Lion rises to global presidency
“As a result of being a Lion I have learned a lot about
teamwork and getting people to work by motivating them. In business, people tend
to work because there is a power relationship. But these people are giving up
time and working for free. You must develop human skills to be successful. You
must show leadership rather than management. And these lessons have helped me a
lot as a businessman,” he said.
By Samantha Whybrow
Forty years ago Mahendra Amarasuriya, Chairman, Commercial Bank, had to be co-erced
into joining Galle’s Lions Club. But, within four years he was President of the
club. A few years later he moved on to become District Governor. Continuing his
rise through the National and International ranks, Amarasuriya has now been
elected President of Lions International—the first Sri Lankan to hold this
“It took a lot of persuading to get me to join back then, and I basically did it
to get people off my back!” he recalls. “For the first few years I was not very
active. But then I was appointed Treasurer. The club finances were in a mess. So
I got them sorted out and I gradually got more involved.”
Amarasuriya’s business acumen, eye for detail, and leadership potential were
assets for a voluntary organization that needed to get its books straight while
at the same time selling a product—in this case people giving freely of their
time. Under his leadership the membership grew and by the time he became
Director of Hayleys in 1977 the Galle Lions refused to let him go.
“Normally when a Lion moves, you transfer your membership to the place you move
to. You cannot attend meetings if you live far away,” he chuckled. “But they
wouldn’t let me go. So I am still a member of Galle!”
Listening to Amarasuriya discuss Lions Clubs’ membership details, fundraising
initiatives, strategic plans, projects across the world, managing a $60 million
dollar budget, and the challenges that lie ahead, it is as though you are
listening to him speak of his own workforce. He speaks with the precision,
drive, and vision that befits his business background. It is apparent that Lions
is about to be bestowed with a dynamic and innovative leader who will use his
business skills to the club’s benefit. “My theme over the year of my Presidency
is ‘challenge to change’,” he said. “We need to change the way we are doing
things, so we are more up to date. Take technology, for example. We need to use
the internet and develop the idea of cyberclubs to make more productive use of
people’s time and resources. We can even hold meetings via the internet!” he
Amarasuriya realises that in the current global context voluntary organisations
must be competitive. They are competing for people’s time. To retain volunteers
and attract new ones change is required. Amarasuriya knows that clubs will need
to alter the way they traditionally do things to motivate members and make
participation more widely available and attractive.
From all this it is clear that Amarasuriya’s business know-how has helped him as
a Lion, but also that his Lion’s work has helped him as a businessman. “There is
a great cross-over between the two,” he said.
“As a result of being a Lion I have learned a lot about teamwork and getting
people to work by motivating them. In business, people tend to work because
there is a power relationship. But these people are giving up time and working
for free. You must develop human skills to be successful. You must show
leadership rather than management. And these lessons have helped me a lot as a
businessman,” he said.
Lions Club has clearly made significant achievements around the world—raising
hundreds of millions of dollars to help the needy. In Sri Lanka, Lions Clubs
have been integral in developing quality eye care services and supporting
medical students through scholarship programmes.
However, despite this, Amarasuriya knows the clubs have the potential to be even
more efficient, and provide more benefit to people the world over. Therefore,
with his businessman’s cap pulled firmly on, he has asked every Governor across
the world to develop a plan for how they will grow their club in the next few
years. This includes setting targets to attract women and younger people who he
says are essential for the long-term sustainability of the clubs.
Amarasuriya also hopes to use his position to promote Sri Lanka around the
world. In his capacity as President it will be his task to travel the world to
meet with Lions Clubs on nearly every continent. This provides him with an
opportunity to showcase Sri Lanka’s assets. However, he notes that,
unfortunately, the ongoing conflict in the country will make this job difficult.
Many will view this travel schedule as a bit regrettable for Sri Lanka as
Amarasuriya will spend more time abroad than at home. He is well-known for his
efforts in trying to motivate the business community to take action over the
ongoing conflict that he sees as hurting everyone.
“As President of Lions International I cannot be pre-occupied with Sri Lankan
issues,” he said. “Although I am Sri Lankan and care about what is going on, I
have to shed that hat a little. This Presidency is a short position so I can
only facilitate others within Sri Lanka to take action rather than be directly
State Bank of India to reduce govt. stake
(AFP) - State Bank of India, the country’s
largest lender, said Thursday it may sell shares at the end of 2007 as part of a
plan to dilute the government’s stake to 51 percent and raise capital to expand.
“State Bank of India needs to raise capital of 500 billion rupees (12.19 billion
dollars) over the next three years, which includes a 200 billion rupees
requirement this year,” bank chairman O.P. Gupta told reporters.
“The earliest we could look for a domestic share sale will be December,” Gupta
State Bank said the move to sell shares was made possible after the government
said this month it would buy a controlling stake in the lender now held by the
Reserve Bank of India of 59.73 percent, pending changes to federal law.
Over the past decade, State Bank has lost market share in stiff competition from
private sector rivals such as ICICI Bank and the government wants to expand the
capital of the state-owned lender in response.
Earlier this month, ICICI Bank raised 175 billion rupees (4.3 billion dollars)
through a share sale to expand international and rural banking and offer more
loans to consumers.
