Legends of Business

The essence of prominence

Anyone who has read the Odhams Press 100 Great Lives as a child must surely` have had an insatiable curiosity for biographies, and so it’s been a privilege to write about the ladies and gentlemen who are featured in this one of a kind volume.

Though there could be no comparison between this volume, and the breadth and depth of Plutarch’s Lives for example – and we make none – these are still attempts to capture the essence of a man or woman in a brief vignette and provide just enough of a glimpse so as to give that little insight into a personality.

It was a demanding yet satisfying exercise – and we hope that we’ve done justice.

These lives deserve greater scrutiny, and we hope curiosity will be sufficiently piqued to research these leaders of Sri Lankan enterprise and their contribution to the nation’s engine of growth.

A debt of gratitude is owed to all those who cared at the passing of a friend or colleague to pen an appreciation or share a personal anecdote, to interviewers for the articles they have published on the web and to various other sources. Without them, some of these insights would not have been possible.

What was striking was the similarities. Perhaps a subliminal conditioning of the minds and upbringing of these men and woman – as to their paths to fortune and enterprise – and what they chose to do, and the desire and drive with which they conducted themselves thereafter.

Education was not always a factor – there are some within these pages who had had none. Lineage was not always a factor – many of our great men and women started off with just the clothes on their backs, and not much else in terms of goods and chattels… and cash.

What was constantly encountered across many of the lives was nous and hard work. A determination to pursue, undeterred and undaunted. These were not people who were willing to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble – or even failure. They had the courage to move forward and work towards positive outcomes. To start all over again.

Passion drove them all to make something of themselves and of the opportunities before them, whether of their own making or granted by luck or chance, and to leave something of themselves for posterity from which viability and longevity could be possible.

There is a sense of the sensitivity to the broader picture – to reap beyond profit and achievement in only their enterprise. A patriotism of a kind humankind could well do with more of – of real action and tangible results – and not mere rhetoric.

Almost to a man and woman, some aspect of their lives and success has been granted to acts of charity and philanthropy. A giving back. A dedicated generosity not only of purse but of spirit too.

We are familiar with personalities of courage and will from other cultures but here in these pages, you will find some of our very own. These are glimpses into the lives of those who walked amongst us and of those who still do… and who chose to lead and still do.

Our people – Sri Lankans all.

Sometimes legends make reality and become more useful than the facts – Salman Rushdie

Mrinali Thalgodapitiya