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DateLine Sunday, 02 December 2007

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Be Lankan, buy Lankan

Platinum award winner tells consumers:

The winner of the Platinum award Chairman Laugfs Holdings Limited W.K. H. Wegapitiya in an inspiring speech at the 12th annual award ceremony organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FCCI) on Friday called upon all Sri Lankans to be Sri Lankan and buy Sri Lankan.

He said that becoming an entrepreneur is like giving birth to a child and nurturing him. It is not a destination but a journey. All the hardships and challenges I went through during the past 17 years have now started to pay dividends.

He was born to a poor family in a remote village off Balangoda and the hardships he underwent as a child ignited the entrepreneurship in him.

Wegapitiya thanked the Father of the Free Education system who helped him to become what he is today and the lecturers of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura for sharpening his skills in entrepreneurship.

He said that the ability to survive in any condition, face challenges and the determination to succeed are his pillars of success.

Wegapitiya said that he started the business of LPG conversion with a capital of Rs. 5,000 and 10 staffers in 1995. Today it is not only a Sri Lankan company but a global company as well.

"I am only the idea creator. The Laugfs family implements them and the award belongs to all of them," he said. He said we as Sri Lankans have forgotten our identity.

Our forefathers were great entrepreneurs they did not import but instead they exported.

The European forces that invaded our country systematically destroyed our agriculture as well as our industries and today we even import edible salt.

Wegapitiya said that it is now time to change our mentality and be Sri Lankan and buy Sri Lankan as this is the way forward.

Multichemi Group Chairman and Managing Director Samantha Kumarasinghe won the National gold award. Addressing the gathering at the Sri Lankan Entrepreneur of the Year 2006, the chief guest Norwegian Ambassador Tore Hattrem said that entrepreneurs see opportunities at all junctures.

Henry Ford and Bill Gates are two examples. In the early 1900s most enterprises were small in size but their impact on society was great. Entrepreneurs help reduce poverty, increase income and provide employment and always look for ways to expand their businesses.

The Ambassador said that Norway was a poor country 100 years ago but thanks to the entrepreneurs of the country they now enjoy the highest standard of living according to the United Nations.

He said that his friend, an entrepreneur in Pakistan who owns a paper factory not only provides employment to the villagers but also electricity to the village through a mini hydro project. Ambassador Hattrem said that promoting entrepreneurship has several long-term benefits such as equality, diversity in business and redistribution of wealth.

Therefore, create a conducive environment for entrepreneurship to flourish with macro economic stability, peace and good governance, he said.

Twenty-six national level awards were presented in the categories of small, medium, large and extra large and three special awards for entrepreneurs recovering from the tsunami.

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