The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited is, today, probably the single largest group of private sector companies in Sri Lanka. A multifaceted, multidimensional group whose activities span manufacturing, marketing, exports, communications, media, information technology, foods, packaging and more.
Just over 20 years ago, following the riots in 1983, turnover stood at less than SLR 32 million; assets, were reduced to virtually zero and the Group's very existence stood threatened. What followed however, has been a growth that is arguably the most spectacular seen in Sri Lanka. It is moreover, a growth that has stemmed largely from the Group's underlying philosophy:
The Courage to be Different.
A brief history of The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited
[Friends-01] The Group had its origins in the years leading up to World War II. The year was 1938 and the storm clouds of war were gathering. Two friends, Subramaniam Mahadevan and Sinnathamby Rajandram, employees of Dodge & Seymour, an American trading house, committed their life savings to acquire the shares of the Company when the owners left the Island.
It was a difficult time but, with the end of the war dawned a new era. One that was characterised by the spirit of pioneering that drives The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited even today. The post war years saw the two partners, Mr S Mahadevan and Mr Sinnathamby Rajandram, consolidate the business, embark on new activities and add new lines of product.
The end of the '50s were marked by two events. The first was the passing of Mr S Mahadevan on December 23, 1957. The second was the initial steps of the Company into the manufacture of industrial and consumer products. It was at this time that the Company pioneered the introduction of PVC pipes and fittings into Sri Lanka. Followed by the subsequent manufacture of this in 1961. Today, the S-Lon brand, apart from being market leaders are virtually a generic name for PVC pipes and fittings in Sri Lanka.
The Sixties and a new incarnation...
The mid to end '60s saw several significant events taking place. On September 12, 1965, Mr Rajandram passed away. The torch passed to a younger generation and a new page was written in the history of the Group. The various companies in the Group were restructured and, on April 1, 1967, The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited was incorporated.
It was a difficult beginning in a time of hardship, at a time of a stagnant economy, austere economic policies and a severe foreign exchange crunch. However, the Group grew. It achieved this by breaking new ground, taking calculated chances, perceiving opportunities that others didn't see.
The Seventies... and liberalisation
By 1976, the innovative optimisation of the opportunities perceived in the late sixties and early seventies was showing results. Group turnover had increased twenty-nine fold to Rs 296 million.
With the liberalisation of the economy in 1977, the Group was now poised to emerge from the decades of hardship.
Also, in 1977, the Group put together the first foreign investment project, The Prima Flour Mill - at that time the largest flour mill in the free world. The Eighties... resurrection and expansion
By 1983, Group turnover had doubled to Rs 581 million.
But 1983 saw a major disaster for Sri Lanka and for The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited. On July 23, large scale civil unrest erupted. In just three, short days, the Group and all its assets were reduced to ashes. However, the spirit of the Group held together ... its philosophy and ethos – The Courage to be Different - remained unscathed. The decision to rebuild was taken at a board meeting on July 23, 1983. By 1985, the dogged determination of the Group was paying off. Two years saw not just the rebuilding of the Group but saw, as well, its assets cross the Rs 850 million mark. That year saw the Group take another major decision. On June 24, at a board meeting, the Group decided that the time had now come to expand. Impelled by its decision, the Group added new businesses, new companies, new areas of enterprise to its portfolio.
This was achieved, again, in a period of turmoil, of domestic political instability that saw major losses of working days and geographical markets and a Gulf War that saw the loss of an important export market.
The Group strengthened and grew by concentrating on clearly fixed objectives, careful planning, skilful money management and tight financial controls.
The Nineties... a period of strategic alliances
By 1991, Group turnover was Rs 5 billion. That year the shareholders took a major decision. They decided to look beyond the internal resources of the Group and commit themselves to a policy of strategic alliances as a source for new technologies, management skills, international brands, equity and, above all, a new direction for corporate growth.
Today, that decision stands vindicated. The Group is now firmly entrenched in media. It has several TV channels and FM radio channels. In addition it has pioneered novel communication methods to reach inaccessible areas and has set up infrastructure capabilities to feed demand from both its own as well as other TV stations.
In information technology it has emerged as one of the leaders in Sri Lanka. It has broadened its horizons to encompass Information Communication Technology and counts among its strategic partners leading names in the field of ICT. Moreover, its clients are spread across not just the Island but also the Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia.
Its chemical company has grown to be a major source of chemicals and fertilisers for the agricultural sector.
Today, the Group while facing the future with confidence, looks back with justifiable pride to its origins, to its trying times and perhaps, above all to its philosophy – The Courage to be Different.
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