Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando was selected by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) as its 2010 Brand Icon last week.
The award was presented at the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards 2010. In the absence of Merrill J Fernando who was overseas the award was accepted his son Malik who is also a Director of MJF.
In a statement accepting the award Merrill J. Fernando commented, “Quite honestly, the real icon is the wonderful image that Ceylon Tea enjoyed at the time I launched Dilmah, Single Origin Tea. I merely took advantage of that image; therefore, I share a greater part of this honour with Ceylon Tea and generations of tea planters and workers who developed the industry.”
Merrill J. Fernando is acknowledged in several Asian and African countries as a role model for his pioneering efforts in launching a producer owned tea brand. He is also recognised for the unique philosophy he maintains, of making his business a matter of human service.
The Brand Excellence Awards are conducted by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) to recognise brand excellence at national level as well as to encourage and celebrate outstanding marketers who have helped enhance the image of Sri Lanka and significantly contributed to the country’s economy.
The criteria for the Brand Icon Award is that the individual be a Sri Lankan national who has excelled locally and globally, built an international brand and has contributed to the Sri Lankan economy while enhancing the image of the country. Previous winner of the award have been internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan cricketers Muttiah Muralitharan (2008) and Kumar Sangakkara (2009).
The Brand Icon 2010 award is a tribute to Merrill J. Fernando’s courage and determination in establishing his business in spite of opposition and ridicule from tea traders and his peers alike. Merrill’s commitment to bringing quality back to tea went against the prevailing direction of the industry which was even then – in the 1950s – dominated by multinational corporations. Disagreeing with the industry’s move towards multi-origin blending, Merrill has always championed quality Ceylon tea.
Since 1962 the tea businesses he established have practiced his philosophy of sharing profits and success with workers and the wider community, a feature he claims is driven by ‘family values’. Merrill built his brand on the Six Pillars of Dilmah - Integrity, Ethics, Quality, Tradition, Our Customer and Sustainability. These are embodied in every aspect of the brand which follows the philosophy of making Business a Matter of Human Service. The work of the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation is testament to this commitment.
Merrill added, “The success of Dilmah Single Origin Tea, in today’s big world of mass market commodity tea, is owed to millions of customers around the world who enjoy fine Ceylon tea.”