Business Today


Business Today Top 30
2016 - 2017

Business Today, recognised the TOP 30 best performing corporates in Sri Lanka for the financial year 2016-2017, thus acknowledging the contribution of the private sector to the country’s economy. Marking the 20th anniversary of the awards that commenced in 1997, Business Today introduced Business Today Passionate, a new category to honour pioneering individuals who have transformed their respective sectors and have ventured out into the international market. The Award ceremony was held under the patronage of Chief Guest, Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe. The occasion was blessed by the presence of Venerable Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple.

Business Today Passionate

Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe. The occasion was blessed by the presence of Venerable Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple.

The concept, design and song selection for the event was by Glenda Parthipan with the support of the BT Options team.

Celebrating 20 Years of the Business Today Top Corporate Ranking: BT OPTIONS

Garuthara Sangarathnayen Awasarai, Venerable Theros, Honourable Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe, Ministers, Members of Parliament and distinguished ladies and gentlemen we warmly welcome you to the Business Today TOP 30 2016-2017 and Business Today Passionate.

Venerable Galboda Gnanissara, Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple, we are blessed by your presence here today.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Business Today top corporate ranking in the country, and also signifies the introduction of the new segment, Business Today Passionate that recognises individuals who are pioneers and trailblazers. They have transformed their respective industries and have taken the risk to venture out to the international market, bringing great pride to the motherland.

Udeshi Amarasinghe, BT Options

We are honoured to have Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as our Chief Guest today and Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe for her valued presence. We appreciate that Hon Prime Minister and Professor Wickramasinghe are here with us today amidst a busy and pressing schedule. Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe have been our honoured guests since 2011 and it is with great interest that the audience awaits the Prime Minister’s speech.

At a time when Sri Lanka is in a period of economic, political and social transformation, it is paramount that the country is led by a leader with the intellect, experience and dynamism as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is with pride that we welcome you here today. 

We take pleasure in informing you that the event ceremony is being shown live on PEO TV, channel 20 and PEO TV Facebook. You can also watch on TSTV and Rewind TV during the next two days.

Our pioneering magazine Explore Sri Lanka completed 30 years. Having started in 1987, it is the only complimentary monthly magazine in the world to survive this long. 

Mathi K Parthipan started as a Sales Officer of the publication. And, after the closure of the casinos, Explore Sri Lanka was taken over by Mathi K Parthipan and the staff in 1991, thus the magazine became completely self-funded and independent without any outside investment, due to our hard work and passion. BT Options is owned and shares are held by BT Options staff. 

Many clients who have been with since our inception, and who are in the audience today, will remember the manner in which we worked, and formed and maintained our relationships.

Throughout the 30 years Explore Sri Lanka has with great determination and passion promoted the country to the world.

It is upon the success of our pioneering magazine that we were able to introduce new publications and also venture into other businesses. We always work with everyone. If you look at this event too, we invite everyone regardless of their position, in politics, the public sector or private sector. Whether they have been in high and influential positions, and no longer are or vice versa, does not matter to us. We will continue to show the same respect.

Business Today was the first magazine in the world to introduce syndication with Harvard Business Review. We also have exclusive syndication with Financial Times. Due to our longstanding and transparent relationship, HBR and FT have given us the free-hand and there are no restrictions. 

In 2001, Business Today was listed in the book “Competitive Intelligence” as a source of competitive intelligence information in the global environment, along with the CIA, FBI, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal as well as the European Business Review to name but a few. We are honoured to have been mentioned in this book and be accepted among the global leaders in this sphere. 

After a brief meeting with Lord Haseltine in Dubai, he flew his team to Sri Lanka in 2008 to visit BT Options and they were interested in entering a joint venture with BT Options. However, due to the global economic downturn it did not materialize, but such international recognition for the magazine has driven us forward to achieve more. 

Business Today top corporate ranking was started 20 years ago and was conceptualized by Dinesh Weerakkody. It is the first recognition of its kind for public listed companies in Sri Lanka. At first we took this as a fun exercise without realizing its significance and importance. Later, Keith Bernard and Shiron Gooneratne also became part of the process. We continued every year amidst negative vibes that came our way. 

Although they are no longer a part of the process due to their commitments in public listed companies, we acknowledge their contribution from the inception of the awards. And, we continue to seek their advice and assistance.

We must also thank Suren Rajakarier of KPMG Sri Lanka, for his continuous participation in the process.

At the time that we held our first Business Today award ceremony we could not afford to have a backdrop or even offer a glass of water to our guests. But we did not accept any sponsor-ships. Year on year we held the awards and the Business Today top corporate selection and the ceremony grew. In 1997, it was the Business Today TOP 10, today we have grown to select the TOP 30 corporates. 

The Chief Guest of the Business Today Awards has been the head of state or government. 

Many companies that are in the Business Today TOP 30 are not advertisers. Companies cannot apply or pay to be selected. The ranking is purely based on their published financial in-formation. Having said that, we welcome all to advertise with us, because we operate on advertising revenue only and it would serve well during trying situations.

While our financial commitment to the award ceremony is very high, we have never taken sponsorships in any form. All payments are made by us. 

Style, (Lowa Venas Kala Haki Kanthawa Obai) the revolutionary Sinhala magazine for women, which was started in the 1990s was way ahead of its time, Ms. Otara Gunewardene and Ms Neelamani Jayawardana who are recognized in the Business Today Passionate will remember how we did our interviews and stories. Ms. Otara Guawardene and Ms. Neelamani Jayawardana were featured on the cover as well. Ms. Otara Gunawardene had her own fashion page and though some advised her against being featured in a Sinhala magazine but she was bold enough to go forward. Style magazine had to be stopped due to poor advertising response. Yet, if we are to start the magazine again it would be high risk to have the same thought-provoking editorial content.  

We have been publishing Serendib, the in-flight magazine of SriLankan Airlines since March 2010 as a monthly publication. This was a result of our struggle to bring the production and printing to Sri Lanka since the 1980s. We have been making a monthly payment to the Airline since we started the production and printing of the magazine, we do not receive any payment or airline tickets from SriLankan. 

We wish to thank Mr. Ajith Dias, Chairman and Mr. Suren Ratwatte, CEO for their continuous support and ensuring the success of the magazine. Response for Serendib can be seen globally as well as within Sri Lanka. 

Our two renowned international titles are Domus Sri Lanka and Time Out Sri Lanka.

We have been using Apple since 1988, started reselling in the 1990s and opened BT Store in the early 2000s. Being in the Apple business is not a prestige for us as our publications are our main segment, as evident from our event today as well.

We are happy that many others have entered the Apple business in Sri Lanka. In the future we might be forced to become unauthorized Apple Resellers. But we will be able to provide strong-er and better support and services together with better pricing.

At BT Store we recently introduced audio books of international best-sellers. There is much to learn from global figures, and their stories are inspiring. ‘Finding my Virginity’, the new auto-biography by Sir Richard Branson also speaks about Virgin Money and is a must-listen for all Sri Lankan bankers. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook is inspirational and is another audiobook that should be listened to.

In 2004, the late Sir Arthur C Clarke was awarded the Robert A Heinlein Award for out-standing published work in science fact or fiction inspiring the human exploration of space. How-ever, since he was unable to attend, the Heinlein Society contacted Apple USA to find a reliable company in Sri Lanka to set up a direct conference link. BT Options was the only company able to establish the link using Apple technology and the 90-minute live presentation was a great success. Appreciating our efforts, the President and the Chairman of the Heinlein Society, David Silver wrote a letter of commendation to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the Board of Directors, which said, “Our particular compliments and commendations to one and only, very excellent and resourceful partner in Sri Lanka – BT Options.” 

BT Active is our fully-equipped private gym that is for the staff. However, many have come especially to the gym seeking membership and thus we have given access to members. We are looking at expanding but we only invest in the correct location with the correct pricing. 

We have diversified into leisure and have ventured into an area that many have never visited before. Arugambay in the East Coast is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and is a tourist hub unknown to many. We have been visiting Arugambay since the early 1990s. The people are multicultural and able to speak Sinhala and Tamil, with many being conversant in English as well. They are genuine and welcom-ing. Pottuvil is the last junction in Sri Lanka that branches off to Arugambay, Panama and Whisky Point. We simply love this area.

While we attempted to start a project many times before, our dream came true on May 24, 2015 with the opening of Paper Moon Kudils in Whisky Point, in partnership with P Partheepan. The hotel was completed in 93 days, hats off to the people and construction workers from the area that ensured that the property was com-pleted on time. The project was completed without any contractors. 

Arugambay Roccos was opened on May 18, 2017 in partnership with A M Naleem. We thank Minister Sagala Ratnayaka and our other guests for being present on that special occasion.  A M Naleem has been in the tourism indus-try in Arugambay for more than three decades.

The buildings that were on the property were completely demolished and Arugambay Roccos was built according to a cube inspired design to provide a unique experience to guests. 

The first location that we stayed in the 1990s is Tsunami, a name that was given to a property even before the term Tsunami was even known in the country. A M Naleem is the owner and we will be working with him on this property as well for the next season.

Both, at Paper Moon Kudils and Arugambay Roccos, the staff who are from the area have worked tirelessly ensuring that guests are given unforgettable experiences.  Arugambay is a unique location in the south-east of Sri Lanka. It is a place that provides wonderful experiences to guests because today’s traveller is looking for that. Arugambay is not seasonal, because there is so much to see and do.

Our partners, A M Naleem at Arugambay Roccos and P Partheepan at Paper Moon Kudils are based there. Together with the staff who are all from the area, they ensure the smooth operation of the properties. 

Paper Moon Kudils in Whisky Point is in Urani, which is a Tamil area, Arugambay Roccos in Ulla is a Muslim area and Peanut Farm in Panama, which is also known as the Anthima Gama, is a Sinhala area.

Gune has been operating Peanut Farm since the 1970s as a tourist property. His son Wijeweera together with his brothers Samaraweera and Jayaweera are currently operating there. It was our plan to start a convertainer luxury property including a swimming pool, solar power, eco-friendly environment and provide a livelihood for the people in the area. The aim was to open in June this year. However, progress was hampered, and we hope to open the property next season.

