Gaya’s People : Sandya Salgado

Gaya’s People is an iSrilankan series featuring light personal interviews with successful Srilankans on their style, faves and raves. Successful people?  It’s defined as People who know what they do, why they do it and remain delightfully feet-on-the-ground Srilankan nevertheless.


Sandya Salgado was Founder/CEO of Ogilvy Action and is now Communications Specialist and Snr. External Affairs Officer at the World Bank.


Sandya is a spirited lady, marketing communications expert and tomboy-of-sorts. After 28 years in the Mad Ad Industry in Sri Lanka where she did great Outreach work with rural communities and mentored many young people she chose to exit when she knew that she had reached her full potential.

Sandya essentially stayed true to character; one hell of a stubborn woman you could say. She never compromised on her beliefs nor saw any reason to.  Stay tuned for her writing, her blogs on development and more.

Gaya’s Intro Video

I knew Sandya from my copywriter days at Grants Advtg. So I recorded my impressions of her and pulled in just a few photos and featured her signature ethnic jewellery collection extensively. I sent the audiotrack to Sandya and hopped around till she responded. ” The audio is very nice she said, It’s very YOU”. I took that as a go-ahead. “I need to clear this stuff with you before I publish it” I insisted and she responded ” Aiyo, you can say anything you like about me, men… what is this?”  Am hoping she’s gonna like it cos I respect this lady a lot.

Gaya’s intro to Sandya Salgado from iSrilankan on Vimeo.

 You can watch it on YouTube here  if the above link glitches.


My personal style-signifier (After a heated exchange on what ‘style-signifyer’ signified) is ethnic jewellery.  Anyone who knows me will tell you so.

But I would like to say that I have my own style in the sense that I don’t follow what’s in fashion.

I love the Sari but  I am in shorts when I am not in Sari.  There was this friend, an ex-creative director who came over from India to shoot women in Sari and when he came home I said ‘oh let me get out of my shorts and look a little decent’ and he said “definitely not, am gonna shoot you in shorts”.

My father tried his level best to make me dress ‘decently’.  I think my mother-in-law faints every time she sees my legs now that I am 50, but my husband is the most broadminded, unconventional man who thinks that if a woman’s body is not gross it should be, well, displayed.

I would not change a thing about my childhood. Absolutely not.  I honestly cannot remember my parents fighting and us thinking ‘what’s going on?’  I am who I am because of my childhood.  I had the best grandmother who indulged me, the best neighbourhood, the best guys to hang out with.  On the whole I am a pretty contented person and I don’t think what if… I wish… am happy with what I’ve got.

My favourite unwind place is my Home in Panadura ( I groan, she chuckles…).  My husband and I, at the drop of a hat, go some place here, there, but my favourite place is Vil Uyana.  People who’ve seen the pics are amazed that this is Sri Lanka.

My favourite travel destination is India.  I lo-o-ove India.  I love the diversity and the incredibility of India.  It’s not a particular place as such because on the very streets there is something fascinating happening.  It’s a messy even crude place at times, but I am awed by India.  People, culture, design, talent … and the amazing progress!  I was in Delhi last month and the new malls are like Las Vegas.

My memorable holiday recently was when I took off with my very close Indian friend – we took the night-train to Dharmashala.  We went on this dirty shitty train having Indian food and went to visit the Dalai Lama, who was too damn busy to see us apparently ( I have carefully edited the original sentiment in her personal interest).

Las Vegas is another place that vows me.  Of course am not interested in the gambling  side of things.  Yet there are these amazing creations,  hotels and structures that people have conceptualised. I went to see an entertainment show on water and am astounded at the brilliant expression given to people who conceptualise such stuff  and so, to me, Las Vegas is about creativity.

So on the one hand you have poor India with immense potential and then you have Vegas which is the height of extravagance.  Would you say that I am a black or white not a grey person, I don’t have in-betweens in life (chuckling!!) .

If I were to be away from Sri Lanka for a long time the food I would miss most would be pol sambol and my bath-curry.  Yes, I would.

