DUMBFOUNDED IN DEHIWELA: What else would you expect on hearing that an owner of a company has gifted, yes GIFTED, his business to his employees. In today’s world of avarice and greed, this is indeed a remarkable story of a man, who given a second chance in life, has showed that the well-being of people [...]

Business Times

KleenPark gifted to employees by ‘reincarnated’ Ranjan Ratnasena


DUMBFOUNDED IN DEHIWELA: What else would you expect on hearing that an owner of a company has gifted, yes GIFTED, his business to his employees.

Working on a car. Pix by Indika Handuwala

In today’s world of avarice and greed, this is indeed a remarkable story of a man, who given a second chance in life, has showed that the well-being of people is far better than the pursuit of riches.

Meet Ranjan Ratnasena, 66, the former owner and chairman of KleenPark Auto Detailing who probably is the only man in Sri Lanka to have given away an enterprise built from scratch, and after 30 years of hard work, to his employees.

Why? This is the first question for Ranjan, a very private person, someone who didn’t even want his photograph taken for this story. “Most people think that material success has a relationship to happiness and well-being. Even the government and the media hoist this concept on us as they try to encourage the pursuit of consumerism in a bid to boost economic growth. But this is wrong,” says Ranjan.

“I firmly believe that wealth should be distributed among the people who have rightly earned it, if not in its entirety, at least a major portion of it. Why should anyone need so much of wealth, accumulating money, cars, houses, especially when we know so many people live below the poverty line.

“We have to renounce materialism and admit the futility of wealth accumulation. Every religion tells us this but do we follow this. People change these teachings to suit their wants and needs,” Ranjan adds.

Last year when Ranjan revealed his plan to retire and give away all the shares in KleenPark to his employees it was greeted with incredulity and shock by his circle of friends. Why gift a business – most car owners will know of this company which cleans your vehicle, both inside and out, and turns it into an aesthetic pleasure to drive – with a book value of more than Rs.300 million to employees?

“Everyone was surprised. The first question they asked me was whether my family supported me and when I said yes, they were speechless. I asked them why they were shocked and they said they had never heard of someone who gave away their business,” Ranjan explains.

Mother helped people

“I did not see any novelty or any extraordinary aspect of this gesture, because from the time I was small, I was encouraged by my mother to give and help people. She used to help people a lot, in the small way she could, and I was inspired by that. She always told me to give without expecting anything back.

“My mother was a practising Buddhist and always said: ‘don’t do any good expecting merit, or to go to Nirvana, or to get a good birth next time. Just give for the sake of giving’. She was a remarkable lady’,” Ranjan harks back to his mum, who passed away from a heart-attack in 2002.

Twenty lucky employees at KleenPark were given the shock of their lives when they became overnight millionaires (well at least on paper) on May 1. Ranjan had picked each of them – out of a total workforce of 70 – interviewed them individually over the space of a month, drawing the promise from each not to tell their colleagues of his plan to give away the company to them.


“When all 20 had gathered in the boardroom and I told them they would each get an equal share of the company and that I was retiring, they were all stunned and couldn’t believe it. They were looking at each other in shock,” Ranjan laughs delightedly at the memory.

Asoka, who joined in 1990 as a trainee detailer and is now managing director, still shakes his head in amazement. “This is probably the first time someone in Sri Lanka, if not the entire world, has done something like this. I can’t still get over it,” says Asoka who hails from Badulla.

Shocked but happy

Mohan, a quality controller, who comes from Talawakelle, adds: “I’m just shocked. We are all very grateful and happy by what the boss has done. He is a great man.” Both Asoka and Mohan have been at KleenPark for more than 25 years.

Yet they were not part of the original team of four when Ranjan began his business in 1988 with an investment of Rs.50,000 and a few detailing equipment leased out. Only one member of that team is still around, Muralitharan, another shareholder who came to Colombo from Hatton accompanying Ranjan, barefoot and with just his clothes on his back.

It all began with Ranjan being “reincarnated”. Having failed dismally in his education – both in a village school in Deraniyagala as well as private schools in Colombo – Ranjan ended up in his father’s business, importing and retailing food. It was a resounding failure.

“My father’s business crashed due to my mismanagement. I lost everything including my reputation. All I had was my wife and daughter,” recounted Ranjan. “I was sent to live with a relative who had a tea estate in Hatton, but after six months, felt I should do something than just live on my father’s handouts.”

With no academic qualifications to boast about, Ranjan decided to do something he always loved – keep a car clean – so he started learning everything he could about automotive detailing.

“At that time no one in Sri Lanka was involved in this business, and since cars had always been my passion I decided to give it a go,” revealed Ranjan.

With encouragement from his parents, he mastered the art of detailing – he also went for a short stint to California to learn the finer aspects of cleaning and restoring a car’s looks – before setting up his first workshop on a small piece of land owned by a friend down Wasala Road in Dehiwela.


“I was reincarnated in my second life. I was determined not to take one rupee from my father as I had ruined him and I wanted to show him I could succeed without his help. The journey was not easy, there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears but it has been worth it after all these years for I have created something which I’m proud of,” Ranjan relates.

Today, KleenPark has expanded with an outlet in Jaela as well as express service centres at Crescat and Borelasgamuwa. From just two customers a week at the outset, there are 5,000 regular customers now. You have to book days in advance for a service.

The 20 new shareholders are barred from selling or trading the shares formerly owned by Ranjan and his wife and daughter, who were also all for the transfer of the wealth.

“I told the new owners that the shares will keep growing in value with the growth of the company and that they will be able to enjoy the benefits through dividends, extended welfare service (already employees’ children get education perks, the family gets medical coverage and housing loans, etc) and other privileges.


“I want them to treat their shares as an asset that would benefit them as long as they serve the company. I want to impart a valuable lesson to shun greed through the sale of shares. Today, society is rife with greed and avariciousness so I wanted my team to learn the value of sharing wealth even in a small way,” Ranjan explains.

If the shareholder wants to leave the company, or upon retirement, he/she is required to return the shares to the remaining shareholders which will be equally distributed among them. The 20 shareholders have also been told to distribute their shares to the rest of the employees – they have to select the deserving people themselves – over a period of time so that the ‘wealth’ is spread around.

“The selection criteria will be the same I used to pick the original 20 – a good attitude, ethics, loyalty, skills and efficiency, and finally seniority. They must be honest, disciplined and show commitment to the customer by providing a quality service,” Ranjan stressed.

So what about Ranjan? Well he continues in an advisory capacity as a consultant. He gets a car as well as a salary. A pittance for a guy who sold his flat a few years ago as the company was having cash flow issues.

“I’m building a small three-bedroomed house in Halpe, and currently live in a rented house in Colombo. I don’t even have 50,000 rupees in my bank account but my wife and I are very happy. My daughter who lives and works in Canada as well as my wife fully supported me when I came up with this plan to gift my company. I firmly believe wealth has a negligible impact on life, especially on how happy you are.

“As long as I have the basics in life, shelter, food and something for a rainy day, I’m more than happy. KleenPark is not a financially rich company when compared to others in Sri Lanka, but I believe we are rich in a different way as we have the happiest staff,” Ranjan reminds us.

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