The natural sand dunes of Panama, are ideal for sand safari similar to that in the Middle East. What is also unique about this location is that you can see the ocean together with the endless sandy terrain. 

We wish to thank Hon Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister John Amaratunga, Minister, Sagala Ratnayaka and Minister Vajira Abeywardena, Mr Paddy Vithana and Mr Kavan Ratnayaka for their support to start the project in Peanut Farm. 

We are looking forward to opening the property at Peanut Farm next season, as long as there is no disturbance from an unseen hand.

P Partheepan, A M Naleem and the teams from Arugambay Roccos and Paper Moon Kudils together with Gune and his sons are here in the audience today. Corporates and investors should look at venturing into this area. There are many state and private owned land to start projects. Large groups have started to open hotels in the area, and we request others to visit Arugambay, because everyone will benefit with increased business and opportunities. 

Visitors generally travel from one surfing point to the next by tuk tuks and since elephants freely roam in the area they charge an elephant tax from the guests, for the added risk they take. The names of the surfing points generally indicate the character of the area, thus Elephant Rock and Crocodile Point reflect that these animals are frequent near those points, furthermore Whisky Point is derived from the Tamil word for the swirl of the waves and wind. 

We have been able to gradually change the mindset that Arugambay is seasonal. By offering promotional rates we see guests arriving even during months that have traditionally been considered as off season. There is great potential in this area. 

With the Government providing its support and encouragement to SMEs since the 2016 Budget, we are hoping that a development bank will be presented in Sri Lanka, so that companies such as ours can benefit.  

If everything goes as planned, we will be adding 60 more rooms for the next season. 

We would now like to thank those who have supported us since 1987. Our appreciation to all our clients who have advertised in our publications and continue to have confidence in us. Our revenue is only through advertising sales in our publications and we do not offer contra agreements to any client. Those who advertise with us know that we always ensure a good response and value for money. 

Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of Gangaramaya Temple, we thank you for your unwavering support and guidance through-out the years. Thank you for your presence here with us today.

Ven Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero, we appreciate your presence and support to us over the years.

Ven Diyapattugama Revatha Thero we appreciate your continuous support, which has been one of the reasons of the success of the company.

Ven Kirinde Assaji Thero, we thank you for your encouragement and long-standing support to us.

We also thank Honourable Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe for being our Chief Guest as well as our honoured guests since 2011. 

Minister John Amaratunga, we thank you for your continuous support and for always coming to our event.

Minister Sagala Ratnayaka we thank you for being with us since the early 2000s. We appreciate your confidence and support given to us. 

We thank Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Minister Vajira Abeywardena and Minister Harin Fernando for their support.

Mr Ravi Karunanayake, Member of Parliament, we thank you for your concern and continuous support. 

Ms Sandra Perera, private secretary to the Prime Minister, we wish to thank you for all your support and kindness.

Thusitha Halloluwa and Ruwan Ferdinandez for being with us and, we have known them for more than 20 years. 

We thank Mr Harry Jayawardena for his continuous support and confidence in us even before we started Business Today. He has come for the event every year and has always shown his concern for us. 

Mr Manilal Fernando, thank you for being with us over the years especially during the difficult times in the 1990s.

We thank Mr Ajantha Seneviratne, CEO of PEO TV and Group CMO of Sri Lanka Telecom for insisting and persuading us to telecast the event live on PEO TV. 

We thank Mr Nithi Murugesu for his guidance and advice.  

Mr Charles De Silva and Mr A S Kaleel, for giving their properties to us and for their continuous support.

The concept, design and song selection for the event today, was by Glenda Parthipan with the support of BT Options team.

We congratulate the Business Today TOP 30 2016-2017 for their excellent performance and we hope that they continue to drive the economy with greater dynamism. We congratulate the Business Today Passionate for their great achievements and for instilling a sense of pride in all Sri Lankans. We thank everyone for being present here today and making this event a success.

Speech by Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero
Chief incumbent of the Gangarayama Temple

TempleVen Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple has been the protecting force that guides us. Through good times and challenging times, the Venerable Thero has always encouraged us to achieve greater and aim higher. Podi Hamuduruwo sets an example on equality and harmony between all religions, this is apparent through the Theros spiritual guidance as well as the great community service that is rendered by the Gangaramaya Temple. Throughout his life he has faced many adversities, yet with a resilient spirit he has emerged from these challenges stronger than ever. Even as recently as this year, Podi Hamuduruwo weathered a great storm, only to re-emerge with a new life and greater passion to work towards the betterment of Sri Lanka. The Venerable Thero continues to do a great service to this country by providing opportunities to the youth, a cause that is close to his heart. Podi Hamuduruwo is our only guiding light. And, it has always been a must that the Thero is present at all our important moments. 

“We as intelligent people must set aside our differences based on race, religion, political views, caste and creed and work towards the prosperity of our country.”

Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero

At this occasion, that commenced with the Jayamangala Gatha beautifully sung by an Indian lady, I am speaking on behalf of all members of the clergy. Since the commencement and until today, we have continued to express our support to this endeavour. At this event, where the Honourable Prime Minister, Madam and other distinguished guests have gathered, on behalf of the clergy of all religions, I will speak a few words.

This award ceremony at which Mr Mathi Parthipan and his wife together with his staff and also his clientele have gathered has always been held under the patronage of the Head of State and Government. The honourable Prime Minister is present here today and I am sure he will address the gathering as well.

We received an elaborate detailing on this organisation from the previous speech and I need not repeat it. I am happy to note that in this country, in the 1890s, during the governance of the British, a Scottish gentleman named Pollock had seen Ven Devundara Jinarathana Thero, the chief pupil of Ven Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero, writing on ola leaf books by hand. He then donated a printer to the Gangaramaya Temple, which was an essential necessity at the time. Although there are various historical accounts on the printing industry, I believe this was the first record of a printing press in Sri Lanka. We are in the process of creating a museum where this printing machine and ones received later will be displayed. 

In 1979, during the Government of President J R Jayewardene, Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe was a young politician appointed as the Minister of Youth Affairs. The Prime Minister is a dayakaya of the Temple. He identified a location that was considered insubstantial near Beira Lake, which was donated for the Sri Jinarathana Vocational Technical Training Centre. It was, I believe, based on a concept of Hon Minister Iriyagolla, of establishing vocational training institutes throughout the country. We started with the centre in Colombo and extended across many villages, in many areas. This became a great strength to the youth of Sri Lanka. 

Mr Mathi Parthipan, his business history was mentioned a short while ago, has in every instance met with us, discussed with us and has received our blessings. Mr Mathi has provided exposure to all religious places and also those that were tucked away unknown to most. He is a great man who has brought an immense respect to all of these religious sites. And, likewise, so has his wife. 

On this occasion I am happy to present a point. The Mahaweli Project of the country and the Victoria Reservoir. The Queen of the British who colonised Sri Lanka for centuries arrived in the country several times. I believe she arrived last for the opening of the Victoria Reservoir or the Mahaweli Project. I too participated at that ceremony. Her Majesty, during her stay in the country, visited the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi located in Anuradhapura, a sacred site respected internationally by all, regardless of religion or nationality. However, during that time, women were not allowed to go near the Sri Maha Bodhi. The Nayaka Thero of the Atamasthana at that time studied and was raised at Gangaramaya Temple and the fact remains true even today as the current Chief High Priest of the Atamasthana was also educated at Gangaramaya. 

When Queen Elizabeth II visited Sri Lanka, I received the opportunity of opening the gate to the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi for Her Majesty, a woman. This event was a turning point, as there-after women were allowed to approach the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. If Arahant Sangamitta Theri as a woman, could bring the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka, it was important that we were able to provide women with the opportunity to approach the Sacred Bo Tree. 

Further, Sri Pada is a sacred site for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Ven Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero of our Sangha Paramparawa (lineage of the monastic order) and also his student Ven Moronthuduwe Sri Dhammananda Thero, where the Vidyodaya Pirivena is a heritage of Gangaramaya Temple, the honour of developing this sacred site was also bestowed on the Gangaramaya Temple.

Similarly, under the patronage of Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe, we were able to perform a great service through the establishment of the vocational training centre, I am delighted to note another such contribution. Previously, the Sansara Sagara Gatha, atop the Sacred Tooth Relic chamber was a little-known Gatha (verse). The Gangaramaya Temple also had the honour of bringing to light this important verse, thus today, both Buddhist and non-Buddhists in Sri Lanka, are aware of and show intent to learn the Gatha. 

Similarly, with regards to the second phase of the Victoria Reservoir of the Mahaweli Project, this is a matter that I reminded the honourable Prime Minister recently. Upon his blessing, if the responsibilities of Sri Lankan diplomatic missions were conducted properly or are being conducted properly, the country would have reaped great-er benefits earlier. 

I take pride in noting that students educated at the Sri Jinarathana Vocational Training Centre, will during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’ tenure, bring forth the next honour of the second little-known phase of the Mahaweli Project.

I take pride in noting that students and dayaka members educated at the Sri Jinarathana Vocational Training Centre, will during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’ tenure, bring forth the next honour of the second little-known phase of the Mahaweli Project. If the country received hydropower as well as new life from the Mahaweli Project and similarly the manner in which we were able to open the gate of the Sri Maha Bodhi for the Queen, as I too have spent some time in England, we have connections in England as well.

However, many Sri Lankan officials do not assist us, therefore we requested the support from Singapore and they greatly assisted us. Therefore, I believe one of our talented students with his knowledge will soon bring about the second phase of the Victoria Reservoir of the Mahaweli Project. However, there are many who are against the development and growth of the country and they scheme to impede this growth. There are many unintelligent individuals, therefore we as intelligent people must set aside our differences based on race, religion, political views, caste and creed and work towards the prosperity of our country. 

Mr Mathi Parthipan’s magazines and projects are a light unto the country. I believe that those of the corporate sector have the capacity to further assist him in these endeavours. In the previous speech it was made evident that due to the lack of support certain projects could not be completed. This, the funds that many waste could be invested in work such as this that will benefit the country. He does not request anything from anyone; all of this is organised without assistance from anyone and he does not expect any personal benefits from this. This is the Ashta Loka Dharma: Laabha/Alaabha (Gain /Loss), Ayasa/Yasa (Fame/Defame), Nindha/Prasansa (Blame/Praise), Sapa/Duk (Happiness/Pain).  Mr Mathi Parthipan is well aware of these precepts and is therefore not a person who gets disappointed (kamphawa) or angered. We therefore, bless him and pray that all of you here today will further assist and support his company.

