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Gal Oya Plantations seen as role model for profitable public-private partnerships

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At a time when enhancing profitability of public enterprises is an urgent need to boost the national economy of Sri Lanka, the revival and turnaround of Gal Oya Plantations (formerly known as Hingurana Sugar factory) by LOLC is an embodiment of how the nation’s assets can be enhanced through professionalism and expertise by the private sector. Underperforming state enterprises are a drain on state coffers as has been seen only once too often, an LOLC press release said.

The release adds: ‘However a profit making state enterprise on the other hand can be a vibrant source of revenue, employment and a critical pillar of food security. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) of this nature demonstrate how having professionals from the private sector turning state enterprises profitable, can generate valuable income for the government while allowing the government to retain its majority stake. As Sri Lanka’s first PPP initiated to revive non-operational government entities in 2007, the revolution brought about by the Gal Oya plantations today is empowering the local sugarcane farmers and bringing prosperity to their lives and leading to social upliftment, all the while generating massive profits for state coffers.

‘The Hingurana Sugar Factory was Sri Lanka’s first set up in 1959 as a fully-owned subsidiary under the Sri Lankan Government till 1991, when it was fully privatized. However, by 1994 the project was abandoned and the government closed down the factory in 1997. The lack of required funding and technical expertise in the sugar industry led to the unfortunate shutdown of a fully functional plant. Even though the factory had been abandoned for over a decade, the Browns Group evinced an interest in reviving the project. Thus, Gal Oya Plantations was formed 15 years ago in 2007 as a joint venture between the Government and a consortium of private sector investors comprising Brown and Company PLC and LOLC Holdings PLC. Even today, 51 per cent of the ownership is with the Government and 49 per cent of the shares are owned by the consortium that was formed to revive the sugar factory.

‘Resuscitating an abandoned factory that has lain idle for 15 years and reviving a degraded plantation was no mean task, but LOLC was fully prepared. In addition to refurbishing the plant, supporting infrastructure was urgently required, including converting irrigation, roads, drainage and restarting sugarcane plantations. The company had to earn the trust of the local farmers who had been left high and dry the last time around when the government closed down the factory, forcing them to turn to paddy cultivation and odd jobs to make a living. Today, the thriving sugar plantation employs about 1,300 direct employees across 8,500 Ha of agri lands. About 8000 farmers are engaged in sugarcane cultivation and over 20,000 people gain indirect employment from this project. Gal Oya Plantations not only revived the plantation and generated employment for thousands but it also made it a profitable entity.

‘It was only LOLC’s passion to revive a national asset that kept them committed to this mammoth task. Since the factory is over 60 years old, its equipment needed improvement to drive higher efficiency and productivity and for extending the life of the plant. Moreover, skilled labour was a scarce commodity and had to be sourced from across the country. Overcoming all these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Gal Oya has gained the reputation of being a giant in sugar production in the country, and a role-model of a successful PPP and professionally managed entity.

‘Sourcing the funding for the project itself was an epic undertaking as the government did not channel any investment in the factory revival project, except for its equity asset of LKR 516 million, which could not be given as security. Hence, funds could not be borrowed against it. Notwithstanding this road block, LOLC invested Private Equity amounting to LKR 495 million into the project, along with taking commercial loans.’

‘Productivity has skyrocketed as a result of improved machinery and agricultural practices. Some 374,000 metric tons of sugarcane was used for production last year and the quantity of sugar produced was 24,000 metric tons. The target for 2022/23 was to produce 30,000 metric tons. Besides sugar, the Gal Oya factory also produces 6.7 million litres of ENA (Extra Neutral Alcohol) from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production. This is the highest in the history of Hingurana since 1960. The distillery complex at Hingurana is designed to produce 21,500 litres of ENA/day.

‘Committed to making this project a role-model for PPPs in Sri Lanka, Gal Oya embedded sustainable systems and processes. The factory is currently in the process of expanding its power generation capacity up to 10 MW by investing in a modernized power plant with improvements to the existing sugar factory. Moreover, the required organic fertilizer for sugar cane cultivation is manufactured by utilizing 100% of factory waste of the Company. Achieving an annual production of 7500 MT organic fertilizer, the company is now engaged in producing liquid organic fertilizer and bio fertilizer.

‘The significance of a professionally managed, high returns project such as Gal Oya is boosting the grassroots and firing up the engine of the economy. In fact, in the next five-year plan for Gal Oya, the development of an area of 10,500 Ha is earmarked for sugarcane cultivation, which should result in a 1 Mn MT worth of cane supply. A further investment in factory expansion to 4000TCD is scheduled with an investment of US$25 to US$30 million.

‘It is pertinent to note that the economic benefits that emanate from the profit making status of Gal Oya. Producing 75,000 MT of sugar results in import substitution of US$ 35 million per annum and contributes 12% -15% of country’s requirement ONLY from Gal Oya. This foreign exchange saving in turn helps to enhance foreign exchange reserves in the country during the current economic crisis. In addition, production of 14 million liters of ENA results in import substitution of US$ 14 million per annum and further assists self-sufficiency in ENA.

