Lawrence D’Souza – the service minded business man
Vrinda Paes; Photo: Anwar Sadath Thalasserry
Saturday, January 3, 2015
The highest medal that can be awarded to the laity and the religious by the Pope, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (Latin: For Church and Pope), an award of the Roman Catholic Church was recently conferred to the prominent Indian business man and well known community member Mr. Lawrence D’Souza in Kuwait by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Arabian Peninsula, His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajic and Bishop Camillo Ballin on behalf of His Holiness Pope Francis.
The Papal "Cross of Honor" was the acceptance of his meritorious and distinguished service rendered to the Church and to the society in Kuwait and back in India. The award was conferred in a special ceremony on November 27, 2014 at the Holy Family Cathedral premises in Kuwait City, in the presence of the Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabia, His Lordship Bishop Camillo Ballin MCCJ, the Clergy, the Apostolic Carmel and Rosary Sisters along with his family and friends.
In an exclusive chat with IndiansinKuwait.com, Lawrence D’Souza, the man behind the Caesars Group of Companies in Kuwait speaks about the great honor bestowed upon him.
IIK: Congratulations on receiving this honor! How did you feel about it?
Lawrence D’Souza: I am emotionally very touched for getting such recognition and very much thankful to the people. This award is ranked as the highest award for the laity in the Catholic Church. It is coming from Rome and is verified in various aspects before they honor a person with this award.
IIK: What was your reaction when you knew about this honor?
Lawrence D’Souza: I wasn’t aware of this award for me until His Lordship Bishop Camillo Ballin (MCCJ) called me one day to inform that I would be receiving this award. I was surprised and said, “You shouldn’t have recommended me.” but he said that I was very deserving and worthy of it. I was emotionally very touched and in tears when I learnt of it. The nomination for the award was sent by the Bishop without informing me and was verified by the Vatican. I had heard of this award only in the last decade as I witnessed a priest, Fr. Dominic Santamaria receive this award.
IIK: In your opinion, which of your contributions was pivotal to get this award or was significant to be noticed by the Catholic community?
Lawrence D’Souza:I have a long term relationship with the Catholic Church in Kuwait. I am very much a benefactor of the Catholic Church in Kuwait, not from now but from Bishop Francis Micallef’s (OCD) time. Whenever asked to assist the church in anyway, I would oblige. Since Bishop Micallef’s time I was a major benefactor and it continued till date with Bishop Camillo.
IIK: So were you a benefactor towards any particular groups?
Lawrence D’Souza:No, I was a benefactor in general and not directed towards any church group.
IIK: Have you received any other similar awards / recognition?
The first award I received was a “Certificate of Appreciation” from the British Army during the Kuwait invasion as I was a great support to them. One certificate you see displayed here in my office is from the British Military Mission in Kuwait and another from the British Memorial Fund, both for outstanding service and assistance to the British Military Mission in Kuwait. The other recognitions you see are part of the Caesars group. I consider these recognitions to be all from God, whenever I’ve seen something that deserves help I readily do so, whether it’s in Kuwait or abroad.
IIK: How does getting this appreciation from the Church make you feel? Does it affect you in any way?
Lawrence D’Souza:Of course it does. I am very much honored because I’ve been involved with Church activities from childhood. I grew up serving as an altar-boy and till date I’m still serving the Church in my own way.
I received the Eminent Aloysian Alumni award from St Aloysius College, Mangalore in 2010. I am also a recipient of the Rachana Award in 2011. The Catholic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a registered body, which was founded in 1998, instituted the Rachana Awards to recognize and honor achievers of the community.
I’ve never shied away from doing good, whether towards a priest or a family or anyone in need.
IIK: How would you see today’s generation serving the Church?
Lawrence D’Souza:Prayers are a fundamental driving force to motivate people to be active in the Church. Today’s generation doesn’t need to be urged like before, they see for themselves and they immediately respond.
IIK: Have you faced any challenges in your work with the Church?
Lawrence D’Souza:Nothing at all. I do something to assist and I don’t make a mention of it. If you see something genuine or someone suffering and you can relieve that, it is a big blessing. You will 100% get repaid by God. A few good words can also be soothing to the person who is coming to ask of your help. That itself is an outward consolation to the person seeking help. One should never shun away or speak negatively when you cannot help. You should empathize and not hurt anyone’s feelings. Even your employees, you should open your heart to them and appreciate their work. That’s how one can get the best from them. You should not keep silence and ignore them. They are part and parcel of your business. If they do well, only then you’ll succeed. Every week I used to visit each of my units to talk and listen to them. As I’m not as agile as before I have now limited these interactions/visits, so my assistants conduct such follow-ups and we have a general body meeting each month.
IIK: How did you begin your career in Kuwait?
Lawrence D’Souza:My father passed away when I was 2 years old. He was in the Merchant Navy. My eldest brother also died in battle in World War II. My sister and I always stood out in our academic pursuits. After my B.A., I got an opportunity to come to Kuwait in 1957 when my cousin working in Kuwait sent me a work visa. I came to Kuwait via ship, M.V. Dara whose route was Bombay to Kuwait via Bahrain. I worked with Post Telegraph and Telephones for 5 years before moving to Kuwait Air Force as a Chief Accountant where I worked for 15 years. In 1973 I opened my first restaurant and after 2 years I resigned from Kuwait Air Force and built this Caesars Group as you see it today.
IIK: With your accounts background and job as an accountant, how did you venture into this restaurant business?
Lawrence D’Souza:As my present business partner, Mr. Ghazi Yousef Al Abdul Razzak a very noble and highly educated Kuwaiti was an Army Officer then, he noticed my work in the Accounts Department. One day he proposed that we start a business together. At that time there was only one restaurant here called Maxim’s near the old Finance Ministry in Maliya, as it was known back then. It was my desire to start something like that and I also went there to review how the operations was conducted there.
IIK: Was opening a restaurant business your brainchild?
Lawrence D’Souza:Yes it was. Within 5 years of starting, we had 6 branches. In 1973 our first restaurant was established in Salmiya, followed by 2 more in 1974 and 1975. We later opened 2 confectionaries and continued expanding. Today we have 28 branches, 15 confectionaries and 13 restaurants in Kuwait alone. In UAE we have 29 branches and 5 in Bahrain.
IIK: Did you have any prior experience in restaurant business?
Lawrence D’Souza:No, nothing at all. It was an inner desire to get into this field. I perceived it as the only business I could start off easily.
IIK: Finally few words about your family.
Lawrence D’Souza:Hailing from Shirva in Mangalore, I am here in Kuwait for the past 57 years. My wife has been my constant support throughout my life. My eldest and youngest son helps me in the business. Eldest son used to work for Motorola in the U.S. He came down to support me. Now I’ve moved him to Dubai. Another son is a Doctor in the U.K. I have a daughter who is a CPA and works in Houston, U.S.A.
Kuwait has provided livelihood to many and we should be always grateful to this country. Whoever has progressed in life from here must not forget this and we should pray and thank God for all the facilities we have here.
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