Speech by Dinesh Weerakkody

Dinesh Weerakkody conceptualised the Business Today corporate ranking. He is a multi-tasker that holds many roles in both the corporate and political arenas. Dinesh Weerakkody currently serves in several honorary advisory roles in the current administration in the skills development, policy formulation, economic affairs, tourism development and health areas. He is also the Chairman of the National Human Resource Development Council of Sri Lanka.

“Before we are red, blue or green,  we are all Sri Lankans. To me, that is a very powerful message.”

Before I say anything, can we put our hands together for Mathi and his team for putting on this event for 20 years. It is a fantastic thing. 

Good Evening. Venerable Sir, the Prime Minister, Hon John Amaratunga and other ministers. Mathi and Glenda, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. In fact, Mathi met me about four weeks ago and said “Can you come and say how we started this ranking programme” and I said sure, I will explain how we did it and how it has progressed and what changes are really required.

In 1996, I was actually working at Pan Asia Bank and it was just after the bomb (explosion), and Mathi came to me and said “look, we need to do something big for Business Today”. So I said why don’t we identify the top ten business leaders in the country. He said “No, that’s going to lead to a controversy. Let’s do something else”. I said let’s do the Business Today TOP 10 and said to give me about a week that I will come back with a proposal. I got hold of Keith Bernard who is in the audience and Mr Thushara Ranasinghe. Together, we put this list (Slide One) together. This is the original document that was produced in 1996 and is actually 21 years old. I managed to retrieve it because I had kept it in the magazine. Over the years, we dropped CSR and now we call it sustainability, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. 

Mathi should reintroduce these criteria because it is important for business. 

In 1997, this (Slide Two) was the first rankings we organised. It was then called TOP 10. The companies were led by giants, these were people who called a spade, a spade and who stood for their people. Once we released the rankings, there was a lot of controversy because the companies that were not in the list started challenging this list publicly in the newspapers. I was a very young person at that time, I was worried and was look-ing to bail out. Mathi told me “No don’t worry, we will fight this out”. Mr Manilal Fernando who was a lawyer at that time and who still continues to practice, actually came to our assistance.

This is a picture of the first event (Slide Three). Minister John Amaratunga has been coming for every event. We had this at the BMICH and Prof G L Peiris was the chief guest and he continued to support the event.

This was in 1999 (Slide Four), and the event looked a bit better. I think Mathi had invested a little bit more and I believe the event worked out much better than previous years. Hon Kinglsely Wickramaratne was the guest of honour and he delivered a brilliant speech at that session. Still, we couldn’t pull in the crowd that we have today. 

Mathi’s big break came when the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga invited him to hold the event at Temple Trees (Slide Six). Since then he has not looked back. It was actually na-tional recognition for the Business Today TOP 10. It still continued to be Business Today TOP 10.

Business Today has lived through 20 years and lived through four governments. There are lot of leadership lessons in this whole excercise.

Mathi’s listing continued and subsequently in 2005, President Mahinda Rajapaksa (Slide Seven) was the chief guest. In 2009, it was Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa. This (Slide Eight) was just after the war and there was a huge crowd. This (Slide Nine) was a very proud moment for me because I, who had designed and conceptualised the ranking in 2013 received the award on behalf of Commercial Bank ranked at number two.

Today, 20 years later, only five companies remain from the original TOP 10 (Slide Ten). This is a very powerful message.

My last slide (Slide 11), there is actually a lot of learning in the Business Today Awards. For example, Prime Minister, Business Today has lived through 20 years and lived through four governments. There are lot of leadership lessons in this whole excercise. I picked only three be-cause I though this is a business audience and it will be worthwhile elaborating and talking about it. For Mathi, I think he demonstrated very clearly ‘Change or Perish’ and I think it was Jack Welch who said “when the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the in-side, then the end is in sight”. When Mathi realised that ten was losing ground, he made it 20 and when he realised that the 20 was losing ground, he made it 30. I hope he does not go to 40. Another area we should focus on is to recognize the non-quoted companies such as Dilmah and Brandix. I think we need to find a way of recognising those companies as well.

The other two leadership lessons, which I want to conclude with: number two – Mathi very clearly demonstrated that we should not live in the past, neither should we bury the past but that we should learn from the past. He is a person who has not forgotten the people who have helped him. 

Finally, the most important lesson for me is that he clearly demonstrated that before we are red, blue or green, that we are all Sri Lankans. And to me, that is a very powerful message. So congratulations Mathi once again for an excellent job and please continue to do what you are doing. Thank you.

Slide One

Slide Two

Slide Three

Slide Four

Slide Five

Slide Six

Slide Seven

Slide Eigth

Slide Nine

Slide Ten

Slide Eleven

Speech by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka is a leader of the new era. His thinking is different and the vision for the country is farsighted, where decisions taken today would benefit Sri Lanka in the long term. He is a gentleman politician of a rare calibre. He has not taken any shortcuts, but has toiled the political ladder from the very beginning to reach the top. He has always been loyal to the United National Party and ensured that the UNP remains as a strong political party. There is so much more that the country can benefit from a leader such as the Prime Minister. We have always respected and will continue to respect Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for his great leadership.

“It’s only when the private sector moves, that the growth will come.”
Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

Venerable members of the Clergy, Honour-able Ministers, of course my good friend Nirj Deva and of course the organisers of the event, Mathi and wife – the couple that keeps everything moving, Honourable Deputy Speaker whom I just forgot, distinguished members of the private sector, winners of the awards, and friends.

Today the day is still unfolding for me.  I started in the morning in a Presidential Commission. I’ve come here now, as I told Mathi, on my way to India. Hence, I don’t think that my wife and I will have the opportunity of being here till the end. But you have expanded your awards and we see the TOP 30 and also the Passionate ones who speak of what they have done; how they have taken up an idea, pushed it and seen it develop into a global brand. To all of you I say, congratulations. We need you all to expand and many more would be passionate. Thusitha was talking about a development bank. The Budget has made provisions for a development bank and we will be allocating money, we thought we will start with the initial capital from the Sri Lankan Government side of ten billion rupees but that’s not all. Much more will come. And as the money is taken up, there will be more capital that will be pumped in with the support of the Government. We want all of you to succeed, to access to capital and for God’s sake create the jobs soon. That’s what we require. There are a lot of young people who are leaving school and who want employment.

Today, in the afternoon, I received the S&P ratings. We had gone from negative to stable. That being said we have to keep that reform momentum, because we are keeping the reform momentum and tackling the debt redemption spike. A very, very difficult task. Therefore, to have B+, B sovereign credit ratings is not bad. But where are we? This is not an occasion to have a party. It just says that our stabilisation programme is working. A lot of people want to know what are you doing. I need not to tell you the mess we inherited. As I said today morning in the Commission, we didn’t know what our obligations were because only a part of the projects were in the Budget and the others were hidden.

It was like looking for the dead bodies and we still haven’t found all the dead bodies. Last week, I got a bill from a Singaporean Company, for having done part of the Northern Highway. There will be many more like this that will happen. But from a country whose revenue was insufficient, even for debt servicing, we have made some progress. That the last two year’s programmes of economic stabilisation, of controlling the debt, of ensuring the interest and exchange rates, both determined according to the needs of the market, a new foreign exchange act, the plans for liberalisation – all have helped us. But this is not enough, I will be the first to say. As Standard & Poor’s says, “we revise the outlook to stable, based on our assessment that the national strengthening of Sri Lanka’s institution and governance practice is on a more sustainable footing”. On the start, we are alright. This assessment is predicated on not only the adoption of further reforms over the next 12 to 18 months, this includes the passage of the liability management act, which would allow the Government to proactively address rising sovereign debt maturities in 2019. These positive developments are balanced by ongoing rating constraints, which include high external and net general Government indebtedness. I think we come third. According to them after Lebanon and Egypt, what an achievement. With a GDP per capita, estimated to reach approximately 4,000 US dollars by the end of 2017, Sri Lanka’s economic assessment also represents a rating weakness. This rating constraints weighs against Sri Lanka’s sound growth potential. Now this is the challenge we have. We have stabilised the economy. How do we go forward? And I thought I’d say a few words on that.

To accelerate growth, we have to look at you in the private sector and those who are not in this room, but are outside; the medium and the small. It is only when the private sector moves, that the growth will come. That is what we did in 1977.

We have a growth potential. We have to maximise this. We have to accelerate growth and ensure the debt reduction is done in a shorter time. A shorter time is not five years, not ten years, or not wait for 25 years – ensure it is done in 15 years. That is possible if we earn a few more billion dollars and we earn more revenue. To accelerate growth, we have to look at you in the private sector and those who are not in this room, but are outside; the medium and the small. It is only when the private sector moves, that the growth will come. That is what we did in 1977. We have placed too much of reliance on Government spending. Every rupee spent to create growth, to create GDP growth, does not result in economic growth. In the last ten years, I would say from about 2005, our GDP had increased nearly four to five-fold. But our exports have increased only in two-fold. We have growth, with a lot of wasted investments. You can put money into roads, you can put money into infrastructure, but in the long term, it will not create the jobs that we want: the good jobs and the permanent jobs. That growth will come from private investments; whether it be local or foreign. For us, in Sri Lanka, first we want to encourage our local private sector to expand. And at the same time, encourage foreign investments. We cannot do this by ourselves. We haven’t got sufficient capital if we are looking at accelerated growth. We need the foreign capital; we need the foreign technology and we need the markets. All of you remember how in 1979-80, the foreign apparel industry came in and everyone thought this is going to be foreign dominated. Today, the best of them, are from Sri Lanka. We learn from them, and then we overtake them. Our policy, the giving of new incentives, is to encourage the maximum investment in the coming years. This is what the Budget, which the finance minister presented, seeks to achieve. How do we then encourage you all? How do we encourage you to expand, to invest more money?

