Cubby Wijetunge – A Legendary of Lankan Identity in a Multinational Community Comments Off on Cubby Wijetunge – A Legendary of Lankan Identity in a Multinational Community 2904

The Econsult Asia research team visited Cubby Wijetunge at his residence at Charles Avenue where in retirement he enjoys a simple yet elegant life style in a pristine environment. We were anxious to learn about his journey toward a Corporate Leadership in his stellar career whilst speaks for itself and the wealth of knowledge and experience gleaned during this time.

It is important to mention that during a career spanning over 50 years where he interacted socially and intellectually with top corporates and foreigners alike, Mr. Wijetunge remained true to his Sri Lankan roots. His home and his life style boasts of a simple elegance with a local flavor, inclusive of traditional furniture. Cubby sat with our team and talked freely, imparting a deep reservoir of knowledge and experience whilst allowing us insights of his views on many subjects proving to us Sri Lankans as to why he remains a Giant in the Industry.

Cubby Wijethunga

Cubby Wijetunge known by his friends as Cubby – is a proud product of one of the country’s leading school’s St. Thomas’s College, Mt. Lavinia. Growing up his only ambition was to join the Sri Lankan Army upon leaving school. However heading the advice given by his parents he abandoned the idea and pursued a career as a Tea cum Rubber Plantation Manager in the areas of Uva, Kandy and Sabaragamuwa. His plantation career began in the year 1958 and spanned over a period of 16 until 1974 when he retired from the plantation sector as a Visiting Agent of over 15,000 acres managed by George Steuart & Co. In 1973, Mr. Wijetunge was appointed Director of Whittalls Estates & Agencies Ltd. becoming the youngest director to be appointed to the Board. However, in late 1974, Ceylon Cold Stores Ltd. was in need of a dynamic Leadership and Cubby was appointed as Chief Executive Officer representing Whittall Boustead’s. He proudly speaks how ‘Elephant House’ manufactured the bulk of the food and beverages locally due to the then import restriction systems prevalent in the country, and of how Elephant House became the much sort after household brand ranging from fresh milk and ice creams to a vast range of frozen foods such as their famous sausages as well as the Elephant House Ginger Beer. Thereafter, in 1983 Cubby joined the world renowned multinational food and beverage company Nestle as food and beverage corporate affairs and recently retired with an honorific title Chairman emeritus of Nestle Lanka PLC.

‘’How do we get out of the box’’

In 1994, Cubby headed the Industrial Association of Sri Lanka i.e. the Industrial arm of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. His main task here was to ensure that the Government sought a degree of protectionism and support for local manufacturers with a view of ensuring that the local products retained their ability to complete in both the local and international markets.With a view of achieving this insisted the Government introduce and implement policies that would support the local entrepreneurs subject to them maximizing the use of local resources in national interest for economic and social progress. He spoke of few names such as his guru the late Mallory Wijesinghe and giants like Sohli Captain, Ken Balendra, the late D.S. Jayasundera, the late Michael Mack, the Akbar Brothers, the Gnanam family, Micky Wickremasinghe, Merrill J. Fernando and late Edgar Gunathunga who were corporate personalities, their achievements and their contribution towards the development of our island nation. How they were instrumental in scouting out those from rural schools and developing local talents and grooming the new generation Corporate Leaders to take over the private sector for the future. He went on to say that whilst working in the Private Sector and the Multi-National Sector he was also well exposed to the public sector. He voiced his belief in the role the public sector has to play as facilitator, promoter, regulator, financier and navigator in the development of Sri Lanka and its need for honest technocrats and support staff following best practices and maintains their integrity at all times. He emphasized on the need for ‘profit motive’ sustaining private enterprises and a balance sheet free of barnacles.

