Sushan at the Study UK Alumni Awards

Transformative Education

CONNECTED spoke to University of Reading graduate and Study UK Alumni Awards 2024 finalist, Sushan Peiris, about his entrepreneurial success and his determination to be an agent of change.

Sushan headshotSushan was a finalist in the Business and Innovation category at the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards in Sri Lanka. He shared with CONNECTED how his time studying LLB Law at the University of Reading was a transformative journey – providing the skills and personal growth needed to become a key contributor to his community and country, and why businesses are so fundamental to communities.

Read on to find out more about Sushan’s journey in business, how studying at Reading impacted his mindset, and how he gives back to aspiring students.

Overcoming obstacles

Having completed his degree in 2009, Sushan was inspired by his time at Reading to make an impact in his home country of Sri Lanka. He said: “At the time, Sri Lanka was a nation emerging from the shadows of a decades-long civil war but was filled with newfound opportunities. I was determined to make change and to contribute to my community and country.”

Sushan greeting guests at a barThis determination fuelled Sushan in his entrepreneurial journey and in 2010 he revived Modern Voyages – a travel company that had fallen dormant. He explained: “Modern Voyages is a travel company that provides bespoke travel guides and experiences for anyone visiting Sri Lanka, whether for business, education or holidays. The goal is to ensure that people explore the best bits of Sri Lanka during their trip.

“I saw the potential for Modern Voyages to become a beacon of quality and innovation in the travel industry. My education from Reading gave me an understanding of strategic planning and execution which helped make that dream a reality.”

While revamping Modern Voyages, Sushan still pursued his passion for law and was appointed to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to work along with the Attorney Generals Department in 2018, as the Legal Officer for an investigation into multiple big businesses in Sri Lanka. He said: “I had to conduct in-depth research and analysis into the legal implications of aviation law, the aviation industry and the operations of airlines.

“This was a great opportunity to utilise the skills I acquired while studying law.”

However, Sushan’s entrepreneurial journey hasn’t been without its challenges. He explained: “In 2020, I started a multi-cuisine restaurant called Cuisine Colombo. We launched just one month before the COVID-19 pandemic which necessitated a temporary shutdown of our operations just as we were getting started. Then followed more challenges in the form of economic crises, civil unrest, petrol shortages, and major political issues. It has taken a lot of determination and resilience both personally and from the team to overcome those challenges.”

An exhilarating experience

For Sushan, the success of Cuisine Columbo – which has gone on to have a clientele of over 10,000 patrons – extends far beyond financial success. He said: “The business is now thriving and that is down to not just a loyal clientele but a team who have shown an unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction and ensuring we as a business contribute to our community.”

Chef cooking with a flaming panIt is this dedication to contributing to his community that warranted Sushan’s success in the Study UK Alumni Awards. These awards recognise alumni, who are living outside of the UK but attended a UK university, and whose outstanding success stories have made a significant difference within the community – be that locally, nationally or globally. The awards cover four categories; Social Action, Culture and Creativity, Business and Innovation, and Science and Sustainability.

Of his success Sushan said: “Being named a finalist was an incredibly humbling and exhilarating experience. It felt like a validation of all the hard work, dedication and passion I have put into my academic and professional journey.

“I am truly grateful for this honour and moreover, I was glad that it highlighted the impact the University had on me.”

It was especially meaningful for Sushan that he was shortlisted within the business and innovation category. He said: “Businesses have the power to drive positive change and make a meaningful impact on society. By investing in the community, businesses can help address social issues, promote sustainable practices, and enhance the overall quality of life for individuals and families, as well as creating employment opportunities and fostering economic growth.

“I firmly believe in the motto, ‘if not me, then who?’ and this drives me to want to uplift the community through my own businesses and ensure we play a meaningful role in creating a better life for everyone.”

Inspiring others

Sushan actively recognises the transformative effects his education had on his entrepreneurial journey. He said: “I embarked on a path of academia and personal growth when I pursued an undergraduate degree at Reading, which was the start of a transformative journey for me.

“It was a pivotal phase that was characterised by the rigorous LLB Law programme and intensive entrepreneurship module. This dual programme provided me with a well-rounded education that combined legal expertise with the practical knowledge needed to excel in business. It not only fortified my academic foundation but also laid the cornerstone for my professional trajectory.

“The diverse and multicultural environment I was part of at Reading also exposed me to different perspectives and helped me to see problems and opportunities from different angles.

“Reading’s emphasis on innovation and creativity also helped prepare me for the world beyond studying. All these skills I learnt at Reading have proved a critical asset in running my businesses.”

Sushan’s journey is one that he hopes can inspire others. He said: “I want to be able to use my experience to inspire the next generation of internationally mobile students. The University of Reading has enabled me to participate in conventions and exhibitions in Sri Lanka where I’ve had the privilege of addressing students and offering insights into my personal experience.

“My goal is not only to narrate my story but to serve as a source of inspiration and guidance for aspiring students; and to encourage them to explore the possibilities that a UK education can offer and the profound transformation it can bring to one’s life and career.”

To hear more about our British Council Study UK Alumni successes, read Nichola’s story.