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A Chat with Sivaaji De Zoysa: Renowned International Industrialist and Chairman YPO 3.0 Social Impact Network Council Empowering Global Transformation for Good

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Sivaaji De Zoysa.

Sivaaji De ZoysaSivaaji De Zoysa comes from two highly respected and established families (4th generation) of leaders, entrepreneurs, doctors and architects who have been responsible for pioneering various Industries, professions and sectors in the country as well as being involved in many philanthropic activities.

Sir. Cyril De Zoysa (2nd generation) founded the Associated Motorways Group of Companies (1940s) initially to support the South-Western Bus Company, which was then the largest bus company in Sri Lanka and later nationalized to become the now SLTB (state owned, Sri Lanka Transport Board). Sir Cyril served as President of the Senate of Ceylon, founded the Young Men's Buddhist Association (YMBA), built the YMBA one of the largest buildings in the center of Colombo and also built one of the largest and most popular temples in the country. His brother, V.T. De Zoysa (Sivaaji's grandfather) went on to start Air Ceylon (later Air Lanka and now SriLankan Airlines) and become Chairman and watch over its growth all the way to the point of it becoming Air Lanka.

The group were leaders in transport, motor, rubber and plastics manufacturing, refrigerators (pioneered manufacturing in Sri Lanka), tea and rubber plantations, finance and real estate investments. Chulaka De Zoysa (Sivaaji's father), eldest son of V.T. De Zoysa succeeded him as Chairman of the group and took the group into many pioneering international JVs in the sectors of batteries, rubber & plastics, construction and infrastructure projects. After his death in 1990, he was succeeded by his younger brother Ajita who went on to be Chairman until 2008.

Sivaaji's maternal great grandfather, Sir Frank Gunasekera, was one of the great physicians of the time and went on to become the Deputy President of the Senate of Ceylon. His Maternal grandfather Justin Samerasekara founded the Architecture school in Sri Lanka along with Geoffrey Bawa and founded the Sri Lanka Institute of Architecture. His eldest daughter Nela (Sivaaji's mother), went on to also become a prominent architect who has served and serves on several councils of the AIA and the RIBA.

In 2008, the De Zoysa Family sold their stake in the AMW (automotive business) to the Al-Futtaim Group, the largest Automotive company in the UAE. Sivaaji continued to serve on the board in an executive capacity until March 2014 when he finally retired after 22 years with the company. He left the Company to focus on his investments and build GAIA Investments (Private) Limited (2010), a consultancy and advisory business in the areas of infrastructure and clean energy, which he had established a few years before. GAIA also partners with other local companies who specialize in the various sectors they operate in, which include renewable energy, gas, roads, irrigation and dams.

In a personal capacity, Sivaaji set up an NGO in 2005 soon after the tsunami ravaged in Sri Lanka. The Education Rehabilitation Monitor (TERM) was Sivaaji's brainchild as a response to the Government's need to rehabilitate the Education system that had been ravaged by the tsunami. TERM helped the government raise almost $400 million for the affected education system and partnered with the largest global NGO's, such as UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children etc. and partnered directly with several governments directly including Swiss, German, Singaporean and Greek to name a few. He continues to devote much of his time in philanthropic activities.

Sivaaji has served on the Regional Board of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and was a past Chair of YPO Colombo. He currently is the Chair of the Social Impact Council of YPO International and serves on the Networks Committee. YPO is the premier global leadership network that connects successful young business leaders in a global context. The YPO was founded in 1950 in New York City and has since grown to include just over 27,000 business leaders in over 130 countries and now jointly represent over $9 trillion in combined revenue, making it one of the most formidable business organization. Following a shared mission: Better Leaders through Education and Idea Exchange, it is the largest network of peers that connects members to exchange ideas, pursue learning and share strategies to achieve personal growth and professional success.