Sri Lanka’s Mr. Dilmah, celebrates 71 years of brewing cups of kindness
The unmistakable face of the Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah, is Merrill J. Fernando, and his invitation to customers – ‘do try it!’. The first tea grower to offer his tea to the world – picked, perfected, packed at source – and kindness was his cup of tea. The family tea business he formed around an uncompromising commitment to Taste, Goodness & Ethical Purpose offers a playbook for business in a post pandemic era. Faith, determination, dedication to taste, goodness, and ethical purpose characterize the Ceylon Teamaker’s story as he turns 91, and celebrates 71 years in tea.
Milestones are important. They chart one’s progress, whether success or failure. Merrill J. Fernando, the founder of Dilmah, entered the tea trade in 1950, as one of a batch of five local youth to be trained in the art of tea tasting, then the preserve of the British. Despite the unshakeable self-belief that has taken him to his present eminence in the industry, even he would not have imagined the varied successes that he would eventually garner.
Dilmah is, undeniably, the global face of Ceylon tea. The brand, with the image of its founder, has carried the message of the purity and authenticity of Ceylon tea to over a hundred countries in the world. However, it is not only in the promotion of the product that Fernando has made his contribution. Over the years he has lent his weight to many initiatives that have benefited the industry and Ceylon tea in its totality.
In the early years, he championed several initiatives which created facilitations and remedied inequalities which hampered the local exporter of value added tea. The tea industry then represented a long value chain, stretching from the local plantation to the retail market overseas, designed for the benefit of the British, allied multinationals and their local associates. He was successful in interposing his authority on this tightly closed system, with a mixture of guile, confrontation and leverage of influence, for the benefit of the local entrepreneur.
The conversion of many traditional Orthodox Tea factories to the more industrial CTC manufacture, in an uncritical emulation of the Kenyan model, would have become a reality decades ago, if not for his reasoned but unrelenting opposition. Had that proposal been implemented, the diversity of Ceylon tea, its uniqueness, would have been obliterated by the depressing sameness of a mass-market product without individuality.
Similarly, the more recent effort to import cheap tea for blending and re-export, the “Tea Hub” concept, proposed by exporters who were prepared to sacrifice the singularity of Pure Ceylon Tea, in favour of short-term profit and denial of long-term damage, would have been launched if not for Merrill Fernando’s fierce opposition. His was the lone voice raised against this scheme which, had it been implemented, would have temporarily enriched a few but impoverished the hundreds of thousands of producers.
Merrill embodies the philosophy he has always advocated, focusing on the significance that lies beyond success. His desire to share his profits has made an unquantifiable and lasting contribution to his community and beyond. In less fortunate communities in his own country and overseas, thousands of lives have been touched by the initiatives of the Merrill J Fernando Charitable Foundation – all funded by the profits of Dilmah tea. The Foundations’ guiding principle of empowerment with dignity underlines its Settlor’s wish to genuinely & positively impact people.
Then there are the multitude of biodiversity conservation, restoration, environmental education & research initiatives of Dilmah Conservation, again endowed by the profits from tea. As the passionate Teaman celebrates his 91st birthday, his commitment is undimmed. In a corruptible and acquisitive society it is rarely that a successful businessman also becomes a force for the common good. Merrill J Fernando is clearly one of the very few exceptions.
Seylan Bank takes the lead to promote LANKA QR beyond Western Province
Seylan Bank, the Bank with a Heart, organized the ‘Seylan Pay QR Carnival’ in Kurunegala to promote the LANKAQR programme introduced by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to strengthen digital transactions in Sri Lanka. The special programme, focusing on encouraging local merchants and SMEs to join the national QR transaction system, took place at the Vehera Sports Ground in Kurunegala recently. Officials from the Central bank of Sri Lanka, the Lanka QR Committee and partner banks were present at the event.
Organised as the 14th leg of the LankaQR national rollout campaign, the Seylan Pay QR Carnival set a firm footprint with the highest number of merchants at the event. Seylan Bank alone on boarded over 100 merchants for the SeylanPay payment solutions from the Kurunegala area. Over a thousand customers walked in during the event which benefitted many merchants accepting LankaQR, to process transactions on the day and generate great traction in the district since then.
