It is only one word that one can witness from Sri Lanka whether you are over 30,000 feet up or 30000 km away – Dilmah! It is indeed an inspiring journey of one individual who identified and nurtured the journey of a product brand from a simple generic commodity – Ceylon tea!
Thanks to him we have witnessed the establishment of the first global food beverage brand from Sri Lanka. Listening to Mr Merrill J Fernando’s life story is inspiring in many ways. Why? When many come out with excuses as to why one cannot do or should not do – the latter advice he too had received amply as indicated by him – he ventured out to redress an injustice he witnessed meted out to many on tea estates and to the country too. This vital lesson – that it is simply not fair for Sri Lanka just be a producer while another reaps the rewards for value addition and branding - he learnt at Mincing Lane London where he was trained in tea tasting, turned him from tea tasting to a business crusader. Merrill J Fernando gives us a large than life lesson in attitude, perseverance and social conscience. In my view national conscience too.
He most certainly was the David when he took on the prevalent Goliath’s of the tea trade and am sure many must have ruled him out with his private enterprise. He may have been ignored for years and considered not worth a second look. The journey however, made the shadow grow ever so bigger and stronger and today is no more a mere activity from behind as it has crossed to an unassailable achievement as the first global brand from Sri Lanka. It is really a treat to see at 90 he is witnessing an epic result of an individual effort against odds. Having also nurtured two bright sincere minds in the process he is assured of progress too, another achievement when many looks at the decline of business enterprises when the next generation takes over. With them much more meaning had been added to tea – tea in culinary! Today innovation has come in to be a focal area. His 2016 Dilmah Eco Innovation award which, called for breakthrough, purposeful
proposals of well-developed concepts and working prototypes that seek to solve current national and global environmental issues in the areas of Waste, Water, Energy, Blue Economy and Biodiversity was a first such competition in the country. His extension of corporate support to conservation and
sustainability are almost unique endeavors in the Sri Lankan business landscape. His foundation has supported many a publication showcasing Sri Lankan ecological resources, well worth spending time with alongside a cup of single origin tea! It is with pleasure that I pen these words and it is with pride I wish Mr Fernando on this day – it is not many who can say I did and that I still am doing and what I have done has left a mark on the world - One cup of tea at a time. Hugh Hoyes-Cock
"The journey however, made the shadow grow ever so bigger and stronger and today is no more a mere activity from behind as it has crossed to an unassailable achievement as the first global brand from Sri Lanka."