In the realm of dreams and boundless ideas, Nilanga Karunarathne, the trailblazing Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Agro Ventures Plantations Private Limited, stands as a living testament to the power of ambition. From an early age, he nurtured a remarkable curiosity that propelled him towards a remarkable entrepreneurial journey, making waves in the agricultural sector.
Fueled by a relentless thirst for knowledge, Karunarathne would pore over lifestyle magazines, mesmerized by the ingenuity behind luxurious creations. While his peers admired glossy photographs, his inquisitive mind pondered the visionary minds responsible for these marvels. Little did he know that these musings would shape his path and ignite a passion for business that few his age could fathom.
During his time at the prestigious University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Karunarathne unexpectedly found himself tutoring at what would become a renowned coaching center in the country. Educating thousands of students simultaneously, he discovered the art of effective communication and the ability to inspire young minds—an experience that would lay the foundation for his future in leadership and training.
Upon graduating, he delved into the corporate world, joining a private banking institution that would soon launch Asian Alliance Insurance. As a key member and Head of Training and Knowledge Management, he played an indispensable role in the company’s exponential growth. Karunarathne’s visionary contributions in implementing transformative policies and processes continue to reverberate within the organization to this day.
Despite his stellar corporate career spanning over 15 years, Karunarathne’s entrepreneurial spirit burned brightly. Founding Gapco International Private Ltd and Ezi Channeling Private Ltd, he carved a niche for himself as a visionary leader. However, it was in 2016 that his most remarkable venture, Agro Ventures Plantations, took root. Through meticulous planning and extensive research, the company blossomed into a robust system, leading to the successful launch of its sales division in 2022.
Unveiling the ethos and philosophy of Agro Ventures Plantations, Karunarathne emphasized his relentless pursuit of growth in every aspect. “We aspire to become the world’s leading vanilla supplier, elevating Sri Lanka’s vanilla export sector to unparalleled heights,” he declared. With a keen focus on sustainable practices and environmental responsibility, the company aims to revolutionize the agro-investment industry, providing an eco-friendly means of investment with guaranteed returns.
Agro Ventures Plantations employs a simple yet ingenious business model. Customers are invited to invest in a plot of land, entrusting the company to nurture and manage vanilla plantations that yield bountiful harvests. By combining rigorous research, innovative cultivation methods, and unwavering commitment, the company maximizes the quality and quantity of its organic vanilla beans.
“Our customers reap the rewards of their investment effortlessly,” Karunarathne explained. “We take care of all the hard work, ensuring their returns are substantial. With a range of investment plans, we offer security and monthly passive income, allowing individuals to witness their capital grow steadily.”
Beyond individual investors, Agro Plantation Ventures caters to discerning export partners seeking high-quality organic vanilla beans and other vanilla products. With 100% organic produce, the company’s beans have garnered acclaim from renowned 5-star hotels in Sri Lanka and the Middle East, establishing a reputation for excellence.
Agro Ventures Plantations relies on a simple business model. The process involves inviting customers to invest in a plot of land, and nurturing vanilla plantations, which will be managed – financially, and otherwise – by the company to ensure the vanilla will efficiently grow into beans. Backed by rigorous research and experiments, which developed into innovative methods of vanilla cultivation, the company is able to maximize the bean harvests.
Karunarathne added, “Agro Ventures Plantations will cultivate and then export this vanilla to the global market so that our customers will receive a hefty return on their investment from us. We take care of all the work while our customers can invest and enjoy the benefits after the return period.”
Remarking on how this agreement works, he said, “We have a plan that allows our customers to receive a monthly passive income after an initial investment and like all our plans, we will transfer a plot of land as a security for their investment, along with a legal agreement. In addition, we have plans where our customer could invest a certain sum and receive the highest returns with excellent security via the legal agreement and plot of land – at the end of five years.”
On the other hand, Agro Plantation Ventures’ customers also comprise export partners who purchase high-quality raw and processed vanilla beans and other vanilla products. Karunarathne claimed that these are highly valued since their vanilla is 100% organic. The company also caters its processed beans to a range of 5-star hotels in Sri Lanka and the Middle East.
Reflecting on some of the most remarkable milestones of the company, Karunarathne proudly recounts the incredible feat of distributing a thousand land deeds as security for customers within a mere six months of commencing sales operations. This extraordinary accomplishment stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment of the team and the profound trust the brand has earned from its clientele.
Undoubtedly, the cultivation of vanilla presents colossal challenges, with each acre demanding Herculean efforts. Yet, against all odds, Agro Ventures Plantations has triumphed, successfully cultivating the initial 20 acres out of their expansive 135-acre estate. This remarkable achievement showcases the team’s unwavering dedication to their mission and the profound impact they have on the lives of farmers, employees, and customers invested in vanilla cultivation.
However, navigating through the treacherous waters of an economic crisis is no easy feat. Karunarathne reveals the setbacks encountered by the company and the mammoth challenges they overcame. With an indomitable spirit, the team embraced a positive outlook, understanding that resilience and adaptability are the keys to weathering tough times. Balancing the intricacies of sales, investment, farming, and agriculture, they discovered opportunities that proved vital in mitigating the economic ramifications. Inflation’s harsh grip affected everyone, eroding savings. Yet, Agro Ventures Plantations provided a sanctuary of stability, offering one of the highest returns on investments in Sri Lanka, surpassing even local fixed deposit rates. With their unwavering trust in the Earth, they supported customers in growing their savings, shielding them from the perils of inflation.
Highlighting the island’s resilient soil, which remains among the world’s finest despite Sri Lanka’s tumultuous journey as a nation, Karunarathne emphasizes that Agro Ventures Plantations’ vanilla is cultivated 100% organically, free from artificial fertilizers. This strategic decision shielded them from the fertilizer shortage, ensuring uninterrupted growth. Furthermore, with long-term agreements in place with international buyers who pay a fixed rate in USD, their income from exports remains secure amidst the ongoing crisis. The credit for this foresight goes to meticulous planning and a robust business model that has helped them navigate turbulent waters unscathed.
Looking toward the future, Agro Ventures Plantations envisions Sri Lanka as a prominent exporter of organic vanilla, aiming to meet the ever-growing global demand. Setting their sights high, the company aims to elevate the valuation of the vanilla export sector to an impressive USD 100 million, establishing Sri Lankan organic vanilla as a brand synonymous with excellence, much like the renowned Ceylon Tea. This ambitious endeavor promises to revolutionize Sri Lanka’s agro export sector, leading the way in sustainable practices and creating abundant job opportunities while bolstering the economy with essential foreign revenue.
As our conversation draws to a close, Karunarathne leaves us with an inspirational message, a call to embrace the power of dreams. He emphasizes that even if one believes they are starting from nothing, the mere presence of a dream sets the wheels of transformation in motion. In a future where automation threatens monotony, dreams and ideas hold the key to standing out amidst the crowd. With unwavering belief and a burning desire to create, one is already halfway to achieving greatness.