A model working environment
By Akhry Ameer
The company brochure mentioned a cinema in its factory. Aroused by this
curious feature, which to my knowledge was unique, a visit was organised.
I found out that almost every aspect of this factory was true to the word
As the gates opened my attention was attracted to another object unique
to Sri Lanka – a real Mercedes Benz limousine complete with TV, mini bar
and the works.
Dainichi Creations Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, BOI company based in the Gampaha
district, manufactures ceramic ornaments and souvenirs for some of the
biggest brand names of the world. The company, which started with just
30 workers five years ago, today has over 3,000 employees working round
the clock with no hierarchical supervisors but staff among them overseeing
the production. The only known authoritative body in this organisation
is the Board consisting of a brother and sister, who run the entire operation.
A factory newcomer begins with a free three-month stint at the company
training school. The teachers are the best seniors drawn from the 11 departments
and the trainees are taught all skills from A to Z and on how the company
operates. At the end of the three months, pending the results of an examination,
each worker is assigned to a department he or she scores the highest marks
in. The unsuccessful students may be content that they learnt a new skill
at the expense of the company. However, the school hasn't been functioning
for a long period of time because the employee dropout rate at the factory
is virtually nil.
range of Disney ornaments created by Dainichi Creations on display at the
On the production floor you actually do not see a supervisor walking
around, as the supervisor is also busy performing the same duties that
others do. The only way of differentiating one is by the colour-coded scarf
the supervisor wears. The main form of control is a notice board in each
department. The board carries a journal in which all production information
is logged by the staff. The transparency of information goes to the extent
of revealing the target dates, total quantity, etc. On the journal the
staff log data such as the number of units handled by them, number of rejects,
etc. Along with the above, the board also carries photographs of the best
and the worst on the floor.
Explaining this process, Roshan Perera, Chairman-Managing Director of
Dainichi says; "It's all about responsibility and recognition." He discovered
this method after having personally worked on the lines himself. The system
works without a hitch as the duties are rotated every year. This means
that the most senior in each department who serves as a supervisor for
the current year is succeeded by the next in line the following year.
In addition each department has a journalist on a rotation basis who forms
part of the editorial committee for the monthly magazine printed by the
company. The magazine is an all-purpose one and carries details of company
events, educational articles on various production aspects, social knowledge
such as cost of living indicators, best and worst employees, news on staff
members, etc. "The rotating structure means that no one can take a swipe
at another unnecessarily as that person will have to face the same music
when the other one takes over," Perera explained.
Any outsider would find it difficult to understand this system, until
you come across an executive seated in front of a computer preparing complex
spreadsheets of production data. Each of these executives are none other
than production floor employees who work on a rotation basis and have picked
up office skills within the first month of service.
However, the company provides staff with excellent welfare benefits,
but most are not monetary. The company spends on improving the quality
of life. One of the interesting aspects is the cinema and how it operates.
At the end of every production cycle, which happens every three days or
so, a movie is shown in the theatre which is also used as a dance floor
and recreation centre as well.
The ticket to the movies is the timely accomplishment of the production
target for the respective production cycle. The movies are in English,
Hindi and Sinhala. Besides, they are also entitled to join classes in dancing,
karate and English which are conducted free of charge at various times
in such a way that it does not interfere with the work. The six-acre factory
complex also houses a netball and volleyball court. The staff is also provided
with transport, free meals and uniforms. Hostel facilities are provided
for those who live far away.
The success of these initiatives is proven by the fact that Dainichi
Creations today has its own netball and volleyball teams, a dance troupe
and an entertainment committee. The entertainment committee comprising
workers organises regular events and get-togethers funded by the company
for the employees. Dainichi also has a day care centre for children of
employees who have no one to tend them while they are at work.
The company also operates a welfare shop purely for the benefit of the
staff. Dainichi Creations makes use of the economies of scale when buying
supplies for its free meals and provides some of these essential items
at wholesale rates to the staff.
In addition, the company also buys other items such as clothing in bulk
for sale to the staff at cost. All this is provided in addition to wages
ranging from Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 9,000 based on experience and seniority.
The ceramic manufacturer also has its fair share of strategic initiatives
in terms of global competitiveness. One of its competitive advantages in
Sri Lanka is its ability to create its own moulds, The use of silicon moulds
which give out finer details gives it an advantage in the world market.
Dainichi's clientele includes some of the leading names in the world
such as Hallmark, Disney Attractions Worldwide, Fitz & Floyd and Lenox.
Its preferred customer status with Hallmark means that it is a direct supplier
and is not subjected to quality checks. To maintain its status in quality
the company sources its main raw material from Germany and Japan, as the
local clay does not have consistent shrinkage factors.
To counter the move by international companies turning to China for
cheaper ornaments, Dainichi Creations has also developed a secondary line
using a resin material. Thus it is now able to offer its clients both an
expensive high quality crystal ornament and an alternative mass-market
product as well.
Research and Development
The company also has its own R&D department that is well recognised
by clients, who often end up sending specifications in the form of pictures
and text descriptions. Currently the department is getting ready to despatch
masters turned out from such specifications for approval as part of the
range for 2004.
Having such strengths and experience, Dainichi Creations recently launched
its own brand called Belluci in the US and in Sri Lanka. Mr. Perera said
he is confident that there is a market and aims to capture a share for
Bellucci by offering a mid-price, which international brands cannot match
due to the involvement of intermediaries.
