Forget gender in business
You have studied in Sri Lanka and in France. Tell us about your
I started at Sirimavo Bandaranaike B.V. Since they had only upto Grade
five, I had to move over to Ladies College, where studied from Grade 6
to 9. When my father got a post, posting to Paris we had to leave for
France and stayed there for two and a half years. I did my O/Ls at the
British College in Paris. When We returned to Sri Lanka I had to
re-enter the Ladies where I did my A/Ls and then got selected to the
Faculty of Law, at the University of Colombo.
You have no paper qualification in marketing or advertising, except
in law. Why did you switch over to a completely different field?
Varuni Amunugama Fernando
My partners of this business also studied law with me. During the
second year at the university, we decided to start some business or
other on our own since we had missed quite a few years at the
university, which was closed down at a stretch due to several political
problems. During that period I worked at 'Phoenix Advertising' where I
learnt the basics in advertising. We decided to enter into the arena of
advertising. At that time advertising was not very much advanced or
popular and there were only few avenues. We wanted to deviate from
tradition and do something innovative in the field of advertising.
Another major reason was that it didn't require a huge capital to
start and run an advertising firm. A person's skill, creativity, and
hard work are the requirements to come up in business. That cannot be
measured in monetary terms. Though we didn't have a big capital, to
invest it was not a big challenge for us.
How was the name 'Triad' derive and how did you start the company?
There were two other partners with me initially. They were Ishini
Wickremasinghe Perera and Dilith Jayaweera. The name "Triad" was given
to imply a powerful threesome. At the beginning we started as a suitcase
company. At the initial stage we didn't have a big capital or a proper
premises to set up business. We started our firm 15 years ago in 1993.
How did you find the capital?
We really didn't need a big capital at the beginning. When we
started, we didn't need the capital because advertising operations were
such that we earned money by communicating with clients to find
solutions to their marketing problems.
Since initially we didn't have sufficient resources like people,
capital or equipment, but we worked with freelancers. At the beginning
we would go and canvass a job from our clients and then we got it sealed
by our freelancers. When we received payment, we settled with our
freelancers and the balance was invested for another job. That way we
carried on with it on a rolling basis.
When you earned from the business, how did you handle them?
We invested and saved the money we earned. We didn't unnecessarily
withdraw money other than for official purposes, such as training people
and development purposes and not for our personal expenses like food and
I think the reason for our success in this business was that we were
financially disciplined. I can still remember the turning point of our
business within the first year when we managed to save Rs 1.5 million.
And that was the time we opened a bank account in the name of our
Are your partners still in business with you?
At the beginning, Ishini Wickremasinghe Perera, Dilith Jayaweera and
myself were the partners. Although Ishini left the company after a short
while, Dilith and I stuck with the business for the past 15 years. But
our friendship with Ishini still remains the same.
The name 'Triad' remains intact too?
Yes. Though it's now run by two we didn't want to change the original
name. Two of us, Dilith and if are the managing directors of the
Do the Managing Directors of the 'Triad' differ from those of other
companies? Our company has a very flat hierarchy. Though we've the MDs,
unlike most of the companies, our position is not confined to just
sitting in the office room and signing documents.
Though, we are MDs we are involved in running the business as
executives. Due to that reason perhaps, unlike other places, here
everyone works as one team with a high level of team spirit. There's no
big gap between the people who own the 'Triad' and the people who work
under them. This is like one big family. 'Triad' has around 90
Don't you find it difficult to work with your staffers when you treat
them as friends?
No, both the Managing Directors are enjoying it. It's a unique
culture. There's a pleasant situation at office. We don't like to draw
long faces before our subordinates or growl at them to get things done.
Advertising requires a high-level of creativity. In order to bring out
that creativity hidden in them, they should be treated in a pleasant
We have cordial relations and a pleasant atmosphere at the 'Triad'.
Back biting, carrying tales and all sorts of negative behaviours and
attitudes are highly discouraged.
But people's attitude differ from one person to another. And they all
come from different background. So, isn't it difficult for you to manage
with their behaviour at the 'Triad' with people of diverse attitude?
We all started the job as amateurs. Everyone studied the profession
by being in the job. Even if someone joins our company from another one,
they easily get adjusted to the atmosphere here because of that culture
at the 'Triad' is very strong. Even those who have left 'Triad' speak of
'Triad' as a home, not as an office.
Do you have any subsidiary companies?
Yes, 'Triad' is the mother company and we have subsidiaries in
photography, printing. TV production etc. Although those operate
What is the connection of 'Triad' to 'Derana' TV channel?
Triad is the investor of 'Derana', whereas 'Derana' is operated on
its own without 'Triad's interference. Though my business partner and I
are the owners of Derana, unlike most TV channels or media houses, we
are not involved in the 'Derana' operations. Because we honestly believe
that, if we interfere, they'll be unable to carry on their tasks in a
proper and planned way. Then there would not be much creative works;
they would just be followers of our orders.
Media have to be independent in order to be unbiased and to be
successful,which will interest more people.
Since 'Derana' consists of qualified and dynamic panel of
professionals, we do not have to worry.
What is the method you follow when it comes to decision making; you
make decisions on your own or you consult someone else?
If you take any company for example, it should have a leader like
wise we too have a leader at 'Triad'. Dilith, my partner plays the
leader's role and I give a supportive role to him.
We have a management team for different departments. Any decision
would be taken by the management and they would forward the proposal to
us. We always make decisions as a management team.
You count over 15 years experience in the advertising field. You'd
have been probably confronted with challenges as a woman.....
Advertising industry requires working 24x7, unlike a teacher, a woman
working at an advertising agency cannot report to work at 8.00 a.m. and
then set off at 1.30 p.m. or as in any other profession by 4.30 p.m.
It's a challenge for a woman to balance her family life and the
profession. I have been working with the motto that I have to make sure
my family is doing well.
According to the Sri Lankan culture, for a woman, the homefront is
very important. I had to attend to family requirements. When the work at
office demands a large chunk of time, it really becomes a challenge to a
woman. At such times I had to make choice.
I have been most of the times, able to give priority where it's due
and leading a life in a Sri Lankan way. I have been able to successfully
face challenges which came by my way.
When a woman enters the business arena, what are the qualities she
should have in order to be successful in her role?
First and foremost you have to forget that you're a woman. Because to
be a leader, you don't have to be of a certain gender. When she thinks
that she's a woman, that attitude itself would throw her to one corner.
She will never be able to improve the business. She has to identify what
her target and the work hard at it.
People's attitude in a country like Sri Lanka is more conservative.
That may become one of the reasons for a woman to be backward. One of
the qualities of a successful woman is that to leave aside those
negative comments and go forward to achieve her goal.