Shiromal Cooray talks about
by Zanita Careem
A multitude of several roles, Shiromal Cooray, sister of well known hotelier Hiran Cooray managing director of Jetwing Group of Companies stands out amongst all others when it comes to her story of success and entrepreneurship. She is the Managing Director of Jetwing Travels and Chairman of Jetwing Hotels. However, her role in life is not confined to this. She manages multiple roles with the same ease and grace. A voice for women’s equality, an active industry supporter, a woman entrepreneur, and of course a travel personality , mother and what not!
Q: What are your career milestones?
A: I started as an audit clerk at Ernst and young( then Turquand Young) in Colombo. Then went on to the UK and worked as a Trainee Management Accountant.
My first appointment In Sri Lanka was as the Finance Manager at J Walter Thompson, a popular advertising company. I was privileged to be working under two excellent individuals who moulded my professional career. Working with group of brilliant and talented people it set a benchmark in my career to move forward. I realized the importance of creativity then. I ended up being the Director of Finance and administration.
Later I joined Jetwing travels, in its infancy. By then, my brother was already working with our Dad in the Hotels. I saw the growth, the progress of the company, and the team spirit of the associates and their passion, and was very proud of it.
I also witnessed the beginning and expansion of an investment Bank CAL, the resurgence of a commodity broker, Ceylon Tea Brokers and the birth of a logistics company Logicare, with my partner Ajith. These were great experiences in my life.
To join the Board at the Commercial Bank as an independent non executive and later the Allianz Insurance, Sri Lanka, gave me the much needed experience and exposure to other industries creating a diversity in my career.
Does the problem of gender bias still exists’ How do you account for this
A: Yes gender bias still exists sometimes consciously but also at times unconsciously. I have seen that most companies in Sri Lanka have sugar coated pills showing the gender equality in beautifully crafted documents, incorporating in their annual reports,adding and giving awards to those female members etc. They also portray a friendly demeanour and make high sounding slogans supporting the women workforce but sadly in practise most don’t walk the talk. This gender stereotype is prevalent in most places still and gender biases are rooted deeply and it is hard to overcome in Sri Lanka and the world. But much progress has happened and the future looks bright for females .
I have been often Been asked by callers in office Are you the secretary and can you connect me to Shiromal Cooray on line. Why/ I used to wonder that people found it surprising to accept the fact that the head or the Managing Director of a company can be a woman. This is a common trait not only in Sri Lanka but all over the world . They think women are weak, cant work for long hours and don’t have the ability. In the past trail blazing women have proved this wrong. Now both in Sri Lanka and overseas women are showing their ability to multi task and take on the roles of care giver and business leader.
What motivates an entrepreneur like you to climb the ladder of success/
> A: I don’t consider myself as an entrepreneur at all. My father was an entrepreneur .My brother and I consider ourselves as custodians of our business which we are so proud of. Our father created this group giving employment to many. My brother and myself together with Ruan Samarasinghe and a wonderful team have worked to ensure the business will expand and grow.
However what motivates me is seeing our teams working passionately towards our common goals. Our founder’s dream was to create a ‘service culture’ that is ‘legendary’ one that people will talk about and be proud of The teams both at the hotel and the travel sector are continuing to focus and achieve this goal, this motivates me to keep striving harder.
Are you proud of what you have achieved so far
Yes I am so humbled and proud by what the team and I have achieved so far, we have created an opportunity to showcase our beautiful Sri Lanka to both locals and tourists alike. We are a hospitable nation noted for our smiles and we strive to ensure the brand Jetwing remains as the best hospitality provider in our country.
What are your challenges and how did you overcome?
I faced many obstacles In my career. I was a whistle blower and even lost my job in the process. That really exposed me to another world and showed how naive I was. But this was also the turning point in my career.
Most often, I have been the only woman at a discussion and getting my opinion heard was difficult at the beginning. Things are certainly changing now as women’s points of view are seriously considered.
The challenges of being a working mum
It was difficult but I took it up with a positive note. This is going to be themost challenging area for a woman to navigate. The emotions of being a mum and the responsibilities at work are always going to play. She needs to learn to compromise and realize you cannot have it all, or be perfect in everything. Once you realize that navigating the multiple roles become much easier. Sometimes . I have had to juggle between work and office. My mother, in laws and great domestic help made my life that much easier. I am so grateful to them for letting me enjoy motherhood and a career.
