Hoyu Company Ltd of Japan, manufacturers of Bigen hair dye, together with Premasiri Stores, held its inaugural Bigen dealer conference at the Sasakawa Hall in Colombo last week.
Executives from Japan, representing Bigen, the parent company Hoyu, based in Nagoya, graced the occasion along with Premasiri Hettiarachchi, founder of Premasiri Stores, directors and members of the Hettiarachchi family.
This first-ever dealer conference, to promote Bigen hair dye products in Sri Lanka, also coincided with the 85th birthday of the founder, Premasiri Hettiarachchi and the launch of its website, www.premasiristores.lk.
“We are very proud to be in Sri Lanka,” said Hoyu Company Limited Executive for Europe and Africa Sections and American Business Division Takuji Murakami.
Ironically, the name ‘Hoyu’ in Japanese bears the meaning ‘friends’. Established in 1905, Hoyu is a highly reputed company in Japan, adopting the latest technology in the hair dye industry, yet steeped in tradition, maintaining its initial core values over the past 110 years.
Today, Hoyu exports a wide range of hair dye products to 70 different countries around the world. It is extremely environmentally conscious and has received ISO 14001 certification.
It is very exciting for us to try and understand the Sri Lankan market, as it bears no resemblance to any other country.
Elsewhere, advertising and promotion is proportional to sales. In Sri Lanka, however, people rely heavily on personal recommendation and relationships,” he explained.
Having travelled to various parts of the country over the past week on sales tours, Murakami said, “The Sri Lankan consumer was erudite and astute, thus wanting very clear information about our products.”
“The market for Bigen products in Sri Lanka has grown continuously, thanks to the untiring efforts of Premasiri and his daughter Anusha Hettiarachchi Hettigoda, who have tirelessly responded to our strict compliance requirements. Their hard work ensured that Bigen hair dye products captivated a strong market, even during the most turbulent times in Sri Lankan political history. Now that there is peace in the country, we hope that our market will grow even stronger.”
Interacting quite comfortably with the dealers present, Murakami together with S Hayashi demonstrated the use of several new Bigen hair dye products that were being launched. They were also able to clarify doubts and answer questions relating to new products.
Speaking at the occasion, Premasiri Hettiarachchi recapped his humble beginnings as an enthusiastic and charismatic young entrepreneur in Colombo in the 1950s. At the mere age of 22 years, he saw the potential for a retail outlet for groceries and sundries in the Colpetty area.
Capturing this market, he established ‘Premasiri Stores’ in 1952 at 28, Turret Road (currently Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 3) with the help of his brothers, the late Edmond Hettiarachchi and Ariyaratne Hettiarachchi. Premasiri then gradually handed over its operations to his brothers, to concentrate on expanding the business further by setting up an imports and distribution division in the wholesale hub of Pettah, Colombo 11.
He took on the risk of directly importing a wide range of internationally renowned products to meet the demands of local and foreign communities in Colombo. These varied from a range of Heinz products to Czechoslovakian gherkins, Danish cheese, Frankfurters and Tinned Ham.
In 1967, Premasiri Hettiarachchi made headlines by being the first Ceylonese businessman to export betel leaves and other items to Saudi Arabia and other destinations.
Having recently celebrated his 85th birthday, Premasiri Hettiarachchi reminisced further, “I would not have achieved this success if not for the on-going support from my brothers, my wife and daughters.
The secret to my success is being focused and disciplined enough to work hard and being able to listen to the consumer. I have been serving consumers in Sri Lanka and overseas for over 60 years now.”
Acknowledging the dealers present at the conference, he valued their contribution to the success and progress of Premasiri Stores and personally handed certificates of appreciation to them. “I will endeavour to maintain my father’s legacy of listening to the consumer,” said Anusha Hettiarachchi Hettigoda, drawing attention to the corporate tag line – ‘caring for your needs’. Anusha Hettigoda manages the Bigen operation in Sri Lanka.
“This conference has been an important milestone in the journey of Premasiri Stores. We wanted to ensure that our local dealers felt a connection with the principal company Hoyu in Japan. With the launch of Premasiri Stores website, we also hope to connect and reach out to more dealers in Sri Lanka,” she added.
The conference brought together two companies which not only shared products but also timeless business values. The ceremony itself did not forget to uphold time honoured Sri Lankan traditions including lighting of the oil lamp and traditional Kandyan dancing. One might say the beating of traditional drums welcomed not only new Bigen hair dye products but also a new era to what many call ‘the Premasiri legacy’.