By : Chantal D
Entrepreneurs are born or made?
Simon Arthur Wickramasinghe would have been a successful lawyer, had he continued to practice. Although this was not what he had in the back of his mind?
If he was the ordinary, the Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL) would not have flagged its way to become the Sri Lanka’s largest confectionary manufacturer, producing and marketing 11 categories of branded food products catering to the diverse palates.
In 1939, Simon W. dropped out from the law college and bought over William biscuit factory from the owner. The lawyer capitalized in it and renamed the factory which came to be known as Williams Confectionary Limited. After relocating the location from Kolonnawa to Dehiwalaand then to Akuressa during the war.
The biscuits were handmade and baked in a long-fired oven. The dough was mixed by hand,rolled out and cut into shape and placed on trays. These were then baked and cooled. They were packed into gallon tins with a round lid for sale. It was sold locally.
Simon and his wife Enid had four children, sons.
Paul was their firstborn. He was in the first batch of graduates from the University of Peradeniya. He went on to setup Ceylon Essences. Ranjith, their second son excelled in the field of Engineering. Mineka, the third, also known as Micky was the first to follow in his father’s footsteps. Ramya was the youngest. His interests lay in food Science and Technology.
Simon W. was keen to expand the production of this non-traditional snack called a biscuit. A snack introduced by the British. He wanted to find new ways to make better biscuits, a greater variability and make all this easily available. He did this by introducing high-tech manufacturing machinery to the country.
During this period Mr. S W R D Bandaranayake was the Prime Minister of the country. Due to the mishandling of the economy imports were becoming challenging. Imports of biscuits were banned. It was up to Williams and Maliban which was opened in 1954, to meet the demand and satisfy the market.
Realize this in 1957, the biscuit production line was mechanized with the introduction of Baker Parkins lines from the UK. The then Governor General of Ceylon Sir Oliver Goonethilake declared open the new building which housed the factory.
As the company grew the ‘Williams’ brand packed biscuits in branded tins called ‘Orchid Assorted’ and ‘Cheese Cuts’ with advertising taglines that said ‘Pick the Best’. Simon W. even had many British nationals working for him at his factory.
The products made were Cream Crackers, Marie, Arrowroot, Tea Ginger Nuts, Nice, Custard Cream, Bourbon and Assorted.
In 1960 Simon W. installed an automatic wafer ovenwith 12 plates for better production. It also came with cream spread attached to a cooling conveyor. After cooling, it went to a cutting machine. The packing was done manually into 4 oz. packs and bulk pack into tins.
To Simon W. and his family this was a momentous and a historical venture. It was the birth of “Munchee”. The wafer manufactured were branded as Munchee. The name Munchee was given by Mr. Edger Corray.
Simon W. and his sons Mineka and Ramya realized that new machinery with high capacity was the need of the day. To expand, the Ministry of Industries approval had to be obtained. But, the ministry was not keen as private sector industry was not encouraged. Finally the Ministry wanted Williams Confectionary Limited to show exports to grant approval
With much difficulty an export order was obtained from Saudi Arabia. With this in hand approval for expansion was gained by Simon W. At that time William Confectionary Limited did not have land for expansion. This was the next obstacle faced by Simon and his sons. Finally land was bought at Pannipitiya.
Ceylon Biscuits Limited was incorporated in 1968 as a new company under the leadership of Simon Wickramasinghe’s son Mineka Wickramasinghe.
Simon Arthur (Artie) Wickramasinghe renamed Chairman of Ceylon Biscuits Limited until August 1984 when he passed away leaving behind a legacy of fair play, both by the worker and the consumer.
Today CBL offers diversity of captivating tastes to International consumers, stormed export market gaining acceptance in 52 countries and counting.
Winning Export Awards since the year 2003, having won recognition by awarding bodies including National Chamber of Exports and Presidential Exports Awards.
When it came to Simon W. a self-made Entrepreneur, the sky was not the limit.
Entrepreneurs aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.