Your strength and weaknesses
My faith and family. I have complete trust in God, My parents my brother,my partner and my son were beside me whenever I wanted them.
I try to look at a problem from different perspectives and try to find solutions.
I always believe in the truth and I don’t want to conceal what I really feel. Often people don’t like direct talk. I am very bad at sugar coating things and this puts me in trouble very often. I am often told that the problem with me is not what I say but how I say it, though I keep trying to change haven’t been successful.
Can you reflect on your success
I worked with a personality with high principles,this was my father who had a deep understanding of people. He always wanted the company to grow with the people. He viewed me as a capable woman For him men and womenwere equal and there was absolutely no glass ceilings . Both my brother and I were given the same opportunities for education and personal development.
Born and bred into a business family what are your privileges.
Our parents worked selflessly towards the progress of the company and their children. We received a very sound education. We saw how focused one has to be to achieve your goals. The importance of family and working together.
Our associates at Jetwing helped one another, to stand in unison to build the company, Some of the staff members rose to high positions and got the opportunity to climb the ladder of success that was a great achievement and a wonderful experience.
Did you join the family business by choice
Yes, definitely by choice. Nobody could force me and I had the freedom to chose my own path. I am happy with what I am.
Reading, love to read biographies, travelling and exploring new exotic places. I must mention during my travel I visited Mongolia. I was mesmerised by the beauty of the country and simplicity of the nomadic people.
Love to help people whenever possible.
Your source of inspiration that helped you to build your career
My father inspired me to build my career. My father’s choice was to make me to be a doctor, but Circumstances made me what I am today. However I am happy with my self and studying accountancy was my choice Too.
Who are your mentors
My parents. My mother still instills good values and advises me. My parents have taught me to be humble, to appreciate simple things in life faith, work hard and to help each other.
For modern day power woman
The traditional soft and sensual label Anaya aesthetic was transformed into a sophisticated, strong, bold and powerful fashion reflecting the modern day power women.
Paying homage to the postwar era of the 1950’s glamour and drawing inspiration from the fashion muses by the likes of Dovima, Audrey Hepburn and the works of Richard Avedon with his strong black and white contrast of austere sophistication. Our mood is not only visual yet musical with retro music inspired by Frankie Valli and the flamingos taking us all back to romanticism and pure pleasure of the times when everything was slow and dreamy.
The brand broke boundaries of its traditional soft pastel aesthetic to a monochromatic palette with all blacks, shades of off-white ,nudes, botanical greens, and clashing reds. The Fall wardrobe was revitalised with uniquely constructed silhouettes, handmade three-dimensional botanical motifs, beading, figure hugging corsets and delicate embroidered laces and sparkling sequins. The collection with its uniquely deconstructed fabric manipulations with micro velvet, shiny satin, silk taffeta, mecado, and laces with a modern twist of liquid organza, sequins and double-sided silk satins made a fashion statement.
Chathuri, the creative director’s vision for this collection was the transformation of the modern-day women to a powerhouse of strength and independence, fusing the signature Anaya silhouettes with strong elements of high pressure corsets, over exaggerated sleeves and elongated capes and 3D draping.
“This collection was was inspired by the 1950s, the time when the darkest nights were passed with a touch of hope for a beautiful future of women transitioning from a more submissive role to powerful role being able to express themselves through Fashion”.
Create unforgettable moments…
The much-anticipated Wedding Show 2024 at the Courtyard by Marriott Colombo unfolded on recently, leaving an unforgettable mark on the landscape of the Sri Lankan wedding industry. Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, in collaboration with Asia Exhibitions & Conventions (Pvt) Ltd, successfully orchestrated a two-day celebration that transcended the traditional boundaries of a bridal expo.
The festivities commenced with an inaugural ceremony graced by key figures in the local wedding industry, vendors, and potential clients. The hotel, adorned in wedding-themed splendour, served as the perfect backdrop for the occasion. Elton Hurtis, General Manager at Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, expressed his delight at the turnout, stating, “The Wedding Show is not just an event; it’s a celebration of unity within the wedding industry. We’re thrilled to witness the coming together of vendors and clients in this vibrant community.”
The exhibition hall buzzed with activity as visitors explored a diverse array of offerings from the finest wedding vendors in Colombo. From exquisite bridal wear to innovative event decor, the show showcased the rich tapestry of talent within the local wedding industry. Attendees had the opportunity to engage directly with vendors, fostering connections that extend beyond the event itself.
