The Cargills Group, Sri Lanka’s biggest group in food manufacture and retailing, is looking for new business opportunities in the post-war era but more significantly has undergone a restructure of its management.
Ranjit Page, widely credited with driving Cargills’ entry into supermarkets from a staid department store 27 years ago and thus creating a revolution in Sri Lanka’s food retail business, has stepped down from day-to-day operations at the group and will focus on looking at new business opportunities outside the company’s core activity, among other functions.
Day-to-day work will be handled by long-time staffer Imtiaz Wahid, who was associated with Mr Page in opening the first Food City store at Staples Street in the troubled year of 1983. Mr Wahid was appointed Managing Director and Deputy CEO in mid-April.
“He is now totally responsible for the day to day operation of the total business. I continue as Chief Executive Officer and my focus now would be more on mentoring, development of people, on strategy as well as investment in areas outside our immediate business,” Page, also Cargills Deputy Chairman, told the Business Times in an exclusive interview this week.
He said the restructuring was done purely to realise the opportunity the company saw for Cargills in 1999/2000. “With the leadership and team in place, in the new (post-war) Sri Lanka, I believe Cargills can be among the top companies in every aspect in terms of revenue, contribution to the economy, contribution in employment and contribution to the shareholder in terms of sustainable value creation through profitability,” he added.
Mr Page learnt the ropes like stacking shelves as an ordinary employer under Cornel Perera who pioneered the supermarket business in around 1980-81, and then drove the company to a mega supermarket chain and manufacturer, a model that others here are following while being viewed with interest by the World Bank, ADB and the Bill Gates Foundation.
Cargills is ploughing in Rs 2 billion worth of investments in the current financial year and expects these investments to grow
year-on-year. In addition to these investments in retail and restaurants, the company has already invested Rs 500 million in the expansion of the Cargills Magic Ice Cream Plant with a new range of products coming into the market shortly.
“All our brands have shown wonderful growth in the last year and I believe by 2015 we would easily double our business or more.
We don’t want to be the greatest. We want to be the best in terms of sustainability in rewarding all stakeholders and thereby become the largest revenue company in Sri Lanka. The model we have built we would tweak it here and there but the engine is the same. The heart is for the people of Sri Lanka. Some would call it CSR. This is not CSR. CSR is our business,” he explained.
The company is also driving a massive investment plan in the North where it has already registered 1500 farmers from Jaffna as suppliers of food products.
“Our team is on the ground at this very moment. It’s simple to open a supermarket but it’s more complex to get the backup operation in terms of the agriculture, dairy farmers, etc. But more importantly we need to touch the people emotionally and create opportunities as we have done elsewhere,” he said.