Cubby WijethungaWhilst reminiscing, Cubby fondly remembers, how the late President J.R. Jayawardena suggested that he should give something back to his country by managing some State owned enterprises. This resulted in Cubby taking up the challenge as Managing Director of the Fisheries Corporation. He was involved in the Central Bank reform process with the IMF Resident Head, Dr. Nadeem Ul-Haque. He also spoke of having a few interesting arguments with former Governor, the late Mr. A.S. Jayawardena regarding dollarization. Cubby was also involved in the Tax and Financial Sector Reforms. He also spearheaded the famous De-regulation Committee. He has served as a Board Member of many State enterprises, including the Bank of Ceylon and Securities & Exchange Commission. He strongly feels the way forward is impeded as Sri Lanka is over regulated in all aspects and far too bureaucratic. He explained that we need much simpler and less cumbersome procedures and less Government involvement in order to install a highly efficient economy.

‘’Arrest waste’’

However, he stated that he believed that certain enterprises can play a lead role in the development of our country. “When I was highly involved in the private sector, I saw potential in some of these Organizations, and personally think, in my considered opinion, that the Bank of Ceylon, Peoples Bank, Ceylon Electricity Board and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation should not be privatized”. The Water Board, in his view, should be a regulator, but the generation of water and its distribution has to be privatized to develop that industry which has a huge potential. He was strong in expressing his views on rail transport stating that “privatizing the management of railways was vital, whilst the Government retained ownership. Such a policy is worth pursuing”. “The Government requires, to a point, competent and responsible people to manage enterprises, accountable to the shareholders – a leaf they can borrow from the private sector corporate culture. This thought is applicable to all Boards of Directors and the managements that run those enterprises, and it is their responsibility not to burden shareholders.

Cubby Wijethunga

He was quite radical in his view on taxation, which he argued that only the Western Province should be liable to modest taxes, and the rest of the country dependent on a low VAT regime, thus making Sri Lanka a new haven to attract worldwide investors with no strings attached. Quoting his own exposure to the Central Bank, he says the Central Bank must have confidence in the market. Our well known entrepreneur took this opportunity to send a message to political leaders and the public service. ‘THINK OUT OF THE BOX AND BE BOLD AND HAVE THE GUTS TO IMPLEMENT REFORMS’. There is no other way by which Sri Lanka can be made progressive – a country that is a better place to invest, a better place to live and a safe country for our tourists as well as our citizens. Let us make Sri Lanka a proud place in the world.

‘’Think local – Act global’’

I do not believe in ad hoc Public Sector Reforms – suggest to the Private Sector to re-evaluate their concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. The current Interest Rates are far too high. It should be and can be lowered by arresting waste. Cost of power/electricity should be lowered. We need to pursue obtaining power from garbage.

Cubby Wijethunga

Such a policy will be a better one, and sustainable in the long term, rather than power generated from coal. We have so many other safe options, but despite issues, we may need to explore nuclear power as a last resort. With regard to foreign policy after 1948, Sri Lanka as a Nation has not been able to manage its affairs. History, unfortunately, proves to be so. For example – Do other countries trust us? Sri Lanka must be in a position to tell other countries that we are a trusted partner. We need to lead from the front, and we need to unite within the country as a priority. Thinking out of the box, why can’t we re-examine a way for Casinos to be established in Sri Lanka, and ways and means of giving other employment to our people.

‘’I am, you are, we are, SRI LANKAN’’

By: BiZnomics Special Economic Correspondent
Photography by: Chameera Dasun

Co-creating solutions at the grass root to make a difference for dairy farmers 0 218

              Sri Lanka’s smallholder dairy farmers are at the heart of the local dairy industry and an integral part of the nation’s rural economy. 

              This 300,000 strong farmer base supplies 90% of the nation’s local milk – and has the potential to greatly improve their yield of high-quality milk and thus their own income levels, driving a positive impact to the socio-economic landscape of rural Sri Lanka. 

Focused training and development to improve milk yield and quality:

As a dairy co-operative from New Zealand, Fonterra continues to work hand-in-hand with smallholder dairy farmer families, communities, and other partners to create a thriving local dairy industry, having invested over Rs. 3.7Bn into strengthening its local dairy value chain. 

 Managing Director of Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka and Indian Sub-Continent Ms. Vidya Sivaraja explains that as a dairy co-operative at heart, the company is committed to making a tangible difference by sharing expertise and best practices. 

“We have invested in focused training and development initiatives with our farmers centred around the right herd, right feed and right business model to increase milk yield and quality. Our pioneering Training and Demonstration Farm in Pannala opened in 2016 to help us amplify the impact of these initiatives.”