My favourite room at home is my bedroom.  I love to work on my laptop in bed.

The best gift I ever received was a solitaire from my hubby Priyath on our Silver Wedding Anniversary.

Someone and something said that impressed me most in my career was Jojo Kanjirath (now no more). He was one of my heroes. I wanted to join UNICEF when I was in my early 20s.  He said “never join the UN now as you will get old faster and become a dinosaur.  Peak in your career with the private sector.  When you are ready to retire join the UN!”

If I didn’t do what I did now I would be an architect.  Loved architecture and design but in order to get into the Engineering Faculty I would have needed to be a Maths whiz.

Something I would like to add as I’ve answered all your questions is that Priyath my husband is the rock I lean on for everything in life.


  1. An excellent insight to a highly appreciated lady at Ogilvy Action.
    I’m a recent recruit to Ogilvy Action and I must say from what I have heard about her she’s indeed an inspiration to many here at Ogilvy.

  2. She is truely an inspiration to me, learnt a lot from her in my many yrs in Ogilvy. All the best Sandya

  3. Thushara Rodrigo says

    Thanks Gaya for profiling my sister who I am extremely proud of. After my wife, she’s the closest and dearest female in my life as there is nothing that we don’t discuss. We have a similar outlook on life as well as tastes in art, literature, ect. Yes, she is a beacon to young Srilankan/asian females!
    Congrats Gaya…carry on with your good work in highlighting ‘successful’ Srilankan women, whose feet are firmly planted on the ground, so that our young girls will have positive role models rather than shallow and tinsel superstars.

    • Thushara, I wish all sisters had brothers like you ! But then mine aren’t too bad either… they seem mildly surprised though that I am capable of having a website all on my own 😉 Thank you very much for the encouraging words – goes far. There are so many amazing people who have kept Srilankanness alive in the difficult times we have lived and continue to live through ! It’s the least I can do… Keep reading and let me know your views and feel free to send in any storylines or ideas you may have !

  4. Gaya you couldnt have chosen a better person to profile. Sandhya is an amazing person and a real role model for young women in Sri Lanka. She excelled in her field but was always interested in humanity and is a wonderful human being. I am privileged to have known Sandhya for a long time. I wish her all the best. Well done on profiling someone of Sandhya’s calibre. She has much to contribute to our society and there is a lot to learn from her. Best wishes to you.

    • Thank you Iyanthi. All the comments continue the story and great to see what loyal friends and family Sandya’s got.

  5. Gaya, it’s truly awesome. So proud to have such inspiring women in Sri Lanka. My memories go back to our days at Grants…
    Sandya is one individual who always believed in what she did and created her own path without any compromise.
    She made a hell of a big difference by reaching out to our own rural community with her outstanding ability to look at life differently.
    So happy for her being able to spend a fullfilling and contented life. Also Congrats G for the lovely presentation and write up.
    I love the concept ‘Gaya’s People’ . Warm Regards

    • Grants Ads was unforgettable … seems like yesterday ! It’s lovely to hear from you after so long Udeni – thank you.

  6. Uma Rajamantri says

    This is a wonderful account of Sandy. She has carried her “Sandya Spirit” (which I would like to call it) from her young days at Musaeus to date.She is an icon for a modern Srilankan women. Congratulations! Gayathri, for capturing the true essence of Sandya!

  7. The IRON LADY with a beautiful smile ….

  8. Wow I am overwhelmed by all these lovely sentiments. Thanks all from the pit of my stomach, which is deeper than the bottom of my heart!
    Gaya doesn’t know what she has got herself into… She has definitely created a monster for herself as she will have to publish all the nonsense I will be writing depending on my mood, ha ha! So brave yourself Gaya dearest!!!
    On a more serious note, I must say whatever I did, I did with total conviction, passion and a very clear conscience. So if any of that has impacted anybody positively, I am truly humbled. My only intention was to make a difference to the industry I truly loved. After all the slogging, now I am chilling by the way 🙂

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