State Bank has more than 14,000 branches in India and 84 offices in 32
Colombo Dockyard gets more shipbuilding orders
(LBO) – Colombo Dockyard Ltd. (CDL), Sri
Lanka’s sole listed ship builder, may get new orders to build platform support
vessels from India, following the timely delivery of an ongoing order for anchor
handling tugs, officials said.
The yard successfully launched an anchor handling tug for Greatship (India)
The vessel tentatively named Greatship Anjali was the first of an order for two
80 tonne bollard pull capacity tugs. This had generated a repeat order for two
more tugs pushing the value of the total order of four tugs to 65.5 million
Describing the order as the yard’s first breakthrough into the Indian market,
Yapa said Greatship is having talks with CDL on giving orders for even more
specialist vessels for the Indian offshore oil industry.
CMA organizes discussion on new Companies Act
Society of Certified Management Accountants of
Sri Lanka (CMA) will be organizing a presentation and discussion on the New
Company’s Act on July 12, 2007, from 4.00p.m. to 7.00 p.m. at Hotel Taj Samudra.
Presentations will be made by K. Kanag Isvaran, President’s Counsel and Chairman
of the Company Law Advisory Commission on the ‘Introduction to the New Company’s
Nihal Sri Ameresekera, Chartered Accountant and Member of the Company Law
Advisory Commission will speak on ‘Financial Aspects relating to the New
A Panel consisting of Dr. Harsha Cabral, Presidents Counsel and Member Company
Law Advisory Commission, Fred Puvimanasinghe, Senior Partner Fred Puvimanasinghe
& Co, J. M. Swaminathan, Attorney at Law, Member Company Law Advisory
Commission, D. K. Hettiarachchi, Registrar of Companies, Ranjan Casie Chetty,
Financial Director, Aitken Spence & Co. Ltd. and Mahen Dayananda, Chairman,
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce will lead the discussion.
The seminar will address matters of importance relating to the New Company’s Act
from a commercial, financial and legal point of view.
The presentation and discussion is targeted at Company Directors, Finance
Managers, Management Accountants, Managers, Executives, Legal, Accountancy and
Finance staff of companies, Audit firms, Banks, BOI and Consultancy Companies.
LOLC on a major expansion drive
Rural and micro financing to become core business areas
By Indika Sakalasooriya
Lanka Orix Leasing Company (LOLC) on Tuesday announced that they are ready to
lift their image from a specialized leasing facilitator to a Total Financial
Solutions provider with a vast range of financial solutions to meet the needs of
the company’s vast and growing clientele from all walks of life. The company has
also revamped its brand logo to indicate their new pose.
“By being a Total Financial Solutions provider our objective is to become more
customer oriented and provide them with the best of choices” said, Ishara
Nanayakkara, Deputy Chairman, LOLC addressing a press conference in Colombo. He
further added that their linkage with Japan’s Orix Corporation, the funding that
they receive through multilateral agreements and their skilled employees will
play a key role in LOLC becoming a Total Financial Solutions provider.
Kapila Jayawardena, formerly the Country Head and CEO of Citibank of Sri Lanka
and Maldives and now the CEO and MD of LOLC said that by being a Total Financial
Solution provider LOLC will be able to engage in cross selling of products
through a synergy of all the companies under LOLC and find new avenues to
develop the company’s businesses. He further added that the goal of LOLC is to
become a “Financial Powerhouse.
To further its vision of being a Total Financial Solutions provider, LOLC has
re¬aligned its business strategies to provide customer-centric solutions that
will take it even further as a global financial services provider. The first
step into the global arena was made with the acquisition of a 17.91% stake in
PRASAC, a Cambodian Micro Finance institution earlier this year.
This investment also supports the company strategy of contributing to the
economic development of the Rural and Micro financing sectors, the core business
areas identified for future expansion. Apart from that, the Group is looking at
selective expansion into other South East Asian and Far Eastern regions.
At the moment LOLC Group offers customers financial solutions in Working
Capital, Fleet Management Services, Savings and Deposits, Insurance and Stock
Broking through its extensive branch network countrywide. Non banking financial
products on offer comprise debt factoring, stock brokering, finance, insurance
brokering, and information technology, which cater to the expanding customer
Sri Lanka exporters hit as shipping lines drop
(AFP) - Sri Lankan exporters are being squeezed
as fewer container ships heading west call into Colombo, with global shipping
lines moving more business to India and its booming economy.
Shipping costs have soared nearly 600 dollars for a standard 20-foot container (TEU)
over the past six months as a result, compounding problems for Sri Lankan
exporters who compete on price, innovation and time with their large northern
“Some of the bigger shipping lines have changed their schedules over the past
six months and the crisis is affecting exports of garments, tea, rubber and coir
(coconut fibre),” said Sri Lanka Shipper’s Council chairman Jayanath Perera.
Clothing, which accounts for more than half of the island’s near seven billion
dollar export trade, is especially feeling the heat as exporters face tight
deadlines from buyers such as Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Nike and Marks and
“The next alternative is to airlift shipments but that costs 75 percent more
than sea freight. Air freight is not an option for a price sensitive industry
like ours,” said shipping consultant Rohan Masakorale.
Masakorale, also a senior member of the clothing industry’s Joint Apparel
Association Forum, said Colombo port is now fighting to retain its status as
South Asia’s transshipment hub and to stem the flow of ships to India.
India has embarked on a major modernisation drive of its main ports, slashing
charges to attract more international shippers to carry its booming cargo