It is said that when work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible. Our father, Merrill J. Fernando, exemplifies the truth behind this saying, for Ceylon Tea, Ethics, Fairness, and his Family have been, for over 63 years, the focus of his commitment and pleasure. Father devoted his life to tea and in doing so he has changed the fortunes of an industry. In the 1950s, shortly after colonial rule ended in Ceylon, he understood that the persisting economic form of colonialism of his country would severely hinder its chances of development. His struggle against the exploitative elements in this system required extraordinary courage and determination, and took over three decades. That effort eventually gave birth to Dilmah.
Father’s vision was for tea that is grown, handpicked and expertly produced in Ceylon to be packaged at source, then supplied fresh to customers around the world. That seems very logical today but the 1950s were a different time; tea that was produced in Ceylon was taken in bulk to London, where it was auctioned to European, English and American packers. These were mainly a handful of large corporations which came to dominate the tea category through their acquisition of the small and largely family owned tea companies that brought quality tea to the West. In relegating Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) to the role of supplier of raw material, the ‘system’ denied the producer any of the benefits of branding and value addition. These accrued to the packers whilst the Ceylon Tea Industry and its workers increasingly suffered as a result of their fortunes being in the hands of foreign corporations driven primarily by profit.
The launch of Dilmah changed all that. For the first time a producer had the opportunity of reaching out to the consumer without the unnecessary involvement of the middleman – the trader and packer – and his profit. For consumers that meant more authentic, fresher and better quality tea. For tea producers and the ailing Ceylon Tea industry it meant a brighter future by securing a fair share of the price that consumers paid for tea, and the possibility of development through fair and ethical trade. Twenty five years later, the corporations still dominate globally, but in a relatively short time Dilmah has prevailed against giants who have existed for centuries and paved the way for other producer brands. Importantly, Dilmah has fulfilled a pledge that our father made in conceiving his dream in the 1950s, for it has changed the lives of thousands of underprivileged people in the tea industry and the wider community in Sri Lanka.
On the 25th Anniversary of Dilmah, we restate our commitment to the values on which our father founded Dilmah. We join him in his pledge to make our business a matter of human service and we commit to uphold the Six Pillars of Dilmah. Most importantly, we thank you for choosing Dilmah. You have helped realise our father’s dream. In doing so you have vindicated his belief in the power of making business a matter of human service, and you have helped change the lives of thousands of underprivileged people.
Dilhan & Malik
Dilhan and Malik are the younger and elder sons of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando, from whose names he coined his brand Dilmah.