When we talk of liberalising, we have to remember what Asia will be… No country has developed utilising only its domestic market.

The only way we could see was one – to provide you funding, two – to provide you incentives and three – to liberalise further. When we talk of liberalising, we have to remember what Asia will be in the next ten, 15 and 20 years. Because there are those who feel that we can develop only through our domestic market. No country has developed utilising only its domestic market. China, with nearly a billion people, and India with nearly a billion people at that time, could not develop only relying on the domestic markets. Every country developed when they integrated with global trade, when they started exporting and allowed the imports to come. Whether it be Japan after the war, whether it be South Korea, whether it be Singapore, whether it be China, Thailand, Malaysia, they all opened out into the world. Just as much as people came and invested, just as much as they exported, they also allowed trade to come in. And this is the way that Asia is going. Not only have they opened out, now there is talk of Indo-Pacific. There are two big trading initiatives going on in Asia Pacific, which will certainly lay the foundation for a liberalised trading area, relying on the markets to determine each one’s economic growth. If you go to manipulate your exchange rates, if you manipulate your interest rates, no one else will come. The first of these is the ASEAN-led initiative – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The ASEAN countries; Japan, China, India, New Zealand and Australia have all got together to form one comprehensive trading area. There will be one set of common rules, within which each one can then proceed. The next one, is the TPP or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes East Asian countries, Canada, Mexico and Chile. It was initiated by the United States – they dropped out. And then, Japan decided they’d carry it forward. Even without the USA, it still is a formidable trade grouping. There are two trade groupings – the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, without the United States. The discussions that were held last week during the visit of President Trump in Vietnam, in Da Nang and in Manila, Philippines, both showed the intention of these groups to move forward. They are talking of 2018 as the year. I do not know whether they will make it all by 2018 but I’m sure by 2020 the trading partnerships will be in place. 

Then what do we do in Sri Lanka? Do we join this? Do we join this or do we stay out saying we can’t get in there? That we can work with our 23 million of our population. It will never go beyond 25 million. Here are two great opportunities which we should grasp. With this in mind, we have already obtained the GSP+ from the European Union, we are talking with Singapore, India and China on free trade agreements. Now some say, with free trade agreements, we are finished. No, we are not finished. We are not looking at opening our borders for all foreign goods. No. We will want to phase out the implementation of these agreements, over a period of eight to ten years. Eight to ten years for our businesses to grow, to become more competitive, to go out into the world, to be brave. That’s the time that we will provide the trade adjustment packages to strengthen you to go out and find the markets. I have confidence in Sri Lanka’s business. I’ve seen many of them, the stories they said here of how they started and you can go ahead. 

The Government wants to help you. What are the other measures we can take? Given this period, this five-year period, you plan out and you have another five years to grow. That is sufficient. We would like you to join us.

Once these trade agreements in place, in addition to the GSP+, what do we do next? Well, if we get into the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership, you get the whole of ASEAN, you have China and India with you, and Singapore, and you get Japan, South Korea, and Australia. That’s a big market. We have to enter that. And then you look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership without USA, which sets a higher standard. When that agreement comes in, get your observer status and work towards it. Then all the way from India, to Canada, to Mexico, and to Chile, you have access to markets. But it also means they have access to your markets. It works both ways. But that is where we have to be. If we stay outside that, then we are outside this big market, nearly with three billion people. If we don’t enter this, that’s the end of Sri Lanka’s industry. In the long term, the end of Sri Lanka’s economy. We have to make plans. In addition to these markets, we also have the GSP+. We have to get into these trading agreements and that’s what we are preparing the country. It means that we have to compete and survive in a global trading system. The Government wants to help you. What are the other measures we can take? Given this period, this five-year period, you plan out and you have another five years to grow. That is sufficient. We would like you to join us. Or we would like to join you and make the journey. Then as Dharshan says, we would be more efficient than the Ministry of Crab. I don’t know, but what I say maybe bitter for some and sweet for others, but let’s make the transformation. Where were we in 1948? We were one of the best countries in Asia. Where were we in 1977? Still one of the leading countries in Asia. Where do you want us to be by the 2030? Behind Bangladesh? Behind Afghanistan? Behind Laos? and Behind Myanmar? Are we going to have achievement – having being at the top end, we have come to the bottom. Or are we going to crawl our way back to the top? For me, there’s only one path, that is to crawl our way back to the top. And as we crawl our way back to the top, we’ll be creating more jobs, we’ll be creating more income. 

The Budget then is designed to have the private sector investing in growth, in jobs and creating the income. And the Government Budget to carry on to redeem the debt and to spend on housing, on education, on health and other needed infrastructures. This is the plan we have. And I hope like the Passionate here, the rest of you will join us, and make this journey to ensure that we achieve what we have started out to be and what we were in history – the hub of the Indian ocean. Thank you.

Business Today Passionate

The Business Today Passionate are pioneering individuals, who have single-handedly created novel concepts and succeeded in making them a reality, and have driven the economy of Sri Lanka in the same manner as the corporate sector. Through their drive and passion, they have made a difference, and have motivated Sri Lankans to innovate and pursue new ventures. These self-made personalities created revolutionary concepts that have transformed various sectors in the country. 

Business Today Passionate recognizes those pioneering figures who have persevered during challenging times, continuously providing motivation by setting an example through their triumphs. They are all charismatic personalities who have made a difference both in Sri Lanka and overseas, and at times have single-handedly propelled their industries to the future. 

They are individuals who do not seek recognition or glory, but are dedicated to their causes, ventures and visions. They continue to create and innovate, aiming higher and proving that Sri Lanka is competitive globally. 

We will continue to introduce new segments of recognition to the Business Today awards, so that private individuals too are acknowledged for their contribution to the country. 

These individuals of the Business Today Passionate segment have been selected entirely by Business Today. This is not a ranking and as such there are no positions. The individuals selected are from diverse sectors, each having proved themselves in their respective fields, and are listed according to the year that their ventures commenced. 

Barbara Sansoni Lewcock (1958)
Founder/Chairperson, Barefoot

Barbara Sansoni, is a designer who has redefined the concept of colour in Sri Lanka. She is an artist, writer as well as a colourist whose extensive influence has transcended boundaries. She has created an identity that truly reflects the vibrancies of Sri Lanka and has been a strong advocate of celebrating the island’s indigenous style in the country and overseas. Barbara Sansoni Lewcock, Founder/Chairperson of Barefoot launched her concept in 1958. 

Business Today recognises Barbara Sansoni for her creation of a unique Sri Lankan identity in the sphere of design, an aesthetic that is timeless and celebrated across the world. Barbara Sansoni’s creativity and art has impacted the lives of many, most significantly empowering young women in the island. She has transformed the attitude towards the vibrant and distinctive Sri Lankan style, while bringing it universal appeal.

“Barefoot is about people and it is a story of simplicity.”

Dominic Sansoni on behalf of Barbara Sansoni Lewcock,

Dominic Sansoni (on behalf of Barbara Sansoni) addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Dominic Sansoni on behalf of Barbara Sansoni Lewcock

Good evening, Venerable Clergy, Hon Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mrs Wickramasinghe, and distinguished guests. I am here this evening to represent my mother. 

“Mathi, and your team at Business Today, thank you for this recognition for my art and design. I painted and drew all my life from school days. The experience of colour has been there from early childhood. My interest and curiosity developed in colour, and colour relationships but my training was in drawing, one cannot draw on the loom. A bird, a tree, a complicated view of a river, a sky, fields, plants and forests, whatever has colour, which interests and excites me, has to be ordered in a geometric form for execution on a simple four-peddled loom. I travelled the length and breadth of the country, observing, sketching and taking notes. 

My story began in early 1960s and we would not be here today and we will never forget this, without the support of so many Sri Lankans. In the 1970s the demand for our handloom increased and we exported mainly to Scandinavia and the rest of Europe. We now export to South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Maldives, the United States and Europe. 

Our weavers are trained within Barefoot. They had no connection with weaving before they came to work with us. My designs are not traditional, accepting the fact that I was born and grew up in a Buddhist and Hindu culture on our very beautiful and mountainous, colourful, tropical island. The devoted team of designers, all artists in their own rights, visit the looms at least twice a week and keep to my original geometric rectilinear abstract style with no embellishments or redecorations. When doing their own work, they do exactly as they please of course. 

The principle behind Barefoot is to develop lifelong skills and give employment and to avoid mass production. I’m happy that Barefoot has successfully combined innovation with good ideas and design. I continue to seek the honesty of making a plain piece of clothe but making it divinely and simply beautiful. Barefoot is about people and it is a story of simplicity. Thank you very very much.”

Merrill J Fernando (1974)
Founder, Dilmah

Merrill J Fernando was pivotal in reviving the Ceylon Tea industry. Since its establishment in 1974, Dilmah has grown in strength and continues to represent Ceylon Tea globally. The launch of Dilmah in Australia in 1988, represented a paradigm shift since it was the first time that a producer from any tea, coffee or cocoa producing country had succeeded in offering their product directly to the consumer. 

Merrill J Fernando is recognised by Business Today for his passion, determination and for striving through challenges to redefine the image of Ceylon Tea, thereby making it renowned internationally for quality and novelty.

“He has built a global brand that flies the flag for Sri Lanka from China to Chile.”

Malik Fernando on behalf of Merrill J Fernando

Malik Fernando (on behalf of Merrill J Fernando) adresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Malik Fernando on behalf of Merrill J Fernando

Good evening, Venerable Thero, Honourable Prime Minister, Prof Wickramasinghe, Ministers and distinguished guests, 

I tried to avoid speaking because I am not the awardee but Mathi insisted so here I am. I am proud to accept this award on behalf of my father who personifies passion. He has spent over 60 years dedicated to Ceylon Tea and even now, today he is in China advocating our tea: our green gold. 

His passion, some of you may have witnessed in the recent series of press articles, where he defends Ceylon Tea against cheaper substitutes. He has built a global brand that flies the flag for Sri Lanka, from China to Chile. He passionately believes that business is a matter of human service as seen through the works of the MFJ Foundation, which touches the lives of over 100,000 people every year. My brother’s and my role, presently, is simply not to screw up what he has built on behalf of the country and on be behalf of Ceylon Tea. 

