Even as Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest conglomerates, prepares to celebrate a landmark in Sri Lanka – 175 years in 2020 initially as a colonial company and subsequently owned by Sri Lankans – its top management gave a commitment last week of working to building the nation, and then the brand. “Your [...]

Business Times

Cargills prepares for 175th year, committing to serve the nation, communities


Even as Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest conglomerates, prepares to celebrate a landmark in Sri Lanka – 175 years in 2020 initially as a colonial company and subsequently owned by Sri Lankans – its top management gave a commitment last week of working to building the nation, and then the brand.

Lalith Pushpakumara being congratulated by Ranjit Page, Deputy Chairman/CEO. Also in the picture are Chairman Louis Page and Imtiaz Wahid, Deputy CEO/ Managing Director.

“Your goal is all about our nation; not about the company, the brand or the business you are attached to,” declared Ranjit Page, the generally low profile Deputy Chairman/CEO of the group.

He was speaking at the Chairman’s Awards of Cargills which recognized high achievers, innovative thinkers and long service employees, at the high profile event – which saw no politician present – held at the BMICH.

Mr. Page, who also trained like any other worker preparing shelves in supermarkets and whose mission in life is to help farming communities prosper and consumers getting a fair price among other noble pursuits, laced his speech with several anecdotes. Yet, clearly, his beginning-to-end message was that the company and its employees should work for the nation and only then can the company, its employees and their families benefit in the shared wealth creation.

Cargills Group Chairman Louis Page also reflected on the legacy left by the founders of the company, 174 years ago, and said the company is striving to create “a legacy of trust, innovation, and unwavering commitment to the people of this country. A legacy of service that places Sri Lanka at the heart of what we stand for.”

He said that while Cargills celebrates its 175th year in 2020, from humble beginnings, it has grown into a thriving ecosystem across diverse sectors, and along the way, remained committed to improving lives and livelihoods; be it reducing the cost of living, enhancing youth skills, or bridging regional disparities.

While there was a lot of entertainment and elegance, usually put together in events of this stature, the high point of the evening was the speech by Lalith Pushpakumara, DGM Training, Cargills Ceylon PLC.


While, to many co-workers Mr. Pushpakumara is in senior management, a somewhat hidden fact is that he started, small – literally at the bottom: As a labourer.

He recalled, speaking in both Sinhala and faultless English, that it was in August 1993 that he approached Cargills for a job. “There was a reason for that. My father lost his job in 1992. It was not his fault. It was very unfortunate, that the particular organisation that he worked for closed down. My two little sisters and I were studying at the time and we faced many barriers. There were so many financial difficulties. I thought of helping my family, I thought of helping my parents. I thought this was my opportunity to help my parents. And so I went for an interview to Cargills. As a result, I remember in September 14, 1993 I got a job at the Food City Staple Street outlet. And I would like to humbly tell you the message I got in that letter which gave me a post as a temporary labourer. That is how I started,” he said with pride, accompanied by thundering applause from the audience.

While Mr. Pushpakumara’s humble beginnings and his phenomenal rise to the top is a story of anything is possible in working for the right company, being at the right place and being committed and hard-working, the younger Deputy Chairman Mr. Page’s comments and anecdotes connected and echoed across the house-full audience of Cargills staff, partners and well wishes.

He said 2018 was a year of challenges. “There were challenges in the rural areas and the farming community. There was an incident in April 2018. I was in Sydney on holiday and around 10 am in the morning I received a whatsapp message. This message said: Can you do something about the farmers who are unable to sell their pumpkin. I looked at the message and it was 5.30 am in Sri Lanka and I sent this message to a colleague of mine. He responded saying let me do something. By 6 am he set off, gathering the retail and marketing teams, to visit these farmers. They created a programme together to serve these farmers,” he said.

Responsible citizen

In another incident, a state-owned organisation was not collecting the produce in the North as it was surplus. “Our colleagues, who were serving these farmers, didn’t want to let them down. There was another incident where tomato farmers faced a grave situation, we went out there. We did not say it is our job, but it is our responsibility to serve those we do not see and to help the nation move forward. That is Cargills. That is what we stand for. We stand for a life and not a business. We stand to serve one another. We don’t look at whether they come from the right school, the right college or the right background,” he said.

As he related these stories on how the company connected with the communities, Mr. Page also spoke of the company’s commitment to the environment and other issues.

“We have looked at many things – the environment, healthy food, nutrition. We have reduced salt, sugar and fat in the products we manufacture. We do this not as a gimmick to increase sales but because we believe it is our responsibility to the nation,” he added, intimating that the company is investing for the future.

“This company will continue to invest and together we can make a difference for Sri Lanka,” he said, predicting that 2019 is going to be a fantastic year.


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