Curiosity doesn't necessarily kill the cat

    By Cheranka Mendis

    How a 30-year-old entrepreneur built a billion dollar business in a small emerging economy like Sri Lanka

    What does Ray Wijewardene, a great inventor and thinker of his time have in common with Mahesh Amalean, an industrialist bearing on his shoulders one of world’s best apparel manufacturing companies of our time?

    It is not that they have in their own right created mechanisms to shape the world, starting from our small island home and reaching various points across the globe. It is not the newspaper headlines or the long line of people who have benefited from their efforts. Over and above all these, what they have in common is a childlike curiosity and a thirst for innovation.

    Holding the designation of MAS Holdings Chairman, Mahesh Amalean has a story to tell. It is a story with twists and turns, lows and highs. It is a story of how a 30-year-old entrepreneur built a billion dollar business in a small emerging economy like Sri Lanka.

    Running in his blood
    Hailing from a family that has had the textile business gene running in its blood for generations, Amalean built his empire by challenging the status quo and trying out a new approach despite the success of the old.

    Sharing his journey at the annual IESL Ray Wijewardene Memorial Lecture 2013 held last week, Amalean traced his family tree to 1926 when his grandfather settled down in Sri Lanka to set up an apparel and textile operation. The business was carried forward by his sons, Amalean’s father and uncles.

    Having received his primary and secondary education at Royal College Colombo, he attended the University of Madras for tertiary education, specialising in engineering. However, before he could test his wings in the area he laboured in at university, Amalean was requested to join in the family business by the head of the family, his grandfather.

    Starting as one of the youngest executives in the family in the late ’70s when Sri Lanka was undergoing a huge transformation from a closed economy to an open one, he saw tremendous opportunity for growth in the apparel sector. Being one of the youngest and trying to drive change in a business that had built itself on a different approach, young Amalean soon learnt that it was best for him to step back and leave his uncles alone with a model successful in its own right and embark on a journey of his own.

    Flanked by his two younger brothers, Ajai and Sharad, Amalean set out to enjoy his freedom and to exercise his entrepreneurial and innovative nature, which later managed to revolutionise the entire landscape of apparel and textiles.





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