Mentoring your child into riding a bike, catching a ball and eventually into taking over the corporate world is a dream that many parents fantasise of, but will hardly see succeed. Currently looking over the benchmarking process of the Access Group of Companies, Sri Lanka, Sumal Perera, the Founder/Chairman and Shamal Perera the Non-Executive Director of Access Group of Companies is a father-son duo who not only buried themselves in the chimaera, but were actively involved in bringing it to reality.
Sumal Perera, having founded the colossal enterprise, views himself as a conservative entrepreneur that places trust and faith in the power of human resources. He owes this viewpoint to the many people that he has closely associated with, who have tirelessly engaged in bringing the Access Group to the heights it has now reached. According to him, he is now relinquishing a childhood dream which was always to start a business on his own. During this period of manifestation and observation, Sumal engaged in Mercantile Entities and familiarised himself with the business landscape that he was soon going to be taking over. As his only son, Sumal wanted nothing but for Shamal to succeed after him, and to be taking over as the head of the Access family while leading the venture into corporate wonders.
Shamal Perera has definitely taken his father’s intentions into the heart and delivered an incredible performance. His perseverance and drive towards succeeding has managed to bring in ground-breaking differences in the industry. According to Shamal, being a part of the Access Group has always left him accessible for fortuity and connections, allowing him to pursue business ventures every now and then. “The quest for self-improvement permeates all areas of my personal life too including sports; especially golf, health and fitness and most importantly, my family. I like to think of myself as someone who is easy-going, caring and dependable, and who is always able to make time for those around me including my family, friends and colleagues”, Shamal put his behemoth self into words.
Having completed his MBA in the UK in 2009, Shamal was an inspirited youngster, coming back to the country during the credit crunch and the economic recession which hit the western world. The circumstances had impelled him to set up a new venture in the country that in his words would be ‘more robust in the face of economic challenges’. As it was not his intention to join the core business construction, he took an upsurge as a worthy and new competitor in the market. Shamal took interest in the medical sector and the team was very soon recognized as a leading and reliable supplier of medical equipment. This triumph helped them take a leap into the healthcare sector by acquiring Ninewells Hospital in 2015. With the success of Ninewells as the leading private maternity hospital in the country, Shamal looks forward to escalating this practice of providing exceptional service for mothers throughout the island.
“We felt that we can improve healthcare delivery, by introducing unique value propositions via the only specialised hospital in the country. Our next venture was into the education sector with the acquisition of Horizon Campus. Again, we saw service delivery gaps in the market and felt we could do things differently. So, all things considered, I am happy to say that the journey to date has been extremely rewarding”, Shamal added.
Conversing Access Groups recent expansion, Shamal added that the focus of the venture has expanded into the automobile, education, health and real estate sectors, which are abounding with opportunities. “Many students travel overseas for further education. Not only resulting in brain drain but it also creates a shortage in skilled human resources which poses many challenges for local businesses like Access. The present higher education space in the private sector is dominated by a few large players who are focused only on offering a qualification but we are keen to add move value through creating graduates who not only will be ready to be employed but also in areas where the demand exist. Access envisions offering students a more holistic university education experience like what they would receive at a foreign university coupled with internationally recognized degrees.” Shamal elaborated on the company’s efforts regarding the educational sector. As the island is influenced and surrounded by superior economies, the development of a unique product may perform as a service-led experience that attracts foreign students to the country.
Sumal is confident that Access Engineering is definitely the most successful business unit in the Access Group of companies. As per his decision to support the concept of the emergence of a separate company and touched on the Initial Public Offering, Sumal shares that the primary goal was to proportionate the ownership with his Partners and Staff of Access Engineering. Undoubtedly, the protagonist’s mission and vision have played an extensive role in shaping the Access Group into the cetacean personality it is today. However, Sumal believes that their group heads hold a much more diverse and important mission and vision for each unit, which ultimately get together towards the prospering of the company.
Shamal Perera being the current captain of the smooth sailing of Access Group believes that flexibility is at the top of the company traits which allows the company to adapt to any change that could otherwise topple all it has achieved. “The pace of change is accelerating, and companies need to embrace technology in decision making and management of business operations to achieve optimal levels of productivity. This I think will be key in the evolution and transformation of any business. In this light, my role at Access, on one hand, would be to introduce digital transformation by adopting new technologies and tools needed to increase productivity and assist in making better, faster decisions across the company. Together with my team, we will implement and use these tools to drive business growth, determine what businesses should continue as is, identify which ones require restructuring, assess different markets and identify lucrative businesses to enter in the future.”, he explained further. In his eye’s complacency is a dangerous tool to play with and holds considerable power over the success of an organisation, possibly resulting in the loss of its competitive edge if not dealt with accordingly. While avoiding this rut, an increased focus on diversification has been the heart of the Access family, which Shamal says, has proven worthy of its course during the past 3 decades.
Looking into the bright future of Access, Shamal does not think that many things would change, since the agility and lean nature of the business has been able to successfully take on opportunities in the past decades. Because of the strong relationships that Access has formed with its stakeholders, the route appears to be clear, providing enough strength for the endeavour to travel beyond the island’s borders.
“Furthermore, Access has thus far been a more public sector-oriented company and I believe that with the demands of the consumer changing and with Sri Lanka becoming a more middle-income nation, we can focus on more consumer led businesses. Not necessarily looking at retail but at how we can take our product offerings directly to the consumer and exceed their expectations with value addition. I believe we have done this very well with Ninewells Hospital and we look forward to adopting this same strategy for new business ventures” , he added.
When it comes to digitalization, Access intends to explore into new projects and spread their wings. His long-term vision for the company is to create a sustainable organisation with a customer-centric, tech-savvy, and value-driven staff, and he is well on his way to achieving these goals.
Shamal expresses gratitude for his mentor’s and father’s support, both when he was on the verge of giving up and when he was succeeding. Shamal considers his father’s emotional intelligence to be one of the company’s and his own greatest cornerstones. Shamal feels that his father’s supply of space, allowance, support, and mentorship is the driving force behind the Access family’s success and where it is now, making him a proud son who looks up to the mentor who moulded him. Sumal, a proud father, contributed the following remarks as an endnote, certainly overjoyed to watch Access soar to new heights under his talented son’s leadership. “I have only one son and even before he was born, it was my wish that he follows in my footsteps and someday succeeds me as the head of the Access Family. He has joined me directly after his academic career and he will pursue his own dream and vision and I have been blessed that I am still around to support him in all his endeavours.”