At last week’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2016 Lakmini Wijesundera, CEO, IronOne Technologies was adjudged the ‘Woman Entrepreneur 2015, receiving the trophy from President Maithripala Sirisena.  She also won two other awards – Gold in the large category and the Woman Exporter of the Year Award.  Rifa Musthapa, Chairperson, Women’s Chamber of Commerce [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

IronOne CEO Lakmini adjudged Woman Entrepreneur of the Year


Lakmini Wijesundera

At last week’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2016 Lakmini Wijesundera, CEO, IronOne Technologies was adjudged the ‘Woman Entrepreneur 2015, receiving the trophy from President Maithripala Sirisena.  She also won two other awards – Gold in the large category and the Woman Exporter of the Year Award.  Rifa Musthapa, Chairperson, Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI) welcomed the guests and emphasising on women power, courage and determination she cited the example of Saroja Devi, a 59 year-old women war victim in Uduthurai, Vadamarachchi East.  While others are asleep, the coastal village of Uduthurai bustles like a bee hive with fishing vessels reaching the shore by 3 am. Ms. Devi helps remove the fish off the nets, clean and sort the catch, Ms. Musthapa noted.

She collects all the leftover fish and turns it into dried fish, and today this courageous woman is running ‘Sunrise Seafood Processors (Pvt) Ltd – a collective of 10 women each earning at least Rs. 3,000 per week.  Ms. Musthapa said that Saroja Devi championed and showcased the amazing entrepreneurial spirit of the women in the world.  Altogether there were 18 winners: Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 2015; Large Category – Gold Award and Exporter of the Year – Ms. Lakmini Wijesundera, Iron One Technologies (Pvt) Ltd; Large Category – Silver – Jayomi Lokuliyana, zMessenger (Pvt) Ltd; Bronze – Sunanda Weerasinghe, Sujan International (Pvt) Ltd.  Start-up Business Entrepreneur of the Year: Erangi Loshani Pathiraja, Era De Moh (Pvt) Ltd and Young Entrepreneur of the Year – Charitha Abeyratne Hettiarachchi, Saraii (Pvt) Ltd.

Medium category: Gold – Nelum Himali Hahthella, N.V.R. Publishers (Pvt) Ltd; Joint Silver – Malarvili Anton, V & Eye Opticians and Subathra Ramamoorthy, Sindhu Garments; Bronze – Samitha Sanjeewani Wijayasekera, The Wedding Flowers; Certificate – Ramona Kaushalya Pulle, The American Preschool.  Small Category: Gold – M.T.C. Ralini Fernando, MRM Lanka Trading Service; Silver – O.R. Manjula Janaki, Sakura Products; Bronze – Chamila Gayathri Wickramasekara, Future Minds (AMI) Montessori School; Certificate – W Sriyanee Mallika De Silva, World at a Glance Map.  Micro Category: Gold – Mohamad Shareef Vijitha, Dhuniaya Sweet Centre; Silver – Thayanaa Santhuru, The World Navigators (Pvt) Ltd; Bronze – Francis Skylan Carista Judith, Jomax; Certificate – M Sufiyan Ainul Masaniya, Mubark Enterprises.

Against all odds
Text and Photo by Viraj Senewiratne

To play the lead role in a success story is indeed the stuff that dreams are made of. To reach the zenith in your chosen discipline and keep your feet firmly planted on terra firma is indeed a quality as rare as a ray of sunshine on a winter’s day.  Perseverance, tenacity, intuition and skill are vital ingredients of the bitter sweet cup of success. These traits Lakmini Wijesundera possesses in plenty. The youngest child of eminent parents, the late Prof. Stanley Wijesundera the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo and the late Anoja Wijesundera, the elder sister of the late Upali Wijewardene.

She received her education at C.M.S. Ladies’ College. Colombo 7. On completing her A Levels she took wing to the UK for higher studies. There she attended the University College London, University of London for her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Electronic engineering.  As a little girl, an innate sense of curiosity made her explore closely all things electronic. This resulted in many a dismantled microphone, hair dryer or computer at home. Therefore, it was no surprise that Lakmini graduated with a Master’s degree in Communication and Signal Processing engineering from Imperial College, University of London.

Upon her arrival in Sri Lanka, she commenced her professional career as engineer IT in the Ceylinco Group. Thereafter, she joined Lanka Bell as manager, IT. After a near 5-year stint, being the free spirit that she is, she decided to venture out on her own. Her first attempt at going it alone, ended in abject failure, with the bursting of the Dot Com bubble. Her second attempt was setting up a software company called Atlantis One. This project too was short lived.  Lakmini was now at the receiving end of many a hard punch life was to throw at her. The cruellest being the death of her beloved father, who was mercilessly gunned down during a dark period in Sri Lanka’s history. At the time all upright men and women who voiced an opinion and had the courage to stand by their convictions were summarily despatched by extremist forces, professing to secure a place in the sun for the down trodden masses.

Standing a mere 5-foot nothing in her stockings, Lakmini makes up in grit for what she lacks in inches. The diminutive L.Cite (former Ladies College  girl) carried on undaunted. She is a believer in the proverb, “actions speak louder than words”. In 2006, together with her friend Sanje Widyaratne, she embarked on creating IronOne Technologies, a software solution company from the ashes of Atlantis One.  The tender years of IronOne were very spartan to say the least, the garage of her mother’s home being office. It is said: “mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” and grow she did. In 10 years of honest toil, Lakmini had driven her company and herself to the very top of the pile, of the software solution business. Backed by an enthusiastic young team, IronOne is a locally as well as an internationally recognised and respected organization now.

The year 2016 has been a particularly auspicious one for the IT whiz-kid.  She struck a purple patch mid-year, winning Gold at the Women in Management Awards.  Her crowning glory however, happened last week. She all but swept the board at the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Ceremony, winning Gold in three categories. The blood, sweat and tears were worthwhile after all. She bagged the coveted Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Gold Award. Receiving the plum of the evening from none less that the President of the land himself.  Lakmini is also on the Board of Give 2 Lanka. This is a not-for-profit guarantee company registered under the Company Registration Act. The objective of it being to provide a platform for other institutions to raise funds for deserving causes but also, to nurture the practice of giving amongst Sri Lankans to provide greater opportunities for the poor.

She does not neglect her spiritual fulfillment or duties either, in spite of the hectic pace she keeps. She often participates in the activities of a preferred temple – genuinely concerned for the Buddha Sasana and its well being; contributing her mite unostentatiously. She remembers her dearly departed parents unfailingly every year with an alms-giving for the Sangha, relatives and friends.  Despite her high profile lineage, she is one of the most down-to-earth, helpful, unassuming people you’d ever want to meet. She loves her private space and would rather spend her free time at home in the company of her two Labrador Retrievers; the vocals of old “blue-eyes” Frank Sinatra satiating her love of music. Not for her the froth and bubble, glamour and glitz of the superficial world of the socialite; nor the bra-burning rabble-rousing world of the feminist.  This then, is the story of a lass who refused to take no for an answer.

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