Harris Brushes: Sri Lanka’s premier decorative tools

Sri Lankan Entrepreneur, January 6th, 2013

Harris Brushes: Sri Lanka’s premier decorative tools


‘Harris Brushes’ a house hold name in Sri Lanka for over 75 years, continues to dominate the decorative tools market through its trusted high quality products. L.G. Harris, a British company distributed its brushes in Sri Lanka, (former Ceylon), since the 1930’s and established a factory in 1969 in Watareka, Meegoda.

Chairman Michael Dias, the key man behind Harris Brushes, shared with ‘Daily News Business ‘the company’s experience, success and hopes during his career spanning a period of over 40 years.

Michael Dias

“When I took over ‘Harris Ceylon’ from my British counterpart, most of my current staff were had not even been born,” with a bright smile he proudly said.

“My experience had been in running estates at the time and not factories. However, after much thought I took up the offer to join Harris Ceylon and spent nearly two years, picking up the basics of brush making from sharpening a saw, setting up the brush head and packing and selling brushes, officially taking over the business in 1974. In 1995, my son Sujan Dias, took over the business as its Managing Director and to date, has taken the company to new heights with modern approaches to the business.”

When queried as to his early school career, he proudly stated that his Alma Mater was Royal College where he had been groomed and strongly believes that it had given him an edge in life. Dias said he had achieved a place in Cambridge University, but sadly had to decline the offer due to his father’s ill health at that time.

With many views on management styles available to leaders, we asked him about his personal management style.

“Well we are a family owned company and our staff was like family to us. Recently, about 22 of them were recognized for their services of over 20 years and 5 of them for over 30 years of service.” “I know most of them by name, but with the staff strength reaching close to 200, I try my best to remember all their names,” he further added.

“Our policy has always been to remunerate our staff concerning industry standards, as they were fundamental to the company’s continued dominance in providing quality products. Harris is an equal opportunity employer, having many members of the staff who are differently able. We believe in treating them with utmost respect and that was one reason why productivity was high. We believe in taking care of our most important resource – our staff – and they have always been loyal to us,” Dias concluded.

At present, Harris holds 80-85% of the entire decorative tools market, reaching over ten thousand hardware shops, paint centres and supermarket outlets islandwide, with over 2,000 products ranging from an array of brushes, rollers, sandpaper, extension poles to paint gloves, painter suits and wall scrapers and more. Michael Dias foresees a growth in the industry in the coming years as most large scale construction projects would enter the interior and exterior decorative stage.

“A perfect finish to any home, apartment, office or hotel, could only be achieved with a quality decorative tool and that is where Harris Brushes and Rollers come in,” he said.

Some of the brands held by Harris include the famous Red and white tipped ‘Harris Classic’, Blue tipped ‘Budget’, and orange tipped ‘E-zy’, with speciality brushes such as ‘Woodcare’, ‘Budget White’, ‘No Loss’ and ‘ID Gel’. “We are an organization driven by innovation, we always strive for excellence in all we do and all we make. Our management team has decades of experience from all industries bringing a vital contribution towards customer satisfaction through product excellence.”

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2013/01/05/bus31.asp


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Nayana Dehigama adjudged SL Entrepreneur, 2012

Sri Lankan Entrepreneur, 06th January 2013

Nayana Dehigama adjudged SL Entrepreneur, 2012

Nayana Dehigama, Founder Chairman and Managing Director of EPIC Lanka Group was adjudged as the Sri Lankan Entrepreneur 2012 Platinum Award winner.

In addition to this most coveted once in life time award at the national level competition that was held for the 17th year, he also won the Gold Award as the best entrepreneur in the Western Province under the extra large category. The award ceremony was held at the Waters Edge recently.

Epic Lanka is the renowned ICT solutions provider with a proven track record of 15 years. The company being the undisputed leader of the Sri Lankan software industry has collected an unprecedented total of 48 national and international accolades in the past 4 years.

The company won the National Business Excellence Award in ICT sector for 3 consecutive years from 2008 to 2010. They also won the highest number of awards at the National Best Quality Software Awards 2011 which they achieved for the fourth time. Epic Lanka also won the first ever Gold Award for Sri Lanka at the Asia Pacific ICT Awards 2008. Nayana drives EPIC by example. In his quest of making Epic a preferred global brand for innovative software solutions he has commenced operations in several other countries in the region.

Nayana is at the verge of completing his doctoral degree at the School of Management of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand. Having acquired professional qualifications in electronics engineering, he subsequently obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing and MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

He is a member of the Department Industry Consultative Board of the Management of Technology Department, University of Moratuwa and also takes part in research committees in national universities.

He also serves as a member of the committee for Promoting Techno-Entrepreneurship at National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka.

Nayana won the most coveted Asia-Pacific Young Entrepreneur Award 2010 organized by the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry where the best entrepreneurs of over 25 countries competed.

He also won the Sri Lankan Entrepreneur of the Year – Silver Award during the past 3 years and the Gold Award as the winner of Western Province in the Extra Large category in 2011. Nayana is the Immediate Past Chairman of Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE), the vibrant forum of local entrepreneurs of the new generation.


Pasted from <http://www.dailynews.lk/2013/01/05/bus42.asp>

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Women Entrepreneur Juliet Perera -Handicrafts- a purpose beyond simple decoration

Women Entrepreneur Juliet Perera -Handicrafts- a purpose beyond simple decoration

by jayasuriya.sanjeevi@gmail.com
Source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/11/05/bus12.asp

Pleasant tasks bring pleasure to anyone who engages in doing so, on daily basis. Handicraft is an art form that is popular in today’s context.

Handicraft, expressed as artisanal handicraft, sometimes called artisanry, a type of work where useful and decorative devices are made completely by hand or using only simple tools.

A traditional main sector of craft. Usually the term is applied to traditional means of making goods. The individual artisanship of the items are a paramount criterion, such items often have cultural and/or religious significance. Items made by mass production or machines are not handicraft goods.

Usually, what distinguishes the term handicraft from the frequently used category arts and crafts is a matter of intent: handicraft items are intended to be used, worn and having a purpose beyond simple decoration. Handicraft goods are generally considered to be more
traditional, non-industrial and transitional societies created as a somewhat more necessary part of daily life (in comparison to industrial societies), while arts and crafts implies more of a hobby pursuit and a demonstration/perfection of a creative technique.

Realizing the importance of continuing her passion, Juliet Perera ventured into the handicraft industry to ensure her knowledge on the field is disseminated properly in a bid to allow the future generation to savour this de-stressing activity.

Her education institute where a large number of students has benefited so far is a hallmark of a quality learning centre situated in Nugegoda which caters to a growing demand through her mastery touch.

She was interviewed by Daily News Business. Excerpts of the interview.

Q: How do you describe your line of business?

A: I conduct an education centre related to teaching the subject of handicraft with practical lessons. The area of teaching encompasses all kinds of handicrafts, ribbon, hand and Brazilian embroidery, java batik, cross stitch, glass painting, mirror work, needle point, paper tole and photo framing.

I ventured into teaching 15 years ago and as there is no age limit for students. However, the trend is for more elders to follow classes as the enthusiasm in the younger generation is gradually disappearing. The classes have become a mode of relaxation and it also keeps one occupied in a meaningful way.

Classes are conducted at Jambugasmulla Nugegoda and the response is over whelming. I successfully concluded my first exhibition last year which also created an awareness of my art work classes.

I have many students from the outstations and most of the students continue in the field as teachers or continue as a pass time.

There are thousands of students who have benefited through this education centre.

I pay undivided attention on my students and courses are designed to suit individual requirements.

This is a fast fading art and I strive hard to make it sustainable in order to see it survive.

Q: How do you manage time to handle your personal life?

A: My husband H.P. J. Perera, a retired CMC Administrative Officer is the driving force behind this venture. We have two sons Dinesh Chintaka and Chanaka and a daughter Shereen.

I have more free time now as our children are married and living separately.

My full time is utilized for conducting classes. There is a huge interest shown by the elderly population as changing life styles do not permit for extended families anymore and I devote more of my time for them.

Q: What motivated you to venture into business on your own?

A: My mother Irene Weerasinghe, was an artistic person and was very skilled in sculpture. I have inherited her talents and skills which enabled me to set up an education centre.

The positive response inspired me to continue the venture.

Q: What are your goals?

A: My goal is to share my knowledge and experience with those who are interested in the field.

We need to preserve this medium for the next generation and my education centre will support this effort. The art and work involved add colour and brings happiness to life.

Q. How do you face the challenges of competition?

A: I have my own teaching method and this is something different. The students are allowed more practical time and this has ensured that they learn the art properly and fast.

Though, there are a significant number of similar centres of teaching, my venture has progressed well with sufficient a number of students in every intake.

Q: What is your specialty?