Over the years, Fonterra has trained over six thousand farmers across the nation at its Pannala Training and Demonstration Farm and has welcomed over a thousand visitors from the government, universities, and other institutions.

Co-creating solutions at the grassroots:

In addition to the above programmes in place, Fonterra commenced an initiative to co-create and implement specific solutions together with its dairy farmers through its ‘Dairy Discussion Groups’, organised at the grass root. These solutions were geared to improve milk quality and yield through practical training, the provision of fodder and farming equipment and a workable cost-effective business model.

The solutions being implemented are in line with the imperatives called out by the President’s National Policy Framework. At the centre is the small holder dairy farmer – a focus that has been echoed by the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication. 

At Fonterra’s Pannala Training and Demonstration Farm, fodder is grown and distributed to neighbouring farmers in the vicinity

Ms. Vidya Sivaraja hands over grass cutting equipment to a Fonterra dairy farmer at a September Dairy Discussion Group.

“Good insights come from the grass root. Such consultations have been valuable in co-creating solutions to help improve milk quality and yield,” says Vidya. “Our discussions only prove that our country is rich in resources, talent and ingenuity. We are committed to championing this potential in line with the nation’s priorities.” 

Dairy farmers participate in Dairy Discussion Group series kicked off by Ms. Vidya Sivaraja and her team.

Fonterra dairy farmer Mr. Dharmashri Thennakoon, one of the beneficiaries of the fodder and equipment distribution programme stated, “The Dairy Discussion Group was a valuable learning experience and we will be able to apply these learnings on-farm. I was very appreciative that this was followed with the provision of grass cutting equipment. We hope Fonterra continues to host discussions such as this in the future where we can all grow together and find solutions as a community.” 

Mr. Indra Jayasinghe, a Fonterra dairy farmer from Kuliyapitiya says, “At a time where accessibility and costs of feed is a challenge, getting extra fodder from Fonterra helped me sustain my operations.”

Global co-operative, local footprint:

Fonterra touches the livelihoods of over 250,000 people across the country through its operations, including traders, retailers, distributors, agents and farmers.

Since 1997, Fonterra Brands Lanka has been collecting Sri Lankan milk for its local dairy portfolio of set and stirred yogurts, drinking yogurts, and fresh and flavored milk. To preserve the quality of this milk, Fonterra has also invested in milk chilling, collecting, and processing infrastructure with pioneering technology that can help define future milk quality standards for the nation. 

The company has also recently accelerated its export efforts of value-added dairy, in alignment with the vision and the imperatives set out by the Presidential Task Force for Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication.

Amongst the many initiatives in place to grow our nation’s local dairy industry, multi-stakeholder collaboration and co-creation of solutions is a refreshing approach, bringing farmers, dairy companies, industry groups and the government together to make a difference. 

Aquafresh – Water that is pure as nature intended it to be! 0 1912

Aquafresh 01

Pure, natural, and hygienic drinking water bottled under the brand name Aquafresh by Access Natural Water (Pvt) Ltd. which extracts its supplies from deep ground water sources in a rain forest in the Labugamkanda mountains, like all modern health trends is gaining rapid popularity among people seeking a healthier addition to their lifestyles. The unique water with no added chemicals whatsoever contains all natural mineral balances and the bottling company relatively enjoys various standards from accredited authorities which have guided the company to uplift its quality of work.

Mr. Christopher Joshua | Managing Director, Access Natural Water (Pvt) Ltd.
Mr. Christopher Joshua | Managing Director, Access Natural Water (Pvt) Ltd.

BiZnomics met Access Natural Water (Pvt) Ltd. Managing Director Christopher Joshua who started.  “We launched our company in the year 2000 at a time marketing bottled water in Sri Lanka was unthinkable as it was freely available, and in addition there were a few bottled water manufacturers in operation as well”. The Access Group identifying the need for pure, good quality drinking water, in its quest found an aquifer – a layer of soil which retains water – the perfect source in fine deep springs in Labugamkanda in a geologically unique rain forest. The natural springs 200 feet below surface are protected by impermeable upper and lower confining layers, making the aquifer water pure as nature intended it to be.

