Sandra Wanduragala, Founder Chairman of Selyn Sri Lanka and Lakmini Wijesundera Co-founder and CEO of Iron One Technologies Ltd. and BoardPAC represented Sri Lanka at the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women (EY WW) Asia-Pacific and Japan Conference 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. They were also joined by Selyna Peiris, Business Development Director of Selyn Sri Lanka and Anoji de Silva, Partner, EY Sri Lanka.
The conference is geared towards helping outstanding women entrepreneurs to think big and grow rapidly. The Class of 2018 consisted of 23 leading women entrepreneurs from Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Mongolia and Korea. Lisa Schiffman who started the program 11 years ago in the USA also attended with Phyllis W. Newhouse, who was most recently recognised as the EY USA Entrepreneur of The Year 2017, National Technology Award winner. Harsha Basnayake, who started his career at EY Sri Lanka and now the EY Asia-Pacific Managing Partner, Transaction Advisory Services, was also invited to be a moderator at the conference.
Annette Kimmitt, EY Global Growth Markets Leader and EY WW Asia-Pacific Executive Sponsor commenced the program by welcoming the class of 2018 winning women and alumnae who are also invited to the conference annually. Welcoming the women Annette said, “We hope that you will be inspired over the course of the conference and that you will make meaningful connections with women who share similar aspirations to globally scale and grow their companies. Our program is deliberately global. We aim to help you access business in new markets and expand your relationships outside your own domestic networks.”
The conference deliberated on areas such as:
Dynamism and dualities: Time to pivot or persist – As we seek to build and scale brands for a digital world, what are the most profound cross-industry forces in play and how should we respond? Janet Balis – EY Global Media and Entertainment Advisory Leader focused the attention of the participants on the fundamental dualities that create threats and opportunities for businesses. From the balance between human and technology, to the opportunity to apply both creativity and data to scale, to the need for solutions that are both bespoke and scalable, and to models blending fixed and flexible ways to work. This discussion contextualised the most critical market dynamics for entrepreneurs. One on the key takeaways for the participants from Janet was her 70:10:20 rule. Use 70% of your time to run your business efficiently, 10% to innovate and 20% thinking of ways to disrupt yourself.
International Expansion: The right path for your business to scale and grow in new markets – Harsha Basnayake, moderated this session. The session discussed how companies take what’s around the corner to around the word. Uncertain local politics and complex regulator environments, currency fluctuations, rising cost and wages, and erratic suppliers or sourcing and poor infrastructure are some of the challenges businesses face when expanding internationally. The discussion focused on how do you decide on your strategic direction to export, acquire, invest in a Greenfield operation, or consider an alliance or a joint venture? Harsha and the panellists shared their views on preparation, risk and timing when it comes to taking successful domestic businesses global.
Business Transformation through the power of digital – Annette Kimmitt moderated the session where Lakmini Wijesundera was invited to be a panelist along with Phyllis W. Newhouse, CEO of Xtreme Solutions Inc USA and Sakie Akiyama, Founder and CEO Saki Corporation, Japan. The session deliberated on how the power of digital can deliver quantum shifts and outcomes for your business. Imagine transforming even personalising your customer’s experience through the power of digital, transforming your business operations through intelligent automation or even reimagining the way you protect your business through the power forensic analysis and state-of-the-art cyber technologies. As compelling as these things sound, bringing about digital transformation is often tempered by the focus on the present. The three outstanding women in the panel shared the business case for digital transformation sharing their experience on how they transform businesses through the power of digital, either for their own customers or for their customers’ customers.
Ikebana: Foundation of Japanese business management – Kado Professor Yuka Mori demonstrated how ikebana is done. Kado (literally, the way of flowers) popularly known as ikebana, is a traditional Japanese art of refinement: seasonal flowers and foliage are decoratively arranged in vases to instil a sense of appreciation for the beauty of the season. Many successful entrepreneurs find meaning in ikebana. In ikebana, plants are analogues to human life, with their beauty and transcendence expressed through various arrangements. Professor Mori gave the participants tips and hints on how ikebana can be incorporated in business management and also suggested connections between entrepreneurs and ikebana.
The participants also had the privilege of listening to exceptional women entrepreneurs on doing business in Japan, building a successful brand in Japan, from purpose to profit, whether football is still a men’s game in Japan and how to apply learnings in sport to business. They also took part in a session where you are given the opportunity to ask your global network to ‘gift’ you, business contacts or advice.
The conference ended with the Japan women business leaders networking event where the participants were given the opportunity to dress in yukata (Japanese summer style kimono) as a way of embracing the host country culture. As Sandra and Lakmini were busy with networking, Selyna and Anoji decided to represent Sri Lanka in yukata. At the networking the yukata-clad global participants mingled with the Japanese business community and made many valuable connections to help their businesses.
The women were also given an optional opportunity to attend a Business matching fair where they had the option to explore opportunities to commence or expand their business in Japan by showcasing their products in a company booth, formal presentations and impromptu business meetings. Sandra, Selyna and Lakmini made use of the opportunity through formal presentations and business meetings.
As per Sandra, “Being nominated as the EY Winning Woman 2018 has been a life time experience and achievement personally to me and also for my company. I founded Selyn 27 years ago not knowing that I had any business skills or knowledge to run a business. Meeting so many powerful women at the Conference in Japan was another great experience for me to realise that sky is the limit for anyone who dares to fly, that we are not isolated.. the feeling of sisterhood was a great encouragement. The most powerful lesson was WED -Win Every Day... and all the way. I would also like to thank EY and Sri Lanka for promoting this event.”
Lakmini shared her thoughts; “I’m honoured to be the first participant from Sri Lanka to join this incredible EY WW program. The first and most important impact resulting from the program to me was that it gave me immense confidence to be bold about my vision and to confidently work towards it and also to be able to voice it out without any reservation. I have since then discovered the incredible growth impact it has brought to my company BoardPAC to guide it to a truly globally successful level. My experience is in parallel with so many other WW female founders across the world who have been impacted in a similar manner. The opportunities and introductions which open up throughout the regions by both the EY leadership in locations which EY operates such as Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India to USA is unparalleled. The EY WW members and the sincere fellowship of these most powerful female founders and business leaders across all parts of the world is unique and special.
The alumnae continues to return and be part of the program where the growth of such alumnae and the wealth of knowledge and ‘give back’ is experienced and strengthened year on year. I would wholeheartedly recommend this program to those who are ready and committed to scale their companies globally. I also wish to mention that if you are a female founder who is ready to grow globally and is fortunate to be selected to this program, your success in such endeavour is almost guaranteed.”
Lakmini added, “I wish to thank Annette Kimmitt of EY and the Sponsor of the EY WW global program for organising it in this incredibly inspirational manner with her personal commitment, passion and sincerity towards making an impactful difference, for Lisa Schiffman of EY USA who started the program and for her vision to create such a powerful and unique program, Ruwan Fernando and Anoji de Silva of EY Sri Lanka who brought this unique opportunity to the light of Sri Lankan female entrepreneurs and the EY WW’s amazing team with special mention to Joanne Warrin of EY Asia Pacific.”