Sri Lanka-Malaysia Business Council hosts ‘Entrepreneur 2.0’
Tuesday, 8 April 2014 00:00
The Sri Lanka-Malaysia Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce hosted ‘Entrepreneur 2.0’, an event on ‘Powering Employees to Think like Businessmen’, at the Hilton Residencies recently.
The keynote speaker at the event was Laugfs Holdings PLC Chairman W.K.H. Wegapitiya. His address was followed by a panel discussion, which included the quartet of W.K.H. Wegapitiya, NDB PLC CEO/Director Rajendra Theagarajah, Softlogic Capital PLC Managing Director Iftikar Ahamed and Janashakthi Insurance PLC CEO/Managing Director Prakash Schafter.
The discussion was moderated by MAS Bodyline Ltd. Director Innovation and Consumer Insights Irfan Ahmed.
During the panel discussion, it was noted that Sri Lanka currently experiences a dearth of entrepreneurs, who are willing to take the risks associated with starting up new enterprises. The panellists were of the view that traditionally, Sri Lankan society had promoted the skills of entrepreneurship to the extent of making the country an international trading hub, in an age as far back the 3rd Century A.D. However, the business leaders believe that this status has slowly disintegrated with the colonisation of the island by European powers starting in the 16th Century.
Laugfs Chairman W.K.H. Wegapitiya said, post-colonisation, Sri Lanka has undergone “three distinct entrepreneurship waves in its recent history”. He said the first wave of entrepreneurship occurred between 1920 and 1957, with the increased demand for support services for European industries. He then went on to describe the rise and fall of the second wave of entrepreneurship that took place from around 1965, until the economy was opened up in the late 1970s. According to him, Sri Lanka is currently experiencing the third wave of entrepreneurs, the period to which entrepreneurs such as him belong.
Iftikar Ahamed and Prakash Schafter spoke of the importance of nurturing the entrepreneurial attitude within employees of an organisation, so that they will be enabled to “innovate and take initiative within the limited constraints of the organisation” to identify new market opportunities and to improve efficiencies. They said that successful entrepreneurs identify opportunities that others may not see and are willing to take calculated risks to gain benefits from those opportunities. The secure limitations provided by organisations to employees allow them to take on “limited challenges” that are otherwise much higher in risk. Nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in employees can have mixed effects to organisations.
Sharing his views during the discussion, Rajendra Theagarajah said: “Attitude is paramount.” He says it is important that individuals experience defeat and downfall, as without such experience, successful enterprises would not be founded. The panel discussion concluded, passing on the message that entrepreneurs may be born or made, but each one’s success depends on their attitude and hard work.