HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards presented by the British Council is a business plan contest aimed at recognising and supporting young entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka to start-up their businesses. The competition, which is open to Sri Lankan postgraduates, undergraduates and students aged 16 to 26 years representing universities, private higher education institutions, technical and vocational institutions and professional training bodies in Sri Lanka, encourages students to submit their business ideas as individuals or in teams under any of the given industry categories: creative industries, tourism and hospitality, information technology and telecommunications, engineering, agriculture.
A total of 75 business ideas were selected and the young entrepreneurs behind these proposals were invited to pitch their creative ideas to a panel comprising of British Council Country Director Keith Davies, HSBC Head of Marketing Tharanga Gunasekera, Google Country Manager Rohan Jayaweera, CEO Sandwich Factory Hisham Cader, CEO Orion City Jeevan Gnanam, Senior Vice President Virtusa Madu Ratnayake, CEO Horizon College International Upul Daranagama, CEO Kapruka Dulith Herath, National Programme Manager - Ceylon Chamber of Commerce V. Kumaraguru, and National Manager South Asia Royal Academy of Dance Ranmali Mirchandani
The business pitches took place at Orion City at 4 p.m. After the 75 pitches, the judges announced the best 25 business ideas and these individuals and teams were requested to spend the night at Orion City, “hacking” their ideas and preparing their final pitch to the judges, which was to take place the afternoon of the next day. Orion City buzzed with dynamic young entrepreneurs as they worked through the night, fine tuning and practicing their business pitch for tomorrow’s tough judging panel.
Twenty-four hours later, the teams presented their ideas once again. The judging panel selected the most innovative and feasible business plans by listening to the pitches and asking probing questions about their proposed business and revenue models. HSBC Head of Marketing, Tharanga Gunasekera said, “We saw the successful completion of 2013 HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards last weekend. It was wonderful to see a lot of young people with unique and innovative ideas. This made it quite a challenging task for the judges to select the three best business proposals.”
Tharaka De Alwis emerged as the winner with his business idea of an augmented reality app easing the purchasing experience for furniture customers. P A Arachchi and Team emerged second with their idea of a Medical Jacket which continuously monitors the wearer’s health conditions. Jeevani Fernando and Team came third in place with their innovative idea of Bio Mass Cooking Bricks. As of previous years, winners of the ‘HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards’ received cash prizes as seed capital to support the establishment of their businesses. The winner received Rs. 500,000, first-runner up Rs. 200,000 and second runner-up Rs.100,000.
Eranda Ginige, Head of Partnerships and Business Development, British Council, said: “This was the third year we organised this competition in partnership with HSBC, one of our most valued partners not just in Sri Lanka but across the 110 country, global network of the British Council. This is a long-term investment in the entrepreneurial youth of Sri Lanka by HSBC and the British Council because both our organisations believe that future prosperity of any nation lies in the hands of today’s youth.”
Adding to Ginige’s comments, Niroshi Siriwansa, Manager International Higher Education and project manager of the event said, “I have had the opportunity to see the changes this project has had on the lives of former award winners as well as other applicants. There is a significant progress in most of the applicants, their ideas, creativity and their skills from the previous year to this year.”
The British Council has pioneered a number of initiatives to promote graduate entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka. By working closely with the Ministry of Higher Education, University Grants Commission, vice-chancellors and lecturers in Sri Lanka and the UK’s entrepreneurial universities, the British Council is helping to develop policies and programmes to develop entrepreneurship education within universities. A successful example is ‘IDEATORS – Next Generation Entrepreneurs’, a reality-TV enterprise competition organised by the British Council that has created mass-scale awareness about the importance of entrepreneurship education in Sri Lanka.