Buzz with Danu: Harinda Katugaha

Today I have a man who I met an year back at a dinner, his silent collected ways did catch my attention and we did speak about his many ideas. An year later he made me speechless at Ted x Colombo last Sunday, it’s hard to keep me in one place but his sincere approach to his talk made me want to change the world and I think as a Ted speaker he made his mark, Meet Harinda, who has worked with the United Nations, IDLO, BMW and General Motors before starting his first entrepreneurial venture –IDAMA.lk. He is currently in the process of building two distinct new technologies, using Artificial Intelligence and Material Sciences.

Re-drawing the boundaries of his life through extraordinary experience and people, his thinking starts out of bounds and works its way back in, creating new areas and opportunities. To feed his learning spirit, he pursued an Executive MBA from INSEAD and is currently a Doctoral candidate at Bocconi University. Today he opens up with more on Buzz with Danu .

How would you describe your self to our readers? 

Realist. Unemotional. Diplomatic, when needed. Antagonist, when needed. Strategic. Private. Ambivert. Patient. Always trying to grow spherically. Always trying to see the best in people and get the best 
in people. 

Tell me about  IDAMA.lk?

IDAMA.lk is a software company servicing the Construction industry. We build and service software solutions while providing valuable analytics to the Construction industry. Consider it Intelligence-as-a-Service (IAAS) Analytics instead of simply Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). We have a number of scalable solutions to bring the Construction industry online focusing in South East Asia. 

You have worked at many places before finding what you wanted to do, tell me about your experience?

For many years, I have worked at a variety of companies/organisations in search of the right “fit”. It turned out, that there is no such “perfect” environment. You can either try to build one yourself through a venture you start (though the result is never what you plan), or you try to find something as close to “home” as possible. However, along the way, I wasn’t lazy. I picked up and leveraged key skills and network trying to maximise opportunities all along the way. 

What was your inspiration for your brand?

My inspirations were many collected into one. I read a lot about the Tech world, the Business world and generally good practices in institutions. I always have insightful conversations with my friends on creating a culture against institutionalisation or what I call “negative institutionalisation”. However, as the brand it grew in notoriety, you started hearing... “Ahh... IDAMA.lk, the technology company!” 

 

 

Who has been your biggest strength? 

My parents. We butt heads frequently but there are absolutely no better “partners in crime” than those who have your real and genuine interests at heart. So even when we don’t see eye to eye, they have always been the bigger people to accept my perspective and give me the space to fail or succeed. 
 

What plans for the future? 

 Keep going. Just don’t stop. Portfolio of companies. Continue Consulting because I want my competition to get better. And improve the ecosystem as a whole. I’m a big believer in meritocracy and will and always have supported those that simply want to get and do better. So, if I’m not building something for myself or a community of caring users, I am heavily focused on helping others develop themselves and/or their businesses.

How was it to be a part of TEDx Colombo?  
A dream. The TEDx team was absolutely incredible and to be surrounded by such incredible speakers is humbling. I take my hat off to the entire team behind the event (and thank them for their incessant patience with me). Another one off my bucket list!

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an entrepreneur? 
Building a team. I’m creative and business oriented. But I can’t do it all on my own. To filter through the “talkers” and find the doers while not dropping the ball on whatever I’m building at the time is quite 
a challenge.

Who has been your role model in life? 
You know, I have been looking for a mentor and role model my ENTIRE life. But I never found one. People always had alternate beliefs, lifestyles or interests other than mine. Since I couldn’t find that one person, I changed my strategy. I started surrounding myself with many amazing people instead. And now, I have a TON of people that model certain aspects. And I try to emulate the best of all of these people.

What’s your fashion statement? 
Office. Like a gentleman down to the pocket square. Casual. Always clean cut.
When I read your bio for Tedx it says “Currently in the process of building two distinct new technologies”, please tell me more? The first is leveraging Artificial Intelligence in a very cutting edge way. 
We are about to change the way the world does Marketing. The second is actually in the Fashion industry. It’s the redesign and rethinking of every day items. Both were created based on frustrations with the inadequacies of today’s solutions. So, I went out and built them myself... well... prototyped them at least. Stay tuned... because they will be coming out in the near future.

What are your thoughts on the Sri Lankan economy? 
 As a Sri Lankan returnee, I’m disappointed. But it’s not because of any one entity. We simply have a lot of work to do and we think that, because we have a beautiful country, we can simply cash in the chips. We are not competitive. We are arrogant. We are not realistic. We prefer picketing than working. We complain about being cheated while we are cheating in our day jobs by not giving our 120%. However, we have potential. And I’m optimistic. Just not in the short term.
 

What would you say is the positive / negative in this government? 
 I don’t choose to blame or praise the government for anything. In the end, Sri Lanka is known for always missing the boat. However, pointing the finger at the government is simply the easy way out. Why are people always relying on the government to effect change? 

What would you tell those  young entrepreneurs about starting a new business?  
Hustle. Be smarter than the rest and if not, become it. Put your head down when you need to get things done and don’t get distracted. Chin up when you get hit, because there’s a lot more coming. Be resilient. Be resistant. Be persistent. If you fail, it’s only because you gave up too early. oh... and manage your cash because the number one reason businesses fail, is not because the idea was bad, the entrepreneurs were bad or because the market was bad... bankruptcy is a simple math: Bills to pay > money in the bank.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Danu Innasithamby

Danu is a Jaffna Boy with a Marketing qualification (only because he needed to study, and not because he wanted it). He has been a part of the team for seven years and is the face behind Buzz with Danu, and WTF.

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