Perseverance pays for Wegapitiya
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
Q: How did you come up with your
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.