Continued Managing Director Christopher Joshua, “We put up an environmental friendly factory and bottling plant in the location of the springs from where pure water is extracted, avoiding contamination through surface contact”. Yet in keeping with manufactory requirements to purify bottled water through a certified process before marketing, the company invested in a biological purification process adopting the four steps: aeration, slow sand filtering, micron filtering, and UV treatment which preserves the natural mineral balance at the aquifer.

The company was meticulous in selection of its stainless-steel machinery to ensure that rust and corrosion do not rise. The machines which are oil and grease free have been manufactured at optimum level on schedules in conformity to the company’s certifications and standards: SLS 894, ISO 9001, ITQI Brussels that specify requirements to consistently provided products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements. The ISO 22000 certification and the Dutch HACCP encourage the organization to identify hazards which might occur in the food products process and to take stringent action to prevent same. Meanwhile the American FDA allows the company to sell water in the European market.

Aquafresh 03

Following the success of the 5 gallon polycarbonate dispenser bottle introduced to the market in 2001 the iconic range of PET bottles came on four years later. The 200 ml bottles in contrast to the 5 gallons are not re-filled. Washing of bottles before re-filling is a fully automated process with the adoption of high pressure nozzles, disinfectants, hot water, chlorine water and lastly drinking water. Managing Director Christopher Joshua says, “The unique design of the PET bottle, which is a first in

the country, revolutionized the bottle industry. Bottled water regulations require drinking water in transparent bottles. Tetrapack (paper) is not allowed although a few glass bottles are in use”. The bottling method for both PET and FG (five gallon) is fully automated and so is the labelling.

The client base of Aquafresh is over 5000 comprising both domestic consumers and corporates including the United Nations’ Organization office, Sri Lankan Airlines, Nestle, Kingsbury, Softlogic, and international chains such as Subway, Burger King, Coffee Bean, Gloria Jean’s Coffees and Bread Talk all which have opted for the superior quality, smooth and refreshing taste, exclusive packaging and the exceptional service that enhances its value – attributes that have garnered  Aquafresh Sri Lanka to be the undisputed leader in the local bottled water industry.

The company engages in advertising campaigns on cable TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. In addition, based on a consumer educative concept, its Lorries travel across the island, are branded. Monthly promotions on selected locations in the Western Province and social media campaigns of Facebook and Instagram are also carried out. This propaganda consistently communicates the quality standards, certification and accolades of Aquafresh water.

 

In a move to repay nature for her bounty of pure water, the staff of Access Natural Water (Pvt) Ltd has planted trees around the area, established herb gardens which are diligently maintained and cared for, in accordance with environmental laws and regulations. But their gratitude to nature goes far beyond that. Since the area of its bottling plant is of great importance in maintaining the forest surrounding, the company deeply cares for its environment and strives to do what is best for it always.

Aquafresh 05
On Left – Mr. Shanil Perera – Chief Operating Officer On Right – Mr. Gamini Kalubowila – General Manager

Aquafresh is the only Sri Lankan brand of alkaline drinking water in the market. Alkaline water in known to contain many health benefits with the key element being that it works against acidifies in the body, contributing towards prevention of illness and disease. Director/Chief Operating Officer Shanil Perera states: “The uniqueness of Aquafresh is many. We have invested in the mechanisms required to provide the nature’s gift of pure water to our customers. We live by our slogan and intention; ‘bringing nature to life’. The natural vital minerals in Aquafresh, iron, calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, sodium, potassium, sulphates, and silicon bring health benefits and goodness in every sip.

Seeking business ventures in uncertain times requires exertion of new super human strength of the organization’s director. Aquafresh of the Access Group of the companies has led a new course of sustainability while navigating changes in the now fast moving bottled water industry.

Demand is growing as a result with rising consumer confidence. Consumers see brands as a social status symbol; they want aspirational brands which create a window of opportunity for Aquafresh. All these factors make the market extremely attractive for the immediate future for Access Natural Water (Pvt) Ltd.

By: T.V. Perera
Photography By: Eranga Pilimatalawwe