Vijay Chandras is by any measure a successful businessman with a record of
professional achievement of which most people would be proud. Here, he tells
RiverTribe readers how the collapse of the Northern Rock bank changed his life.
Vijay Chandras has always been someone who could make things happen. Even
while still at school, having arrived from Sri Lanka aged seven with no English, he had vision.
As a student he was able to advise his parents on financial investments, trusting his
own observations and intuition. He still remembers the community in North London
that helped and supported him and his family in the early years. He vowed to return
this kindness; to do the same for others, but first he had to prove himself in his
As he emerged into the commercial world, he discovered he shared a philosophy
with President Theodore Roosevelt: that is, the single most important ingredient in
the formula to success was knowing how to get along with people.
Vijay’s ability to develop strong, professional relationships led him toward customer
service and a career at the former British Rail. Once he left the rail giant he moved
into the legal sector, where he began tackling the oft-neglected area of client
“Theodore Roosevelt had an ethos which – to my mind – is central to all good
business practice. I believe in leading by example and really understanding how the
business works and that motivates my team. Then I apply leadership, hard work and
“In my 25-year long career I have contributed to the success of the companies I
worked for by developing business strategies that put the client at the heart of
everything we do, by motivating my team to do their best and by implementing
processes and systems to support these objectives,” explained Vijay.
But it was not until the collapse of Northern Rock that he really began to see how
Client Relationship Management (CRM) could be elevated to it highest level.
“The Northern Rock bank situation took place in late 2007 and then continued into
2008. All high street banks suffered and stopped most mortgage lending. The
housing market collapsed and businesses associated in this area also suffered. We
had more than 100 staff members and as a law firm were doing mainly residential
conveyancing, which came to a halt. Our business suffered very heavily. We never
saw this thing coming. It was mentally draining and the financial pressure nearly
killed us,” says Vijay.
The firm that he had established was decimated and the company teetered on the
brink of collapse with £3m in debt but as all the best business manuals say, it is not
how you fall but how you get back up that counts. The firm took drastic economic
measures, reduced staff by 75%, put the business on life support and survived.
In that time Vijay began to see that businesses lived or died on the basis of their key
relationships and trust.
“A lot of my clients find that working with us is a refreshing experience and are
pleasantly surprised by the levels of service they receive; this is an ethos of going
beyond a simple transaction to building long-term customer relationships.
“We survived because of the strength and belief of our core clients and I saw how
this wasn’t simply a value added proposition – it had to be at the heart of everything
we did once we re-built.”
The principles of thrift, diligence and discipline may have allowed his new
endeavours at West London-based Quality Conveyancing, to recover and thrive but
Vijay had also embarked on a voyage of self-discovery. He was again able to enjoy
the rewards of a lot of hard work yet a new void had opened up.
His Damascene moment came after a holiday in Malaysia and a short break in New
York. After a five-star holiday in Asia – where alcohol was high on the agenda
followed closely by a week when he should have been enjoying some of the world’s
best restaurants, bars and hotels, he made a surprising decision that would
fundamentally change the way he lived his life.
“In 2012 I stopped drinking and became a vegetarian. This was mainly to do with a
new project I was undertaking on the work front but at the same time I was growing
as a person and taking more responsibility for my life. This was installing more
discipline, in return bringing me more joy and happiness in my family and work life.
“I knew I wanted to be hands on in this effort and I knew it would be difficult, but my
mind was made up. I knew I would need to be strong and mentally focused.”
Remarkably, Vijay decided he wanted to feed the homeless – not just make a
donation to a charity – but to actually roll up his selves and get ready for some hard
graft. Considering his profession, it was an apt choice.
Most of us would like to think we could exert this kind of discipline but Vijay saw it
through in reality. Within a year he had adopted a consultancy role in business,
dropped three stone in weight, became teetotal and two years ago turned up at the
St Silas Community Hall in Angel Islington, North London where he would buy,
prepare and serve meals to those on the margins of society. You may even spot him
near his home in West London where he distributes bread he buys from a leading
bakery along with fruit and vegetables from the Bakery Family, an independent
Chiswick-based business that has been going for decades.
“Giving back to the community is paramount and it’s not just about making living for
yourself. It’s about making a difference in other people’s lives. It is not just about how
much you have, it’s about what you do with it to help others. I want to make a
difference in other people’s lives,” says Vijay.
Now he sets aside one day a week to work at the community hall. Here he has
formed lasting relationships and seen people rise out of complete destitution, find a
home and employment.
What Vijay has discovered is that, for him, there has to be a congruency between his
professional and personal life. One fortifies the other. His philanthropic endeavour
informs his professional focus.
“Quality Conveyancing is home for me and has given me the chance to create
something special. Developing relationships with clients to determine their needs
and then fulfilling these needs as best you can. I want to create the perfect
environment which allows a team to perform to its highest level.
“We want to be better than yesterday and to achieve more everyday with new levels
of service we provide. Trust is everything for this organisation. As a team and as
individuals we want to be great in our industry.
“My passion is assisting law firms to grow. I love helping them hone their client
experience vision, create synergies between people and systems allowing the
delivery of that vision. I am a rainmaker but what drives me in business and in life is
giving back. I consider myself very fortunate and blessed. I am committed to helping
feed the homeless. My involvement is both financial and hands-on. Sometimes you
only learn when times are tough.
“The next part of my vision is to create a sanctuary. I want to house homeless people
and build an education centre and leisure facilities. There will be a kitchen that will
give us the opportunity to cook fresh meals every day, Also, space to grow
vegetables, fruits and grains on site. This place will also give people the chance to
breathe and gather or collect their thoughts. It is where I want to put my energy and
resources. In the end you can’t take it with you.”