Indira speaks at the Hotel School of Lausanne about Humanitarian work and Luxury
When I graduated in 2010, I never thought I would have the chance to come back to school one day and speak in front of bright and ambitious students like you about my humanitarian journey and the many reasons why I decided to devote a significant percentage of my time towards supporting less privileged, something which reveals itself being extremely rewarding; something that I am incredibly thankful for.
Last week, while sitting in my office in Geneva, I thought about the real message I should share with you today, with the hopes that you will be able to remember and carry forward. When given this opportunity, I thought that my role was more to connect with you on a different level, to share some of my own reflections, what is actually behind the work, the passion, the commitment and what triggered my efforts.
I founded Sahana Sri Lanka when I was 21, 6 months prior to the start of my studies at EHL. Sahana Sri Lanka is a humanitarian entity which aims to improve the living conditions and increase educational opportunities of underprivileged children, youth and women in Sri Lanka. Why Sri Lanka? Firstly because of my origins and secondly because of the devastating Tsunami in 2004, an unfortunate circumstances which turned out to be a unique opportunity.
I have decided to display images of my work on the ground (a picture is worth more than a thousand words) rather than giving you a detailed explanation of all projects and initiatives that have been implemented over the last 10 years. However, if you wish to learn more about what we do, I encourage you to visit the website, read the brochure or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
10 years later, I find myself working for the India and South Asia team at the World Economic Forum, with the challenging and exciting role of heading Sri Lanka’s government engagement. I am about to complete my second year at the Forum and I must say that the organization offers me exceptional learning opportunities, cultivates unique leadership skills, and provides me with different perspectives that allow me to bring another dimension to the work I do on the ground. It is also an immense privilege to interact with outstanding individuals from all over the world, who share similar values and are concerned by the same mission: to improve the state of the world.
I believe that in today’s fast-paced world of constant change and pressure for responsiveness, we all end up seeking purpose, meaning and truth in what we do; striving to create greater impact using innovative business models.
A few months ago, I had the chance to meet Leila Janah, awarded Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and Founder of Sama and Laxmi two companies that share a common social mission to end global poverty by giving work to people in need. Sama is a social enterprise that helps people lift themselves out of poverty through digital work, and Laxmi is a social impact luxury brand. This is certainly the most inspirational example I have in mind of a talented game changer striving to redefine and reshape traditional not-for-profit models in a disruptive approach.
There is no doubt that your studies at EHL have given you a different perspective on life. You will soon graduate in front of your family and friends and so my challenge to you is what are you going to do with this experience and how can you put it to genuinely to make a difference around you?
The point that I would like to leave you with is that you need to be truly passionate and optimistic with what you do, maintain an entrepreneurial spirit and have faith, demonstrate a high level of empathy and always remain humble to achieve greater heights, make a difference in people’s lives and become a source of inspiration for others.
I always say that when we genuinely help people with pure feelings and sincere intentions, many wonders and exceptional opportunities come along the way, enabling greater achievements.
So, in closing I would like to wish you all possible success for the future. But for me it is not just about watching and seeing what you succeed in doing it is also about the significance and impact that you are going to make in the organization you will create, or join.
Congratulations for all of what you have achieved so far and for all the things that you will do that will go forth and put all this wonderful learnings and self-reflections into place to do something really useful with it.
As you walk out of this room, whatever you end up doing, go out and live a life that matters, be relevant as a leader and stay resilient as a person and mostly live every day with a deep sense of responsibility to society, the planet and people around you.