A: The course I followed in Australia has widened my knowledge and I constantly update knowledge to mix tradition with modern thinking. I have published six books on this field which includes subjects such as ribbon and hand embroidery and needle point.
These books have received good response and many positive comments as a useful guide for practical purposes.

Q: What are
your achievements in family life and business?

A: I was awarded the ‘Wishwa Abimani Diriya Kanthawa’ gawrawa sammana sannas pathraya by the Samastah Lanka Nena Guna Pamanama recently. My 15 years service is invaluable to me as it recognized my work to society.

Many of my students are engaged in self employment successfully, which is a pleasure of seeing them do well in life. Some students have followed my foot steps and have become teachers as well. Students who are abroad are thankful to me as they make use of time
productively engaging in whatever art work I taught them.

I plan to introduce a few novel creations in the future which are of a fusion between traditional and modern work. I am working on a book where it elaborates simple methods for elders to do more creative productions by themselves. The book will provide detailed descriptions on the steps to make a beautiful art work.

Q: What is your message to society?

A: Things always happen that you believe in and the belief in a thing makes it happen. Success is sweet, the sweeter, if long delayed and attained through manifold struggle and defeats. The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows. The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means and the exercise of ordinary qualities. The surest way not to fail is determine to succeed.

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Women Entrepreneur Shamila – stands tall among beauticians

Women Entreprenur_Sharmila

Women Entrepreneur Shamila
– stands tall among beauticians

by jayasuriya.sanjeevi@gmail.com
source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/11/19/bus20.asp

Sharmila Kudagoda

The country’s beauty culture industry has moved forward to be on par with today’s global trends and many have emerged as representatives of the trade. Having grown up in an environment surrounded by beauty culture related activities, it seemed
the natural choice for Shamila Kudagoda to continue in the family business which her mother has been running successfully. After renaming the business as ‘Brilliant Brides and Salon’ in Kottawa, the venture has now become a force to be reckoned with in the highly competitive beauty culture industry of Sri Lanka.

Paradigm of the beauty culture has drastically been changed to the modern world and the needs and wants of the customers have also been changed making a specific market.

As a result different streams of professionals have emerged due to the various commercial needs who are contributing to the society in this field. Most of the related equipment are advanced and expensive hence entrepreneurs in this field are investing more to provide quality service.As we are aware all TV and Radio channels conduct programmes for promoting beauty culture in view of developing
entrepreneurs to reduce the unemployment population in the society. Younger generations are much interested in this field and following courses for starting their own businesses, a salon. However, the related customers of this business should have a certain level of economic background to maintain their status and their requirements. The equipments required for the salon are also sophisticated therefore a professional salon can be started by only the businesswomen having a certain economic level and industry has evolved to be on a high scale from lower economic level entrepreneurs. Shamila contributes for the development
in the industry and her venture stands tall among the others.

She was interviewed by Daily News Business.

Excerpts of the interview.

Q: How do you
describe your line of business?

A: My venture Brilliant Brides and Salon Kottawa was a result of the business model started by my mother Sherline Demetagoda 25 years ago. Her venture Brilliant Brides was set up in Maharagama and was a huge success. After ending my school studies I was involved in the business. With my mother’s blessing I ventured into business and
commenced operations in Kottawa as I was the only child in the family. This venture exclusively caters to women and we provide a full range of bridal services and all types of beauty care and treatment at present. The holistic nature of our services has been the hallmark of the business and this has attracted a steady flow of customers.

My mother is my mentor but I furthered my knowledge following a number of courses. I value the inputs of Ramani Arsacularatne Beauty Academy in the learning process. I also followed a course in Singapore before venturing into a higher level.

Q: How do you manage time to handle your personal life?

A: My husband has different interests and he is not involved in the business. Our two sons Thiven and Javinu Punchihewa school at St. Joseph’s College Colombo. As they are still young, they need constant attention and I have adjusted my schedule to enable more quality time with them. Their needs are well taken care of and I help them in their school work. Most of the mornings are devoted to the business
whereas the evenings and the weekend is for my children.

Q: What motivated you to venture into business on your own?

A: As I grew up in seen radiant brides and related activities it fascinated me to delve deep in to the subject. My inherent talents and mother’s guidance gave me the confidence to continue our family business. The flexible nature of the business was also a motivating factor.

Q: What are your goals?

A: I intend continue the business though have no succession plan at the moment. Among the other goals are to expand the business and to follow trends to be on par with the global industry standards.

Q: How do you face the challenges of competition?

A: My firm belief is that if you provide an excellent service and exceed customer expectation there will be more business opportunities. My venture always focuses on service delivery and value for money where customer satisfaction plays the key role.
Though, there is huge number of beauty care related business entities, Brilliant Brides and Salon has been able to withstand all storms.

Q: What example do you provide to others?

A: I emphasis on practical knowledge as theory will only helps to boost the education.

It is important to understand the delicate points in the bridal dressing and be artistic in the creation of work. The practical aspect of the service is at the centre stage where trial and error approach is not possible. It should be a perfect job and we meet this requirement covering the entire process.

Q: What are your achievements in family life and business?

A: I consider maintaining and even exceeding the success level of the initial family business as a huge achievement. Unlike in venturing new, sustaining an already running business is somewhat difficult. I have overcome this hurdle and even have been able to add another business venture to the fold.

Q: What is your message to society?

A: Honesty is a very expensive gift. Do not expect it from cheap people.

There are people to put you down when they see your success. Ignore them and move forward where they cannot reach you. The hardest test in life is to wait.

Nobody has a perfect life. Everybody has their own problems. Some people just know how to deal with it perfectly. Always look on the lighter side of everything and be optimistic.

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What powerful brands do

The hidden 5 Ps that are practiced:


The fox news channel announced recently that Sri Lanka is the rising star of the Asian economy which I felt was an accolade we rightfully deserve due to the strong performance of the private sector in the last two years and the stable environment that existed in the macro environment.

However at last week’s FCCISL’s Key Person’s Forum where the Japanese Ambassador cautioned the business community that a more aggressive development agenda is required on trade and investment was an eye opener that we need to set the bar way higher than what we are currently at.

My estimate is that it at the current performance we will deliver a five to seven percent growth which is essentially organic in nature.

If we want a ten percent plus growth then the development agenda will have to be on a new terrain which is essentially what the Japanese envoy was inferring.

May be the best case in point will be the apparel industry of Sri Lanka that took Sri Lanka’s growth agenda on a new trail way back in the 1980’s. The key question is what is that big ticket item that we need to chase after?

World in turmoil:

The recent uprising in Egypt that is getting cascading to the rest of the Arab world is upsetting the development agenda of many a countries, given that globally we are yet to recover from the financial crisis that shocked the world some years back.

Apart from the spiralling inflation due to weather issues across the world, the surging oil prices are adding to the inflationary pressure that the world is up against that adds to the woes of a country that is driving on a new economic agenda like Sri Lanka.

Rohantha Athukorale

Going back to the revolutionary budget that was presented last November, as the former head of the National Council For Economic Development (NCED) I was excited and was looking forward to year 2011 and 12 where Sri Lanka’s economy will be unleashed to high gear just like the statements that Fox TV channel referred to us the Rising star of Asia.

But when La Nina battered us in January and then followed with another burst in February, we were once again ploughed back to emergency evacuations and emergency food, clothing and shelter modes which took away the shine of Budget 2010 and 11.

A point to note is that a 10 dollar increase in oil prices shaves off a half percentage of GDP which gives us an indication of challenges that we are up against for balance part of the year.

Brand aura

In this backdrop of the macro economic challenges, Sri Lanka invests almost a 35 billion rupees to bombard a consumer with advertising to catch consumer attention.

This value can be way higher as much as even 50 billion rupees with the below the line marketing spend that tells us the optimism that the private sector has demonstrated last year. I am very confident that the private sector will continue its resiliency and take the economy to a seven percent plus GDP growth.

From a brand marketing perspective what really intrigues me is, why some brands succeed with limited advertising muscle whilst others crash with such a roar, even after a string multimedia campaign. In my view there is something right that Powerful brands do and others do not. Let me capture some of them. I am going to term these the hidden 5 Ps of Powerful brands.

1. Principles:

In my view Powerful brands demonstrate their values in every decision that they make. Infact they go on to make a statement to their customer at different stages of the purchasing process.

Such companies carefully architecture the impression that want to leave in a consumers mind every time they come in contact with the brand and then they implement it with absolute precision.

For example if we take Tintagel the boutique hotel in the city, from the point a customer enters through its stately gates to parking the vehicle and then walking to the restaurant, they leave a clear mark in a customer, that makes the experience unique. A point to note is that at each touch point the customer experiences the principle by which Tintagel operates. This is what makes it a Powerful brand in my view.

Hence the task for a company wanting to practice this “science of touch point” must first identify these consumer touch points and then do the needful in the recruitment and training of its staff so that gold standard implementation is possible.

