HSBC and British Council seek emerging young entrepreneurs

Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Kinita Shenoy HSBC and the British Council officially launched their joint project, the ‘HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards’, which is in its third year, at a press conference on Thursday 15 August. The HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards (YEA) is a business plan contest that is aimed at recognising and supporting young entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka and supporting them to start their own businesses. The contest is open to Sri Lankan undergraduates, postgraduates and students aged 16 to 26 years representing universities, private higher education institutions, technical and vocational institutions and professional training bodies in Sri Lanka. Interested applicants can apply under any of the industry sectors listed, such as creative industries, tourism and hospitality, information technology and telecommunications, engineering and agriculture. A judging panel will select the most innovative and feasible business plans through a screening process which will include interviews with the individuals and teams during which they will be evaluated on their business ideas. The competition format includes a call for application, a screening and short listing by industry experts followed by a three-day ‘hackathon’ for business ideas and finally the awards ceremony. As of previous years, the winning individual or team will receive Rs. 500,000, the first runner-up Rs. 200,000 and second runner-up Rs. 100,000 as cash prizes. Each winning team or individual will have to take part in a mentoring program organised by the British Council and HSBC. The program is aimed at nurturing and guiding the students from the idea stage through to the implementation stage of their start-up businesses. The cash prizes will be awarded to the winners in phases, upon successful completion of the tasks outlined by the mentors during the program. HSBC CEO for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Patrick Gallagher said: “This is a great opportunity for HSBC to connect with the new generation of business leaders. In fact, many previous entrants have then gone on to have successful careers and established commercially viable businesses. The competition sets student teams real-life business challenges and helps further our commitment to helping young people reach their potential; therefore, we encourage more participants this year.” Addressing the gathering at the launch, British Council Acting Country Director, Harriet Gardner said: “The British Council is on organisation that strives to create opportunities for people worldwide. Our joint project with HSBC helps us do exactly that. We are proud to launch HSBC-Youth Enterprise Awards, for the third consecutive time in Sri Lanka. With the country prospering, we look forward to receiving quality applications from all over the island which will help nurture healthy competition amongst aspiring people.” Secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education, Dr. Sunil Jayantha Nawaratne was also present at the press conference. He endorsed the business plan contest saying: “Sri Lanka needs job givers. We need entrepreneurs and I wish them all the best for this great event. I encourage all students interested in starting up their own businesses to participate in this competition and take a step closer I realising their dreams.” Dr. Nawaratne also touched upon the difference in the economic progression between Sri Lanka and countries like Japan and Singapore, mentioning that those two turned into production and trading hubs. For instance, Japan took its brands to the world, and saw its per capita income increase 890 times since the 1950’s while Sri Lanka’s has increased just 11 times. He speculated that a lack of entrepreneurship could well be a reason for this, due to Sri Lanka’s culture which doesn’t quite support or encourage the spirit of business or entrepreneurship. Orion City CEO Jeevan Gnanam also addressed the launch, saying: “I believe that these sorts of programs help nurture young entrepreneurs so they can take their businesses forward. The number of enterprises that kicked off last year, stand as a testament to the success of these sorts of programs. I can personally relate to the journey these young entrepreneurs face. This is more than an event; it is a coming together of ideas. In this day and age, just knowledge is not enough, but being able to apply it creatively. As a co-founder of the Lanka Angel Network, we have spent about Rs. 100 million last year funding just 10 businesses and we plan on continuing in the same vein this year. We have about 40 prominent businessmen willing to devote time and money to mentor and invest in start-ups. I’m excited to see the future businessmen and women of Sri Lanka.” The last speaker at the event was last year’s winner of the HSBC YEA, Keeriwala Gamage Sujani. She said: “This was a miraculous journey for me. I didn’t think my initial idea was creative or technical enough. When I heard my simple kithul corner idea was chosen I realised that British Council and HSBC only cared about the viability of the business. As I emerged as the winner at the awards ceremony, I knew I had made the right decision. I strongly encourage all young entrepreneurs to take part in the competition.” The British Council has pioneered a number of initiatives to promote graduate entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka by working closely with the Ministry of Education, University Grants Commission, vice-chancellors and lecturers in Sri Lanka and the UK’s entrepreneurial universities. A successful example is ‘IDEATORS-next Generation Entrepreneurs’, a reality-TV enterprise about the importance of entrepreneurship education in Sri Lanka.