July 27, 2023

A Tribute to Our Founder

We grew up hearing the name Merrill Fernando and the tea brand Dilmah. However, it was in the early 2000’s when the brand took centre stage for us. The Sri Lankan cricket team, the most popular celebrities of our time, started sporting the all too familiar green and white logo on their uniforms, and the brand now felt truly global. To see a homegrown brand grow from strength to strength felt like an incredible achievement for all of us as Sri Lankans.

While Mr Fernando’s contribution and devotion to building a global tea brand has been highlighted by a multitude of tributes, his contribution to hospitality has been remarkable in so many ways. Along with his family, Dilmah created Ceylon Tea Trails, and 18 years later, the resort reached a pinnacle of being listed on the Condé Nast Traveller Gold List. Similarly, his faith in Cape Weligama and Wild Coast Tented Lodge have demonstrated his confidence in the growth of the tourism industry. We are all incredibly proud to have been part of that journey.

However, what we will remember most about our beloved Chairman, is his devotion and dedication to his team. When the country started shutting down because of Covid, he came and spoke to us at the Resplendent office. Flanked by Malik and Dilhan, he provided us with reassurance and optimism, and spoke about how Dilmah had persevered through the years, and that we will get through this together, and that every single staff member will be taken care of. The kind of advice you receive from a 90-year-old pioneer in the business, is something that is hard to put into words. The gravity of each word carried so much depth.

The family could not have been truer to their words. It was not just that everyone was taken care of during those times, but it was that every single cent that was reduced during the time every company in the world had pay cuts, was reimbursed in full. These are intangibles that cannot be measured, as actions speak volumes louder than just words.

The tourism industry in Sri Lanka has gone through multiple setbacks in the last four years, and each time, thanks to the resilience of people like Mr. Fernando and his family, we have bounced back, and we are doing so yet again.

He truly believed that business is a matter of human service, and that is something that he passed on to the entire family. As members of the extended family, all members of Resplendent Ceylon also carry that responsibility. As we mark one week after we bid farewell to our chairman, we know that he will continue to be our guiding light, our north star, and that his legacy will live on every single day. In his children, his grandchildren, and in each one of us who have been affected by him in some way, shape or form. Every one of our actions will be shaped by the ethos that he created. His pioneering, disruptive, ambitious spirit will continue to inspire us to seek new challenges. He would expect nothing less. His commitment to kindness will always be a beacon that shines bright, and aligns our focus, not just as employees, but as human beings with a responsibility of service.

Thank you for giving us that incredible gift. We are truly grateful.