This is what I would call Principles based operations in a company. House of Fashion is one such company where they make a mark on the premise of a no frill store which offers value for money merchandise.

2. Promises:

Here what we see is that powerful brands analyses the underlying motivation that makes one get into bed with a brand. For instance the reason why someone will go in search of a Siddhalepa balm is because he or she believes that by applying Siddhalepa one can get relief from a nasty headache.

Meaning, powerful brands deliver promises that they are supposed to be selling continuously. Those who do it with impact makes the brand taking residency in a consumers mind, which in turn elucidates trial and loyalty that results in an increasing in sales. I guess this is the essence of a powerful brand.

But a point to note is that successful brands are driven by individuals. Their personal motivation fuels the organization which is where the importance of brand management comes into play.

Money is not the prime reason for a brand to move in my view. It is more the convergence between the qualities of the person who drives a brand and the promise the brand offers to a customer.

Which means that it will require careful recruitment than training. The best example in Sri Lanka to illustrate this point is DHL. From the CEO down to a front liner the promise of ‘delivering the impossible’ takes form in their behaviour.

Hence the delivery of a promise becomes a way of life to an employee than an exception. I also believe that this ethos holds true on a service brand like Cinnamon Grand, where every employee delivers that ‘Cinnamon Magic’ which cuts out the property from the rest in the industry.

I guess this is the reason for the brand to carry away the ‘Best City hotel award’ for the three years consecutively.

3. Production.

I also believe that powerful brands create a WOW every time a consumer comes in contact with it.This involves a careful engineering of the colour schemes, music, temperature, lighting, dress code of the staff and the workers attitude to meeting people.

Odel is one of the best cases in point that comes to my mind that has done this engineering successfully that leaves a WOW every time one visit the store.

The challenge is to keep this spirit continuously. Believe me, It is tough in Sri Lanka with this ‘Island mentality attitude that exists’. But, we are fast turning around and may be by the time Shangrilla comes to Sri Lanka, we will be excellent on service delivery.

4. Press.

I have noticed that powerful brands get strong press coverage. The key is the noteworthy press exposure than the occasional photography that rolls out in the media. We need to carefully evaluate the avenues that are available and how the information that we release fits into the story and brand. In the recent past we have seen how some focused information has been generated from the Industry and Commerce Ministry.

The information that has rolled out has also been relevant, which tends to add the brands equity. The challenge is how to maintain this trend than just been see one media that actually hurts the brand imagery.

5. Prizes.

Evaluating the performance and rewarding the right behaviour are hallmarks of a powerful brand. Finding out opportunities to recognize and reward those that demonstrate these values tends to bring out the Brand Promise.

Always remember that if you want to change behaviour then, reward the behaviour that is in line with organizational values.

In Sri Lanka a company that does this well is Cargill’s Food City supermarket chain. I guess the brand has earned its way up to be one of the most powerful brands in Sri Lanka.

The company crafts its communication very sharply together with locating its stores strategically ‘on the way home’ slogan that has made it a top of the mind brand in Sri Lanka.

I guess when a brand is powerful it can attract some good talent too. Which is exactly what Cargills has done in that last couple of years and today, it can be rightfully called a power brand of Sri Lanka.

I am sure there are many other elements that make a brand powerful. But I would capture the above five points and term it the hidden five Ps of marketing that make some brands stand out in the market place whilst some just continue to be on the shelf.


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Achini Abeygunawardena shines in chosen field

Teaching proper skills her forte

Achini Abeygunawardena shines in chosen field:

by Sanjeevi JAYASURIYA

Education is the gateway to a brighter future. The formal education in early life plays a key role in personal development and it should not be limited to what we learn from school. Extra curricular activities makes a complete person and the trend today is to involve in several extra curricular activities so that you can identify the hidden potential.

This is useful when selecting a career path as well as developing skills for own benefit. Many people are born with multiple talents and providing a platform to unleash them is important. Achini Abeygunawardena successfully runs a number of ventures related to education where her students excel in their chosen fields. One of her ventures is to train teachers to provide quality education.

She was a pioneer in this concept and today many have followed her path in producing high caliber teachers for the betterment of the country. As a woman she has set a shining example for others showing how best one’s skills could be used to gain economic benefit.

She was interviewed by Daily News Business.

Excerpts of the interview.

Q. What is the business you are engaged in and how do you set about it?

A. I am in the field of education. I have several businesses in the same line. The World Vision International School in Kiribathgoda is a prime educational service provider. We provide education to pre-school and primary school students under the British curriculum, but with a Sri Lankan touch.

At London Academy of Speech which is in Kiribathgoda and Wattala we conduct speech and drama, spoken English and effective speech and grammar classes under a British curriculum. We also conduct soft skills training programs for the corporate sector.

The British Teacher Training Colleges are in Wattala, Bambalapitiya and Kiribathgoda. This college is the pioneer in the arena of teacher training in this country, where we train teachers for British diplomas in teaching speech and communication. The English language is a must for this training as our college is foreign affiliated.

I work as an Examiner in Speech and Communication at Thames Valley University (LCM exams) and I am also a Representative in Sri Lanka for LCM exams. I also work as the sole Sri Lankan Representative of Victoria College, London.

The British Activity School in Wattala is the latest addition to the list where parents can leave their children in our care after school and the children would be engaged in various activities.

I as a child followed subjects of speech and drama and secured three British fellowships in public speaking. I was following a degree in Chemistry when I got a scholarship to study speech and drama in the UK. I had to give up my degree and pursue studying speech and drama. This was a turning point in my life.

After studying I returned home and had a short stint at the Kelaniya University. I was a consultant for a few private schools and international schools in Colombo. I was motivated to start my own school through these experiences and this is how I ventured in to the field of education.

I never advertise my ventures and the news is spread through word of mouth. The response from parents is encouraging. I focus on a niche market and have customized my service.

Q. How do you balance your family life and business?

A. I use methodologies such as 5S to organize my life. I leave for work around 8.15 in the morning with my youngest child and I am back at home by 1.30 pm. I then relax for a while and leave home for two hours but for only three days of the week.

I don’t work on Saturday, but I work half day on Sunday. However I am at home when the children come home from their extra curricular activities and spend time with my family. The computer and the internet have played a pivotal role in saving my time to balance my family life and business.

Q. What were the challenges you faced?

A. The challenges are that most schools have a large infrastructure where as in my case I don’t. So it is difficult to compete, but I deliver results through students to meet the challenge. At World Vision, we mould young children to be confident and poised by the age of five to face the world positively.

The biggest challenge that I am facing now is that in Sri Lanka people tend to copy what you innovate.

That not only ruins the market but mislead people too. People with very limited knowledge and exposure try to replicate the business and unfortunately the future generations of this country are affected.

My question is whether your six-year old child can read and write? – if the answer is “no”, the obvious reason is the methodology used to teach from a pre-school perspective.

At the end of the day, flamboyant advertising does not pave way for proper teaching skills. Therefore, the public needs to be aware of the delivery quality and capability of the institution.

Q. What are your goals?

A. To train English teachers according to the proper way with British qualifications and to groom as many young adults as possible to communicate effectively. As for the school, maybe to have a building as per foreign standards with a large garden because Sri Lankan parents have a tendency to judge the standard of the school by its infrastructure!

Q. Was being a woman an advantage to be in business?

A. Yes and no.

Yes, because most parents may not have sent their children for classes (or the school), had I been a man I think. Here the womanhood is a blessing.

However, as a woman, I cannot travel to distant places to conduct classes as the balance in my family needs to be maintained. It is also not practical for a woman to conduct mass classes.

Q. What is your advice to women in business?

A. Be innovative, do what you are capable of and excel. Strive to be the best mother to your children. Balance your work and family life well.

Q. What are your achievements in family life and business?

A: I have a wonderful family. My husband Channa is the CEO of a company. I have three daughters Nasharli, Hashani and Shemali aged 10, 8 and 4.

My parents are our neighbours and they play a major role in bringing up the children. The greatest achievement in the field of business is the fact that I am the only Asian to be on the panel of examiners at Thames Valley University, UK.

I also was the pioneer in introducing the teacher training concept to Sri Lanka. I consider the recognition and appreciation by the parents as the most valuable return from my ventures.


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Marketing, not merely selling and advertising

Marketing, not merely selling and advertising

Text and Pix by Premasara Epasinghe BA (Cey), Dip in Ed, Dip in Mktg, Public Relations and Marketing Consultant and Lecturer

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/09/11/bus20.asp


Many individuals are of the opinion that Marketing means only selling and advertising. Practically, everyday, we are bombarded with so many commercials in electronic and print media and therefore the general public, have a wrong notion that they think marketing as selling and advertising. The selling and advertising are only the tip of marketing iceberg.

