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Manohari Abeyesekera

Chairperson of the CIMA Business Leaders Summit 2017 organizing committee

Why did you decide to lead organization of CIMA Business Leaders Summit for 2017?

The board members requested that I chair the CIMA Business Leaders Summit, since I have served CIMA Sri Lanka Board for the last 6 years in addition to chairing the Thought Leadership Committee in recent years.

What were the challenges you faced?

Organizing a national level forum within a short time span is always a challenge.  The organizing committee initially met in May 2017 and from that point onwards, there were a mere 4 months to organize this event.  One of the main aims of this conference was to contribute towards the C-Suite business thought leadership in the country, in terms of how Sri Lanka can accelerate to the next phase of economic development.  In the past, CIMA in Sri Lanka had very distinguished speakers such as former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, world renowned cricketer and politician Imran Khan and author Robin Sharma to name a few.  We wanted this year’s conference to feature well known personalities yet again.  

Of course, finding such speakers who are able to visit Sri Lankan within the available time is never an easy task.  We were fortunate to have Mohit Pande, Head of Google Cloud India accepting our invitation to grace the conference as the Keynote Speaker.  As the world’s most valuable brand (estimated to the over US $ 100 billion), we are excited to introduce Google to the Sri Lankan corporates in its maiden public appearance in Colombo.  The other key speaker we managed to confirm for the summit was iflix CEO Azran Osman Rani from Malaysia.  Eventually, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe accepted our invitation to attend the event as the Chief Guest.  The government recently launched Vision 2025, and the thematic overview for this year's summit very much mirrors the development objectives listed in Vision 2025.   

Finding sponsors was a whole different kind of challenge.  It was gruelling but once the speakers were finalized, Janashakthi Insurance agreed to support the event as Strategic Platinum Partner for the 3rd consecutive year.  I approached other corporates for mid-tier sponsorships and within two weeks, raised funds exceeding Rs. 6 million.  Several media institutions supported the event - Wijeya Newspapers, Dialog TV, Derana TV and ART TV.   The creative partner for the event, Sarva designed all the promotional marketing collateral needed.  

Your comments on the progress of the organization, against the odds?

In one word – excited!  I’m happy that everything fell into place but one can never rest until an event of this scale is concluded.  We are all keeping our fingers crossed, and look forward to a break afterwards of course.  I’d like to give a special mention to my team members in the organizing committee, as well as to everyone in CIMA who contributed to making this event a success in any capacity.  On my part, juggling a full time job at Hayleys with all my work commitments along with the responsibility towards CIMA was certainly a challenge, which I believe I handled well.  

What is your message to the membership community in Sri Lanka?  How would you like them to contribute for other member engagement events?

The late President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam said “Dreams are not what you see in sleep, it is the thing which doesn’t let you sleep.”  I believe in dreaming big and making things happen.   As professionals we have a responsibility to contribute to our country’s development, to take it towards the next phase.   It’s in this sphere that CIMA provides us a wonderful platform to enhance our leadership skills in taking up challenging roles.  I urge the CGMA community in Sri Lanka to make use of this wonderful opportunity which CIMA provides, become active members and organize other successful business events.