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On February 5th, the Canadian Tamil Professionals Association brought together a diverse group of professionals in the Tamil community for a unique networking experience at Gallery 345. This event was appropriately titled Investing with Social Impact.
Attendees, consisting of both emerging and established professionals, were able to connect with like-minded professionals and have impactful conversations.
The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Ravi Gukathasan, PhD (UofT, 1986), who is the founder and CEO of a Scarborough based enterprise called Digital Speciality Chemicals (DSC), a manufacturer supplying specialty chemicals to pharmaceutical, semiconductor, and specialty chemical markets around the world.
With a successful business, one would think that Dr. Gukathasan had every reason to be content. DSC was booming with 2013 being its most successful year, having grossed over $20 million in revenue in that year. Despite the company flourishing under his leadership, he said, “I was miserable— totally unhappy.” Dr. Gukathasan felt that he had built a corporation with tunnel vision, just working towards making profit like any other company. It was evident to him that something was missing.
This epiphany led to Dr. Gukathasan learning about a business concept known as the dual bottom line (DBL), and there began his journey to implement that concept in his company. The DBL concept emphasizes that the human development of employees is just as important as profit. This new way of thinking has become the beginning of a revolution at DSC.
Dr. Gukathasan has called this “the emancipation of the people”. He emphasized that leaders need to feel a responsibility to teach employees self-awareness, leadership skills, and business and ethical standards in addition to technical knowledge. These are critical to not just develop employees, but also a better community. This was best captured when Dr. Gukathasan said, “I truly believe you can inspire people, and inspiration is not based on a single bottom line. It’s a collective, holistic perspective. You can do things differently”.
This new forward way of thinking with a dual bottom line is still a work in progress at DSC. Dr. Gukathasan has also added a 3rd bottom line to this concept: environmental sustainability. He has already begun this work by creating a public park on half of DSC’s property, in the hope of improving life in the surrounding community. He has also implemented high environmental standards in his manufacturing plant.
Investing with Social Impact highlighted that the most impactful change makers in society invest in human development as an important part of their business. Dr. Gukathasan also highlighted the importance of “serving others who believe in you”. Visionaries like Dr. Gukathasan teach us that developing employees as human beings, teaching them to become better people, and realizing that despite being successful, there is always room for improvement are important.
This epiphany moment in October 2013 that Dr. Gukathasan experienced parallels well with BJ Miller’s Ted Talk entitled “What Really Matters at the End of Life,” Miller says, “I tell you it has been a liberation to realize you can always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left, like that snowball lasting for a perfect moment, all the while melting away. If we love such moments ferociously, then maybe we can learn to live.”