I’d like to thank Mathi for pioneering this new award for passion. Or perhaps I should thank Dinesh as well, wherever he is. Thank you and congrats to all the other passionate awardees. Good evening. 

Chandra Wickramasinghe (1982)
Founder, Chairman/MD Connaissance de Ceylan and Theme Resorts & Spas

With the establishment of Connaissance de Ceylan in 1982, Chandra Wickramasinghe began a journey to redefine the hospitality sector in Sri Lanka. Forging ahead through a difficult period in the 1980s and 90s, with the aim of making a difference, a new concept was introduced by him in the form of Culture Club in Kandalama. Chandra Wickramasinghe is a pioneer in eco-cultural tourism where he showcased novel nature-based tourism that was unique to Sri Lanka. 

Business Today recognises Chandra Wickramasinghe for his passion and determination in striving forward in a very challenging industry, while introducing novel concepts that reflect the identity of Sri Lanka. His depth of experience in the hospitality and tourism sector has enabled new thinking in the hotel industry. He is a hotelier that truly represents Sri Lankan hospitality and is an example for the sector. 

“A great privilege to be honoured and recognised for my passion for tourism, hospitality…in Sri Lanka in the last several decades.”

Chandra Wickramasinghe

Chandra Wickramasinghe addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Chandra Wickramasinghe

Good evening, members of the clergy, Ven Thero, Hon Prime Minister, Madam Wickramasinghe, Mr and Mrs Mathi Parthipan and the team, distinguished guests, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen. 

It is certainly a great privilege to be honoured and recognised for my passion for tourism, hospitality and event development in Sri Lanka in the last several decades. I thank Business Today for this acknowledgment and appreciation. 

I take this opportunity to thank my family, especially my wife, my son and all the members of Connaissance de Ceylan, Theme Resorts and Spas and CDC Events who have stood by me through thick and thin of this very long journey. I dedicate this award to them – without your sincere commitment we would never have arrived to where we are today. Thank you very much. Enjoy the evening! 

Anselm Perera (1983)
Founder and Managing Director, Mlesna

A veteran in the Ceylon Tea industry, Anselm Perera in his early days in the trade, introduced new concepts and innovative ideas that have transformed the sector. In 1983 he established Mlesna, a company that would package, retail and export value added Ceylon Tea. The first Mlesna Tea Centre opened in 1985 was solely dedicated to retailing value added Ceylon Tea and tea related gift items. This was a first for Sri Lanka, which despite skepticism became a success. 

During a time when Sri Lankan tea was at a complacent stage, he chose to move away from the status quo, realising the industry’s potential and its benefits to the country. 

Business Today recognises Anselm Perera for pioneering change and innovation in the Ceylon Tea industry. Mlesna has played a vital role in inspiring the emergence of more value addition in the Sri Lankan tea trade. He has dedicated his life to uplifting the Ceylon Tea industry and to making aware its value both in Sri Lanka and internationally. 

Mr Anselm Perera, is one of our very first clients and has been advertising in Explore Sri Lanka since 1987. We thank Mr Anselm Perera for his continued confidence in us.

Business Today recognises Chandra Wickramasinghe for his passion and determination in striving forward in a very challenging industry, while introducing novel concepts that reflect the identity of Sri Lanka. His depth of experience in the hospitality and tourism sector has enabled new thinking in the hotel industry. He is a hotelier that truly represents Sri Lankan hospitality and is an example for the sector. 

“The obsession was to blend only the very best. The best of tea, naturally called for the finest of packaging.”

Anselm Perera

Anselm Perera addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Anselm Perera

Our Chief Guest tonight, Honourable Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Madam Wickramasinghe, distinguished guests, members of the clergy, other award winners: both Passionate and the TOP 30, ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you all. 

I am indeed honoured to be a recipient of an award for being passionate and I am also most humbled as I am in the midst of 13 other Passionates and 30 of the finest business leaders of this country. 

Mlesna is a brand I dreamt of in 1980 and set into motion with the first products in 1983. When I embarked on my career as a trainee tea taster at Brooke Bond Ceylon in 1969, I never had the intention of creating a brand of tea of my own. My job created total commitment to tea. My commitment to passion and passion to obsession. The obsession was to blend only the very best. The best of tea, naturally called for the finest of packaging. The two combined, created Mlesna. The difficulty of convincing retailers here and overseas to accept high-end products, pushed us to the inevitable: to create our own retail stores in the style of the Mlesna Tea Centres, designed in our own style. We set up our first Tea Centre in ‘85 at the very first shopping mall in Sri Lanka, the Liberty Plaza. 

Way back in ’87, Explore Sri Lanka was Mathi’s first magazine publication and on his very first sales visit to us, he managed to convince me to take a quarter-page because that was all I could afford. The publicity that this advertisement gave Mlesna convinced us to continue nonstop, to date and to strongly believe in the advertising value of Mathi’s BT Options team, his very dynamic team. 

In a span of three decades we grew from one store to an array of Mlesna Tea Centres, both in Sri Lanka and overseas. A business cannot grow without a dedicated team. Hence, my sincere appreciation goes to my dedicated team who are equally passionate and the entire team that saw the vision that I had. 

I must thank all of you here, because without you customers, I would not have been standing here. It is you who made my business a successful. I am sure, most of you out here have bought giftware and tea from me. Every President in this country and every Prime Minister has bought my giftware. And I thank you all for appreciating these good gifts of Ceylon Tea. As Malik said, we all protect the Ceylon Tea brand: we don’t dilute it with anything. We are there to look after our country’s asset – Ceylon Tea. Thank you all for your patience, thank you Mathi and BT Options for innovating this new award: the Passionate. Thank you and good night. 

Fouzul Hameed (1983)
Managing Director, Hameedia

Hameedia, under the leadership of Fouzul Hameed, has taken Sri Lankan menswear to the next level. Founded in 1925 by his grand uncle and by his father Mohamed Rafaideen Marikar who became the sole proprietor in 1949, Hameedia was established as a homegrown international brand by Fouzul Hameed. A brand that is centred around family values of authenticity, quality as well as affordability, has transformed men’s fashion in Sri Lanka. 

Business Today recognises Fouzul Hameed for his passion and dedication in transforming the menswear industry in the country and for taking Sri Lanka to the international sphere of fashion. Hameedia to date is the only established brand for this segment in Sri Lanka.

During a time when Sri Lankan tea was at a complacent stage, he chose to move away from the status quo, realising the industry’s potential and its benefits to the country. 

Business Today recognises Anselm Perera for pioneering change and innovation in the Ceylon Tea industry. Mlesna has played a vital role in inspiring the emergence of more value addition in the Sri Lankan tea trade. He has dedicated his life to uplifting the Ceylon Tea industry and to making aware its value both in Sri Lanka and internationally. 

Mr Anselm Perera, is one of our very first clients and has been advertising in Explore Sri Lanka since 1987. We thank Mr Anselm Perera for his continued confidence in us.

Business Today recognises Chandra Wickramasinghe for his passion and determination in striving forward in a very challenging industry, while introducing novel concepts that reflect the identity of Sri Lanka. His depth of experience in the hospitality and tourism sector has enabled new thinking in the hotel industry. He is a hotelier that truly represents Sri Lankan hospitality and is an example for the sector. 

“If we properly guide and help good local brands who are capable of matching the international market and their standard we would support them to go international.”

Fouzul Hameed

Fouzul Hameed addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Fouzul Hameed

Honorable Prime Minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, members of the clergy, Honorable Ministers, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Business Today for recognising me as well as others. I would like to thank Allah, my parents, especially my father for giving us this business, the directors, my sibling, my staff – for without them I wouldn’t be where I am today, and my customers for their unconditional support. 

I would like to brief a bit about Hameedia. Hameedia name became a household name in Sri Lanka for menswear clothing. The name Hameedia was established in 1925 by my grandun- cle. In mid 1940s, my father joined my granduncle, to support them. In 1949, my granduncles were retiring and my father’s mother decided to buy and give it to my father. In 1949, my dad took over as the sole proprietor. Now, we are a third generation company. Most of my life’s inspiration came from my parents. My grandmother’s condition to buy the business for my father, from my granduncle was to give back to the community and help the underprivileged people. That inspired me to build a foundation called ‘’My Friend” where we help underprivileged children for their education, because we believe educating a child will strengthen the country. 

Our journey was very hard and we faced many obstacles to reach where we are today. We were very much focused to build this brand to go international and that was our dream. We worked very hard to bring the brand Envoy to an international standard and I’m happy to say that we have achieved it. To cater this, we had a store in the airport which gave us mileage and image for the brand to go international but unfortunately we were asked to vacate, which we felt was very unprofessional and unreasonable. The reason why I said this, was because there have been very talented local brands, very talented individuals who have given up certain challenges due to various reasons. At one point of the time, I was on the verge of giving up as well. If we properly guide and help good local brands who are capable of matching the international market and their standard, we should support them to go international. 

I can see that the country is growing into a very good shape and it is a great opportunity for all of us to work together to develop Sri Lanka with what we have to offer. I am very happy to see that everyone in this room is a representation of hard work and success. Once again thank you very much for this great opportunity and all the best to everyone. Thank you.

Udayshanth Fernando (1987)
Founder, Paradise Road

Udayshanth Fernando changed the attitude and landscape of design in Sri Lanka when he opened Paradise Road in 1987. Being a retailer, a restaurateur, a gallerist and a hotelier, through Paradise Road he created a concept that inspired and transformed the market. He is a self-made man who built the Paradise Road enterprise based on honesty, passion and being distinctive. Firmly believing in his personal convictions as well as taste and design sense, he persevered in introducing unique and timeless concepts in Sri Lanka. 

Business Today recognizes Udayshanth Fernando for his pioneering establishments, which have revolutionized retail, taste in living, dining and hospitality in the country. He has contributed to art and design, inspiring the industry with his taste and style. Through the success of Paradise Road, he has helped to foster the capabilities, talents and creativity of Sri Lanka. 

We have a very unique relationship with Mr Fernando, in his own words a ‘love-hate relationship’, that has stood the test of time. Mr Fernando has been our client, since the launch of his first store along Flower Road. What started as a minimum ad has today become the prominent back cover advertisement of Explore Sri Lanka. We take this opportunity to thank Mr Fernando as well. 