Marketing can be simply defined as the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationship in order to capture value from customers in return.

The people responsible for directing the efforts aimed at helping organizations achieve their goals are handled by a Manager.

The measure of how efficient and effective a Manager is, how well he or she determines and achieves appropriate objectives. Today, in the business world there are various kind of managers. Some of them are Director General Managers, Chief Executive Officers, General Managers, Deputy General Managers, Assistant General Managers, Marketing Managers etc., They should all possess humble ways, etiquette, mannerism, discipline and also leadership qualities.

What is leadership? There are many definitions. In his survey of leadership theories and research Ralph M Stogdill states in a nut-shell – Leadership is the process of directing and influencing the task related activities of group members. To cut a long story short, leadership involves (1) Other people (2) Power between leaders and group members (3) Ability to use the different forms of power to influence followers (4) Combines the first three that leadership is about values.

Marketing can be considered as the study of exchange process, how transactions are initiated, motivated, facilitated and consummated. Marketing is something linked with our daily lives. Broadly defined, marketing is a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging value with others.

We can define marketing as the process by which companies create value for customers and build a very strong customer relationship in order to capture value from customers in return.

The basic concept of marketing is that of humane needs. One must select the target markets. To achieve this, marketing management is vital.

It is the art and science of choosing the target markets and building profitable relationships.

Managers – plan, schedule, motivate and control. The various types of managers are there, because they fill special needs.

What are the roles of the Managers?

The marketing manager specializes in distributing product or services. The production manager specializes in conversion of resources inputs to outputs. The financial manager ensures adequate funds are available to keep the organization viable.

The project manager, is unique, vital, because, he or she manages temporary, non-repetitive activities and frequently acts independently of the formal organization.

The success of any organization will always depend on the team-work of the managers. They must be committed to their jobs and consider the institution that they represent are their prestige and honour.

In modern marketing, customer relationship management is the most challenging concept. Till recently CRM has been defined as customer data management activity. If analyze, in the broader sense, CRM is overall process of building and maintaining profitable customer relationship, which transmit superior customer value and satisfaction. Customer satisfaction depend on the product or services perceived performance. If it falls short of expectations, customers are dissatisfied.

It is the duty of the marketing division to go out of their way to bring business. The marketing manager or AGM (Mkt) or director marketing will be failures if they try to handle operations from an “air-conditioned room”.

They must go out, know the pulse of the people. Marketing men must be unassuming personalities, who build the image of their Institutions.

In the 1986, when Sampath Bank commenced business at the inception, I as a marketing personality went in search of customers, spoke to them politely and brought business to the bank. I still remember when the Sampath Bank Kiribathgoda was first opened, I personally visited all the shops, groceries, mercantile establishments at Kiribathgoda, spoke to them and brought business to the bank. Not only at Kiribathgoda, but even at Kurunegala and Matara, I did shop to shop and house to house campaign to capture customers. The Sampath Bank’s philosophy at that time under the chairmanship of the great provincial wizard N U Jayawardene was taking banking to the customers doorstep.

Sampath Bank was the first to introduce the Electronic Teller Machine in the bank industry called SET. In fact, Sampath Bank sent me to England to commentate on the Sri Lanka-England Test and One Day Series matches played at Lords and Surrey Oval and, they advertised the SET facilities in between the live updates and commentaries.

I presume, it was Sampath Bank that first opened their branches for business till 3.00 pm. These were some innovative ideas for banking sector introduced by Sampath Bank.

All the managers should maintain a high profile in public relations. Etiquette, mannerism, your kind words will always attract customers. Your main philosophy as manager, is to serve your customer. The quick, dedicated services, the customers will always value.

The most powerful means of communication is the ‘Katakatha’ (Gossip). Bad news has wings. If you are hasty to a customer or does not serve him properly, he will transmit this “Bad Message” to various segments and due to this there will be an exodus of customers from the bank and it will be difficult to attract customers to the bank.

Good customer relationship management creates customer delight. Even after twenty-five years, I sometimes meet Sampath Bank customers, whom I have introduced to the bank.

When they talk to me I am in cloud nine. A great principle that you must always aim and follow is to create not just customer satisfaction, but also customer delight.

Recently when I delivered a lecture on “Positive Thinking” at Anuradhapura. At lunch, an elderly gentleman, a school teacher introduced himself to me and said “Sir, I still remember, when I opened my current account, on the first day at Sampath Bank, Kurunegala about 23 years ago, you attested my account. I am thankful to you. I still maintain it.”

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The Role of Human Resources

The Role of Human Resources :

Personnel Management vital for success’

Premasara Epasinghe (B A (Cey) Dip in Ed, Dip in Mktg Lecturer)

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/08/14/bus16.asp

Human Resources function is responsible for attracting, developing and maintaining a work force. Human Resources information system supports these activities, such as identifying potential employees, maintaining complete records on existing employees and creating programmes to develop employees’ talents.

Human Resources plays a role in helping organizations resolve “People’s Issues,” such as the impact of changing jobs responsibilities, the need for training new systems and business processes and resistance to change that are critical to the successful implementation of enterprise application as stated by Prof of Information Systems at New York University’s Stern School of Business and Management, Kenneth & Laudon and Management Consultant Jane Price Laudon. Human Resource Management can be simply defined as the Management function that deeds with the recruitment, placement, training and development of organization members.

HRM function is specially important in today’s Business World. The Human Resources Management Process includes 7 (seven) basic activities. They are as follows:-

Human Resource Planning
Socialization or Orientation
Training and Development
Performance Appraisals
Promotions, transfers, demotions, separations

In brief, Human Resources Planning can be called planning for future personnel needs of an organization, taking into account both internal activities and factors in the external environment. It’s a two way process – between employer and employee.

Employer’s Responsibilities

Now we will discuss the Employer’s Responsibilities. The fundamental basic principle is that an employer is responsible for maintaining the Rights of Employees. Therefore, an employer must uphold legislation on equal opportunities in both the recruitment process and during employment. They should abide by contract of employment. Further, the employer is responsible for the health and safety of employees. Also, he has to deal with matters relating to insurance, salaries, pay as you earn (Paye), pension, etc. Even the Training and Career Development is the responsibility of the employer.

A contract

A contract of employment is prepared and drawn up, when a new staff member is recruited.

What do you mean by a contract?

It is a legal term meaning an agreement between parties and sides which can be enforced by law. The contract document includes – the name of the employer and employee, date when employment began. The contract gives both parties a degree of protection, certainty and security. The employer is paying money. The employee is performing work. Legally, this is known as “Consideration.” In the contract, the name of the employer and employee, job title, the date when employment began, pay scale, hours of work, holiday entitlement, terms relating to notification of sickness and sick pay, the length of notice which an employee is entitled to receive and must give, disciplinary rules appeal and grievance procedure, etc., should be included. Health and Safety

Training Essential

The Employer must pay attention to health and safety measures. A First Aid Box should be available in office or work place. All employees are required to keep accurate pay records. Attention should also be drawn on Employee Rights and their training and career development. If the people are to continue as efficient members in an organization, staff training is essential and a must.

Employer-Employee Responsibilities

Listening to learned guest lecturers on subjects like Public Relations, Marketing, Sales, Courtesy and Mannerism, Business Etiquette, the value of team work, discipline, behaviour patterns will help your employees to motivate and enhance their productive level. The employees should consider the good image of their company as the mirror of their own personality and image.

The employee should be committed to his or her work. (1) Comply with the terms of contract of employment, (2) Work to achieve the objectives of the organization, (3) Behave responsibly towards your customers, (4) Meet quality standards are some of the employee responsibilities.

However much an Employer looks after his employees, either side will have some kind of complaint. Although employment law sets out the rights and responsibilities of employer and employee, an organization will need to set up procedures to be used when either side has a complaint. An employer will use a Disciplinary Procedure against an employee. An employee should have recourse to a grievance procedure against the employer. If the results of the procedures are disputed, then either side should have the Right to appeal.

What is the best practice you should follow?

Never dismiss for first minor offence

All rules and and regulations should be in black and white or in writing. The type of disciplinary action should be clearly described. It is always better, people should be told, if complaints are made about them.

Apart from summary dismissal for major offences, no one should be dismissed for first minor offence. This should be a cardinal principle you should follow.

Let us now study briefly the disciplinary procedures that should be followed.

It can be categorized into five main headings:

(A) Suspension – For example – an employee would involve in a fight with a worker. Better to suspend him, till the inquiry is over. You suspend on full pay until the matter is investigated.

(B) Oral Warning – First warning – when an employee fails to meet the organizations required standard of work or behaviour.

© Formal Warning – This may be oral, but it is more likely to be an oral and written warning.

Final Warning – This should be an oral and written warning issued for a persistent offence when the employee has ignored or failed to achieve the required standard.

