Jetwing Hotels – What Makes Them So Different? 0 1828

A warm and friendly nature reflected in tireless smiling faces, and willingness to help those unaware with phases of local life. From the beautiful beaches of the South-Western coast to the toe tapping and exuberant Kandyan dances, along with the majestic and ancient architecturally and archeologically distinguished cities. Bright, sunny warm days are in abundance and are common even during the height of the monsoon. The humble desire to share this experience of heartfelt warmth and the true hospitality of the people living in the small miracle in the Indian Ocean called Sri Lanka, a homely villa was built named Blue Oceanic, which is now the Jetwing Blue, with just six rooms in the early 1970s facing the sandy beaches in the Negombo City.

Hiran-CoorayA simple dream of sharing the uniqueness of this beautiful island, one of the largest, most respected, and recognized tourism organizations were born. Herbert Cooray – a visionary, a pioneer of tourism in Sri Lanka and the founding father of Jetwing, the largest family of hotels and villas across Sri Lanka, opened its doors to the world welcoming them to a family of hotels like no other.

Inspired by Herbert Cooray, his son Hiran joined Jetwing as soon as he completed his education graduating from the University of North Carolina, USA, prior to which he studied at St. Joseph’s in Colombo. Following family tradition seems to be established. Just like Hiran his sister Shiromal took up their father’s legacy. At 29 years of age, Herbert Cooray left his job to join the family business N. J. Cooray Builders – a building construction company which was founded by Herbert’s father, Jeremias.

The founding principles his father inculcated in Hiran and the family have today become the very pillars that Jetwing group operates on: “…Passion, Honesty, Integrity and Tenacity – these were the values my father instilled in us throughout our lives and they continue to be the Jetwing family philosophy. It is the secret of our success. I have the incredible honor and the responsibility now to do justice to his legacy.

The essence of simplicity and modest allure, Hiran is a son who continues to do his father proud.

BiZnomics had the pleasure of speaking to the veteran hotelier HIRAN COORAY of his journey and experience gained throughout.

Q: What was the foundation for Jetwing?

A: It all started with my dad in 1973. He started off with the Blue Oceanic Hotel in Negombo with just six rooms and later moved on to further rooms. It was just a simple beginning eventually created the Jetwing family. It was a time that no one really thought of tourism, and for some reasons it progressed quite well for the next 10 years. Then he moved onto building Royal Oceanic. Blue Oceanic now goes as Jetwing Blue and the Royal Oceanic is Jetwing Beach. During those 10 years my dad probably would have owned about five hotels. Although towards the ‘80s the troubles broke out, it didn’t really stop him from expanding. In fact, that was the time he started Jet Travels, which eventually became Jetwing Travels at the end of the 1980s.

Q: How did young Hiran get involved in the whole thing?

A: Being a Josephian, my only interest was in cricket at that time. I was the Vice-Captain of the school team and represented the Sri Lanka Schools as well. However, I realized there would be no future in cricket so that I concentrated on my studies. I went to North Carolina, Greensboro University and came back in 1987. It was also my father’s decision that made me come back. 1987- 1989 probably would have been the worst two years of history, having riots breaking out all over the country on top of the ongoing civil war but my father wanted me to come back and that’s just what I did. A degree doesn’t really tell you anything when it comes to practical knowledge. Within a year he made me the Managing Director, my father’s words were “if Castro could control a country at the age of 25, why is it difficult for you to run a company at the same age?”

Q: What are the set of goals for Jetwing?

A: What we want is to be the ‘Best service provider in the country’. In whichever way we expand we want to be the best at it. As my father used to say, provide a legendary service. In order to provide it, we have to look after our staff as much as we look after our guests. That is one of the main goals and we work on that continuously. We have been pioneering in to different new areas of tourism. We were the first to build hotels in Galle in 1995. Other than New Oriental (now Amangalla) there was nothing else. My father built there when everyone said it was going to be a failure. We started Lighthouse which is an iconic hotel in Galle. Then we went to Wellawaya when people questioned why? Again we educated people in Sri Lanka why one should visit Wellawaya. We then built in Potuvil. It is a Muslim village in the deep South East corner of Sri Lanka. People always have that question as to why? We built in Jaffna. We were the first company from the South to go to Jaffna. There were hotels there of course, but we were the first to go from this end. We have the pioneering spirit, creating opportunities and taking the lead.

Almost all our hotels were in the high-end category, but now we are working on the budget brand. We were the first to introduce that as well in 2013 called Hotel J in Negombo. Now there are three budget hotels, Hotel J Ambalangoda, Negombo and Unawatuna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is quite similar to a low cost carrier. You will have to buy everything apart from the seat provided in the aircraft. Similarly our brand provided at hotel J is a clean room, clean bathroom, air conditioning, WiFi, and safety. If you are a single female traveler, you must feel safe in a room. That is the five brand promises we give at hotel J. Everything else including carrying your own bag is your responsibility. And you will have to purchase everything including the bottle of water in to the room.

Hiran-CoorayQ: How do you maintain the standards of the company and its employees?

A: Continuous training. We have to be at it every day.

Q: Do you have a gender balance in your organization?

A: We are the only organization that has five female General Managers. We are very proud of that they do an amazing job. The fact that we have females in this position motivated others to improve themselves to achieve their goals. We started these 20 years ago and it is not a new concept for us. All our staff has the opportunity to grow in the company. A good example is the Manager at Jetwing Sea, who started as a security guard. We allow people to develop and it also should be in them to develop themselves by taking the opportunities.

Q: If a female employee is sexually harassed, how would it be handled?

