Our Inspire segment returns with Pete Deemer, CEO of GoodAgile Lanka (a tech focussed Sri Lanka BOI Company), Co-Founder of GameSpot (acquired by CBS Interactive) and 2016 Chairman of the SCRUM Alliance, the largest and most influential professional membership organization in the Agile community. Pete has resided in Sri Lanka since 2013.
1. You have been living in Sri Lanka for five years, what would you consider the highlights?
Sri Lanka is a wonderful place to live — very friendly people, fascinating cultures, delicious food, beautiful scenery, a storied history, and reasonable cost of living — really an unbeatable combination.
2. Where have you witnessed the biggest change since first arriving here?
As someone in the technology industry, the biggest change I’ve seen is the burgeoning Sri Lankan startup culture, and a growing entrepreneurial mindset among the twenty- and thirty-something set. I think there’s huge potential for the country as a wellspring for technology innovation, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this.
3. Sri Lankans (politicians & otherwise) constantly consider Singapore as the ultimate development target. As someone who does business in both countries, what economic and social potential do you see in us to achieve that goal?
Sri Lanka has everything in place to become a lower-cost alternative Singapore — good location and easy transportation links to Asia and the Middle East, excellent universities and secondary schools in Colombo, pleasant quality of life for expats, a population with high rates of literacy and spoken English, and infrastructure that is good relative to its neighbors and getting better
4. What would you consider are our biggest obstacles?
Unfortunately, though, serious impediments stand in the way — most notably, red tape for businesses, a political and legal system that makes it difficult for businesses to feel confident making long-term bets on the country, and immigration rules that make it extremely difficult for expats to make Sri Lanka their “home base” for work throughout Asia.
Taking India as an example, as a foreigner, I can form a corporation with a flexible business mandate, open a corporate bank account, transfer in capital, and get a long-term resident visa, all within the space of 48 hours — and I can get started immediately building a business and bringing in global income. However, in Sri Lanka there are hurdles for every one of these steps. To give an example, I once spent a week desperately waiting for the final signature on my resident visa, because the only official who could sign it just stopped showing up to work. Or the BOI officer who turned down our annual BOI renewal because, as an education company, we didn’t have a “classroom with desks” to show him; he simply couldn’t imagine how you could be an education business that didn’t look like a schoolhouse.
5. Given we were on par with Singapore (in development) in the 70s and suffered from a significant disruption due to the civil war, what did Singapore do right to get to the place its at today?
What’s interesting is how often Singapore is held up as a model for other countries in the region, but it’s easy to forget all the disadvantages Singapore had at the start of its journey — in the 1960’s it had the lowest per-capital GDP in South- and Southeast Asia, the smallest land area, a culturally very divided population, and no natural resources to speak of. So it set about creating natural resources out of thin air plus the rule of law with a transparent and efficient legal system to enforce it.
A secure, modern and efficient port and airport to turn it into a regional hub for trade, travel and tourism. A very welcoming business environment for foreign investors and knowledge-workers; with easy-to-obtain work and resident visas, minimal capital controls, and lightweight regulations for corporate formation and operation. A young, ambitious and educated population with an entrepreneurial bent. Government departments that are measured and monitored for efficiency paired with a staunch commitment to rooting out rent-seeking by civil servants.
All created literally from thin air by the government and the people: a set of natural resources more valuable in the modern global economy than any mineral or ore from the ground.
6. Changing the subject slightly, what brought you to your first one on one session at Barressential?
I’d been having lower back pains, and after looking at the MRI, my doctor told me I had the back of the 49 year old — which is not surprising, because I am 49! He then gave me two options. Option one: do nothing, let the pain get worse, treat the pain, and ultimately need back surgery and rehabilitation down the road. OR option two: Pilates: to build core strength and flexibility.
After looking around, I found Barressential, and I really liked the teaching and educational qualifications of Nare Bandaranayake, so we began the journey.
7. What were your expectations coming in for your first class?
Starting out, I had no idea what to expect — I really knew nothing about Pilates, other than the myth that it’s targeted solely at women. Nare was fantastic though — she quickly figured out what my baseline capability was (a pretty low point, I think she’d agree), and started from there. One thing I love is that each session is a little different — there are common exercises, but she introduces new ones each time, so there’s variety and it doesn't get boring. Each session is also a little more challenging than the last — Nare has that essential talent that all great trainers have, which is to find the right mix of encouragement, challenge, and the occasional good-natured taunt.
8. How have our private sessions helped you?
The progress I’ve made over eight months of 2-3 sessions per week is remarkable — at 49 years old, I am in the best shape of my life, with more strength, flexibility and muscle definition than ever had before.
In combination with some major changes in my diet (eliminating simple carbs 6 days a week, paired with daily calorie goals), I’ve dropped 25kg in 8 months, and I’ve seen dramatic improvement in my cholesterol, blood pressure, triglicerides, and resting pulse. For someone facing the “fork in the road” for fitness, health and wellness that middle age often presents, this has been a remarkable gift.
Best of all, the lower back pain has essentially disappeared.
9. What, if any, do you see as the Barressential difference?
First and foremost, I think it’s the expertise and talents of the instructor, Nare. I do private classes, and the experience is totally personalized to my capabilities and goals. She’s also very knowledgable about anatomy & physiology, which has enabled her to protect my problem lower back, while at the same time strengthening it.
After I’d been doing it for a few months, Nare designed for me a short series of exercises that I can do on my own every day or so which allows me to continue the practice even when I can’t come in for a class.
10. As our first male client, what would you say to encourage other men to attend Pilates sessions?
Just do it. It’s low impact, very easy to start, and while it seems gentle on the surface, it’s amazingly powerful. Nare is able to scale the difficulty gradually to the point where you’re doing things that you wouldn’t have imagined just a few months earlier.
There’s nothing more pleasurable than finding muscles in your abs, glutes, thighs, shoulders and back where there weren’t any before. I think the key is to commit to a regular practice, whatever the frequency, and pair it with sustainable changes in diet — that’s a transformative combination, especially for men in middle age.
And anyway, what says “confident man secure in his masculinity” more clearly than doing a practice that traditionally has been more popular among women?
Want to try Pete's exercise method of choice for fitness or rehabilitative needs? Click here to book your one to one assessment.