COYLE’s Leadership Forum themed “People, Planet, Paradise” powered by Nations Trust Bank achieves resounding success in relaying Youth Entrepreneurship

COYLE’s Leadership Forum themed “People, Planet, Paradise” powered by Nations Trust Bank achieves resounding success in relaying Youth Entrepreneurship

Tue, Nov 28, 2023, 10:58 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Nov 28, Colombo: COYLE in collaboration with Nations Trust Bank PLC, marked a significant milestone on 20 November 2023 with the successful conclusion of its Leadership Forum themed, “People, Planet, Paradise”.

The event, hosted at Taj Samudra, aimed to inspire and empower the thriving young professionals of Sri Lanka to embrace entrepreneurship by recognizing their pivotal role in the nation’s economic revitalization.

A key theme that emerged from the wisdom, knowledge and experience shared by the distinguished panel of speakers was that entrepreneurship is not a solitary journey but a collaborative endeavor that requires a likeminded support system, which one must learn to cultivate along the journey.

The forum was addressed by COLYE member panelists covering key sectors including the Leisure, Healthcare, and Waste Management, while the global finance climate was discussed by the keynote speaker Mr. Deepak Bagla – CEO Invest India who provided young professionals gathered with invaluable insights into the world of macro-economic current affairs. The distinguished lineup of speakers from COYLE included; Chamara Abeyratna, founder and visionary behind 98 Acres Resort & Spa; Raveen Wickramasinghe, CEO of Ruhunu Hospital Pvt Ltd, a prominent figure in healthcare and luxury medical tourism; and Chinthaka Abeysekara, founder of Encare Clinical waste management.

During his keynote address, Mr. Deepak Bagla delivered a compelling presentation underscoring the crucial importance of partnerships and relationships in business.

He said, “Corporate is always a landscape; it cannot be a portrait. You need people, friends, and family to grow.”

Reflecting on Sri Lanka’s historical significance, he affirmed the Island’s enduring global standing. Optimistic about the future, Bagla highlighted that the country is at an inflexion point, ready for take-off, and drew parallels with India’s remarkable economic growth. With India’s GDP surpassing the $4 trillion mark, he envisions a collaborative and prosperous future. This optimistic vision aligns with the positive trajectory of India’s economy, set to cross $4 trillion by 2024-25. Deepak’s insights resonated with the audience, highlighting the transformative power of collaboration and shared prosperity.

Chamara Abeyratna, a true trend setter in Luxury resorts and adventure theme parks shared how Ella was elevated from “just a back packers pitstop” to a globally recognized luxury travel destination by developing the 98 Acres Resort & Spa, as well as the flying Ravana Theme Park. The project was inspired by an experience in Nepal where he resided in a communal environment with villagers, who offered hospitality through a simple setting but with extreme attention and care. This crystalized his idea to transform his home town property into a restaurant in Ella which would ultimately result in the award-winning luxury mountain resort it is today. Chamara also highlighted the importance of brand building in Sri Lanka. He shared his experiences on converting a bulk tea exporting business that now proudly bears the Sri Lankan brand “Halpe Tea”, which is exported to over 30 countries.

Resilience in the face of doubt was a common thread across the presentations of all the panellists. For example, Chamara stated that he had no experience going into the restaurant and tourism business, adding, “If you don’t know something, don’t stop there, find someone one who does and take them along on the journey with you”. The Flying Ravana Theme Park was designed and constructed by top European consultants and contractors who placed the signature overhead MegaZipline which is the longest uninterrupted travel line in South East Asia. While he attributes his success to his vision and hard work, he emphasised that surrounding oneself with knowledgeable and trustworthy people is key.

Raveen Wickramasinghe, CEO of Ruhunu Hospital Pvt Ltd – a prominent figure in healthcare in southern province shared his experience from the transition from a night club bouncer, day trader to healthcare facility owner. He explained how, at 19, he worked as a nightclub bouncer for 2 and half years in Edinburgh, UK, emphasizing the unexpected aspects of the job, like customer service and conflict management. He recounted his most valued advice from his ex-Soviet colleague on never showing fear to an adversary as a night club bouncer. This advice he said became more valuable to him as an entrepreneur in Sri Lanka than his days in UK. Finance had always been a passion for Raveen as he traded on the stock market between jobs and was very intrigued by the post war gains in the Sri Lankan financial markets. Since he was proficient in fund management and fund raising, in 2011, on the advice of his father, he returned to Sri Lanka with the hopes of developing the modest family owned 15 bed hospital. With Raveen at the helm, this 15-bed hospital has now been transformed into an 83-bed state-of-the-art healthcare facility with 4 operating theatres and luxury suites, which is now the largest private hospital in the Southern Province. The hospital has also had the patronage of Sir David Cameron, who was provided with emergency medical and surgical care during his visit to Sri Lanka. Answering a question posed by a guest, he said that it was time that Sri Lanka diversifies its potential as a luxury medical tourism destination as he sees significant return and interest in that sector.

Identifying a problem and possessing the drive to solve it is the catalytic point for the most entrepreneurs. For Chinthaka Abeysekara this happened when he was a medical-rep during a sales visit at the Maharagama Cancer Hospital. He shared his critical inflection point; when he witnessed janitors disposing waste into a canal. Despite having no prior knowledge about clinical waste management, he dedicated the following three years to learning about it from global environmental practice organizations, local universities, and industry academics whilst also battling for the necessary approvals from various government institutions which had no available application template to get the project off the ground. His commitment and constant tracking of waste to find proper disposal for a better environment eventually earned him the nickname “Mr. Kunu”.

Among the many barriers to get this project off the ground, he touched on a common challenge for any entrepreneur which is financing. Chinthaka paused his speech at this point to highlight and empathize with the reality that, in Sri Lanka, like in many other countries, project financing comes with strong collateral requirements and readily available proof of income for repayment verification by the banks.

Chinthaka also took the time to thank his wife who believed in him from the beginning, even agreeing that they should mortgage their home to raise initial funding for the pilot project. He thanked Nations Trust Bank for taking this journey with COLYE, as he light-heartedly remarked to all other banking and finance intuitions in Sri Lanka, “love your entrepreneurs the way my wife loved me”, a warm and heartfelt, yet poignant statement. As the project progressed, he also managed to bring on board his Korean Directors / investors, to whom he also expressed gratitude for being on this journey with him since 2013. The journey has not been without its heartbreak and challenges as Chinthaka shared the struggle of overcoming an incident of public unrest in 2018, instigated by political interests through local authorities as a result of which they were forced to halt operations. While expressing gratitude to his steadfast team, he also thanked his father for the strength and resolve given to him through this period of turmoil, as they pivoted and invested into the new facility operational today in Kerawalapitiya.

Together, through this journey both COYLE and Nations Trust Bank PLC plan to foster a new environment conducive to nurturing young entrepreneurial spirits who will in time be the actual resilience of our economy. The success of COYLE’s Leadership Forum was made possible by the generous support of the primary sponsor, Nations Trust Bank PLC, along with the valued collaboration of Wijeya Newspapers and Yes FM, serving as the official print media and radio sponsors, respectively.

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