Dismissal – For a very serious offence or when all forms of warnings failed an employee may be dismissed. (check the contract)

All these factors should be carefully studied and the employer should follow the labour rules of the country to the letter.

Role of Trade Unions

Trade Unions play a vital role in the Business Environment of a country. A trade Union is defined in law as an organization whose principle purpose include the regulation of relations between workers and employers or between workers and employers’ associations.

Some of the rights that employees enjoy have been won as a result of Trade Union Action.

The Trade Union represent the interest of their members. Negotiating with employers to improve pay and conditions, which is called “Collective Bargaining,” representing the interest of their members in disputes, giving advice and legal support, providing education and training and specially acting as a pressure group on government to gain legislation and policies, which will grant benefits to its members.

When negotiations between Employers and Employees completely fail, only employees should take strike action. A strike is a withdrawal of labour by the “unionized workforce”. The strikes should be your last resort. It is beneficial for both parties – Employer and Employee to settle their problems through discussions and amicably. Strike action is serious both for the management, who lose production. In the case of employees, they lose their pay.

As I mentioned earlier, the efforts of the Human Resource Management are directed in improving the performance of the employees. What motivates the staff? According to an experiment done by Elton Mayo, titled “Hawthrone Experiment”, in 1920 it revealed that people respond positively, if they are recognized. Elton Meyo emphasized the importance of group cohesion or feeling part of the team.

Abraham Maslow in his “Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943, believed, motivation comes from a desire to satisfy needs. Effective motivation is necessary for good performance. Motivation is very complex brain programme. It is influenced by stimuli which arises outside body. Extrinsic, arise from body intrinsic – pride and personal satisfaction.

It should be mentioned here that marketing programmes are implemented by people. Successful implementation requires careful Human Resources Planning.

At all levels, the company must fill out its structure and systems with people who have the skills, motivation and personal characteristics needed for strategy implementation.

The American society of personnel administrators changed its 40-year-old name to the Society to Human Resource Management in 1980. It is interesting to note, that survey conducted by Watson Wyatt worldwide consulting firm that deals primarily with Human Resources and Personnel Division Dept that more than fifty three percent (53%) of companies place employee communication under human resources and whereas only thirty (30) percent put it under Public Relations.

Akia Morita, the Founder of Sony Corporation says there is no “Magic” in success of Japanese Companies in general and Sony in particular. The secrets of their success is simply the way they treat their employees. Words of wisdom..

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Communication, life blood of any organization

Communication, life blood of any organization in business world

by Premasara Epasinghe
B A (Cey), Dip in Ed, Dip in Mktg, Lecturer, Educationist, Public Relations and Marketing Consultant

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2013/01/15/bus14.asp

The word communication can be defined as sending and receiving information, emotions, ways of thinking or behaving, between two or more persons by using verbal or non-verbal, body language with a view to understanding.

An exchange of information by people can also be defined as communication. Thing that is communicated, or a message can also be considered as communication. Further, communicating through roads, railways, telephone and telegraph lines between places or radio or TV is also a kind of communication. In “Marketing Management Jargon” a sender creates a message and transmit to a receiver. For this, number of communication methods can be adopted. In the modern business world, communication plays an important role. It is a significant tool for business development. Express your ideas or thoughts by words, in black and white, can be regarded as the Essence of Business Communication. In short, if business is considered the heart, communication is like the blood that pumps into the heart.

Exchange of information between people can be defined as communication. It’s a two way process. One responds to a message, transmitted by some other person. A sender might send a message. Another person may receive it. Human communication is something people do it. One must understand, message characteristics have an impact in the Communication Process. Many communication experts or scholars agree that “Meaning is in people, not words. This will clearly show that different people receiving the same message many interpret differently and mean in different ways.

Two important communication net-works

There are two important communication networks. It can be divided into Formal and Informal. The organizational method between organization relationship can be Formal. Communication by a close group or school friends and old boys can be called Informal Communication. In business world, communication is the life blood of any institution, corporation, firm or government. If communication between an organization fails, the entire system will take a nose dive. Therefore, there must be an Effective Communication between the “Public” and the Organizations”.

Effective Communication

Effective Communication must be designed for the situation, time, place and audience. It means careful selection of media and technique.

Words can excite and inflame. There is evidence that a mistake in translating a message sent by the Japanese Government near the end of World War II may have triggered the Bombing of Hiroshima. Thus, ushered the atomic warfare. The word MOKUSATSU – used by Japan in response to US. Ultimatum, was translated Ignore, instead of its correct meaning “Withhold Comment until a Decision has been made”. This was a terrible mistake or mishap.

Poet Anne Sexton warned, “Words like eggs, must be handled with care. Once broken they are beyond repair.”

Thorough and Truthful in your Information

The basic steps for Effective Communication is that one must be thorough with your information. Communication is built on sincerity. One must be truthful in his or her communication. The message should be clear, so that the receiver, must understand what the message conveys. Your message or communication will be clearly understood, if you are able to give human interest examples. You must not allow rumours to dominate. If you are a successful communicator, you must listen and continuously monitor the responses.

During many years after the Second World War Public Relations – defined as inducing the Public to have notions of two-way communication and relationship. A sender creates or makes a message by encoding it in a certain manner to transmit to the receiver.

Exchange of Information vital

The exchange of information between people is communication. Meetings bring people together, providing both opportunities to speak and opportunities to listen. It’s a two-way process. Work group meetings, quality control circles, participative management sessions, are examples of small task-oriented meetings. These meetings require specific objectives, careful planning and skillful directions. Non-verbal communication is transmitted or sent without the use of written or spoken words. Sometimes it plays an important role in communication.

Be a Good Listener

Managers must be good listeners. It plays a vital role in the communication process. What are the few active listening that one should follow? They are be silent, avoid disturbances and concentrate on the message, when other individual is talking. One must not come into a conclusion before the message is completed. Further, use eye-contact, head nods and your facial expressions etc.

Be a Truthful Communicator

The managers should be Truthful Communicators. If an organization do not provide the factual and True Information about your Institution it affects their careers. Managers should always maintain honesty and integrity.

If an organization or institution hide information about their products, it amounts to the violation of rules. Hiding information, regarding harmful products, misleading by advertising and also excessive overpricing, it will harm the organization or institution, in a big way.

Tools of Communication

In the “Global Village”, though English is the language of International Business, computers are extending the reach of the new information age, by translating documents, transcribing voice communication and empowering those formerly excluded from international discourse. The window on the world is opening wider and wider to more people through communication. The satellites and fibre optic networks deliver electronic, mail, television, radio coverage, newspaper and magazine content and “Secure” commercial transactions and government communications. The new communication technology is changing the world in unexpected and powerful ways. It is the result of globalization.

There are some core traits and skills that can be developed by a Project Manager to successfully perform his job. The nine of these traits are system, thinker, personal integrity, proactive, high tolerance of stress, general business perspective, effective time management, skillful politician, optimist and last but not the least Good Communicator. Managers have to be able to communicate with a wide variety of individuals.

They, not only have to convey their ideas in an easily understandable manner. Good communicators must be Empathic Listeners, capable of drawing out the true meaning in what others are trying to convey. One must remember Trust is sustained through frequent face to face contact.

What are the Functions of Communication?

There are four major functions that serves communication. It controls member behaviour in many ways. Communication fosters Motivation by clarifying to employees what is to be done. For many employees work groups are primary sources for social interaction. It provides a release for the Emotional Expression of feelings and fulfillments of social needs. The final function that communication performs relates to its role in facilitating Decision Making. The vital function of communication is that it provides Information, that individuals and groups need to make decisions by transmitting data to identify and evaluate different choices.

Communication, Life Blood of any Organization in the Business orld

Communication is the exchange of information between people. If there is a misunderstanding of a few words in transmitting a message could be a matter of life and death. For example, there occurred number of Aviation Disasters largely due to communication problems. The one of the worst disasters in aviation history took place in 1977 at Tenerite-Canary Islands. The captain of the KLM Flight thought the Air Traffic Controller cleared him to take off.

Dutch KLM Captain and Spanish Controller had a big mix-up in their English conversation. The KLM Captain took off. It resulted KLM Boeing 747, collided with Pan Am 747 on the runway killing 583 people. In another Plane Disaster, which took place near New York Kennedy Airport, the controller misunderstood captain’s SOS – Running Low on Fuel,” did not give the Green Light for the plane to land early. The plane crushed 16 miles away from the Air Port, killing 73 people. There were other plane disasters in China, Cali-Colombia, New Delhi, due to poor communication.

The few examples above clearly shows how “Miscommunication” can bring deadly results. One must realize, communication is more than transmitting a meaning. In a group, in which one person speaks only Tamil and others do not know Tamil, the individual speaking Tamil will not be completely understood. Hence, communication must include both the “Transference and Understanding of Meaning.”