‘The benefits flowing to the people in the community from Gal Oya are undeniable and it is imperative that the sugar factory continue smooth operations to enhance food security whilst also providing direct and indirect employment to keep home fires burning. At a time when the government is being asked to reverse the years of losses made by state enterprises in order to meet the requirements to be eligible for global funding, a profitable project like Gal Oya should be a shining example for more such PPPs – bringing the best of Sri Lanka together to serve the nation.’



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Trio of collections to mark Vogue Jewellers’ 60th anniversary

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Marking another milestone, Vogue Jewellers, Sri Lanka’s premier jeweller staged an unprecedented trio of jewellery collections at a lavish jewellery show held at Shangri-la, Colombo. The event featured Royal Majestic Collection – the third volume of Sri Lanka’s first ever branded patented 22 karat gold jewellery; Vogue Lace Collection – a Diamond encrusted 22 karat gold necklace collection inspired by Beeralu lace and the luxurious Diamond Necklaces Collection along with the complete set of Vogue Lotus Bridal Jewellery – 22 karat Kandyan bridal jewellery collection. The collections released exhibit Vogue’s instinctive ability to focus on fashion, uniqueness and everlasting value.

Each handcrafted necklace of the Royal Majestic Collection screams grandeur, wealth and value. They are absolutely versatile as they can be worn as a grand long centerpiece or by detaching the tassels that can be worn as a pair of matching earrings, and even by detaching the pendant to wear with a plain chain. They are 22 karat solid gold creations, Pure Brilliance SWAROVSKY Cubic Zirconia or genuine coloured stone encrusted necklaces that come with a 1 gm branded gold coin. Royal Majestic Collection with many designs. Ideal for gift giving, to pass on to the next generation and as a sound investment, these masterpieces are absolutely stunning creations.

Vogue Lace Collection, inspired by the traditional Beeralu lace is an intricately hand-crafted Diamond and Pearl encrusted 22 karat fine jewellery. As delicate as lace in their appearance, the luxury collection of necklaces and choker necklaces are truly exotic. Handcrafted to perfection, every necklace of this signature collection reflects mastery in design, craftsmanship and sheer elegance.

The newest array of Diamond Necklaces and Earrings released at the Vogue jewellery show brings a distinctly modern point of view to Diamond jewellery. Inspired by Vogue’s rich heritage in Diamond jewellery, the newest Vogue Diamond Collection comprises necklaces and earrings, accented with white gold, and in the case of some, rose gold, for that touch of colour. Each creation offers optimal style versatility with maximum sparkle.

In addition to the three new collections that were released at the jewellery show, the complete set of the 22 karat Kandyan Bridal Jewellery was paraded. Inspired by the much-revered Lotus, the divine symbol of purity, resilience and faithfulness, the Vogue collection is a made-to-order complete set of Kandyan bridal jewellery that includes the headdress and its accompaniments, earrings, seven necklaces, waist chain and the bangles. Available as a complete set or as individual items, it is a collection for those seek evolved designs in keeping with local traditions.

The jewellery show was choreographed by renowned Designer and Fashion Consultant, Michael Wijesuriya. Channa Wijewardena’s dance troupe lead by Aseka Wijewardena and Opera singer Stephane Siriwardhena added colour to the event. An elegant coffee table book was introduced to the distinguished invitees. The Kandyan bride was dressed by the popular bridal dresser, Mr. Dhananjaya Bandara.As with any item available at Vogue, the new collections too come with a lifetime guarantee. Visit the Vogue flagship store at Colpetty or any of its branches in Nugegoda, Kandy, Negombo and Kurunegala.

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Innovate Lanka concludes with Demo Day and Finale

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Innovate Lanka recently concluded with its 2022 Demo Day and Finale, where 10 finalists pitched their exceptional ideas to a high profile panel that encompassed Corporate Leaders, Domain Experts and Angel Investors.

Adjudged this year’s winner, AGC Innovate (Pvt) Ltd is a sustainable initiative pioneering technology to convert non-recyclable waste plastics into an industrial raw material called Plastic Modified Asphalt Concrete (PMAC) in Sri Lanka, which will be used for paving roads, car parks and yards. Since its inception in 2018, the company has already completed more than 15 projects, including for RDA, PRDA, Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, John Keells Holdings (Cinnamon Life and Crescat), CBL, French Embassy, etc.

The runner-up for 2022 was DirectPay (Pvt) Ltd, which connects everyone digitally, bringing them one step closer to a cashless society, by introducing modern payment methods for the financial and telecom industries. DirectPay is a FinTech application that provides direct debit facilities, Internet Payment Gateway and LankaQR and JustPay (National QR) technologies to enable customers to make payments across any boundary.

