Variety adds spice for Brigitte
When one makes use of the inherited talents to steer a business
venture to a remarkable height it is indeed an achievement. She was able
to progressively manage the businesses her husband and herself started
off. However, becoming a successful businesswoman in a foreign country
is not an easy task. Her untiring efforts are amply displayed in the
ventures she runs and her passion for success is widely evident in the
growth of the business. She has plans to expand and add more to the
already existing business lines.
Italo-Lanka Gas Cylinders Manufacturers Chief Executive Officer
Brigitte B. Siriwardhana has made Sri Lanka her second home and her
success story is a shining
Brigitte B. Siriwardhana
example for potential businesswomen.
She was interviewed by Daily News Business. Excerpts of the
Q: What is the business you are
engaged in and how do you set about it?
A: I have many businesses.
The Italo-Lanka Gas Cylinders manufacturing factory at Dewalapola makes
domestic and industrial gas cylinders, auto gas tanks for cars, vans and
three wheelers and forklifts, air compressor tanks and all types of
This company which my husband and myself manage has plans to
manufacture cylinders to suit players in the gas industry. Italo also
manufactures its own brand of air compressors and there are plans to
further expand the company.
Before I came to Sri Lanka in 1990 due to the Kuwait invasion, my
husband and I were running a restaurant in Kuwait. This 50 seat
restaurant was a success and it was selected as the best restaurant in
town by media. However, we were compelled to come to Sri Lanka.
My adventures started when I met my husband and decided on what we
wanted to do. My father gave a hand by sending Italian school bags. This
was the beginning of the first business venture.
Brigitte with her family
However, as selling school bags was a seasonal business, I chose to
do what I qualified in. I was graduated in tourism in Paris. I had to
prepare for a national examination which included a tour to Sri Lanka.
In 1991, I became a tour operator for Sri Lanka. I was very keen on
education. I was dreaming of opening a tourism school catering to the
needs of the country. I was able to realize this dream. At this time we
had school bags and tourism business and a school to teach Italian
language running. My students were the very first to pass two papers in
I was the pioneer in offering daycare facilities. This concept was
materialized with the Kiddies International Fun Club. This business
generated sufficient income. I also was given a mandate to train people
for jobs in Korea. We made the selection and groomed them for foreign
jobs. I also got a mandate from the Government to train Italian job
I was given the challenge to continue a magazine. The issue was the
23rd and every 15 days we need to publish 2,500 copies of Linc magazine.
I had the pleasure developing the magazine.
I re-invested the money that was generated. This I continue as a
hobby. The new look magazine was re-launched last week. I like to use my
creativity as a service to people. There are a number of other
publications in the pipeline such as restaurant guide, travel trade and
B2B catering. I have a winning product and it will be launched shortly.
I always thrive to do something fun, entertaining and practical.
Leaving all these businesses I went to Canada for six years and came
back as a mature person.
Now I am in the process of rebuilding the businesses. I am writing a
book on immigration to Italy which provides details on what you should
know before even thinking of going to Italy.
Q: How do you balance your family
life and business?
A: My husband is also a
businessman. I have three sons and a daughter. Balancing family life and
business is not easy. Attention is always tilting to the business. I
operate from my home and it has become a business place. However, it is
important to strike a balance between family life and business.
Q: What were the challenges you
A: I love challenges. The
biggest challenge was the country shock and the culture shock. I tried
my best to understand the people. However, in many instances I was
I was extra careful when speaking. But the language was not a huge
challenge. Having right finances and backing up was a challenge. I was
fortunate as here in Sri Lanka I have the freedom of doing any business
Q: What are your goals?
A: My goal is to lead the
businesses to prosperity. I want to do something constructive. My aim is
to steer the company to the levels of Google and become similar to Bill
I have the ability to turn an idea into a money spinner. I try to do
business where I do not need huge asset investments.
Q: Being a woman was it an advantage
to be in business?
A: Though I never had an
issue of gender it was not an advantage. I come from a very conservative
family and being an entrepreneur I was able to use my creativity.
Q:What is your advice to women in
A: Women need to have
perseverance. They need to go 100 percent for the set goals. Never stop
when encountered challenges. We can do better than men. We are smarter.
You need to go for your dream as we have capabilities. We are
pre-destined to run a family and home. We are born managers and it is
necessary to unleash what is in your heart. Women are the driving force
in this country.
Q: What were your achievements in
family life and business?
A: I am very proud of my
children, especially my daughter. My biggest assets are my family.
I consider that I have achieved a lot in business. There is room for
growth and I intend turning around the business to great heights.
Q: What is your contribution to
A: It has always been my
dream to serve to the people. I have brought up my children to be
considerate, respectful and caring to all the people. I have trained a
significant number of people knowing that they will leave me any time.
I give scholarships to poor children as I consider education is the
gateway for a brighter future. We have plans to set up a fund by
utilizing a percentage of money from the publication company. This will
be used in providing scholarships.
We have a plan to open a professional school to provide necessary
qualifications to match the job market. It is important to help people
and this is exactly what I am doing.
“I have no idea to accumulate wealth and I believe in sharing. I will
work to my full potential using the strengths in organizing, financing
and management for the betterment of people.