Now, let us discuss briefly the functions performed by communication and its communication process.

Within the group or organization, communication serves four (4) functions. It controls member behaviour. Secondly, communication fosters motivation, by clarifying to employees what is to be done, how well they are doing, and what can be done to improve the performance. The employees when performing work, they interact. When working like a Team it provides them Emotional Expressions. The fourth communication functions relates to decision making. It provides the Information for them to take decisions.

One must remember, before communication take place a message conveyed is necessary. It’s between the Sender and Receiver. The message is converted to a symbolic form, encoded and transmitted to some medium. The receiver re-translate (Decodes) the message.

The communication process model consists of seven parts. They are (1) Communication source (2) Encoding (3) The Message, (4) The Channel (5) Decoding, (6) The Receiver (7) Feedback.

The communication source begins by encoding a thought. The Message is actual product from Encoding. The channel is the medium through which message travels. The Receiver is the object to whom the message is transmitted. The Feedback, is to check the successfulness of the message.

The direction of communication flow vertically or laterally. The vertical dimension can be further divided into two directions. Downward and Upward.

Communication that flow from one level of a group or organization to lower level is Downward Communication. It is used mainly by managers or group leaders to give instructions to the employees. This Downward Communication doesn’t have to be face to face or oral contact.

In the case of Upward Communication, it flows to a higher level. It provides feed back to higher ups in the organization.

When communication takes place among the members of the same working groups, among managers of the same level it is known as the Lateral Communication. There are three basic methods, where group members transfer the meaning between among them. They are Oral, Written and Non Verbal Communication.

The chief way of conveying messages is known as Oral Communication. Speeches, group discussions informed rumour mill or grapevine belongs to this category. Letters, electronic mail, fax, periodicals, magazines, notices in bill boards or anything transmitted via written words or symbols are classified as Written Communication. These written communications are well thought, logical and they are clear as crystal. One drawback in this written communication is it is time consuming.

When we give a message to some individual verbally, we also impart a non verbal message. Sometimes, if you smile, glance, or frown, your body movement will convey a message. This can be called Non Verbal Communication. Facial expressions also convey meaning. The face showing the teeth and growed angrily, say something different from a smile. Further, physical distance among individuals also has a meaning.

The 3rd part of this series of articles will cover the Organizational Communication.

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Success story – Raigam introduces rice noodles

Raigam introduces rice noodles

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/12/31/bus09.asp

In a bid to discourage people from consuming bread made out of wheat flour Raigam after years of research have introduced a 100% rice noodle which can be cooked by adding hot water.

Branded as, Deveni Batha the product is expected create a new turn in the technical know-how and the economy of Sri Lanka.

The consumption of rice goes back to the very beginning of our history and civilization.

Chairman, Raigam, Dr. Ravi Liyanage

Until foreign forces invaded our fair isle, we were a nation second to none because we were self sufficient in our staple food, rice. Rice was not only our staple food but was also the base for shot-eats and sweetmeats.

With the commencement of the foreign market forces, the degradation and regression of our nation started with the introduction of imported rice in place of our own, wheat flour, milk-powder of multi-nationals that made us mal-nourished and lethargic.

It is a national blessing that of recent times there is a trend to look up to our locally manufactured products with respect and regard.

To get out of the clutches of the international milk powder traders, locally manufactured milk powder is being made available in the market.

We are now prepared to buy Nuwara-eliya potatoes at a higher price than go for the cheaper imported potatoes.

The shame of importing salt with the sea right round us is slowly coming to an end.

One of the most important factors that has come to light in the recent times is that people have now turn to consume rice over and above bread and other products made out of wheat flour after realizing the risk of diabetes from continued consumption of bread and other wheat flour products. In this endeavour the efforts of the doctors and government officials encouraging the consumption of rice had been most praiseworthy.

As the average person cannot afford to buy bread made of wheat flour at its actual imported price, the government had to subsidize the sale of wheat flour to the importer which entails the spending of millions in foreign exchange.


Wheat flour became so popular with the public not only because of the government subsidies but also because you could make various food products of different flavors and tastes though they are not healthy. And also its ease of use.

Although we consume rice in the form of String-hoppers, Hoppers and Pittu, it is as a plate of boiled rice that we consume rice in the majority.

Bakery products manufacturers must be encouraged to treat rice and rice flour as a very positive and viable raw material.

The ease of manufacturing food products using wheat flour is due to the sticky component Gluten present in wheat flour. That is why glue and “paappa” can be made from wheat flour. Unfortunately Gluten is not present in rice flour in the same amounts. In making bakery products from rice flour one has to face this challenge. What we have to do today is to overcome this by using better and improved manufacturing techniques. Government and food products manufacturers have to undertake continued research and development work, studying the techniques of high rice-consuming countries like Thailand, China, Japan and manufacturing different food items using rice flour through a manufacturing process adapted to suit us. Only then can we escape the curse of wheat flour mafia!


There are only a few nations that have a staple food of their own. Even India with its highly developed agri-industry does not profess to have a staple food. But we can proudly say we have a national, staple food and that is rice. At least twice a day we consume rice. Rice is our main food item. To herald the New Year, each house hold prepares “new year rice”. We welcome our relatives and friends with rice and curry. Rice is our life. It is very high in nutrition. It is healthy and builds up strength and vitality. It is environmentally friendly and humane.

Raigam “Deveni Batha” comes out as a substitute for rice made out of 100% rice! Coming to us as an easy to prepare rice noodle, containing all the goodness of our staple food rice, Raigam Deveni Batha is made from 100% local rice flour. Therefore it was named “Deveni Batha”.


Customer friendly The Kingdom of Raigam is a true Sri Lankan company that always looks to introduce innovative consumer products to its loyal customers. The whole of Sri Lanka knows that it was the Kingdom of Raigam that fired the first salvo to save the country from the eternal shame of importing salt with the sea right round us. Raigam took the initiative to re-awaken the salt industry in Sri Lanka, whilst the country was importing one third of the national requirement 50,000 M/T. Raigam, having taken steps to start saltern construction and table salt refineries in the country which reduced country’s imports of salt to less than 7000M/T in 2011, proudly announce that Sri Lanka will be able to export the excess salt in the very near future. Deciding to bear the responsibility for the popularizing of food products made from 100% rice flour and not second in taste to any variety of noodles, Raigam conducted research and experiments locally and abroad. Although some companies tried to manufacture noodles from rice flour, it was not successful. Sometimes it was possible to see noodles made out of rice flour mixed with wheat flour. Although countries like had the technical know-how to manufacture rice noodles from their sticky varieties of rice, that technology was not suitable for the varieties of rice grown here in Sri Lanka. The research and development team of Raigam did not lose heart and was able to overcome by sheer perseverance, this challenge of manufacturing noodles of the highest quality using 100% rice grown in Sri Lanka. To construct this manufacturing plant with all this modern technology, Rs. 300 million had to be invested. Situated in Homagama this facility has an intake capacity of 5000 M/T per annum and it is envisaged to double this capacity in 2013. Allowing for customer preference, The Kingdom of Raigam is introducing Deveni Batha to the market in three varieties called White Kekulu Flour, Rose Kekulu Flour and Red Kekulu Flour.


Present rice production in Sri Lanka is around 4.8 million M/T and this industry sustains about 880,000 farmer families.

By changing the consumer preference to noodles made from 100% rice in place of wheat flour products, locally grown rice, which was used mainly for the preparation of our plate of rice, will be made the main raw material for the preparation of our Deveni Batha and thus will command a stable price.

Year round price-stability for local rice will be an incentive and assurance for our rice farmers ameliorating their living standards.

Getting the general public use to eating rice-flour noodles in place of more familiar wheat flour noodles will substantially reduce the import of wheat flour thereby saving approximately Rs. 925 million in foreign exchange.

One of the main reasons for diabetes, a majour health hazard we Sri Lankans are facing today is due mainly to the consumption of wheat flour. Deveni Batha now offers an opportunity to continue one’s consumption pattern and enjoy their favourite noodles preparation by eating rice-flour food products in place of wheat flour.

Rice noodles made from rice flour imported from foreign countries are available in super-markets but at an average price of Rs. 350/- per packet, very few local consumers can afford to buy one of these packets.

On the other hand is it bearable if Sri Lanka – a country self-sufficient in rice has to import and eat rice based food products? Raigam Deveni Batha comes to the consumer at a price that is affordable to all and sundry. It is a national effort and a service.

For a nation to go forward new inventions are a must. That is why our great Poet and National Hero Kumaratunga Munidasa said a nation that does not make new things will not rise up in the world!

Very soon there will be hundreds of new plants emerging using the technology innovated by us.