“Thank you, for acknowledging my obsessive passion for art and design. Because it is that passion with inherited principles of business
that have fuelled me through this journey.”

Shanth Fernando

Udayshanth Fernando addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Shanth Fernando

Ven Podi Hamuduruwo and Venerable Theros, Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe, Hon Ministers, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen. 

After having lived abroad for 16 years, I decided to return with my young family to a disturbed Sri Lanka, in 1987. Despite the war, I immediately saw opportunity to be an entrepreneur developing design and creating an essentially monochrome, contemporary Sri Lankan style. The journey began in a 1,000 square foot shop on Flower Road as Paradise Road. Today, Paradise Road, is a concept with lifestyle stores, signature restaurants, an art gallery, and unique private hotels. Developing local craftsmen to produce quality product of international appeal, creating a platform for local artists, upgrading existing standards of presentation, together we have made the last 30 years successful. 

I’m honoured by this recognition. Thank you, Mathi, and Business Today for acknowledging my obsessive passion for art and design. Because it is that passion with inherited principles of business that have fuelled me through this journey. Thank you very much indeed.

Preethi and Neelamani Jayawardana (1987)
Founders of House of Fashions

Introducing a novel concept to Sri Lanka in 1987, Neelamani and Preethi Jayawardana revolutionised the retail sector with House of Fashions. The model of providing export quality apparel at a fair and reasonable price to the customer set an example that others were soon to follow. House of Fashions is today a landmark in Sri Lanka and a name renowned globally. 

At House of Fashions there are no CEOs, Directors or GMs. The Jayawardenas are solely involved and personally manage the entire operation. A hands-on approach is taken with the staff as well thus ensuring their well-being as well as a family environment. 

Business Today recognizes Neelamani and Preethi Jayawardana for introducing a pioneering retail concept that has enabled other entrepreneurs to enter the industry, thus transforming the shopping landscape of Sri Lanka. Through House of Fashions, they have made a positive impact on many lives and have brought global recognition to the industry. 

“We completed our target by opening South Asia’s biggest single ownershopping complex.”

Preethi and Neelamani Jayawardana

Preethi and Neelamani Jayawardana accept the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Preethi and Neelamani Jayawardana

Good evening, I must proudly say that we, me and my wife, have reached to the top of the ladder in fashion and style. We completed our target by opening South Asia’s biggest single owner shopping complex. During the time that the Commonwealth was held in Sri Lanka, we managed to give all the Heads of State and their spouses an international shopping experience, here in this small island, with House of Fashions. 

We proudly say that the charity work we do is uncountable. We both believe the policy “The left hand should not know what the right hand does.” 

We have a very good healthy family life along with our House of Fashions team spirit. That is our strength of success. Finally, a big thank you to the BT Options team from both us for the lovely evening. Thank you. 

Mohideen Saheed (1987)
Founder, Stone ‘N’ String

Stone ‘N’ String was established by Mohideen Saheed in 1987, thereby creating the market for fashion jewellery in the country. Sri Lanka being a population that is predominately gold jewellery oriented meant that Stone ‘N’ String had to breakthrough a conventional mindset and prove itself as a strong player in the jewellery industry. Mohideen Saheed had the passion to introduce a concept that was radically different – a product that was chic yet affordable. 

Mohideen Saheed is recognised by Business Today for his passion and commitment that led to the creation of the fashion jewellery segment in Sri Lanka, and paving the way for new thinking amongst the future generations of the industry. 

“Let us all be inspired to open a new chapter in our endeavours. Let us make what is perceived as impossible, possible.”

Mohideen Saheed

Mohideen Saheed addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Mohideen Saheed

Venerable leaders, honourable leaders and friends. It was instilled in me by the American Christian misssionary priests who taught me, “Never to be afraid of failure. Get going!”. Stone ‘N’ String, the love story of your very own brand, has brought me here today in front of this distinguished audience. 

35 years ago, as a young professional accountant, if I was to tell you that gem stone jewellery with plated material would be the future for fashion jewellery, you would have thought this is not possible. We have come a long way since we started in the attic of my house. My wife and her sister sat on the ground designing what would become a super brand. We took a huge step forward in creating a much needed platform in a gold dominated society and have not looked back since. Then we did the impossible, marketing on six international airlines when only European brands were avail- able onboard. We could not have achieved what we did without the loyalty and trust of you, our customers – our brand ambassadors, and the hard work of our members, some of whom have been with us for over 30 years. 

Now about the future, how do we want to grow? What can we give Sri Lanka? With the same passion and dedication, we had for jewellery we lead the new revolution for wellness using one of Sri Lanka’s oldest natural resources. A product the Pharaohs valued more than gold. A product where what our land produces is acclaimed to be the best in the world – it is Ceylon Cinnamon. We have named it Chewy Cinnamon. We are excited about it. Complementing our existing product range, we are adding wellness to glamour and beauty. 

Ladies and gentlemen, let me congratulate all the pillars of Passionate 2017, the 30 business leaders, Mathi and his team. Let us all be inspired to open a new chapter in our endeavours. Let us make what is perceived as impossible, possible. Thank you. 

Otara Gunewardene (1989)
Founder of ODEL, Embark and Otara Foundation

Otara Gunewardene transformed the retail sector in Sri Lanka with ODEL. A concept that she initially formulated to raise funds to assist animals, developed into a lifestyle brand that is renowned for its international allure and standards. Otara Gunewardene is a fashion icon and a trendsetter. She was the first to introduce the department store concept to Sri Lanka and in fact ODEL is the only one of its kind in the country. 

Otara Gunewardene is recognized by Business Today, for her significant contribution to the economy by reshaping the retail landscape of the country. She exemplifies the strength of Sri Lankan women. Otara Gunewardene is a pioneering figure who has redefined retail in Sri Lanka. 

“My dream was always to live in the jungle and help elephants, leopards and all other animals both domestic and wild.”

Otara Gunewardene

Otara Gunewardene addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Otara Gunewardene

Good Evening, Venerable Theros, Honourable Prime Minister, Prof Wickramasinghe and distinguished guests. Thank you so much Business Today and Mathi for this award. As you can see, Mathi and I go back a really long way. 

I am not sure if many know that this whole journey for me began with the intention of raising funds to help animals and the environment. My dream was always to live in the jungle and help elephants, leopards and all other animals both domestic and wild. Today, I share this award and accept it on behalf of all the animals without whom I would not be standing here. Especially, the thousands who suffer in silence, those who are abused and beaten, those who are slaughtered and farmed in the most inhumane manner for our food and for those imprisoned and enslaved for our entertainment. 

I also share this award with the hundreds of talented, hardworking people who have over the years helped create the retail experience that I was a part of for 25 years and for which I am getting this award. Thank you so much and I thank all of them and I thank all of you for listening. Thank you.

N L M Mubarack (1992)
Founder and Chairman/CEO, NOLIMIT

N L M Mubarack established NOLIMIT in 1992, becoming a pioneer in organized retail that reshaped the fashion industry in Sri Lanka. With an aim to innovate rather than follow, he also introduced self-shopping in the country. Having worked overseas, N L M Mubarack thereafter moved to Colombo where he began his first outlet with the name French Corner in Dehiwala. Thus began a journey in retail that was driven by his entrepreneurial leadership. 

Business Today recognizes N L M Mubarack for his courage, passion and determination that led to a total transformation of the retail sector in Sri Lanka. He has enabled the industry to grow and provide greater services to the customer and has shown that to be great one should be an example of what is to be achieved. 

“We believe in the spirit of Sri Lanka that unites all ethnicities, races and religions to be passionate about the goodness of this country and
its people.”

N L M Mubarack

N L M Mubarack addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by N L M Mubarack

Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Ven Dr Kirinde Assaji Thero, Chief Guest Honourable Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister and Prof Maithree Wickremesinghe, Honourable Ministers, Passionate personalities, business tycoons, Business Today officials, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. 

As I stand before you today, I must say that I am over- whelmed, to be honest, because I truly believe that being recognized for one’s passion goes beyond any other recognition. As human beings we always look for a purpose in life and a deep seeded desire to touch the hearts and lives of our people. As a company, which is proud to celebrate a quarter century of operation in the fashion retail industry of this country we have always tried to give our best to our customers, our staff and many partners. It is our humble belief that every Sri Lankan deserves to look good and feel confident and be continuously upward mobile. We are a proud Sri Lankan brand with 21 state-of-the-art stores in major cities around the country. This extensive network makes us the largest chain of retail fashion stores in Sri Lanka. This achievement is a result of the hard work of a team of young professionals. 

In 2005, when French Corner transformed to NOLIMIT we had a vision, that was to uplift the lifestyle of our people. Today we remain steadfast to that commitment. We believe in the spirit of Sri Lanka that unites all ethnicities, races and religions to be passionate about the goodness of this country and its people. That is why we take a leadership role in innovating, upgrading and reinventing fashion solutions that are both cutting edge and affordable. I take this opportunity to thank the judges and Business Today in particular, for recognizing myself and the brand we have created. Thank you very much.

Thusitha Wijayasena (1993)
Founder/Chairman, Kandy City Centre

Thusitha Wijayasena transformed Kandy with the establishment of the Kandy City Centre (KCC) in 2009. The KCC paved the way to uplift businesses in the citadel, elevated its lifestyle experience and breathed new life into the cultural heart of Sri Lanka. It was a vision realized through determination amidst many challenges and was a journey driven through passion. 

Business Today recognizes pioneer Thusitha Wijayasena for his altruistic mission in transforming and reviving the city of Kandy while elevating the lifestyle of thousands of Sri Lankans. He has shown the world the capabilities of the country and its determined spirit.

“As the Kandy City Centre was of our country, I wanted to demonstrate and prove that Sri Lanka too had the capability to achieve.”

Thusitha Wijayasena

Thusitha Wijayasena addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Thusitha Wijayasena

Good evening Venerable Theros, Honourable Prime Minister, Prof Wickramasinghe, Ministers, distinguished guests, Mr Mathi and Glenda Parthipan and the BT Options team who have continuously held this event for 20 years. 

