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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 interview.

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 steel fabrication.

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 one go.

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 expectants.

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 faced?


The factory

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 misunderstood.

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 I like.

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 Gates.

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 business?

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 society?

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.

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