HSBC and British Council honour young entrepreneurs

Monday, 3 September 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Devin Jayasundera

HSBC in partnership with British Council hosted the HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards 2012 in order to recognise and promote the entrepreneurial culture among the younger generation of the country. This competition which is a ‘Business Plan Contest’ was held for the second consecutive year.

This year Sujani Gamage from the University of Uva Wellassa was crowned as the winner for her idea of launching an outlet for kithul products. The company named ‘Kithul Corner’ provides the opportunity for customers to buy any kind of kithul products from vinegar, treacle, jiggery and kithul flour to handicraft and furniture products. Sujani was presented with Rs. 500,000 as seed funding to initiate her business plan. It is important to note that this was an individual submission.

The second place was won by U- from the University of Sabaragamuwa. The company hopes to create a system that is capable of forecasting the optimal production plan for farms, mostly in the fields of vegetables and fruits. They intend to use neural networks for identifying better production techniques through seasonal tuning.

Bringing more glory to the University of Uva Wellassa, Carbon Nano Tubes won the second runners up position. This high tech industry comprises of manufacturing carbon nano tubes which are used for tennis rackets, computer nano processors and solar cells. This year the competition received 127 applications. After intense examination of the applicants, the final winners were decided on parameters of market opportunity, business viability, barriers to entry and the mindset of the entrepreneurs. The judges of the competition were Founder and Former Vice Chancellor of University of Uva Wellassa Chandra Embuldeniya, Orion City CEO Jeevan Gnanam, and Virtusa Vice President Madu Ratnayake.

The Chief Guest of the event Ministry of Higher Education Secretary Dr. Sunil Nawaratne emphasised that Sri Lankan universities should aim to produce job creators instead of job seekers. “Currently there’s no proper environment to identify and develop young talent to fulfil the entrepreneurial necessity of the country. Last year with the help of the Young Entrepreneurs Sri Lanka (YESL) we were able to start up student companies at the University of Moratuwa, which we found very promising.”

He also remarked on the Government’s intention of producing marketable graduates who would take forward the nation’s economy. “Out of the whole student population 5% to 10% of students have the potential of being leading entrepreneurs. If we cultivate and develop them effectively these students would be able to provide employment to the rest of the country.”

Dr. Nawaratne also stressed the need for Entrepreneurial Vice Chancellors to administer universities as enterprises without always depending on Government funds and subsidies.

HSBC CEO Nick Nicolaou touched on the importance of the role of the private sector in generating economic growth in the country. “Government alone cannot provide the necessary capital that is required to develop the economy; the private sector has equal responsibility in providing adequate investment in generating economic growth. The private sector should collaborate with the youth of the country and take use of their energy, skill, intelligence and their entrepreneurial acumen to improve their business and the economy overall.”

Country Director of the British Council Tony Riley emphasised that governments should set the foundation to vigorously promote an entrepreneurial culture within the youth segment of the country to ensure a competitive advantage.

University of Moratuwa Vice Chancellor Ananda Jayawardane highlighted some of the steps that have been taken to create graduate entrepreneurs. “For the first time in history an Endowed Professorship in Entrepreneurship was created at University of Moratuwa, which is fully funded by private investment. Today at the university we even offer minor specialisations on entrepreneurship so our graduates are fully equipped to start own their businesses.”