The Rise of a Global PR Empire in Lanka – Ashan Kumar

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1.Who is Ashan?
He comes across as a happy character, but we found out there is more to this young entrepreneur other than his trail- blazing smile. He can be termed as a “smiling assassin”, as he has tendency to nail the bigger fish, bigger contracts with consummate ease, predominantly in the global branding market. He disagrees with a smile, according to him it was not a smiling affair. He recalls of having to work 25 hours per day when he founded his venture in his bedroom. With a modest investment, and 1 Billion $ worth of heart, passion and an idea. He is currently the Managing Director of one of Sri Lanka’s leading Public Relations firms, if not the one and only firm in large scale with the largest PR focused clientele, specializing in Public Relations practice. This is unique to a heavily advertising driven communications industry in Sri Lanka. And PR is a term which is often easily misinterpreted as “Press Release” rather than Public Relations in our country. What’s more different about PR Wire is it is a firm which believes in a triple bottom line model through connecting communities.

Today, the company has forged an affiliation with the international PR Firm – Edelman. Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm, with more than 5,000 employees in 65 cities, as well as affiliates in more than 35 cities. This has enabled PR Wire to further open up the market, take brand Sri Lanka to new heights all the while acting as a catalyst, country economy marketer to its growing global clients while also supporting local companies to reach out to international markets. Driven by its founder, PR Wire embraces the true spirit of entrepreneurship, below are excerpts of an interview with a personality who drives the organization forward:

2.What are you truly passionate about?
About everything I do, from myself, my family. I am keen on driving positivity through challenging present context in which ever area, be it life, work this ultimately results in self contentment. I challenge myself constantly – my passion, my team’s passion is to create something “new” at least once in every 30 days, in all our interactions in the global platform we take pride to represent our mother land with pride.

3.What was the original source of inspiration for you to become a success businessmen?
I tried my hands on starting my own business when I was 18 years old, this was while I was at my very first working place. But it didn’t work out, I even lost my job as a result of the risk I took. Today when I look back at my career, I can say I am happy at where I am now, and I will continue to be happy at where I am going to be in another 10-20 years.

My love for public relations bloomed when I was introduced to the practice by one of the most creative personalities I have met, Jayantha Sittampalam, I want to thank him for his guidance and advice and all who was with me during that time. I was next groomed and polished by Nimal Gunawardena, Rezani Aziz and Pia Hatch, working with these leaders brought the best out of me. My chance of facing the world and global work education transferred while I was at Virtusa, this gave me strong corporate insights into process, values and Kris Canekaratne’s entrepreneurial boldness continued to amaze me, and it still does. The guidance by Madu Ratnayake and Rasika Withanage and my Global in Sri Lanka, India, US and the UK at Corporate Communications was invaluable.

I was always happy with what I had, the constant urge I had to always learn something new drew me to the long lasting gap of a superior Public Relations firm in the country. And it was made easier for me as the Social Media boom was just around the corner together with the changing technology. I am still work in progress, I guess we all are, we cannot say you are successful just because you earn millions or billions, can we measure success with your wealth?, success is directly connected to your heart and the happiness you feel within yourself and the happiness you share with the people directly and indirectly involved with you.

4.What work are you most proud of?
I am happy and proud of the advocacy work we are carrying out to save the eroding beach of Unawatuna, which is regarded as one of the best beaches in the world. This is another simple example of how human activities directly affect the environment and our community, and our country’s economy. It is our duty to identify these issues and as a corporate and as a person who believes in proactive action, we are happy to take a leading stride in what we believe as the correct thing to do.

5.Whats your philosophy about entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is important to a country like Sri Lanka, we alone need to produce more local entrepreneurs which will further encourage a positive economy and I will support anybody who is starting up.

6.What is the positioning of Sri Lankan PR industry in global scenario and your contribution?
Sri Lankan Public Relations industry is in a very naive stage, but the new generation and new education has opened this space much more, with youngsters with global education taking on realms. PR is about so much more than Public Relating or Public Relations. It’s about Protecting Relationships, Promoting Relationships, Protecting Reputations, Promoting Reputations, Professional Relating, Public Reassurance, Positive Reality, People Reconnecting, and Principles Reinforcement. It’s actually about making people feel less like one of the public hordes and more like a personal stakeholder. Our contribution will focus mainly with the relationships we garner with the global industry and placing our country in the map is something we are persistent about.

7.What charity is closest to your heart?
Through all the revenue generated, we set aside a budget to help our Sustainability Model – Wire Community – Environment and Hub. This is a significant motive of our company existence. We partner with a number of cause-based initiatives. Some of these initiatives enable local talent to gain valuable experience and fine-tune their skills while laying the foundation for them to compete on the global stage.

8.What is one thing you cannot live without?
I cannot live without a smile, it makes me very happy to see another person smile this gives me the greatest motivation to create happy moments to myself and any other.

9.Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to become a entrepreneur or just advice in general about careers?

My sole advice to anyone would be is to do what you love and do what makes you happy and keep at it, never give up and do whatever you do out of love, also remember you have the power to make everybody else happy through every action. At the end of the day this is what you would take with you when you leave your legacy behind. In the end happiness is not something which is at the end of the journey, but it is in the journey you travel to get there.

10.What are your future aspirations and goals?

Myself and my team are continuously researching and are developing our services together with our valued clients. Our short term goal will be to continue with our innovations and our aspiration is to further see to that the Public Relations practice in our country will be developed in to an internationally recognized practice. Giving us a hint he said, “news about this will come out within the next quarter, he smiles “… Another big fish? we ask. He smiles again, “Why not?” you can put it that way… he ended with a smile once again…

And we at Happy Sri Lankans went on to talked out loud, another World Class PR firm in SL? wow! we can’t help it, but, to smile… thinking he might have heard us, we turned around to look, guess what? he kept on smiling…

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