Also awarded was the “Best Female Entrepreneur” title, which was handed out to Bluefish Ceylon (Pvt) Ltd. This fish food manufacturer is dedicated to providing ready-to-eat, flavourful, and nutrient-dense fish products made with hand-picked natural ingredients with an authentic and distinct taste, while adhering to 100% hygiene standards.

A national initiative bringing together Sri Lanka’s main startup and SME ecosystem partners, Innovate Lanka is a program initiated by the Council for Startups (CFS) of The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), the Lankan Angel Network (LAN) and Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM). This program will ideally also serve up the systematic change required to rebuild Sri Lanka, by providing personalized support for every entrepreneur while offering a one-stop-shop for incubation and acceleration, until exit, at the global level.

In addition to the winner, runner-up and “Best Female Entrepreneur” title holders, the Innovate Lanka Demo Day and Finale also offered up presentations by other top 10 finalists. These included WorkXFlow (Pvt) Ltd, EDUS Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, INGROW Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, Ceylon Dhee Ayurved (Pvt) Ltd, Stag Space (Pvt) Ltd, Edutoys (Pvt) Ltd and CrossBorder Payments (Pvt) Ltd.

Garnering an exemplary 70+ entries during its initial, applications stage, Innovate Lanka later went on to thoroughly vet these submissions, ultimately whittling down its pool of startups and SMEs to just the top 10. This was achieved via an intensive pitching and evaluation process, which was facilitated by LAN.

Said LAN Chairperson Chandi Dharmaratne; “We at LAN, along with our global, national and eco-system partners, and the many incubators and accelerators that participated, are committed to supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs during the tough economic times ahead. Programs such as Innovate Lanka will keep dreams of scaling alive, until such time as our economy recovers and more startups and SMEs can bootstrap themselves into the global marketplace.”

Commenting further, CFS Chairman Prajeeth Balasubramaniam said; “Entrepreneurship is critical to stimulate long-term economic growth and national prosperity. As an entrepreneur, today there is no one private sector body representing them to help in all spheres of growth at the different stages. Innovate Lanka platform was created with this in mind as a national initiative that brings all the start-up and SME ecosystem partners together”.

Adding to this, SLASSCOM Chairman Ashique Ali said; “We were happy to partner in this programme as start-ups play a significant role in innovation, creating social, economic, and environmental impact, and generating export revenue. There are a significant number of start-ups which have the potential to scale regionally and globally. SLASSCOM together with other ecosystem partners aim to support these startups through their incubation to scale up journey, realising SLASSCOM’s goal of catalysing 1000 startups by the year 2025.”

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LSEG Foundation joins ‘Manudam Mehewara’ initiative driven by corporate Sri Lanka

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Aiming to Assist Over 200,000 Vulnerable Families

The LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group) Foundation pledged its support as a corporate donor of the ‘Manudam Mehewara’ emergency relief programme, initiated by Dialog Axiata PLC, MAS Holdings, Hemas Holdings PLC, execution partner Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and independent auditor PwC Sri Lanka, together with corporate partners CBL Group, Citibank, Sunshine Holdings PLC, Huawei Technologies Lanka Co., Pvt Ltd, and Unilever Sri Lanka.

 Launched to support over 200,000 vulnerable families and communities across the country amidst the ongoing economic crisis, the ‘Manudam Mehewara’ initiative has currently distributed emergency relief across all 25 districts in Sri Lanka, where over 115,000 families in-need have been assisted to date. The Manudam Mehewara programme will conduct its relief efforts until a sustainable benefit transfer system is established in the country through an effective economic recovery plan.

 Speaking on the occasion, Pulasthika Wirasinha – Head of Human Resources, LSEG Sri Lanka stated, “It has been inspiring to witness the many corporates who have stepped up to the frontline of Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. At LSEG, we embody the spirit of empowering communities, and we would like to thank the Manudam Mehewara corporate coalition for the opportunity to help in this time of need”.

 Addressing the gathering, Hong Zhou Wong – Group Chief Financial Officer, Dialog Axiata PLC commented “Dialog along with our corporate partners rose to the call of need in early April by initiating Manudam Mehewara with the aim of assisting and supporting the most impacted communities across Sri Lanka in the backdrop of devastating economic hardship. Our partners and donors have not only contributed their financial aid to this initiative but also their resources and expertise to pave the road to recovery for Sri Lanka. On behalf of Manudam Mehewara, I would like to thank LSEG for joining us in this effort. Since April, Manudam Mehewara has supported over 115,000 families across all districts, but our journey has only just begun as we aim to reach 200,000 families. To see our mission to fruition, I urge other like-minded corporate partners to join us in this collective force for good”.

Manudam Mehewara invites all Sri Lankans and corporates to join its shared mission of supporting the most vulnerable families across the country and contributing to this cause. Individuals can now simply donate via their credit/debit card on the website – https://dlg.lk/donate/  or through a bank transfer, Star Points transfer, eZ Cash, genie, or even through a mobile top-up to 077 642 1421. Donors can also conveniently donate through a range of payment options via www.karuna.lk, Sri Lanka’s First Cause-verified Crowdfunding Platform.

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