Archive | May, 2010

A Woman of Substance

19 May

An interview with Nimmi Gunaratne, Chief Legal Officer- Aitken Spence PLC & Managing Director- Aitken Spence Insurance

A corporate force, a dynamic personality, a wife and mother, a woman; this is Nimmi Gunaratne, Chief Legal Officer- Aitken Spence PLC and Managing Director of Aitken Spence Insurance.

As a newly married law graduate, Mrs. Gunaratne joined Aitken Spence on a suggestion made by the late Mr. Ratna Sivaratnam. First assigned to the hotels section, the dynamic young woman was quickly moved into insurance where she truly began her career, as a Marine Insurance Executive in 1984. Just ten years later, the hardworking and multi-faceted Nimmi Gunaratne rose to Director, a post that had not been held by a woman in the over 120 year history of the company!

A bright orange sign on Mrs. Gunaratne’s desk reads, I get by with a little help from my friends.” Purchased 25 years ago, with her first salary, the sign speaks volumes about this corporate prodigy who is a self-proclaimed people-person. Whilst she admits to letting go of a few of the idealistic notions she had as a 25 year old newbie, she proclaims that she has met some “wonderful people” on the way and she is still an advocate of the belief that people work best when they are trusted.

When Nimmi Gunaratne speaks, one listens, for no other reason than the “joie de vivre” she exudes. As she re-counts her career she often side-tracks, filling the conversation with interesting and witty anecdotes, of both a personal and corporate nature and not one iota of negativity. Life’s little ups and downs have simply been learning experiences, for, in her words, “At the end of the day, we all have to work as a team and in a corporate setup I have learned to respect the others’ views and more importantly be able to know and acknowledge the strong points of each other.”

Currently heading up the insurance division and holding the responsibility of Chief Legal Officer, Mrs. Gunaratne’s assiduousness led her to sit for examinations in Insurance, adding to her wealth of knowledge and experience. By the time she was made Director, she was already a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute of London, in addition to being a Bachelor of Laws and an Attorney-at-Law. Then, in December 1998, she presented a paper entitled A Vision for the 21st Century” at the Lloyd’s Agency Group Meeting in Chennai and in July 2000 she was appointed the Area Representative for the Indian Sub-Continent at the inaugural Global Conference of Lloyds Agents in London.

Always aiming for the skies, Nimmi Gunarante was not happy to simply hold the Lloyd’s agency for surveying claims and pioneered the move to advocate the agency network to embark on pre-shipment inspections with lobbying and support from the Corporation of Lloyd’s. She was also instrumental in initialising the move which lead to the Lloyds Network, broad basing the availability of Cargo Surveying Proficiency Certification process. It was through this network that Aitken Spence was able to formalise its status as the Lloyds Sub-Agent in the Republic of Maldives.

When asked about her experiences at Aitken Spence and what she would take with her, she says that she is “Very very grateful to Aitken Spence for all that it has done for me and when I leave, what will make me proud are all the people I have moulded and seeing how well they do.”

And her parting words of advice to women in the corporate world? Simply this, “If you want to be treated as equal, think of yourself as equal, and just go out there and get the job done, but most of all, never stop being a woman.”

Ace Magazine – 2010

Heritance Kandalama Awarded EarthCheck Silver Certification for Environmental Practices

15 May

The environmental practices of Heritance Kandalama have been recognised by EarthCheck; the world’s leading sustainable travel and tourism certification organization in line with the Green Globe Company Standard for Travel and Tourism.  Heritance Kandalama was first certified by Green Globe in 1999 and was the first hotel in Asia to be Green Globe certified based on the agenda 21 principles for sustainable development endorsed by 182 Heads of State at the United Nations Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. Heritance Kandalama has now achieved Silver certification under the revised Green Globe Company standards for Travel and Tourism.

The EarthCheck Program is widely regarded as the world’s most scientifically rigorous, and is focused on maximising operational efficiencies to minimise CO2 emissions, while supporting host communities. It looks at key environmental indicators such as energy and water consumption, total waste production as well as community commitment, to determine the level of performance. Only those companies that can demonstrate operational practices that adhere to the highest environmental standards receive the much-coveted Silver Certification.

“We are delighted to be awarded the Earthcheck Silver Certification for Environmental Practices. Winning this award attests to our stance on sustainability and reinforces our commitment towards reducing energy consumption which will help us reduce our carbon footprint”, said Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotels.