As the key feature of the event, Seylan Bank educated their customers on the use of the Bank’s QR payment system, the SeylanPay Mobile App, and assisted customers in making payments to merchants. Over 50 stalls selling clothes and accessories, gift items, food, sweets, electronics and electrical equipment, plants, beauty care, cosmetic items and automobile parts were set up for the benefit of consumers, with attractive added discounts for customers using QR payment systems to purchase items, thereby encouraging and familiarizing the use of it among them. This marked a record high number of merchants participating among many LankaQR nationwide rollout campaigns that were organised to date. A Seylan Bank Mobile ATM was deployed at the premises, ensuring that customers had easy access to carry out cash withdrawals if required and check their account balances at any given time. In addition, a special fun zone was set up for children at the event premises, whilst a musical evening entertained the adults present at the Seylan Pay QR Carnival.
“Seylan Bank’s commitment to develop the banking and finance network together with the industry led to us hosting the 14th leg of the Lanka QR national rollout campaign. We also realize the potential this system brings to the SME sector in the country, in terms of transaction efficiency and savings. As a bank that has continued to support SMEs in the country in a wide spectrum, the alliance with Lanka QR helps in developing the entire transaction ecosystem of the country,” commented Chaminda Senewiratne, Head of Digital Banking Channels, Seylan Bank.
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka introduced the LANKAQR service in October 2020 with the aim of moving towards a cash-less society while increasing financial inclusion in Sri Lanka, and was supported in this endeavour by Banks, licensed financial institutions and Lanka Clear (Pvt.) Ltd. It has already stood out as an attractive option with notable benefits for small and medium enterprises.
Stylish Garments unveils its latest export-oriented BOI factory in Ambalangoda
With the Board of Investment (BOI) widening its projects, Stylish Garments (Pvt) Ltd, unveiled its sixth BOI approved factory in Ambalangoda which manufactures children’s wear, jerseys including school uniforms exclusively targeting the international market. The Stylish Garments is a renowned a garment manufacturer and exporter of jersey knit and lighter woven apparel products.
The latest project, which is a USD 3.5 million investment, is to generate 500 employment opportunities for people living in the south and other parts of the country. Moreover, the products are slated to be exported to the UK and Europe. The agreement in this regard was signed recently at the BOI Head Office in the presence of BOI Director General Renuka M Weerakone.
The Director General said “A project of this nature should be recognized owing to the fact that it depicts the vibrant and vivid expansion of BOI projects, which has now started to reach the rural areas, The new venture will uplift the livelihood of the people living in the Ambalangoda area plus become a crucial source of bringing dollars to the country in a situation where the country isin dire need of dollars,” she underscored.
Founder and incumbent Chairman of the Stylish Garments (Pvt) Ltd Leelaratne Hattanarachchi said,” we were determined to launch the project irrespective of current challenges because such new projects would bring dollars to the country. That’s the very reason why I ventured to start operations at this new factory by turning the advantage of this crisis to ourselves. At the same time, we do appreciate the support rendered by the BOI at this critical juncture and look forward their support in future too.”
Browns Investments solar power plant deal dominates CSE trading
By Hiran H. Senewiratne
CSE’s leading listed company, Browns Investments, disposed of 50.1 per cent of its stake in Sagasolar Power Power (Private) Limited to another leading company, Aitken Spence Pvt. Ltd. yesterday, market sources said.
The total value of the company was Rs 1.4 billion and under this deal Browns Investments sold the stake for Rs 700 million. The capacity of the solar power plant is 10 megawatts, stock market analysts said.
Sagasolar Power built the solar PV facility on 45 acres (18.2 ha) of land within a dedicated energy development area in Baruthankanda, Hambantota district, Southern province. The country’s previous largest solar plant is a 1.3-MW facility also located in Hambantota.
Amid those developments, the trading activities in the stock market turned negative due to macro and micro economic uncertainties. Accordingly, stocks slipped over 1 per cent at mid-day trade yesterday for the third consecutive day, market analysis said.
The All- Share Price Index fell by 121 points and S and P SL20 went down by 50.8 points. Turnover stood at Rs 982 million without any crossings. Top seven companies that that contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 274 million (3.5 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 185 million (1.2 million shares traded), JKH Rs 77 million (626,000 shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 59.8 million (9.9 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 58.9 million (8.9 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 32.6 million (89,000 shares traded) and Commercial Bank Rs 15.4 million (309,000 shares traded). During the day 51.5 million share volumes changed hands in 14000 share transactions.
Yesterday the Central Bank announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 356.04 and the selling price Rs 367.33.
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