Group Managing Director
One of the youngest female game-changers in the shipping and maritime industry in Sri Lanka, Shehara De Silva is creating waves in local and global markets as she drives the future vision for the McLarens Group - one of the country’s largest shipping service conglomerates. She has been instrumental in creating a powerhouse and successfully positioned the Mclarens Group as a leading diversified conglomerate. Whilst shipping, marine, and logistics still remain at its core, the group has expanded into the areas of petroleum & energy, manufacturing & distribution, property & strategic investment, and the leisure sector.
Shehara is backed by extensive formal education in cross-curricular areas of business and holds a Masters Degree in Shipping, Trade and Finance (Honors) from City University, CASS Business School in London, and a Bachelor's Degree in Economics (Honors) from the London School of Economics (LSE). She is also a Chartered Member (CMILT) of The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport.
Her career journey began in 2002, at HSBC Colombo where she worked in corporate banking. Her intrinsic interest in the shipping industry, subsequently directed her to work at Wan Hai Lines in Singapore and GAC Dubai where she was mentored to expand her knowledge in liner and breakbulk shipping documentation, operations, IT, marketing and offshore shipping supply services. There she envisioned building an innovative brand with diversification into global markets.
Thus began Shehara’s journey with the McLarens Group in 2003 appointed as manager Business Development she was instrumental in streamlining shared services for the group in the areas of finance, human resources, corporate planning, compliance & audit, legal, and digital transformation. Her vision of modernizing the company also saw her drive the areas of corporate social responsibility and corporate communication. By 2010, Shehara was serving on the board of over 40 subsidiaries within the McLarens Group, steering business direction and strategy. Her business superpower is developing ideas that disrupt the status quo and challenge the company and its people to think, inspire and grow. Appointed joint group managing director in 2015, and group managing director in 2021 Shehara’s focus has been on the strategic vision of the company as a whole, driving business strategy, operations, administration and new business acquisition & mergers.
Shehara’s modern, innovative and unconventional thinking has been the catalyst for the McLaren Group’s exponential growth and success since 2010. Their diversification strategy has brought about several new acquisitions and partnerships for the representation of many global brands. Expanding its range of products in the distribution and safety sector, Shehara has steered her team into securing new agency representations for several liners and other shipping principals, investments in petroleum tankers, introduction of bunkering services, expansion of off-shore services and investment in an integrated logistics & distribution facility and container depot. Other areas of growth have been in property holdings and the expansion of its client portfolio under her direction.
All throughout her career, modern management practices have been her forte. Yet, Shehara has never once compromised on the company’s 70-year history, culture, heritage and value system - ingrained in her by her father Rohan De Silva and her grandfather, Hubert De Silva - the founding father of the company. She has demonstrated exemplary turnaround management skills by reorganizing business infrastructure , building a dynamic leadership team to achieve scalable solutions and profitability for the entire group.
In 2014, Shehara formed Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) in Sri Lanka and was appointed as the Founding President of WISTA - Sri Lanka. It is solely due to her hard work and commitment towards empowering women, that she was pivotal in setting up the Sri Lankan chapter and garnering astounding industry support
In 2017, Shehara was appointed as the first female office-bearer in the 50-year history of the Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) - the leading voice of the shipping industry in Sri Lanka. Subsequently, in 2019 & 2020, she served as the vice-chairperson. Creating history in the shipping industry in Sri Lanka Shehara was appointed as the first female Chairperson of CASA at the 55th Annual General Meeting held on the 17th of August 2021.
From 2016 to 2019 Shehara served as a member of the National Agenda Committee on Transport & Logistics of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Convener of the National Maritime Policy Steering Committee, was appointed as a member of the board of Caritas – SEDEC and member of the Diversity committee of the international chamber of shipping. She also served as the Advisor to the Hon Minister of Women’s & Child Affairs in March 2016. Shehara served as a board member of the national savings bank in 2018 and currently as a director of the Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ltd. (CSC)
In recognition of her outstanding contribution to the industry, for her role in female leadership and for her vibrant personality, Shehara has won many an accolade. She was named as one of the Most Powerful Businesswomen in Sri Lanka by the Echelon magazine in 2013 and 2014, whilst WISTA Sri Lanka presented her with the ‘Personality of the Year Award’ in 2018 Shehara also won the Silver Award – under the supply chain category at the Professional Career Women Awards 2016 and for Best Corporate Leader of the Year at the Top 50 Professional and Career Women’s Awards 2020 organized by Women in Management (WIM).
Shehara is passionate about community outreach and has played a key role in ‘Friends of Prisoners’ Children’ - a program that uplifts the lives of children of inmates at the Welikada Prison. Shehara is the First and only Female Formula Racing Driver in Sri Lanka and actively participates in national Motor Racing Events. She has won many accolades to her credit in array of events, ranging from Hill climbs to circuit racing, gravel racing, and rallies. Besides her inspiring career she is a lady of both steel and silk and balances her roles in life successfully as a mother , mentor , business and community leader and continues to challenge herself to her fullest potential.