The story is one of single minded vision, entrepreneurship, courage, and valour. It is one that began in the late 1930s during World War II, when Ceylon (as it was known then), still under colonial rule, played a strategic role in world affairs. It was also around this period that a far sighted young man saw the potential and opportunity that existed within the portals of this country and, before long, his committed entrepreneurial mindset saw him launch his own business venture selling scrap iron. This was the genesis of a multi-billion rupee conglomerate that today, eight decades later, has permeated its business operations through eighteen companies around the country, truly reinforcing the group’s positioning as an unshakeable force in diversification and innovation.
Deshamanya A. Y. S. Gnanam believed in hard work, perseverance and in optimizing opportunities. The varying chapters within Sri Lanka’s history, from independence to socialism, to a closed economy and industrialization, from which stemmed a 180 degree transformation to an open economy, saw this founder of South Asian Investment (Pvt) Ltd continually add to his business dynamics. This was reflective of a vision and innovative spirit that is truly iconic. He added his inherent personal tenets of integrity, ethics, principles and social responsibility as well as an unwavering commitment to quality, into this burgeoning business empire.
Hence, the story of South Asian Investment (Pvt) Ltd begins with A. Y. S. Gnanam seeing potential in building materials, pioneering his first formal business under the name of St. Anthony’s. He then established Cyntex, his primary foray into the industrialized environment, successfully conquering the textile industry while he continued to expand his business further under the aegis of St. Anthony’s vis-à-vis hardware and PVC products.
At this time, A. Y. S. Gnanam was at the helm of a highly diversified business, but as was his instinctive style, he continued to feed his entrepreneurial interests, founding Tokyo Cement, which eventually became an influential market leader in the cement industry. More inspiring corporate acquisitions saw A. Y. S. Gnanam’s conglomerate further expand its group umbrella with the addition of Rhino Roofing Sheets, all of which paved the way for him being presented with the titular national honor of ‘Deshamanya’, by the President of Sri Lanka.
The story of South Asian Investment (Pvt) Ltd continues to unfold, echoing the footsteps of its visionary founder driven by the next generation to greater heights, inspired to venture into businesses that will build further upon Sri Lanka’s development agenda, all the while ensuring that the basic principles of ethics, values and morals, embellished with a feeling of empowering and enabling communities remains fundamental to the core of all business aspirations.