A: We have very strict rules on those. We educate our staff on what can be said and what cannot be said, how important it is to behave in certain ways in the company. Even a simple touch is not allowed. It is a serious offence in the company and we take disciplinary action against such behavior.

Q: How does the political uncertainty affect foreign investments in our country?

A: Government policies are essential to attract foreign investors. Whenever a government changes policies change and can discourage that investors in tourism and other fields. We are sons of the soil so we have left with no choice. When foreign investors know that our policies change every time a government changes, they will not think of a long term or a safe investment environment in this country.

Q: How likely is it that a customer recommends your hotel to another?

A: We make sure the service we provide is of no comparison. The relationship we maintain with the local community, what we do to preserve the environment, all those factors are important to place your high up in the industry. People are very much aware of the environmental impact and community involvement. If you genuinely do that, look after the local community, employ and create opportunities for the local community and also look after the environment, and you showcase it, the customer who studies and buys a product will always choose the right one over others. That’s one of the very obvious difference between Jetwing and others.

We have a programme called JYDP ‘Jetwing Youth Development Programme’ which we started in the year 2006 and up to now we proudly say we have trained nearly one thousand youngsters in the hospitality industry and the English language.

Q: A little bit more on the political side. What do you think is the future status of this country?

A: My wish is that the private sector will not be dependent on politicians. The private sector has a very important role to play, irrespective of who is in leadership. The private sector must continue to play the role. The private sector should not get involved in lobbying and directing politicians. A politician should look at the country in the long term aspect, viability, sustainability of the country, and I will support anyone who thinks long term, not only till they serve the number of years. Sadly they think short term.

Q: What are your thoughts on taxation?

A: We live out of this land; hence we have to pay something for that. As long as it is bearable it is fine. I mean the Government provides certain facilities free like medical and education. That is a huge cost to the government. Somebody has to pay for it. We can’t really be borrowing to pay for those essential requirements.

I am very much against giving free higher education. Maybe the government should provide a loan facility at a very low interest rate to pay off in a certain number of years, as students have no value over what they get free. When you are given free education, they expect the government to find them a job as well. What can they actually do for themselves in that case? As a youth you should not be a burden to the country. Appreciate what you get and learn to stand on your own feet. The Government educates them free, give degrees free, and then as it is, a job should follow. How unreasonable can they be?

Value what you get free; at the same time be a responsible citizen, not a burden to the country. That’s something I very strongly believe. Appreciate what the country is doing for you. It is all our taxed money that the Government is utilizing on their education. They should at least appreciate that fact.

Q: What is the biggest people problem you are facing right now?

A: Leaving the country. After training them so hard when they leave, it hurts the company.

In a nutshell

Q: One word that describes you best?
A: Down-to-earth

Q: What are your three biggest accomplishments?
A: Number one: I am blessed with three great sons.Number two: Carrying on what my father started and adding value to the tourism industry in this country.
Number three: Being chosen as the Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association the only Sri Lankan to be chosen from a small island to chair that organization for two years.

Q: What animal do you like most?
A: I am a bird watcher. It is fascinating to see their colors. I get much inspiration through that.

Q: What do you do outside work?
A: Watching cricket matches and I like walking.

Q: On a scale of 1-10 how lucky are you?
A: 10 definitely.

Q: What kind of books do you read?
A: I love reading management books, religious books, biographies and sports.

Q: If I am to take over your position, what advice would you give me?
A: Be humble, willing to learn and an honest leader.

Q: When it is all over, how do you want to be remembered?
A: A simple man who tried to make a difference (laughingly).

By: Chantal D.
Photography by: Nuwan Ranaweera

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Hassan Esufally – He has a story to tell! Comments Off on Hassan Esufally – He has a story to tell! 579

Hassan Esufally-01.jpg

‘’Running a marathon is all about perseverance, dedication and a healthy dose of motivation. ‘’

Running a marathon is a tough challenge. If it was your first marathon, then just getting to the start was an achievement, never mind the finish line. Completing a marathon – regardless of the time – should be considered an amazing achievement. 

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How many amazing sights they see – the scenery on an amazing trail run or the electric sights of a big city marathon. Did you hook up with any runners and make new friends? How did you feel? Did you get your nutrition and hydration right? Did you run strong and feel good? 

The adventure marathoner Hassan Esufally, the first Sri Lankan in history to run a marathon in all seven continents by completing the difficult Antarctic Ice Marathon with a time of 8 hours and 35 minutes, shared his stirring experience with us. 

The champion marathoner endured the 42.2km event under tough conditions with falling snow and poor visibility which required a phenomenal effort. Previous multiple times winners of both the Antarctic Ice Marathon and 100km events who participated in the event, were quoted as saying that this was one of the toughest years in the competition. 

Hassan Esufally, one of Sri Lanka’s leading marathoners recently took on the ambitious mission of earning the prestigious and highly sought-after Seven Continents Marathon Club Membership. The challenging endeavor required him to complete some of the world’s toughest and most exclusive marathons across all seven continents. Before the Antarctic Ice Marathon he was also the first Sri Lankan in history to complete the world’s hardest marathon, the Inca Trail Marathon. He has completed marathons in Europe (Stockholm Marathon in June 2017), Asia (Colombo Marathon in October 2017), Australia (Melbourne Marathon in 2014 and 2016), and Boston Marathon in USA (April 2018) and the Big Five Marathon in South Africa (June 2018) – putting Sri Lanka on the marathon map.

By: Chantal D 
Photography by: Eranga Pilimatalawwe

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Ministering To Diners with the True Spirit of Crustacean Celebration 0 1283

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.

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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.