Recognizing entrepreneurs is key part of economy: FCCISL

Ceylon FT: Speaking directly and indirectly to over 12,500 business units in the country, Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) has been the lifeblood for many free enterprises in Sri Lanka. With a nationwide membership of over 50 chambers of commerce and business associations, FCCISL adopts the shared vision of Sri Lankan businesses and help budding SMEs and entrepreneurs of the country to get on their feet.
Entrepreneur of the Year (SLEOTY) is the flagship event of the FCCISL and it is recognized as the country’s highest national awards programme for the business community and is aimed to distinguish, reward and inspire Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and to help them efficiently add to the local economy.
This year’s event is going to happen today at the Stein Studios Ratmalana with Ajith Nivard Cabraal gracing the occasion as the chief guest.

Since its inception 18 years ago, ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ has had been a tremendous sustenance for upcoming local entrepreneurs, FCCISL Secretary General/CEO, Nalin Attygalle said with Ceylon FT.
“In my view, a country should have more and more SMEs and entrepreneurs to develop its economy. Thinking on that same line, FCCISL made sure for decades that our mandate should be to ensure many SMEs and entrepreneurs develop their businesses throughout the country and we have a very strong focus on them,” he said.

He mentioned that SMEs have a major proportion in any country’s economy. “For example, take USA or Europe; a good 70% to 80% represent SMEs. If we do not encourage and recognize SMEs and entrepreneurs in a Sri Lankan context; we will have serious issue in the future. That is why FCCISL created this event and it has become the flagship event of the FCCISL which we conduct annually. We are very proud indeed to have it for the 18thconsecutive year, today,” Attygalle opined.

The awards programme will also be staged at two levels, both provincial and national. The provincial awards will include of nine gold awards for the nine provinces and 36 silver awards comprising of four awards each for the nine provinces in the small, medium, large and extra-large categories. Similarly, there will be two bronze awards in each of the four categories giving it a total of 117 awards from all provinces.

Of the national awards, there will be an overall platinum award winner, followed by four gold awards, eight silver awards and 12 bronze awards. Each special award category will carry three awards per province for the winner, 1st runner-up, 2nd runner-up and five merit certificates at the provincial level. While a winner, 1st runner-up, 2nd runner-up and five merit certificates will be handed out at the national level based on the total marks obtained.
FCCISL will give away the regional awards first and the national awards will be presented later in the event. Attygalle said three regional events are already concluded and today; Southern, North East and Western regional awards presentation will take place today alongside with national awards presentation.

He said the theme of this iconic event had always being a talking point.
“We have brought Alexander the Great to our theme. Even though he is not an entrepreneur; we have more to take from his leadership abilities. He was a great leader, so we re bringing him for the launching ceremony. Next, we took Thomas Alva Edison – the American inventor and businessman who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world and Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. They were great entrepreneurs themselves. To finally add some local spirit, we have brought Nayana Dehigama who was last year’s platinum winner, into our theme.”

“In the next year event, Alexander the Great will be out. Henry Ford, Thomas Alva Edison and Nayana Dehigama will be there and this year’s winner will be included into the theme. So another two years down the line, we will have our own entrepreneurs which we will be showcasing. That is the concept of FCCISL which in my opinion will be very successful in years to come,” he added.

He said entrepreneurs recognized in the past by the FCCISL have become multi-national players.
“They have pushed the boundaries of their respective industries and went onto conquer the world market.”
Attygalle said entrepreneurship is a significant factor, which is liable for recognizing and forming resources and efficiently using them in the production process.
“We have mentioned that the basic characteristic of an ‘entrepreneur’ is two-fold; risk taking and management control. The entrepreneur is therefore the only active factor, the driving force that is central for all forms of economic activities,” said Attygalle.

Last year’s introduction of ‘Differently Abled Entrepreneur’ and ‘Emerging Small Women Entrepreneur in North and East’ categories has added passion to the whole event, said Attygalle. Alongside these accolades, The ‘Women Entrepreneur of the Year’ and the ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ awards are intended to motivate and recognize the strength of women and young entrepreneurs and their contribution to the country’s economy while providing gainful employment, Attygalle mentioned with us.

According to Attygalle, the bottom-up approach of the event has been the uniqueness of ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ programme for over 17 years.

“We call the applications, and we do the screening process. Then the panel of judges will start evaluation of selected applications which we call as the ‘desk review.’ From that, the judges select some applicants, and the go for field visits. They visit those workplaces of the selected applicants and compare their findings again. Anybody can do a nice presentation, but the crux of the matter is how that presentation is being done against the actual scenario. That is the sole purpose of the field visit.”

“Before we award, we call the applicants for a VIVA as well. It is a one-to-one interview with the panel of judges. If the entrepreneur cannot make it; he cannot send a nominee. There will be a reduction of points if the applicant cannot make it and that losing of mark might have a big impact to the final result.”

The candidates will have to go through four rounds of evaluations, which will consist of a preliminary screening round, a desk review which will count for 50% of total marks, and a site visit which accounts for 25% and individual interviews which will account for 15% of the marks. The final evaluation which is the most crucial will provide candidates with the balance 10% of the marks required.

Attygalle said strongly that FCCISL will never get involved in the judging process.
“We are a facilitating body. This is our programme and our ownership but we act as a facilitating body. The judging panel consists of many professionals in various industries and they take the ultimate call; they do it independently,” he said.

The event will take place at Stein Studios Ratmalana where Attayagala said that the federation has chosen it to give a unique experience to the award winners and other attendees, bringing a different ambience to the event.
“Stein Studios is a great effort of a Sri Lankan entrepreneur. Having an awards ceremony for Sri Lankan entrepreneurs in such a place depicts a certain correlation,” he said with us.

The SLEOTY 2013 programme is powered by Dialog Axiata as the platinum sponsor, Janashakthi Insurance Company PLC as the gold sponsor and the Bank of Ceylon as the silver sponsor. Ceylon Today and Mawbima are the English and Sinhala print media partners respectively.

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