One of the highlights of The Wedding Show was the inclusive atmosphere that permeated the venue. Vendors, irrespective of their scale or specialization, collaborated to create an environment where diversity and creativity flourished. This collaborative spirit echoed the sentiments of Courtyard by Marriott Colombo’s commitment to building a more supportive community within the wedding industry.
In addition to the vendor stalls, The Wedding Show featured insightful panel discussions and workshops led by industry experts. Topics ranged from the latest trends in wedding planning to sustainable practices within the industry. The interactive sessions provided attendees with valuable insights and inspired meaningful conversations about the future of weddings in Colombo.
Imran Noordeen, Director of Sales & Marketing , reflected on the success of the event, saying, “The positive response from both vendors and attendees affirms the need for platforms like The Wedding Show. It’s clear that our community values the opportunity to come together, share ideas, and contribute to the growth of the wedding industry.”
As The Wedding Show 2024 drew to a close, the echoes of joyous conversations, newfound connections, and shared enthusiasm lingered in the air. Courtyard by Marriott Colombo and Asia Exhibitions & Conventions (Pvt) Ltd succeeded in not just hosting an exhibition but creating an experience that celebrated the spirit of unity and collaboration within Colombo’s wedding industry. As the event concluded, it left participants eagerly anticipating the continued growth and success of the local wedding community, inspired by the bonds forged at The Wedding Show 2024.
latest cancer treatments give families hope
In an interview Dr Tanujaa revealed the latest developments in cancer treatments. She explained how Cancer slowly becomes less of a catastropic moment in families as new research and clinical trials reduce its physiological effects to something more chronic, While some get cancer from the toll of thier risky lifestyles,while others have it in thier genes.
Some families are more genetically pre-disposed to develop cancer. Cancer treatment doesn’t mean eliminating the cancer. It also means helping the patient adjust to thier new lifestyle, especially when they take on these treatments reveals Dr Tanujaa.She also said when you are diagnosed with cancer, it is not immediately a death sentence, there is always hope for patients now with advanced technology. New clinical trials and studies are revealing ones that are more targeted and less debilitating.
She also spoke about cutting edge cancer treatments now available for . patients
A pretty and petite medical oncologist, of Indian origin based in Singapore. In most caes of cancer usually we treat with chemotherapy
The side -effects people often report when they recieve chemotherapy is because the treatment is designed to target cells that have a protein that causes them to constantly multipy, We have other good cells in our hair,stomach etc which is why they report vomitting,hair loss,nausea and others.
Receiving news about cancer has always devastated families. It usually spells certain and slow death; it also foreshadows the heavy financial burden that comes along with it. These are what uproot families from their usual lives, requiring them to make thier lives around among those afflicted with the disease.
Because of the latest advancements,families no longer need to fear the grim future of the long C fight against cancer.
She said cancer has always devastated families. In addition, the heavy financial burden upset families, thier lifestyles are changed. There are multiple tests and treatments to give hope for patients Dr Tanjuaa adds She also said “During palliative care, we want families and people to maintain their quality of life, this is why we have different kinds of therapies to treat. Car T-Cell therapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted therapy, hormone therapy are some treatments depending on the hope of cancers and thier structure,some of these therapies can be more optimal than othes she pointed out
The Car T-Cell Therapy will help fight the cancer but with less obvious signs of the battle,” shares Dr. Tanujaa. “We now have the technology that can enhance the patient’s T-Cells with antigen receptors that can immediately recognize these cancer cells to eliminate them. There will be a low dose chemotherapy to help the body adjust to these new cells. But, once the body adjusts, the therapy will take over the fight.”
Immunotherapy for cancer is also becoming more popular because of its less macabre side effects. “This kind of therapy customizes the cell to make sure that the cancer cells don’t stop our body from fighting against the cancer. Cancer cells are smart. They release a protein that stops our body from fighting against it,” explains the oncologist. “Immuno- therapy fights against that mechanism.”
But when the cancers are more hormone-related like breast or prostate cancer, there are tests that can discover which hormone is causing the cancer. “Once we discover the hormone that is causing these cells to grow, we often give patients medicine that reduces the production of this hormone to prevent these cells from growing.”
Cancer is a terrifying, time consuming ,expensive disease With these new advancements cancer may eventally become chronic instead of something catastrophic.. But Dr Tanujaa Rajasekeran and her team at parkway Centre in Singapore are offering hope. And hope for the critically ill could result in miracles too.
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