I believe that Podi Hamuduruwo, who has been advising, guiding and blessing me for 30 years is the best witness. Honourable Prime Minister, in 1993, it was upon the request of the Chief Prelates of the Asgiri and Malwathu Chapters that I purchased the land in Kandy and commenced the Kandy City Centre project spending a massive amount of funds. At the time, there were not many businesses, we saw only the emergence of telecommunications companies and the major project in progress was that of the World Trade Centre in Colombo. As the Kandy City Centre was of our country, I wanted to demonstrate and prove that Sri Lanka too had the capability to achieve. While contributing to the Kandyan culture as well as adding meaning to how we can make our identity and heritage our own through our culture and arts, I commenced the Kandy City Centre project. However, in 1994, with the change in Government there was a request for a Master Plan for the Kandy city. In 1995, our plan was considered by a tender panel consisting renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, and from eight proposals the one I put forward was selected as the best. 

That is the Kandy City Centre, the adjoining car park, three cinemas auditorium, Kandyan dancing centre and a cable car system connecting Hantana. There was an idea to create a Disneyland-style Theme Park and also to connect to the railway station through a flyover. There by using the railway station area to create a bus deport, 500 shops by the pavement, channelling facilities and a taxi park. Then, also a shuttle bus system consisting 65 buses and taxis. 

This was planned and approved, we commenced work in 1998, but we built the Kandy City Centre in the Bogambara Reservoir. Unfortunately, I had to spend an inconceivable amount on the groundwork for the project. It was an unthinkable amount. However, I succeeded. I started a very simple life in my youth and I earned my wealth with great hard work, which had been silently invested in property in Colombo. Later, in 1998 we faced objections to this project with various groups holding protests and rallies just as Podi Hamuduruwo mentioned earlier. I however bore all this and was determined to finish this project. 

Visit the Kandy City Centre that stands today and witness what I have achieved through great dedication and hard work. In 2002, construction of the super structure commenced and progressed speedily overcoming the many obstacles that came our way. Though construction was completed in 2005, as the city of Kandy did not have a proper sewerage system we could not open it. We waited for three years and subsequently created our own sewerage system with our own funds and opened the KCC in 2009. It is a large structure that is below the ground. It is the second largest building in Sri Lanka. We faced about 86,000 accidents within the first two years of operation due to the large yet inexperienced crowds who visited the KCC. It was soon after the end of the war and many people came to visit the property. 

We were patient and continued our work, and today we have been able to make this building a success. Today it is a structure that provides employment to 3,500 staff and has provided opportunities to at least 35,000 self-employed individuals. We have done a great service to the people. Come and visit and witness it. There are 13 banks and recently we opened a cafeteria and restaurant for the people as well as provided entertainment facilities. This was built with great determination, sole-dedication, tirelessly and by investing my own personal wealth. 

Honestly, I have not received an assistance from any Government, only the Board of Investment has helped me. We have provided a livelihood for thousands where some can even work from home. It is a great delight and strength for me to note that of the organizations receiving recognition today, 20 have established outlets at the Kandy City Centre. It is a great strength for me to have their support, which has further enlivened the Kandy City Centre. We receive crowds of 100,000 daily with the number increasing to 150,000 on weekends. Kandy used to be a dead city and no one was willing to help to enliven the citadel. 

Podi Hamuduruwo is well aware of our challenges, of how due to delays tonnes of steel was left to rust. During those times he and other theros advised me and strengthened me, therefore I did not give up. In the end, we created job opportunities and created a ‘city in a city’ quite beautifully. 

However, I believe only Mr Mathi Parthipan truly recognized my efforts and this is why I have received this award. I accept it quite humbly and I am extremely thankful to him and appreciate this award ceremony that he has continuously, for decades, organized together with his wife and BT Options team. He has done so without the support of anyone or sponsors; although today everyone else does these with sponsors. I appreciate that he has recognized my efforts. It was my family – my son, daughter and wife who suffered with me, and my team has dedicated their efforts to it as well. 

Internationally there is recognition for the Kandy City Centre and 572 owners of malls worldwide have visited me and have recognized my efforts. However, this is the first time that I have received this opportunity in Sri Lanka, and for that I am thankful. While congratulating all the recipients of awards as well as the banks who have assisted me through the years, I bring to your attention Honorable Prime Minister the need for a development bank. There are many who then would be able to perform a great service to the country. What we have achieved today has been through acquiring loans on high interest and therefore our assets have been spent. There are many talented individuals in this country. I believe that through the establishment of a development bank and national policy in this regard, we will be able to develop the country. 

I thank everyone, Mr Mathi Parthipan and the BT Options staff and all the organizations who have supported and been with me through the years. Theruwan Saranai. Thank you.

Dharshan Munidasa (1995)
Founder of Nihonbashi, Ministry of Crab and Kaema Sutra

Dharshan Munidasa, Sri Lanka’s internationally recognized chef and restaurateur, established Nihonbashi restaurant in 1995 at the age of 24. Motivated by ingredients and with a passion for food, he commenced a restaurant legacy that changed the mindset on cuisine in Sri Lanka. Through his establishment of restaurants Ministry of Crab and Kaema Sutra, he has brought international recognition for Sri Lankan cuisine. Dharshan Munidasa is Sri Lanka’s very own Celebrity Chef who has created a name in the culinary world. 

Business Today recognizes Dharshan Munidasa for his passionate restaurant legacy, which has transformed dining in the island as well as for showcasing Sri Lankan gastronomy internationally. We work with Mr Munidasa on his magazine Dharshan. And, his dedication to quality, precision as well as Sri Lankan cuisine and flavors is admirable.

“I am proud to have taken our cuisine, our crab, our dishes, our ingredients and our culinary teams to the far corners of the world, from London to Tokyo to Sydney.”

Dharshan Munidasa

Dharshan Munidasa addresses the gathering and accepts the award from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Speech by Dharshan Munidasa

Members of the Clergy, Honourable Prime Minister, distinguished guests, fellow recipients, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. 

It is an honor to share this stage with charismatic, iconic, brilliant, gifted, pioneering and inspirational Sri Lankans whom I admire and respect greatly. I did not study the art of cooking, which translates to ‘kaema sutra’ in Sinhala. I opened Nihonbashi with my mother 22 years ago. The import structure then was not conducive to importing ingredients, and incidentally Honorable Prime Minister nothing has changed. The trade barrier made me look for alternatives and I found 2,000 US dollar 100kg tuna destined for Tokyo’s famed Tskiji Fish Market at the fisheries harbour in Muttwal. I was then told that I could not buy this fish as the Government did not permit a sale in rupees as it was depriving Sri Lanka of foreign currency. 

I believed we should serve the best of our tuna in our country and despite this restriction we became one of the few restaurants in the world to purchase tuna whole and not purchase tuna in packs or cans, like restaurants in Dubai or London. Our crabs were much sought after in Singapore, but not at home. Again we exported the best and as Sri Lankans we had the second best. We should have been having the best of Sri Lankan crabs and not the ones rejected by Singapore, which has been that mantra of Ministry of Crab, probably the most efficient ministry in Sri Lanka. 

Our natural resources are a tremendous asset. The crustaceans we serve and export need study and the Ministry of Crab hopes to work with National Aquatic Resources and Development Agency (NARA) to bring attention on harvesting, transporting and exporting crab below 300g and female crabs with eggs to ensure sustainability. Hon Prime Minister, we now need to protect the brand ‘Sri Lankan Crab’, I see an increased number of restaurants in Singapore falsely advertising and serving Indonesian, Filipino and Indian mud crabs disguised as Sri Lankan crabs. Sometimes even dungeness crabs from the US. 

Nihonbashi, Ministry of Crab and Kaema Sutra have collectively cooked over 100 times in more than ten countries over the decade and a half. I am proud to have taken our cuisine, our crabs, our dishes, our ingredients and our culinary teams to the far corners of the world, from London to Tokyo to Sydney. 

I would like to thank Mathi and his team for this recognition and congratulate them on the 20th anniversary of Business Today TOP 30, recognising corporate Sri Lanka and this year for recognising brand Sri Lanka. Thank you.

Shiwantha Dias and Shalin Balasuriya (2005)
Founders of Spa Ceylon

Conceptualisation of the brand and product, which began in 2005, culminated into a luxury lifestyle brand in 2009. Spa Ceylon is the brainchild of Shiwantha Dias and Shalin Balasuriya. The duo redefined the idea of traditional Ayurveda, where they identified that if Ayurveda was positioned correctly, then it had the lengths to go international and be successful overseas. With their background and experience in the industry with Janet, they developed a product that was in the premium category. 

At a time when many corporates are being cautious to venture outside of Sri Lanka, Spa Ceylon under the helm of Shiwantha Dias and Shalin Balasuriya have gone beyond their comfort zone and they have taken the risk to take their brand as well as the country to the next level. It is for this reason that Business Today recognizes this dynamic duo who have injected a sense of novelty and innovation to the more traditional sectors of the economy. They have been successful in providing luxurious Sri Lankan experiences to the world.

“We are very proud that Spa Ceylon represents so much of this country, and to each country we go and set up that we take a piece of what we all call home.”

Shalin Balasuriya

Speech by Shalin Balasuriya

Good evening all. Honourable Theros, Honourable Prime Spa Ceylon was conceptualized to go out and be an inter-Minister, honoured guests.We are very privileged. I am very privileged to be standing here on behalf of myself and Shiwantha and am very humbled to receive this award. Thank you to Mathi and the BT team for recognizing us. Thank you God for being our strength and guide through everything we do. The award we receive this evening is called passionate, and if Shiwantha and I have passion in us, or whatever ounce of passion we have in us, comes from one person, our mother, Janet Balasuriya. Through her example, she ignited passion in all her children and she gave us an amazing platform to build from. 

She will always be valued and treasured and we are very thankful to her. We are also thankful to all of you. Spa Ceylon started with international aspirations but if we were to go international, we had to establish and scale in Sri Lanka. Thank you to the business leaders who chose a Sri Lankan brand over international brands to work with, thank you to all of you who came to our stores, who bought our products, who spa-ed with us, who continue to advocate for the brand. It is what you allowed us to do, that allows us to take the brand outside. 