It will be a revolutionary project to free us from the present servile economy. At the same time it will be the beginning of a new food culture. (SS)

Posted in Dr. Ravi Liyanage, Men, Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, Success Stories | Tagged | Leave a comment

Women in Business – Charita’s sets benchmark in hospitality industry

Charita’s foresight sets benchmark in hospitality industry
Sanjeevi Jayasuriya

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/12/24/bus13.asp

Enthusiasm coupled with thirst for novelty adds spice to monotonous daily routines. Charita Abeyratne Hettiarachchi, the Founder – Responsible Travel Extraordinairé and Chief Executive of Saraii Village (Pvt) Ltd pursue her passion to be an entrepreneur and a trend setter by offering a unique and lucrative business proposition becoming a part of a fast growing industry.

Her foresight and organizing skills has set a benchmark in the hospitality industry and her venture is set to explore the unleashed potential in the traveller market.

Charita Abeyratne Hettiarachchi

She was interviewed by Daily News Business.

Excerpts of the interview.

Q. How do you describe your line of business?

A. Saraii operates in the domain of leisure and hospitality. I like to think of it as offering an experience; a truly authentic experience that seamlessly packages our 2,500 plus years of history, culture, values, cuisine, traditions and the Sri Lankan way of life as an experience for the discerning traveler who visits this “land like no other.”

As the founder and Chief Executive of Saraii Village which is a sustainable tourism operation, my vision is to provide a unique offering to responsible travellers. Saraii Village is set up in the South of Sri Lanka, with a concept of promoting responsible travel among discerning consumers who are conscious of the impacts of the choices they make.

Saraii endeavours to increase this consciousness and contribute to propagate sustainable practice by providing the “experience seekers” at Saraii an opportunity to minimize the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of their choices.

Saraii means Essence in Hebrew and that is exactly what I aim to provide; the essence of Sri Lanka in an authentic unadulterated way. Saraii Village is set in Wirawila, a strategic hub close to Yala, Bundala and Lunugamwehera National Parks; Tissamaharama, Kirinda Beach and Kataragama. Saraii offers unique accommodation options to guests with genuine Tree Houses and Mud Chalets , both very spacious, comfortable and artistically designed.

The food served at the restaurant is traditional and follows the concept of Slow Food , which is good, clean and fair food. We practice a simple policy of sourcing all our food locally, most of it harvested from the organic gardens of the property and prepared by people from the community who have been offered dignified employment opportunities with Saraii. Saraii is conscious about keeping its carbon footprint low and environmental sustainability underpins everything we do. During the stage of construction I wanted to ensure that we strictly followed a policy of using only local resources both in terms of labour and material.

Tree house

This was a challenge, which extended the time line of completion, but we were patient and confident of what we wanted the end product to be. Even our game Safari operations are organized only with trained Safari drivers and guides who are committed to ensuring that tours are conducted responsibly.

Saraii is a global, social, sustainable business, supporting society and ensuring that environmental sustainability is carved into the DNA of this business. Saraii, has provided employment for several people from the region and has created a supply chain that benefits local small holder farmers, fishermen, carpenters, builders and other resource persons from the local environs.

We have a strong policy of gender balance and equality. We uphold the practice of equal pay for women workers at Saraii while supplementing family income and livelihoods of women in the community by commissioning artisanal products and handicrafts to be used at Saraii. The culinary experience at Saraii is enriched through the use of authentic village cuisine prepared by women from the community.

This is the true essence of Saraii.

Q. How do you face the challenges of competition?

A. I have a simple philosophy; I do not compete. I only strive to offer something that is unique, authentic, ethical and credible. I scan the environment but I don’t lose my focus by dwelling on what others do.

Instead, I focus on what I do and the only thing that matters to me is to do it well. We all have a place in this world; I am a strong believer of co existence. This is a lesson that nature has taught me. If we look to nature we find answers to all our questions. In a natural eco system it is the fit and the purposeful who are aware of their environments that survive.

In my context “survival of the fittest” means “fit for purpose.” I believe, if our offering is “fit for purpose” and we continuously work at keeping it that way then there is no challenge of competition.

Q. How do you manage time to handle your personal life?

A. It was difficult at first to coordinate the initial set up of Saraii as I was based in Colorado, completing my final semester of GSSE. I had a great support system through my husband who has always been very supportive and takes care of the operational end of things. I feel lucky to have a husband who truly believes in what I do. He is the pillar I lean on and he encourages all that I do.

I have worked with my husband with his business Saaraketha Holdings for over four years and I am still a Director of his business too.

Therefore we have a great understanding in what we do, supporting each other in both our businesses. Balancing personal life and business has never been tough as we both live by the same philosophy. Prasanna runs his own social business focused on Sustainable Agriculture. I support him with business development aspects of his business Saaraketha and he helps me with the operations of Saraii. We compliment each other’s strengths and this has always been the key for us to enjoy what we do.

Q. What motivated you to venture into business on your own?

A. I have always been passionate about sustainability issues and intrigued to learn more about how we balance our pursuit of life in the context of the modern world we live in.

In 2010, I was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship and opted to read for a unique MBA programme at the Colorado State University in the USA, called Global, Social and Sustainable Enterprise (GSSE).

This programme encouraged us to set up a social business that was in line with the philosophy of the Triple Bottom Line . Saraii Village was a business that was conceptualized through this MBA to introduce a contemporary culture of responsible tourism to Sri Lanka, with the objective of taking advantage of the boom in tourism that the country was poised for, in the post 30 years of conflict. Being a woman in this industry or in any can be challenging, but how you face those challenges is what defines people.

Q. What example do you provide to others?

A. My advice to any woman in business is to follow your heart. If you believe enough in what you do and you want to make a change in the world, everyone of us has what it takes to make it happen.

As said by Mahatma Gandhi – “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” therefore we should never give up when the going gets tough.

Q. What is your specialty?

A. The strength of Saraii is the ability to put itself in the shoes of a customer. A feeling that helps us empathize what and how a customer would feel in a given setting; then interpret it and use it to communicate with the discerning audience that we target.

As a result our specialty is the ability to offer the customer a holistic experience that encapsulates the essence of all what Sri Lanka is about aligned to the frame of reference of the customer.

Q. What are your achievements in family life and business?

A. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and husband, my family currently lives in the US and after our marriage in March 2012, my husband, Prasanna and I live in Colombo.

Prasanna has always supported me right from the start; from the time I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, which he knew would take me away from the country for several years, while setting up Saraii and even presently to support with operational activities at site.

My greatest achievement has been to see Saraii, which was just an idea on paper come alive; to evolve to be a place that travellers seek out to experience.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who are supportive, and who motivate me to reach higher.

Q. What are your goals?

A. My goal is to set up a chain of sustainable tourism locations in Sri Lanka similar to Saraii, which promotes Slow Travel among tourists.

Each location, will have its own local identity, but with the health of the environment and society as the underpinning principle. I aim to contribute to the focus of the country to become the “green hub” of Asia by creating unique tourism offerings that would attract responsible tourists to the island.

Q. What is your message to society?

A. If each of us is conscious of the choices we make in life and the impacts they have we can contribute to creating a more responsible society and making the world a better place becomes a less daunting prospect.


Posted in Charita Abeyratne Hettiarachchi, Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, Women Entrepreneurs | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power of Branding

Power of Branding

B.W.S Premarathne (Chartered Marketer, CIM UK)

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/12/17/bus13.asp

Your brand is everything, because it’s your identity. A brand is a mental blueprint of customers. Anything can be virtually branded including product, people and nations too. Your business may be large or small, should create its own brand name. Brand is therefore crucial for the success and survival of any business. In this article, I will endeavour to share some views on the fascinating subject of branding.

What is branding?

B.W.S Premarathne

Many people still have trouble grasping what the “brand” means.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as “a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers”.

Obviously, a name, term, sign, symbol, or design of a product does not just become a brand, branding is about the trust that the customers kept on the company’s products and services.

If customers don’t trust you why would they come to you, this is called “brand trust”. Brand resides within the hearts and minds of your customers, it belongs to customers. For example, when you have a headache or pain then what it comes to your mind is “Siddhalepa” or “Panadol”, these are trusted brands in the minds of customers.

Everyone is talking about “Apple”. What is the secret behind the success of Apple? It is not anything, but the branding strategy of the company. Apple has found the way to become the most successful brand in the world by differentiating themselves successfully from the competitors. The late Steve Jobs was well known for his way of introducing new products in an extremely different manner. Even the use of an “ i” in their product names ( i Pad, i Phone) is one of the brand strategies of the company.

Car manufactures are branding their products successfully. Toyota is the No 1 most valuable car brand in the world.(The Brandz most valuable global brand-2011). When you think of a car, which is more on safety, then it would be Volvo. If your concern is a more comfortable car, then it would be BMW or Mercedes, and if you are looking for a low cost car, then your selection would be Maruti Suzuki. All these are brands.

Developing Brands

A strong brand is about getting your customers to select your product as the only one that provides a solution for their needs and wants and not just to identify the product from the competitors.