Prior to achieving certification, Heritance Kandalama successfully benchmarked its operations using the EarthCheck tool. This involved the organisation submitting a year’s worth of operational data, and having it compared to that of other organisations that are similar in kind.

“The ability to provide the world’s finest green hotel experiences is made tangible by the accolades won by Heritance Kandalama. The awards and accreditations won by the hotel are a testament of our commitment to our guests and the environment in which we operate in” said Mr. B H R Sariffo’deen, Assistant Vice President, Aitken Spence Hotels.

The EarthCheck Program uses more than a decade of factual, operational data, submitted by over 1000 companies in 60+ countries. By taking such a holistic view of company practices, Heritance Kandalama was able to identify where they were out-performing others, and where room for improvement remained.

“I am delighted that Heritance Kandalama has achieved Certified Silver status,” says Stewart Moore, CEO of EC3 Global. Heritance Kandalama has recognised a maturing of the science behind climate change and environmental sustainability, and has chosen to apply the highest possible standard to their practices. “Going well beyond mere tick-box action is not an easy task. It requires the commitment of all levels of staff, as well as a readiness to submit to expert scrutiny. Heritance Kandalama has emerged as an example of an organisation committed to environmentally sustainable tourism, and the EarthCheck logo will serve to demonstrate that their claims are both credible and relevant.”

Changing regulatory environments, rapidly evolving markets and complex risk implications require organisations access specialised tools and expertise. Taking a science-based approach, Heritance Kandalama has increased efficiencies, maximised guest experience and minimised their environmental footprint. Heritance Kandalama has turned garbage into a resource by practicing the “7 R” principle introduced by Mr. Ravi de Silva, Environmental Consultant, Aitken Spence Hotels. This has resulted in the hotel producing zero waste while also benefiting monetarily by selling sorted waste for reuse and recycling purposes.

EarthCheck is the next generation of environmental certification and benchmarking. It is the culmination of a journey that began in 1987 and continues to this day. Exclusively owned by EC3 Global, the EarthCheck Program is used by more sustainable travel and tourism companies than any other; helping them navigate the path forwards with certainty and peace of mind, while recognizing that the planet deserves more than half measures.

Heritance Kandalama is positioned regally by the placid waters of the Kandalama tank; it surveys the rich wildlife that visits its precincts. Located amidst verdant jungle, calm waters and rocky mountains, it offers a holiday where one can wake up to bird calls, stunning vistas, profuse foliage and luxury. Heritance Kandalama is flanked by two UNESCO world heritage sites-the 1st century BC Dambulla rock temple and the 5th century AD Sigiriya rock fortress while it also has its share of unrivalled international recognition. The hotel has received many accolades for their environmentally friendly operations which demonstrate their strengthened commitment towards the individual environments in which they operate in and their responsiveness towards the crisis faced with regards to the depletion of natural resources. The Heritance Kandalama team and their stake holders are the heart of the hotels efforts and by gaining their commitment towards ‘greening the chain’; the hotel will continue to make a difference locally and collectively make a difference globally.

Media Release – 15 May 2010

Aitken Spence Printing to soar to greater heights

13 May

AITKEN Spence Printing, one of the top firms in the industry, is gearing up for a two year upgrade of its facilities in continuing to provide quality at a competitive price, the company said yesterday.

Completing 55 years in printing built on trust, innovation and the ability to change and produce solutions for customers in the tea, FMCG, garment, cosmetic and pharmaceuticals sectors, Aitken Spence Director Dinesh Mendis told the Daily FT in an interview yesterday morning at his Colombo office.

The company that initially was engaged in the printing of stationary is now involved in the a wide cross section of sectors such as coffee table books, periodicals, magazines, Annual Reports and for its commercial, government corporates and high street world renowned brand customers.

The company is currently involved in the investment of Rs.50O million in new machinery and the upgrading of the plant that is likely to be shifted to a different location. At present discussions are underway for the construction of a new facility in Gampaha or Katunayake that will be taken into consideration in line with the company’s customer base.

We will have a state of the art printing facility within the next two years,” Mendis said. He noted that in a bid to ensure they are abreast of the developments in the industry they will be carrying out such work that is also aimed at offering the same quality and assurance to its customers both local and overseas in keeping in line with global standards. The reason behind the upgrade is also to ensure that they are able to manage the business and be environmentally friendly while at the same time providing a sustainable production facility.

Aitken Spence Printing has a customer base of 600 with an active base of 150 with a clear target on the up-market clients although they will cater to all that come along. Sri Lanka being their biggest market, the company also caters to its overseas clients in the European market in terms of book work and packaging, the US for packaging, and the new emerging market of the Middle East for both these segments.

