Following a board meeting held on June 24, 2015, after almost 48 years at the helm of the organisation he founded in 1968, Mineka P. Wickramasinghe has retired from the position of Chairman of the Ceylon Biscuits (CBL) group.
The current Deputy Chairman Ramya Wickramasinghe was elected by the board as the new Chairman of the group. Wickramasinghe will continue to mentor the group in his new role as President Emeritus.
“In a glowing tribute paid to the founder, the board of CBL recorded with deep gratitude the leadership role played by the Chairman in transforming a business he created in 1968 to the food conglomerate, which is today employing more than 5000 employees.
It was largely his determination, vision and commitment that helped the group face and overcome the many challenges it faced during its years of existence,” a statement issued by CBL said.
The company started operations when Wickramasinghe gave a proposal to the Education Ministry to provide a high protein biscuit to schoolchildren under the CARE programme.
The biscuit was developed using bread flour, soybean oil and milk powder by the founder using available raw materials, which was limited at the time.
Wickramasinghe had to face all sorts of challenges on the way from government restriction to imported biscuits coming into the local market with the opening of the economy in in late 1970s.
Having become the market leader by capturing more than a 50 percent share of the local biscuit market, Wickramasinghe was one of the first to venture into India.
He also took the personal challenge to export biscuits and from small successes in the early 1970s, the group now exports to over 55 countries and is the largest exporter of biscuits and confectionery in the country.
The group enjoys market leadership in biscuits, chocolates, textured soy, cereals, cakes and organic fruits and coconuts under the brand names Munchee, Ritzbury, Lankasoy, Samaposha, Tiara and Cecil.
“Wickramasinghe is loved and revered by his employees. He was tough but fair with them. He shared the group’s success with them allocating 10 percent of the company’s shares to the workers at the inception. The bonding is so strong that very often the team is referred to as the ‘CBL family’ and everyone is proud to be part of it,” the statement said.
The statement also noted the contribution Wickramasinghe made in the area of national policy making.
“He was always outspoken and the business community, political leaders and government officials frequently sought his views and advice. He always had the national interest at heart and was proud to lead a group of companies that was truly home grown and deeply rooted in the local economy.”