a few buses (the Suwaranapali Service) at first, which plied between Colombo and Tissamaharama, and later evolved into the South Western Omnibus Company – which was nationalised in 1958 when the Ceylon Transport Board was formed.
It wasn’t that he had a Midas touch and everything he touched turned to gold – but success did come to whatever he put his hand. One secret of his success is perhaps the driver of generosity – as this particular anecdote provides a clue – and is an aspect of his life story that is constantly encountered.
At the young age of 20, he began pursuing legal studies at the Ceylon Law College. During this time, he earned by tutoring – and the young de Zoysa used this first pay to buy a buggy cart, which he gifted to his father.
Sir Cyril noted that “my father blessed me for this act of love and generosity. I perceived that this gift… brought him immense joy. Likewise this brought me too, unforgettable joy.”
And so a lesson was given – and learned – and generosity permeated all his actions henceforward.
Deshamanya Dr. P. R. Anthonis speaking at the unveiling of a statue of Sir Cyril de Zoysa in Kataragama recalled this unique quality: “The employees were looked after well – not common amongst Ceylonese employers. Sir Cyril set up a well equipped medical unit with X-ray and other facilities for his employees.”
Sir Cyril de Zoysa: unied generosity and enterprise for success.