Sri Lanka’s 25 Fastest Growing Firms…

“Those companies are not growing at 5 percent,” Anne Habiby, co-founder of AllWorld Network told a forum in Colombo where the initiative was launched by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“They are growing at 50 percent a year, growing at 100 percent a year, growing at 5 to 10 times faster than the average private sector is growing.

It was set up following an earlier program where they sought to find and rank fast growing companies in poor urban communities in the US Inner City 100.

They were surprised to find that following the ranking and the visibility they gained, the firm won more customers, and gained funding and new investors allowing them to expand further.

Following the experience the three had set out to find the fastest growing companies around the world and build a data base and provide network for any entrepreneur in any country to gain similar opportunities with domestic and international visibility.

“Freedom of opportunity is one of mankind’s most colourful motivators,” US Ambassador Michele J Sison who had been instrumental in introducing Habiby to Sri Lankan businessmen said.

She said entrepreneurs also valued competition. She said a recent study had identified a strong co-relation between entrepreneurial societies and prosperity.

It was not accident she said that societies were prosperous when citizens had the freedom to dream up ideas and opportunities make that idea into reality, she said.

Habiby, who is of Palestinian origin had turned to the Middle East, ranking the Arabia500, followed later by Asia500 and Africa500 initiatives.

America usually comes up with ideas and inventions not found anywhere else partly due its immigration policy, which is one of the most open despite the efforts of nationalists to tighten it as much as possible, analysts say.

About 13 percent of the population is estimated to be born out of the country.

Ashroff Omar, head of Brandix, a top exporter of apparels to the US said a group of Sri Lankan businessmen met Habiby when they visited the US under an initiative of the US Embassy in Colombo.

They had decided to bring it to Sri Lanka.

He said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa also wanted to boost entrepreneurship in all parts of the country and the program matched his vision.

Omar said the first year of the three year program has now been funded by John Keells, Access, Brandix, MAS, Maliban Garments, Omega Line, Hirdramani Industries and Timex garments.

AllWorld was now looking for the SriLanka 25 and the entrepreneurs that drive them.

The program makes no effort to pre-determine any sectors, unlike state planning and promotion programs which give special incentives to some sectors based on the limited ideas of bureaucrats or interventionists, which can mis-allocate capital and stifle innovation.

The companies could be new or old. But the key criteria should be that they should be privately held – not be publicly traded.

If all fast growing firms were known, Habiby said the future could also be charted better as past history was not a good indicator of the future.

“All these super-super-fast growing companies, especially in emerging markets if we knew today, investment would be channeled quickly – domestically and internationally – we would be accelerating new ideas, new innovation and job creation,” Habiby said.

Even very old companies that were out of the limelight but had fast growth could apply to be in the AllWorld Network she said.

But firms had to be transparent and have audited accounts.