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Sunday, 12 October 2014

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'Launching global marketing campaign vital'

Research shows that a majority of successful Sri Lankan business houses have been launched by local visionaries who had the courage to take calculated risks and most importantly a majority of those start-ups had plantations and tea as the foundation, Chairman, Tea Exporters Association (TEA) Rohan Fernando told the 15th Annual General Meeting of the Association at the Cinnamon Grand last week.

Plantations Industry Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe was the chief guest.

Excerpts from the speech.

"The Tea Exporters Association (TEA) will not make use of the forum to complain or ask for concessions, but to showcase what our tea exporters are capable of when it comes to nation building. However, there is one nagging worry haunting all our members.

That is, on the deployment of the promotional and marketing levy deducted from tea export revenue since 2011. It is not an exaggeration to state that every rupee collected from the exporters as P and M levy goes out as a cost to the exporter and is not even tax deductible.

Hence our only aim is to ensure the scheme you proposed recently for allocation of funds which was agreed by all stakeholders, is implemented promptly. On this assurance I am sure our membership will remain patient and with much hope of taking Sri Lanka to the top of the global tea market as the number one supplier of branded products.

Courage

It is no secret that the delay in launching the global marketing campaign will have a great impact on the plantations as the demand for value based quality tea could shift to other origins and supply hubs.

The theme we selected for this yearís AGM is 'TEA, the spirit of entrepreneurship'. If you define the word entrepreneur, it is someone who organises, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. Research shows that a majority of successful Sri Lankan business houses have been started by local visionaries who had the courage to take calculated risks and most importantly a majority of those start-ups had plantations and tea as the foundation.

It is also a fact that almost all the tea export companies in Sri Lanka are tightly controlled, family businesses. Hence, the spirit of entrepreneurship is entrenched among our members.

During the turn of the 18th century, when the vast coffee estates in Colonial Ceylon faced devastation, the bankers in London panicked and wanted an exit from the plantation companies. Thatís when young Thomas J. Lipton saw the enormous potential in a failed crop economy and boarded a steamship to Colombo to gain first hand experience of the potential he imagined. Somewhere around 1890 he purchased his first estates under the Downall Group in Haputale and branded Lipton tea as 'direct from the tea garden to the tea pot'. The entrepreneur spirit of Thomas Lipton saw the potential in branding Ceylon tea and made a fortune out of it and the legacy continues.

Around the time when Lipton was harnessing the potential he stumbled upon in Ceylon, an Indian gentleman from the south of India ventured out to Burma in search of greener pastures. The gentleman in this story is none other than our keynote speaker's great grandfather A. M. Murrugappan, went on to build a successful business in Burma, Singapore and Ceylon and founded the Murrugappa group in 1900. Today after four generations, the Murrugappa group is a multinational business powerhouse with an annual turnover of US $ 4 billion and ranked as the 16th largest business conglomerate in India.

 

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