The key drivers to building brand strength are creating a distinct brand identity and brand personality.

It is important to understand the difference between brand image and brand identity; image is how the customers perceive you; identity is who you are really. Brand image (appearance- logo, colors, graphics, packaging, physical appearance of shops) is very important but it’s not the substance of a brand. The substance of a brand is its identity, just as the cloths you wear; it is important part of your identity, but not the substance of who you are as a person.

According to Jean-Noel Kapferer, a strategic brand management specialist, identity precedes image: “An obsession with image tends to attach greater importance to appearance than to inner reality. But brand identity is richer, more substantial concept to embrace”

Brand personality is another key to building a brand. Brand personality is the distinctive characteristics of a brand such as trustworthiness, brand tone, quality, and helpfulness.

Advertising is not branding but it is one way of improving the brand image. Brand image and identity build only if you can deliver what you have promised to your customers because branding is about the trust. Brand success depends on how your company closes the gap between delivery and the expectations of customers.

Why branding is important?

The president of Coca –Cola has even publicly stated that “if all of the company’s buildings, vehicles, factories and equipment were destroyed Coca-Cola company would emerge from the ruins and rebuild itself provided that the trademark survived.

The loss of Coca-Cola brand however, would damage the company beyond repair”. By this, you can understand how brand is valuable. Coca-Cola is the world’s leading, U.S based beverage company, Coca-Cola products are sold in over 200 countries. Coca-Cola is the No 1 most valuable global brand in the soft drink category and 6th place in the overall grading (The brandZ top 100 most valuable global brands-2011)

Branding is an essential part of today’s business. You can charge a premium price if you are a brand. Large companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars building their brands, and there are reasons:

* Brands add value to your products

* Brands enable customers to remember your company and product

* Brands create business credibility

* Brands build loyal customers and generate repeat purchases.

* Brands help motivate the buyer.

* Branding is an effective way of communication

Most popular global brands

Today, consumers buy “the brands” instead of the products. The branding is now measured by marketers in concepts such as brand value and brand equity. Some companies have already gone for valuing their brands and adding to the balance sheet as in the same manner that we might value buildings, plant or machinery, For example, Reckitt and Colman in 1985, Grand Metropolitan in 1988.

The companies which are in the technology sector have come to the top of the brand list, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th places are from the technology sector.

It is noticeable that nine brands out of the top ten most valuable brands are from the United States.

Personal branding

Personal branding is what other people think of you. You are a brand; it is essentially what you are known for.

Personal branding is very similar to commercial branding; you have to market yourself to the world. How you work, how you dress, how you talk, how you walk and how you behave, all contribute to your personal branding. It will take a long time to build your personal brand, but it will destroy within a second. Be a brand, but when building personal brand you must keep in mind, it should not be an ego process.

Behind most of the successful commercial brands, there is a strong personal brand. Think of successful commercial brands in the world, Apple-Steve Jobs, Microsoft-Bill Gates , Virgin group-Sir Richard Branson, Google-Larry Page ,Amazon-Jeff Bezos, PepsiCo-Indra Nooyi and Dell- Michael Dell ,are few of the global examples.

In Sri Lanka, SANASA, Dr P.A Kiriwandeniya , Vallibel One, Dammika Perera, DSI, Samson Rajapaksha, Distilleries and Aitken Spence, Harry Jayawardene, Nawaloka group, H.K Dharmadasa and Siddhalepa, Victor Hettigoda, are few examples for personal brands behind successful brands.

Nation branding

Nation branding is how the countries build and manage their reputation, it is what the country is known for.

A country is a brand; nation brand building appears to be practiced by many countries including USA, Canada, UK, China, France, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

Many countries are coming up with slogans to re-brand their countries, some of the slogans are: “ Malasia: Truly Asia”, “ Dubai: The jewel in the desert”, “Uniquely Singapore”, “ Incredible India”, “ Sri Lanka: wonder of Asia”.

The most of the successful counties in the world have been led by strong personal brands, Mao Zedong-founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mahathma Ghandi-father of India, George Washington-USA, Sukarno-Indonesia, Nelson Mandela-South Africa, are few examples .

Developing your brand is a long term investment. Every cent you spend on brand development will make you more Rupees tomorrow.

Never underestimate the power of branding, strong brands will remain from generation to generations (Coca Cola introduced in 1886). Brand is the invisible- hand of your company, and the remarkable mark of the minds and hearts of your customers.

“Anyone can make a product, but good entrepreneurs make brands not the products”


Posted in Brand Management, Brand Management, Marketing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Nishadi works tirelessly for community development

Nishadi works tirelessly for community development

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/12/10/bus15.asp

The passion for mankind to progress is ever increasing and the value of human relationships is fast disappearing. In such a context, being the founder of an institution that works towards the community development is commendable. Nishadi Somaratne works tirelessly through her Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Sri Lanka (InGaDS) to uplift the quality of life of people in neglected strata of society. It produced the first ever sticker to promote road safety for pregnant women. This is one important initiative taken by the institution and there are many more in the pipeline.

She was interviewed by Daily News Business .

Excerpts of the interview.

Q. How do you describe your line of business?

A. I am the founder and CEO of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Sri Lanka (InGaDS Sri Lanka). InGaDS does research, training, and advisory services in community development, and gender and development. It is a service oriented private sector organization. I had been a free-lance consultant in gender, social capital and rural community development for 13 years, a PhD qualified social researcher, trainers, and a visiting lecturer for Post Graduate Institute of Agriculture, Peradeniya University.

Nishadi Somaratne

The objective of InGaDS is to run an organization in a capitalistic economy with compassion for the society, not to collect capital for private ownership, but to invest it back in the development of the society. We do community services, where necessary, with the profits made by the organization. We work at a place called Madulkelle, a remote isolated tea estate community, to upgrade lives of people, by connecting the community with much able people to work with them in the aspects of child development, environmental sanitation, child and women rights. We also provide “accessory for gender and development research” and have produced the “Gender-data hand book of Sri Lanka”, which was a much needed resource base.

This book is available for local and international researches to refer. We have provided our advisory services for Madulkelle “Tea and eco-lodge” to model it out as a socially responsible tourism project. I am happy to say that this hotel is giving paternity leave under our advise for its male employees, and this is the first time that a private sector organization provides paternity leave for its employees. The sticker to protect travelling mothers is ‘a fist’ in Sri Lanka, The money we collect by selling this sticker goes to the fund of the search on “ Women’s economic participation and access to child-care in Sri Lanka.” We do not undertake an assignment, if we cannot make a remarkable impact” is our service philosophy.

Q. How do you manage time to handle your personal life?

A. I take much time to enjoy my life. Keeping expectations in manageable size, and not running behind things, has made my personal and professional life happy.

I do not let myself to be overloaded with work. Letting things open to my family members, duly planning and arranging things by discussing with my husband and little daughter is often the practice to avoid confusions and conflicts of interests.

Also, being responsible for the happiness of others including my family members and friends has made my life full and contended.

Doing extra when it is needed is also a philosophy that I followed and made my life a success.

Q. What motivated you to venture into business on your own?

A. It is my passion for creativity in research and community development interventions. My organization has created me unlimited space and opportunities to fill the gaps in conventional community development practices and bring it into a new paradigm.

Q. What are your goals?

Nishadi with her family

A.To enrich the stock of knowledge and practices in community development, gender and development fields.

To develop organizations, personalities (human resources) fitting to the development of the country and its society. To see a society, both men and women enjoying freedom to be what they want to be in life.

Q. How do you face the challenges of competition?

A. I do not compete. I create my own opportunities, where there are no competitors. I always believe, “small is beautiful”.

I have absorbed the good part of capitalism and market economy and its freedom in the market, not the ugly part of competition that could lead people to go beyond ethics.

Q. What example do you provide to others?

A. Being your self is the best and easy way to find happiness in life.

Being compassionate, and not doing business if it harms any part of the society can be provided as examples to others.

Q. What is your specialty?

A. Determination, passion for creativity and doing new things than just consuming/following the old stuff, being a self-critique, untiringly delivering a quality service, and making my work a useful contributor for the social development.

Q. What are your achievements in family life and business?

A. My feelings for my family is warm and fresh and is the most achieved thing in terms of family life.

Being loved and supported by them in all my activities and emotions and working as a team is a wonderful aspect I enjoy in my family.

In terms of business, keeping my business unspoiled/pure and a venture that makes me and others happy is the best achievement that I can say, than measuring it in terms of how much of investments and profits I made.

Happiness and satisfaction are the elements of profit I always expect from my business.

Q. What is your message to society?

A. Do not give up, just because others say “no” . And, believe in your own self and begin.

You will find a queue behind you to help once you begin in your own small way.


Posted in Nishadi Somaratne, Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, Women Entrepreneurs | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment