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Tuesday, 21 December 2010






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Perseverance pays for Wegapitiya

Young Entrepreneurs

He has inherited the desire of winning from his childhood. Today he is the main shareholder of the second largest LP Gas supplier in Sri Lanka. He is one of the few winners of the corporate world to start an ever-growing conglomerate from zero with his hard earned education. He is none other than Laugfs Holdings Limited, Chairman W. K. H. Wegapitiya. he is featured in this week’s Young Entrepreneur column. Excerpts of the interview.

Q: How did you come up with your enterprise?

A: I passed out from the Sri Jayawardhanapura University in 1984 with a B.Sc Business Management degree from which I gained theoretical knowledge in business aspects including marketing, finances and production management.

Laugfs Holdings Chairman W. K. H. Wegapitiya Picture by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

Unlike other University graduates who have a list of priorities when looking for employment, I wanted to practise what I have learnt. Many graduates seek employment in the public administration service, the Central Bank, Inland Revenue, State Banks or want to be employed as an academic in a University. They anyway wanted to be an employee but from the moment I graduated I wanted to be an independent entrepreneur. This desire fuelled my enthusiasm to become a leading businessman.

As a person brought up in a rural village without any political or financial clout, I had to find an entry point at the beginning. I thought working experience will give me the necessary practical knowledge and develop a network. So I decided to work for a Government organization for sometime. Initially I started a small freight forwarding company in 1990. The reason I decided to start a freight forwarding company is that it does not need much capital. It is always one’s talents, efforts and hard work that is needed to start a freight forwarding company.

Within four years after my first venture, I managed to gain experience and developed a network and sizable capital and most importantly, confidence of the people as a capable entrepreneur. Equipped with my theoretical knowledge, I started Laugfs Holdings Limited in 1995.

I started it in a small way and today after 15 years I have been able to steer Laugfs into a sizable business conglomerate.

I have not only built up a business but also brand recognition, reputation, brand equity and loyalty while diversifying into highly volatile business areas. Today there are 18 companies under Laugfs Holdings Limited.

From these 18 companies we listed four companies in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) recently. They are Laugfs Gas (Pvt) Ltd., Laugfs Eco Sri Ltd., Laugfs Leisure Ltd., Laugfs Property Developers.

Q: What are the challenges you face?

A: The main challenge in this country and what we face is finding correct and appropriate people to work. One may have the most viable business proposal in hand but if that person is not capable of finding the correct team of players, it is useless. The players in the team need to have the same vision as that of the entrepreneur.

The Sri Lankan attitude is the other challenge, an entrepreneur has to face. There are less Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who have reached global level. When someone is growing in the business that person is looked at with professional jealousy and the entrepreneurs have to struggle hard to get to a higher position in the Sri Lankan context. In other countries such as Korea, Malaysia and Singapore the governments recognise entrepreneurs and support them. The situation here for entrepreneurs is discouraging.

Q: What are the strengths of the company?

A: We are a diversified company and we have invested into very strategic areas. Therefore we have solid investments done. The second strength is that we have a strong brand recognition that is on par with any multi national global company. We have a very dedicated and committed team.

Q: How do you manage your enterprise?

A: At the beginning I was the idea generator and implementer of the company. Being the leader I guided my employees towards a common goal.

I encourage them to work as a team and we have been able to develop a team of capable people who bare the same vision of mine.

Q: How do you supply with capital initially?

A: The capital for the company was internally generated and re-invested on the company. Being a private and local company whatever we earn we try to reinvest into the company. Though I am the main shareholder and the owner I also work as an employee. That is how we developed our capital and asset base.

Q: What are your aspirations?

A: I was born to a very poor family and my father was a farmer. When I was a child I had a difficult time. I used to walk four kilometres to my school that I went for my secondary education. Therefore, I was compelled to win if I want to become a successful person.

Winning was the burning desire in me which compelled me to fight and win. This gave me the opportunity to look at every opportunity with a different angle.

I am a product of free education and therefore I have a certain moral and ethical obligation towards my society, country and family, hence, I wanted to become a successful man. Currently, my company provides employment to 2,500 people of this country. My desire to win, fuelled my thirst to become a successful entrepreneur.

This success is basically achieving one’s desire or intention but success at the same time is always measured by the positive impact one can create on humanity and society.

In my 18 companies I try to make a less impact on society and environment.

Q: What are the strategies you adopt to enhance the employee efficiency?

A: I always try to give them effective delegation, authority and freedom to work.

Q: What is your goal in business?

A: I need to become a successful business person and need to create my brand as a global brand. I am convinced that I can do that during my lifetime.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: We need to make Laugfs among the top ten companies in this country within the course of the next ten years.

Q: What is the support you get from your family members?

A: Actually they look after me. They don’t get involved in business. At times when I am buried with problems and issues my wife consoles me.

Q: What is the support you expect from the Government?

A: There is a trend that the Government is involved in business.

The Government is a policymaker and my request is not to obstruct private sector companies and let the private sector be the engine of growth as the Government calls it.


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