Alifiya Mutaher Rises Above The Normal Expectations Of Conducting A Business - Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka
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Alifiya Mutaher Rises Above The Normal Expectations Of Conducting A Business

The level-headed founder of Colombo Design Market believes business should be more than about just turning a profit—it should be about engaging in meaningful dialogue and improving the world around you.

Jehan D. Adahan

It’s very important to me that business have a positive impact. If I’m putting my time, heart and energy into a venture, it needs to be more than just a cool company that drives for profit. In my opinion, business needs to do some good to the communities around us.

Recognizing the impact that you can have on the world is so vital. We don’t work in a microcosm, unable to understand the impact we have on the environment or the growing disparity happening within our communities. We’re actually hyper aware. Given that we have such knowledge of our actions and their consequences, why not do something positive with it?

When I moved back to Sri Lanka after university, there were very few physical spaces that brought together like-minded people who just wanted to hang out, have interesting, open dialogue and be exposed to cool work. It was a lot of fun to think through the concept of a design market, but on a deeper level, it was important to me to provide a space where people could appreciate the fields of art and design, and work collectively to grow them in tandem.

It was incredible to see the success of the Market and the increasing number of creative start-ups that joined us each year, but it was a steep learning curve, which did require me moving well out of my comfort zone. In my experience, that was the best thing that could have happened. Getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself in different fields made me feel like not only was I working toward a business with a cause, I was also growing as an individual. The more you get out of your comfort zone, the more you realize you can do things you never imagined, which in turn considerably improves your confidence! I think you never really test your full potential unless you keep discovering—and you owe it to yourself to constantly move forward.

By setting up a venture with such a social cause at its core, I’ve discovered that I’ve become a lot more empathetic. I’ve learnt to understand the varying viewpoints from which different people approach the same situation, and respond more proactively to challenges they may be facing. I’ve learned to communicate and connect. It makes you more vulnerable, for sure. But, that’s not something that should make you wary. Being vulnerable allows you to connect with people; when you open up to them, they reciprocate. Finding mutual points of connection with strangers feels great, and it’s been so fulfilling that the Market is now a place in which those connections can occur.

People think Colombo is a tiny place, where everyone knows each other. But, the more I’ve worked in this space, the more I’ve realized that there’s actually hordes of people not in our immediate circles, who are doing exactly the same things as us, and who we never get to meet. With a shared, accessible space, it fundamentally changes the kinds of people you get to meet and the relationships you have the opportunity to explore.

Seeing the trajectory of CDM has solidified my belief that a business with social interests at its core brings double the rewards. It Is tricky to come up with a solid concept, but as you think about the kind of business you’d like to create, be willing to share your thoughts with like-minded people who have great energy and will help you develop your ideas. By constantly speaking about what you’re interested in, you get a sense of clarity about what it is you’re after. Workshopping your idea allows it to develop into a full-fledged plan. Sometimes, we need to get out of our heads to think clearest, so draw from your community and, when you are set on your goals, make sure to give back!


This article was originally published as ‘Doing Good Business’ in the August 2017 Confidence issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more stories on amazing people, grab a copy of our latest magazine.

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