Ace Printing is targeting at ensuring that the customer base in Sri Lanka for the local industry is moving towards overseas markets whereas there is a possibility of these customers getting their expert services within the country alone. In terms of packaging, 95% is carried out in Sri Lanka while only a mere 5% is done overseas, the company’s General Manager Rohana Navaratne said.

He observed that coffee table books were likely to be tapped by the overseas market with approximately 60% lost to markets such as Singapore, India and China and only 40% were given to the local market.

Stressing that the company had not sufficiently advertised itself in this field, Navaratne said “We have failed in informing the Sri Lankan market that Sri Lanka has the capability of producing globally renowned quality coffee table books within the country”

Navaratne elaborating on the company plans observed that they were currently seeing more potential in the market and there was in need to bring down technologically advanced machinery keeping in lines with quality standards. He noted, the company would be going in for machines of German and Japanese makes that could handle multi-colours with facilities for online coating and varnishing that would enhance competitiveness and turnaround time. In the past three and a half years around Rs.500 million had been invested in new machinery by Ace Printing. “One area we have expanded is in book work that is carried out in—house,” he said. Navaratne explained that currently a press that could handle six colours was in use with a change in the concept of digital printing brought in due to the adoption of this new technological advancement. While retaining the market share through its quality of service, he pointed out that even in times of recession the company was able to service 90% of its customers. With the provision of colour – management systems they were able to provide the exact colour on the computer screens in its printing. Computer to plate improves the quality and there is consistency in reproduction, he noted. The company also hopes to create increased awareness of its market presence in the market in the form of advertisements and its sales staff in a bid to clear the misconception that Ace Printing is expensive. “We provide quality and at a competitive price”, Mendis noted adding that they wanted to provide total solutions with proven reliability for which they have gained prominence in the market and much accolades.

As seen on DailyFT, 11 May 2010, Page 3

Media Release – 13 May 2010

Cooking His Way to the Gold

5 May

An interview with Chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe, Group Skills Development Chef, Aitken Spence Hotels and Heritance Hotels & Resorts.

Hailing from Mathugama, Kalutara, Chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe says that he always wanted to be a chef. He was first introduced to Aitken Spence Hotels, when his elder a brother, already a chef, approached Mr. Gemunu Goonewardena and explained that his younger sibling was looking for a job.

Having started his career as a trainee, Dimuthu has worked hard, putting in twelve to fifteen hour days trying to ensure that the food is of a consistently high standard.  Dimuthu is the only chef in the world to have won five gold medals at the World Culinary Olympics and four gold medals in the Culinary World Cup, beating competition from countries such as France and Italy, renowned for their culinary excellence. Dimuthu’s accomplishments, both as a chef and in culinary art, have won him worldwide renown and he is often called upon to train others, locally and internationally.

Dimuthu loves his job and enjoys cooking; experimenting with and formulating his own recipes, creating magic on the palate and ensuring that guests of Aitken Spence Hotels come back time and time again for the exquisite dishes he prepares. Dimuthu also loves to share his knowledge and he says he does this by being heavily involved in training kitchen staff, not just in the everyday task of preparing meals for guests, but also training and moulding those who would like to test their skills at culinary contests. In fact, Mr. Gemunu Goonewardena had this to say about Dimuthu, “We’re very proud of him, actually; he is one of the best human beings I have come across; he always develops the other guy.”

2009 Piece made on the launch of Heritance Ahungalla Dressage

Gold award winning entry – Artistic Pastry Show Piece Pastillage & Marzipan

Gold award winning entry – Artistic Pastry Show Piece Salt Dough

Dimuthu in turn credits Gemunu Goonewardena for the high food standards at Aitken Spence hotels and says, “I have to always salute, double salute, Mr. Goonewardena, because we are always together, all the chefs and the GM’s working together, sharing knowledge; he is very approachable, even a trainee can speak to him at any time.”

When asked his advice to young people wanting to be chefs Dimuthu says they must be prepared to work long hours and to work hard; he goes on to explain that he trained for two to three years in order to enter the Culinary World Olympics, even going so far as to formulate his own recipe for the sugar structure. Dimuthu encourages would-be chefs to continuously upgrade their knowledge and to strive for excellence, this he claims, is almost automatic when one has a passion for the work. “I love my job, so I don’t get tired when I work. Even my wife gives me a lot of support.”

Ace Magazine – 2010