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 2344

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

Nature’s Beauty Secret 0 1172

Nature's Secret Factory

Nature’s Beauty Creations Ltd is a fully Sri Lankan owned company and the most awarded cosmetics manufacturer in Sri Lanka. Its brands include Nature’s Secrets, Panda Baby, Chandi Panda, Champion, Misumi, elithé and several others.

Ms-Shamindi-Kumarasinghe
Ms. Shamindi Kumarasinghe Head of Exports, Nature’s Beauty Creations (Pvt) Ltd.

The company’s advanced manufacturing complex exceeds European recognized GMP quality requirements and is accredited with international ISO standards. It is also the only cosmetics company to be awarded Sri Lanka’s highest environmental award, The National Green Award – Gold, and Sri Lanka’s highest employee wellbeing award, the Sri Lanka Corporate Health & Productivity Awards – Gold (large category). Around its manufacturing complex, the company also grows and maintains Sri Lanka’s largest privately owned collection of medicinal plants (over 800 varieties) for conservation and research.

Since its inception, the company has been fiercely passionate about quality, environmental conservation, consumer and employee wellbeing, and community empowerment, embarking on a sustainable journey to create responsible beauty that is natural, safe and ethical, both within its shores and beyond.  Today we are proud to have grown into one of Sri Lanka’s leading cosmetics exporters.

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Ministering To Diners with the True Spirit of Crustacean Celebration 0 1558

By Michelle Alles

We at BizNomics Magazine naturally chose this distinguished brand known as the Ministry of Crab to grace the cover story of our first issue and I am deeply honoured to be the one telling it:

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When two cricketers and a chef came together to bring a culinary homecoming of Sri Lanka’s legendary lagoon crab to the local populace, they didn’t quite expect such magic to happen. Dharshan Munidasa, with his Sri Lankan-Japanese heritage and eternal drive to serve his guests with dishes made from the freshest and finest ingredients, began a journey that would have patrons clamouring to taste his iconic menu, overseas destinations welcoming MoC on their shores, and the brand even being one of his two restaurants to consistently make the prestigious list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

When the Ministry of Crab was born, the year was 2011 and it was a time that development was moving at a very accelerated pace in Sri Lanka. The rejuvenation of the 400 year old Dutch Hospital also played a very favourable role in the plan, the site being symbolic of Sri Lanka’s progress at the time, so the pieces knitted together perfectly to form an ideal location that guests could enjoy. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene came on board to co-own and become ‘Ministers’ in this celebrated venture and the phone began to ring off the hook for reservations as word of the mouth-watering dishes spread around Colombo.

Dharshan, a self-taught culinary expert who prides himself on the fact that he never studied culinary arts, is no stranger to the culinary field. His restaurants, Nihonbashi, Kaema Sutra, and The Tuna & The Crab are already sought after eateries by many. For a chef who works so much with crabs, his personality is anything but crabby and he does a fantastic job of expertly balancing his schedule between all three restaurants. In his well-modulated and mellifluous voice, he credits his staff at all his restaurants who work tirelessly to bring about the success of all the restaurant brands. He is one of the rare few who truly gives credit where its due, thanking his staff by name at the grand celebration held last year to mark the Ministry of Crab and Nihonbashi being ranked in the Asia’ 50 Best Restaurants.

Kumar Sangakkara, a veteran cricketer and former Sri Lankan national captain and Mahela Jayawardene, a batting wizard and former Sri Lankan national captain, need absolutely no introduction to our readers. The two of them remain just as focused in their work ethics as they did in their cricketing careers which elevated them to the heights of fame. They have always concentrated on working with like-minded people with similar ambitions and goals, and it was no surprise that they were more than happy to be a part of the ‘Ministry’, which is an excellent blend of partnership and friendship.

Behind Dharshan’s pleasant and quiet demeanour, there lies a steely determination which has brought him thus far and made him the iconic figure he is today. This, when united with the perseverance and drive of Kumar and Mahela, made no better combination to embark on a journey that would take them to heights few can achieve. The Ministry of Crab is a celebration of Sri Lanka’s finest seafood, from the succulent King Prawns found in the rivers running across the island to fresh Clams and Oysters from the lagoons. The restaurant has been an been an essential part of Dharshan’s journey and this venture alone has gone further and is so unique that many dining cultures worldwide find it interesting and financially viable to invest in.

Ministering To Diners with the True Spirit of Crustacean Celebration

Dharshan is one of the rare souls who value the rich supply of natural resources that Sri Lanka possesses. Coming from a country like Japan that uses every available inch of space, he was fascinated with the large garden at his home and visiting the parks in Colombo, those of which were rare back in Tokyo. Outdoors, animals, fishing and other activities suddenly became more accessible and a part of him. The strong, individualistic Scorpio grew up respecting two food cultures and believing that fusion cuisine was not the best representation of what food really is. Never expecting to come this far in his chosen field, Dharshan’s journey began as a university student when he started cooking for himself as he didn’t like the cafeteria food served on campus.

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After the success of Nihonbashi, it became quite clear that Dharshan had given tuna an exciting place on the plates of Colombo’s diners and it was not long before he decided that crab should follow. Mahela and Kumar, fondly known as ‘Sanga’ to all, told us that the idea for the restaurant was initially spoken about over a glass of wine at a meal and the journey since then has been incredible. Not without its challenges, as can be expected of anything new, the three ‘Ministers’ lived up to their characters, all three of them having learned much and come a long way in their individual journeys, and overcame all odds to create a must-visit restaurant in Sri Lanka and reap the sweet harvest of success.

“I believe in good ingredients making good food. The best representation of food is respect for ingredients, respect for handling them and putting the least amount of work into them to produce an amazing dish. We make food not as a meal, but as joy, as a passion. The secret of making delicious cuisine is simple: amazing ingredients, nothing else. Finding the best ingredients are not always easy, but the meal that they make is always worth it. Stating our individuality and delivering the best product can be challenging, but the end result is what puts Sri Lanka on the map as a culinary destination and keeps the world knocking at our doors,” revealed Dharshan.

Kumar noted that the journey of MoC has been a very exciting one “Sri Lanka is a beautiful island nation, which is reflected in the seafood available to us. Our oceans, unlike those in many Southeast Asian countries, are clean and this is why our seafood is simply amazing. For all of us, it’s been a very interesting journey and for me, this is the realisation of my dream to be part of a culinary experience and I couldn’t have chosen two more excellent partners to travel this road with,” he said.

“Sanga and I love our food and have always been regulars at Dharshan’s restaurants, so when this concept came about, it seemed like an interesting venture and a no-brainer for us to come on board. We are truly proud of MoC’s success and growth. You need to enjoy what you do and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are in the process of expansion and we are excited to see where it will take us. It’s a journey that we’re relishing and the finish line is nowhere in sight,” said Mahela.

Ministry of Crab Dish

It has been a busy year for Dharshan with popup restaurants and meetings in various countries and brain storming with his staff and teams. There are seven restaurants to open in the next few months so there are even busier times ahead. Despite all that, he has found time to tuck a new venture under his belt, which has helped him realise how much he enjoys planning and designing.

The ‘Next Innings’ for these three gentlemen are not far behind. We look forward to the opening of this venture and will bring you details as events unfold.