From a trial and error operation to becoming a preferred supplier for
an international brand with a unique management system, and now launching
its own brand in a short span of five years; it can be concluded that this
local porcelain manufacturer has got everything right to ensure that Bellucci
becomes the first international brand for Sri Lanka.
IT graduate in computer marketing
Estate-village integration by Kotagala plantations
Inflation up in 2001
MBSL index revised
Golden thread to promote investment and exports
More cash for mOre card winners
Examination results on-line with Dialog Internet
New Chairman at Merc Bank
Keells Super 'Goes Bananas' on New Years Eve
Laundry service at Bairaha Super Marts
IT graduate in computer marketing
By Hiran Senewiratne
A young man who graduated in information technology in the United States
returned to Sri Lanka five years ago despite all the prospects and opportunities
available there. He wanted to start an information technology (IT) company
in Sri Lanka on his own.
"Maybe I think what prompted me to return was a moral obligation to
serve my motherland and to introduce the latest computer technology for
Sri Lankans at an affordable price," said Chinthaka Wijewickrama, recalling
the early days of his business, Sala Enterprises. At 35 – what he considers
to be the prime age of his life – he now competes with many bigger IT companies,
despite having a much smaller advertising budget.
Wijewickrama is particularly proud of clinching a deal with Sri Lanka
Telecom, the biggest telecommunications operator in the island, to supply
them with Caller ID technology which helps users identify incoming calls.
Sala Enterprises has grown in the face of numerous obstacles and now
markets many computer accessories such as fax modems, monitors, scanners,
digital cameras and networks.
Wijewickrama recalled how, when he introduced an electronic spell checker,
he encountered difficulties in marketing it as many people were not familiar
with the product. Another obstacle was the absence of a brand name – so
he had some difficulty in building his company's image.
He said he started with a capital of Rs. 50,000 and a few employees
soon after he returned from the United States. He operated from the top
floor of his father's business premises, called Dad's Corner – a food and
ice cream outlet - in Kollupitiya.
He now has ten employees, some of them have been trained in Taiwan.
His strategy of introducing innovative products to the local market has
helped to establish himself and acquire an image. The company's annual
turnover is now about Rs. 20 million.
Sala Enterprises recently launched a hard drive disk, a removable flash
drive that can support up to 1 GB disk space. This can store and access
any data just like a normal personal computer hard disk drive. Normal hard
disk drives have a capacity of 32 – 128 MB.
Sri Lankan customers are now far more informed and intelligent when
it comes to IT related items than they were when he started his business,
Wijewickrama said. Apart from running his business, he also gives lectures
on IT to marketing students at the Sri Jayewardenepura University and is
an IT consultant to non-governmental organisations.
Estate-village integration by Kotagala plantations
Kotagala Plantations Ltd (KPL) has launched an estate-village integration
project in collaboration with the Kalutara District Smallholders' Association.
The project is aimed at obtaining good leaf standards from tea smallholders
and paying an attractive price for green leaf, and manufacturing good black
tea and obtaining the best price in the region.
To achieve these objectives a systematic field programme has been launched
by KPL to educate smallholders with the active participation of the Tea
Small Holdings Development Authority (TSHDA), the National Institute of
Plantations Management (NIPM) and the Tea Development Project sponsored
by the ADB. Vogan and Geekiyanakanda estates managed by KPL conducted their
field days last month.
Inflation up in 2001
Sri Lanka's third quarter 2001 economic growth was negative by 3.7 percent
in comparison to the same period in 2000, the Central Bank said earlier
It said this was due to the continuation of low and declining growth
rates experienced in the previous two quarters. The gross national product
also contracted by 3.2 percent in the third quarter of 2001.
GDP growth rates for the first and second quarters were 1.3 percent
and 0.4 percent respectively, resulting in the average rate for the first
three quarters of 2001 being a negative 0.7 percent.
The bank said that several adverse factors that confronted the Sri Lankan
economy during this period were responsible for this unusual negative growth.
It cited a slowing down of world economic activity which crippled the
demand for manufactured exports, failure of the north-east monsoon, the
attack at Katunayake International Airport and general political uncertainty
leading to the Parliamentary elections as causes of economic problems.
"Under these extremely difficult circumstances, a negative growth rate
for the third quarter was unavoidable," it added.
In a separate statement, the bank said inflation rose last year due
to the accumulated impact of international price increases, the direct
and indirect effects of administered price adjustments and supply conditions
due to a prolonged drought. The Colombo Consumers' Price Index (CCPI) in
December rose to 10.8 percent, lower than the 14.9 percent increase seen
in November. The annual average increase was 14.2 percent last month.
The Colombo District Consumer Price Index increased on a point-to-point
basis by 9.7 percent in December from 11.2 percent in the previous month.
The annual average increase in December was 10.3 percent, slightly up from
10.2 percent in November.
Meanwhile the bank said it has undertaken a modernisation programme
to meet the emerging needs and challenges of the local and international
Accordingly, the activities of the Banking Department have been reconstituted
into four departments to have a better focus on international reserves,
domestic banking operations and budgetary controls.
A new Department named Regional Development Department has also been
established by merging the Rural Credit Department and Development Finance
Department in order to have a better focus on regional development. These
changes are effective from January 1, the bank said.