Mohan A J Perera was 18 when he began a career with the Aitken Spence group that was to take him to the top. When he left the group on March 2009 to become CEO of a global shipping company in Australia, he was Vice President/CEO of Aitken Spence Cargo (Pvt) Ltd, and Country General Manager for TNT Express, Sri Lanka & Maldives.
The remarkable rise from being a teenage management trainee executive to the top slot in an intensely competitive industry was not due to luck. Perera says: “Aitken Spence as a company encouraged us to pursue our studies. This was a highly motivating factor in the early 1980s. At the time of joining ASET Ltd (the then transport arm of Aitken Spence) I had passed the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) preliminary exam.
“In the beginning with ASET, I found that my talents and interest tilted towards marketing and I was encouraged to pursue that field. With hindsight, I would say that the open economy after the 1970s was a great opportunity for diligent, conscientious young executives. Even today it is important that one understands the macro and the micro opportunities available when choosing a career.”
Perera’s choice of leaving the group after 28 years dedicated service, and ten years before his official retirement, was taken selflessly so that he could secure a good education for his two sons in Australia. It was his experience with the Aitken Spence group that enabled him to take on the demanding challenge of being CEO of a network serving 80 cities in 35 countries with tailor made freight solutions at the highest quality of service.
He explains: “I am a person who believes that life is not a smooth run; it has to have its ups and downs. However, what kept me on track was the sheer commitment and focus to the job assigned to me, to carry it out diligently and to the best of my ability. One of my key criteria and requirement from my subordinates was dependability. I considered this as one of the most important factors in my career with Aitken Spence, to ensure that the vision and the goals of the group were achieved.”
After only five years with the company, Perera was promoted as Assistant Manager. He was assigned to a new venture that the company had embarked on: the first Radio Controlled Cab service in Sri Lanka, and the region, under the brand name of Ace Radio Cabs.
“During the early stage of my career with the company,” he says, “the confidence placed in young executives was of immense value and it was an excellent opportunity to mould myself in my career. We were guided by our superiors in the same manner a parent would show to their children.”
In 1990 Perera moved to Ace Cargo to manage the Express Division and six years later was promoted as Director of Ace Cargo. “It was both a challenge and an encouragement to be appointed as a Director at the age of 33,” he says. “It made me shoulder responsibilities which gave me confidence, strength and belief in myself to drive the company to be one of the best in the industry.”
Three years later he was appointed Director/General Manager of Ace Cargo and given the opportunity to serve in Sub Committees and Cross Functional Teams in various group activities. Perera values the years he spent with the company for the opportunity he had to use his initiative that enabled him to develop parallel with the company’s progress. “My advice to any young person joining Aitken Spence,” he says, “is to understand the environment and commit oneself to be able to deliver results for the vision of the company and its management.”
While with Aitken Spence, Perera became a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM-UK) and of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, UK, and is an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management. He also headed the Demand Generation Unit, the CSR Committee and the Branding Committee, as well as being a Director of many Aitken Spence companies.
Now in the new environment, with new challenges, of Australia, Perera recalls his years with the company with happiness. “I was proud of all my achievements and was content. As I said in my resignation letter, the company gave its best to me and I, in turn, gave my best to the company, so it was a satisfying relationship.”
Speaking from Australia, Perera agreed that without his long association with Aitken Spence, and all the exceptional values he learned from the Company’s management philosophy, he would not have been able to take on the challenge of being at the top of his profession there.
“Further I was able to leave the company with confidence as the team I was personally involved in developing, grooming and guiding, has been empowered by me to ensure that the management culture, which we built as a team, continues as it was.”
2009 – Ace Magazine Issue I