Entrepreneurs share experience at AAT Annual Conference panel discussion on 'Own Success Stories'
From left: Chairman/Managing Director Nippolac Group Raja Hewabowala, Group Chairman LAUGFS Holdings W.K.H. Wegapitiya, Panel Discussion Chairman Rohantha Athukorala - United Nations and Otara Gunewardena, CEO, Odel Limited
At the Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka (AAT) Annual Conference, the highlight was the panel discussion on 'Own Success Stories,' where leading entrepreneurs shared their humble beginnings to become the best today.
Chairman of LAUGFS said that coming from the rural school of Pinnawela Central from a heritage of a farmer family, today he owns a multinational company with an annual turnover in excess of Rs. 15 billion with subsidiaries in Singapore and Australia.
He went on to share his vision: that every shopper at LAUGFS Supermarket will shortly own a share of the company when the IPO is launched and he will acquire the stake that Shell owns in the LPG business of Sri Lanka.
Some of the accolades won include the most respected business (Nation Mindedness) 1st position in 2009 and the National Business Excellence Award 2009 - Winner (Diversified Group) and Entrepreneur of the Year, to just to name a few.
To the pointer by Session Chairman Rohantha Athukorala on whether Sri Lanka should sign the CEPA, Wegapitya strongly objected saying it would be detrimental to the country and should in fact never be signed.
This year's nominee for the world famous World Business Woman of the Year Award, who owns the iconic lifestyle store brand in Sri Lanka, Odel, Otara Gunewardene shared her success story on how she started selling clothes from the boot of a car with a start up capital of just Rs. 5,000 and today it is the most sought after high end retail store that is in key towns across the country and the first department store to go public.
She recalled the day her father registered a company and asked her to make something of her life.
Today Odel is 'a must visit' for any visitor who comes to Sri Lanka. She also owns an haute couture fitness centre branded Otone, a top end clothing line for fitness, and the first celebrity jewellery line 'Otara'.
To the pointer by Athukorala on the challenges of doing retail business in Sri Lanka, Gunewardena commented that cost of imported shoes was very high due to the very heavy duty structures in place and she hoped the November Budget would address this.
The soft-spoken Chairman/Managing Director, Nippolac Group of Companies Raja Hewabowila hailing from Rahula College explained how he started his business by selling paint manufactured in his home in just one outlet in Matara.
Today it one of the most diversified companies, winning a multitude of awards such as Entrepreneur of the Year, Industrial Excellence Award and many citations from Presidents and Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka.
Asked why Nippolac is not in Jaffna, Hewabowila's response was that the current skills set of the people in Jaffna was not adequate and not up to the expected level for him to expand the business into the north.