Spa Ceylon was conceptualized to go out and be an international brand, but looking outside we looked backed in to our beautiful country and in this beautiful country we found the amazing science of Ayurveda, and that became our base. We looked back into our amazing country and found the abundance of natural resources, the fruits, the flowers and the herbs that became our ingredients. We looked into our beautiful country and we found the warmth of the people and that became our customer care etiquette. We looked into our amazing country and saw the culture and the art and that inspired the visual dimensions of the brand. We are very proud that Spa Ceylon represents so much of this country, and to each country we go and set up that we take a piece of what we all call home. We are now in 60 locations across 12 countries. We have huge international aspirations and big goals. Not only do we want to be a player in the international industry, but we want to be the front runner in the years to come. We are a young brand and growing, so please continue to be with us to grow with us. We hope to make Sri Lanka and all of you proud. Thank you and have a good night.

Business Today Top 30,

Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka) re-entered the Business Today Top 30 at Number 22

Dr Harsha Cabral, Chairman
Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka)

Hon Prime Minister, Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe, Reverend Gangaramaya High Priest, Honourable Ministers, Honourable MPs, my batch mate Pavithra Wanniarachchi MP, my good friend former Chief of Justice Mohan Peiris PC and Madam Priyanthi, friends, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen. 

Tokyo Cement is indeed honoured to accept this award, being the only true Sri Lankan cement manufacturer, having the largest market share today. A company, which was incorporated in 1982, had to go through many dark periods, having its main factory in Trincomalee during the war times. The entire credit of this achievement should be given to our Managing Director, Mr S R Gnanam, for his able stewardship, the board of directors for the proper direction and also to our entire workforce, which I call the Tokyo Cement family, from top to bottom. This particular award is dedicated to our Founder/Chairman, and the founder of this company, a true visionary, late A Y S Gnanam. I thank all the stakeholders of our company for having faith in this company and wish to say that we rely on quality very much and that is the hallmark of success. We thank the organisers, especially Mathi for recognizing a truly Sri Lankan company for this particular award. Thank you very much.

We owe our success, and I acknowledge success can be relative, to our stakeholders, particularly our employees, customers, suppliers, the society we operate in and indeed the government. We look forward to your support and will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to contribute to the economic development of our glorious country.

BT team congratulations on another wonderful evening, the pomp, the pageantry and the grandeur of this event increases year on year. Thank you very much Business Today once again for the recognition and have a good evening.

Commercial Credit and Finance entered the Business Today TOP 30 for the first time at Number 24

K J C Perera, Chairman
Commercial Credit and Finance

Good evening, Venerable Theros, Honourable Prime Minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe and distinguished guests.

Commercial Credit is greatly honored to have been selected to enter the hallowed recipients of the Business Today TOP 30 for the year 2016-2017. This prestigious award has been conferred on us for the first time. We take this opportunity to thank the Business Today for this valuable recognition. Having incorporated in 1982 as a finance company in Kandy, solely focused in the agricultural sector, we have grown in leaps and bounds following the strategic change in management in 2010. This did set Commercial Credit to emerge as a strong member in the corporate sector of Sri Lanka. Six years ago, when we took the management of this company it was one of the smallest entities in the finance industry. But we had a big dream for this small entity. Our dream was to build a principle-centered culture, I repeat, a principle-centered culture, within the company where our people could be effective in their professional and personal life while contributing towards the country.

We set our purpose to build leaders who uplift the lives of people by simple acts of love. I repeat that, we set our purpose to build leaders who uplift the lives of people by simple acts of love. This is what Commercial Credit stands for. In order to drive towards our purpose, we introduced five principle-centered shared values. I have to say that we have started realizing our dream but there is a very long way ahead. At the time of takeover, six years ago, we had merely ten locations operating with only 100 people. At present, we operate in 118 locations, with over 3,500 members. Our profit after tax as at March 31, 2017, was three billion rupees. We believe that the foundation of our success is the principle-based culture, that we continue to build. To inculcate this culture amongst the employees, we use the philosophy of ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by the late Dr Stephen R Covey, which we believe is a major source of inspiration for us. We have reduced the number of levels of our organizational structure, irrespective of their levels all employees in a particular department have the same designation and work-stations without cubicles. We believe that the critical factor of our success is the high degree of importance we placed on our employee development. In order to develop them on a regular basis, we invested in building a state-of-the-art residential training centre. We had our presence in Myanmar, and exited in December 2016 with a substantial capital gain. We believe that we managed to change the marketing landscape of the country by creating mass communication, aligned with our stated purpose. These advertisements remind us to live by our purpose every day. We have won national and international awards in recognition of our brand. Finally, we take this opportunity to thank all our valuable stakeholders for their unstinted support and loyalty towards our company. Thank you.

1. John Keells

Krishan Balendra, Director accepting the award from Prime Minister  Ranil Wickremesinghe; Minister Sagala Ratnayaka; Minister Gayantha  Karunatileka; Dinesh Weerakkody; Keith Bernard and Shiron Gooneratne

2. Hatton National Bank

Rienzie Arseculeratne, Chairman and Jonathan Alles, Managing Director/CEO accepting the award

3. Commercial Bank of Ceylon

Jegan Durairatnam, Managing Director/CEO accepting the award

4. Lanka Orix Leasing Company

Kapila Jayawardena, Group Managing Director/CEO accepting the award

5. Dialog Axiata

Supun Weerasinghe, Group Chief Executive accepting the award

6. Ceylon Tobacco Company

Michael Koest, Managing Director/CEO accepting the award

7. Sampath Bank

Nanda Fernando, Managing Director accepting the award

8. Melstacorp

Nanda Fernando, Managing Director accepting the award

9. Hayleys

Sarath Ganegoda, Director accepting the award

10. Sri Lanka Telecom

Dileepa Wijesundera, Group CEO accepting the award

11. Nestle Lanka

Shivani Hegde, Managing Director accepting the award

12. Ceylinco Insurance

Ajith Gunawardena, Managing Director/CEO accepting the award

13. Central Finance Company

Ravi Rambukwella, Director accepting the award

14. Hemas Holdings

Imtiaz Esufally, Director accepting the award

15. People’s Leasing and Finance

Pradeep Amirthanayagam, Deputy Chairman and A S Ibrahim, CEO accepting the award

16. Aitken Spence

Rajan Brito, Deputy Chairman/Managing Director accepting the award

17. Chevron Lubricants Lanka

Dr Kishu Gomes, Managing Director/CEO accepting the award

18. Vallibel One

Yogadinusha Bhaskaran, CEO accepting the award

19. Richard Pieris and Company

Dr Sena Yaddehige, Chairman/MD/CEO accepting the award

20. Seylan Bank

Kapila Jayawardena, Director and Chitral De Silva accepting the award

21. DFCC Bank

Lakshman Silva, CEO accepting the award

22. Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka)

Dr Harsha Cabral, Chairman accepting the award

23. Lanka IOC

Shyam Bohra, Managing Director accepting the award

24. Commercial Credit and Finance

K J C Perera, Chairman and Roshan Egodage, CEO accepting the award

25. Bukit Darah

Chandima Gunawardena, Director accepting the award

26. CT Holdings

Sanjaya Niles, Executive Director accepting the award

27. National Development Bank

Ananda Atukorale, Chairman and Sanjaya Perera accepting the award

28. Singer Sri Lanka

Asoka Peiris, Group CEO accepting the award

29. Nations Trust Bank

Renuka Fernando, CEO accepting the award

30. Access Engineering

Sumal Perera, Chairman accepting the award

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sagala Ratnayaka, Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development and Gayantha Karunatileke,  Minister of Land and Parliamentary Reforms as well as Dinesh Weerakkody, Keith Bernard and Shiron Gooneratne along with recipients of the  Business Today TOP 30 2016-2017 and Business Today Passionate

Business Today Top 30,
2016-2017 Gallery

Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple and Ven Kirinde Assaji Thero

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe welcomed by Glenda and Mathi K Parthipan, Chairman/Managing Director, BT Options

Nazreen and Dominic Sansoni

Isabella, Sophia and Sebastian Sansoni and Ashira Thompson

Malik Fernando

Chandra and Patricia Wickramasinghe

Arjuna Perera

 Anselm Perera

Fouzul Hameed

Nuha, Mikail, Habiba and Najath Hameed

Udayshanth Fernando

Annika, Angelika and Saskia Fernando

Preethi and Neelamani Jayawardana

Mohideen Saheed

Kshama Saheed

Otara Gunewardene with Rakhil, Kiran and Raju Chandiram, and
Delysia Gunewardene

N L M Mubarack with M M A Deedat, M M M Hafiz, M M Abubucker, M A C M
Abbrar Ahamed and M M A Mahdy

Swarna and Thusitha Wijayasena with Chamithrie Wijayasena-Cornish

Tharindu Wijayasena and Daria Gyi

Glenda and Mathi K Parthipan, Chairman/Managing Director, BT Options

Dharshan Munidasa

Aki, Kanishka and Nobuko Munidasa

Shiwantha Dias

Shalin and Suzy Balasuriya

(R-L): Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple; Mathi K Parthipan, Chairman/Managing Director, BT Options; Glenda Parthipan; Minister Gayantha Karunatileka; Minister Sagala Ratnayaka, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe; John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs; Harin Fernando, Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure; Thilanga Sumathipala, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Samadara Sumathipala

Ven Kirinde Assaji Thero, Ven Diyapattugama Revatha Thero and Ven Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero

E Saravanapavan MP, Ashu Marasinghe MP, Udaya Gammanpila MP and Tissa Attanayake

Deputy Ministers Faizal Cassim, Ajith P Perera, Harsha de Silva and Health Minister Eastern Provincial Council Ahamed Lebbe Mohamed Nazeer

Pavithra Wanniarachchi MP, Rosy and Athula Senenayake

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Sagala Ratnayaka and Minister Gayantha Karunatileka with the BT Options team

Prime Minister Ranil Wckremesinghe and Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe with Glenda and Mathi K Parthipan, Minister Sagala Ratnayaka and Thanuja Thilakarathne

Paper Moon Kudils, Arugambay Roccos and Peanut Farm team