HSBC and British Council recognise talented young entrepreneurs

Monday, 10 September 2012 00:53 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards (YEA) 2012 presented by the British Council was held at the Hilton Colombo amidst distinguished guests including Dr Sunil Nawaratne, Secretary, Higher Education Sri Lanka, Tony Reilly, Country Director British Council and Nick Nicolaou, Chief Executive Officer HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Having been assessed through multiple rounds of workshops and evaluations, the three finalists presented their business ideas in front of an expert panel headed by lead judge Prof. Chandra Embuldeniya together with Jeevan Gnanam, CEO of Orion Development (Pvt) Ltd and Madu Ratnayake, Vice President and General Manager Virtusa Corporation at the YEA finale.

The winners of this year’s YEA finale are: (1) Winner:  Keeriwala Gamage Sujani for project Kithul Corner (2) First Runner Up : Group application (Kurukulasooriyage Danuka Dilshan Perera) for project U-grow and (3) Second Runner Up: Group application (Yapage Viraj Madusanka)  for project Carbon Nano Tubes (CNT).

Nick Nicolaou, CEO HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives said, “We are delighted by the enthusiasm and the ideas presented by these young contestants. It is encouraging for all of us to see how their education and natural habitat has presented them with ideas and opportunities that are commercially viable. I congratulate them all.  It is the youth of Sri Lanka who will now have the task of steering the country towards economic development, and this platform fits well with their aspirations and national agenda, hence we are happy to have gathered around for the second consecutive year to recognise and reward the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

The winning idea “Kithul Corner” was presented by Keeriwala Gamage Sujani who walked away with a reward of Rs. 500,000 as seed capital to further her idea into a potential business. Having hailed from an area that is famous for Kithul products; Deniyaya, her idea was to create a one stop shop for sweet meats and ornamental handicrafts made out of kithul and Kithul timber, thereby creating a centre of excellence for “Kithul” based produce by engaging the local community .

“Kithul Corner” her business centre situated in Deniyaya under the theme of “Dealing with Nature” promises to offer a one stop shop for Kithul based produce and offer  both local and foreign tourists a true eco friendly experience.

Project U-grow, having emerged first runner up presented the judges with an idea of a system that is capable of forecasting the optimal production plan for farmers, mostly in the field of vegetable and fruit cultivation. It also contains a website which offers all the latest techniques and knowledge required for farming hence creating a neural network of information. As a result, farmers will be able to identify best production capabilities through seasonal tuning whilst considering other factors such as weather, soil, geography, demand etc. The team received a cash reward of Rs.200,000 as seed capital.

The second runner up, Project Carbon Nano Tubes, presented an idea and the key presenter said “Carbon Nano Tubes (CNT) from Sri Lankan vein graphite (The only vein graphite in the world). The market share for CNT is $ 2.1 billion per year and it is 28% from the world’s nano products. We have 99.9 pure raw materials (graphite) in Kahatagaha & Bogala mines.  Due to its strength and very good electric conducting capacity, CNT could be applied to many applications from tennis rackets to computer nano processors (electrical circuits, electrical cables and wires, paper batteries, Solar Cells, Hydrogen Storage, Ultra capacitors, Radar Absorption) and can become a high potential business in future technology. We can also look at having patent rights and be the only CNT producer from Sri Lankan vein graphite. We hope producing CNT in Sri Lanka will open many industrial opportunities and could be termed as a multi-million Dollar business, with market domination due to the unique and pure raw materials”. The team received a cash reward of Rs. 100,000 for further development.

Tony Reilly, Country Director British Council said, “Some say that successful entrepreneurs are born, not made. Others disagree, saying good entrepreneurship is a talent that can be learned and nurtured. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Governments increasingly consider entrepreneurship and innovation to be the cornerstones of a competitive national economy. This is certainly true for both Sri Lanka and the UK. And Universities have a key role to play in nurturing next generation entrepreneurs. The HSBC-British Council Youth Enterprise Awards, now in their second year, set out to identify and nurture entrepreneurial talent within Sri Lanka’s universities.”  

The Youth Enterprise Awards which is a business plan contest got underway in April 2010 with the aim of recognising young aspiring entrepreneurs and supporting them to start and grow their businesses. The competition was open to postgraduate students, undergraduates and students aged 16 to 26 years representing universities, private higher education institutions, technical and vocational institutions and professional training bodies in Sri Lanka.

Whilst over  125  business plans were received for evaluation by an eminent panel of judges, the competition resulted in 3 winners being awarded.

The Youth Enterprise awards are one among many projects HSBC has sponsored to help harness the entrepreneurial skills of young people. From supporting 1000 ‘At Risk’ street children in Education to funding IT scholarships to youth around the country, the Bank has worked with many partner organisations to empower the next generation.

The Bank has also worked closely with the British Council to promote language skills amongst teachers in rural areas of the country together with the Council for Business with Britain (CBB).