The Glucorasa story that took Lanka’s confectionery industry by storm | Daily News

The Glucorasa story that took Lanka’s confectionery industry by storm

The Glucorasa
The factory at Bandaragama

Some of the world’s top food brands have been created, due to a ‘formula’ or a ‘recipe’ of creating another product going wrong. One such ‘mistaken formula’ is that went to create the world most consumed beverage, Coca Cola.

Back at Sri Lanka in the late 1950’ a family in Moratuwa was entertaining some relatives at a birthday party and the desert that was prepared went ‘wrong’ but the ‘sweetness’ in it was admired.

The host of the party, P. Christie Perera who was working at Colombo Agencies one of the biggest importers was later suspended pending inquiry for an offence he did not commit recalled current Chairman/Managing Director Sunil Quintus Perera, reminiscing the birth of a game changer in the Sri Lanka confectionery industry.

Idling at home he thought about dinner and a sweet desert and talked to his wife, Mabel and changed a recipe which she had in possession and made a sweet. Then he packed it and sold it to some of the shops in Moratuwa. The product caught on and shop owners wanted more.

He then began to make the sweet in a more organized and large scale manner and branded it as ‘Glucorasa jujubes’ which was later, Sri Lanka’s highest selling ‘sweet’ for several decades.

After a few months Colombo Agencies called him and said that the inquiry against him was completed and he was found innocent and wanted him to come back. Sensing that there was a better opportunity in the Glucorasa business he declined the offer.

However the Colombo Agencies management felt guilty and then offered him long credit for some of the raw material that had to be imported to make this sweet.

With the business growing he decided to name the sweet as ‘Glucorasa’. The others in the family also helped and in two years’ time the first Sales Manager F. P. Perera, (known as Anton) who is the brother of Christie, was appointed. The first major investment was a lorry which was bought for Norbert at Rs. 750 for the distribution of Glucorasa.

Growing in confidence they decided to introduce more brands and then jellies chewing gum, peppermints, toffees and wafers were introduced and these products too became instant hits and earned the market leader position in all their products.

The Company which was named as Uswatte Confectionery Works and moved to Galle Road Rawatawatte was consolidating its position in the market and some of the products were exported as well. The employee strength increased to 300.

However with the closed economy followed by the insurrection in 1971 their business suffered a major setback with the distribution network being restricted and also raw material imports including liquid glucose curtailed.

In this backdrop the company was faced with major financial constraints and by 1977 Uswatte Confectionery Works employee strength narrowed to less than 10 and production too came down.

“With the introduction of the open economy the company breathed a sigh of relief and by 1980 we introduced new products, Tipi Tip and wafers to the Sri Lankan market.”

“We managed to turn around and was sailing smoothly until 1998 when tragically, my father, Christy Perera, expired and the second generation taking over the management.”

“This resulted in several issues surfacing with several administrators trying to run the business without much experience and vision. To add to this there was another youth uprising during years 1988-1989 which also had a major negative impact to us. In 2001, when I saw that the Company was noose diving. The banks were asking us to sell the land and settle their dues while the Department of Inland Revenue also closed down our import accounts because everything was in arrears.”

“I told the other directors that things cannot go on like this and someone has to direct it. They knew that I was capable of turning the company around and they appointed me the Chief Executive Officer.”

The first thing I did was to service the loans and reduce liabilities and then things started moving smoothly. However the other directors once again started to get involved and to overcome this in 2007 I decided to buy the shares and there were many sellers.”

“I had 34% shares but since I didn’t have the controlling share I sweet talked with the Indian shareholder who was having 22% shares and bought it in 2010 to have control in Uswatte.”

“At the time of my taking over the business as CEO the business was at a very low key with the turnover for a month as low as Rs. four million which was not sufficient even to pay the salaries of the staff and other overheads. I sold some of my land and reinvested that money into the business. I went to the banks, suppliers and the Department of Inland Revenue and asked for time to settle all the dues and having trust in me gave me time to settle all the dues which I did honoring my promise.”

“I also built up the sales to about Rs. 40 million by 2012 and the secret for this is that I stopped all credit payments and adopted several other prudent financial measures. I called all the distributors and told them our financial situation and they agreed to by our products for spot cash.”

“I also decided that the venue in Ratmalana factory was not suitable to have the factory as my father’s house was behind it and people were constantly going in and in and in 2012 I purchased this 10-acre land where Uswatte Confectionery Works is currently situated in Bandaragama. I had to start from scratch and build up this gradually and completed the whole set-up in three years converting a bare jungle into a factory complex by building from brick to brick by investing every rupee saved to stay afloat amidst tight financial constraints”.

This new ultra-modern factory and office complex of Uswatte Confectionery Works (Pvt) Limited, built at a cost of Rs. 200 million, will be opened by President Maithripala Sirisena at Millaniya in Bandaragama. “Being able to build this state-of-the-art complex on our own land within three years was a dream come true”.With the business back in to its glory we introduced several new products and also started exports to many countries. Today the company also provide employment to over 550.

Perera, who was also the President of the Lanka Confectionery Manufacturers Association (LCMA), noted that the local confectionery standard is very high but imports keep coming. “We have also urged the government to look into this issue by providing some concessions for local manufacturers by way of concession for the import of raw materials”

He also introduced his family members to the business and Director of the company Shanura Perera, who underwent training to become a pilot and later joined his father’s company. His daughter Suhanya M. Perera Ockersz also joined the company to handle the accounting sector.

Growing in confidence we are now taking another major step by opening the second factory at Bandaragama to manufacture biscuits investing Rs. 400 million.

“Today, we can be happy and proud of this great victory which was the result of all our hard work, dedication and commitment”, he said. 

 


 

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