The Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) held its 24th Anniversary Celebrations on 10th March 2023, at Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo. The event was attended by the chief guest, Prime Minister, Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena; the guest of honour, U. S. Ambassador, H. E. Julie Chung; former President of Sri Lanka, Hon. Maithripala Sirisena; Chief of the Defense Staff, General Shavendra Silva; cabinet and state ministers; parliamentarians; commanders of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces; government officials, and business leaders.
The Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) comprises more than 116 prominent individuals who serve as Chairmen and Controlling Shareholders of some of the most influential companies in Sri Lanka. It has over 500 member organizations and is affiliated with nearly 50 business chambers in the country. The organization is managed and controlled by young entrepreneurs but also boasts a number of senior and respected business leaders who joined the organization during its formative years to help shape COYLE into what it is today. The Chamber actively promotes entrepreneurship, the development of rural communities, and thought leadership. In adherence to the organization’s strongly held principles and as a mandatory service to the community, COYLE engages in countless CSR initiatives through its member companies around the country. The Chamber provides leadership, learning, and development for its members and stakeholders, and over the years, it has grown into a vehicle for business growth in Sri Lanka via its many local and global networks.
The past year was an exceptionally challenging one for all parties in the Sri Lankan economy. Remarking on this, the Outgoing Chairman of COYLE, Mr. Dimuth Chankama Silva, stated during his address, “This year was the greatest test of our mettle. Even diamonds are born out of pressure. This year gave us the opportunity to shine through pressures from all directions. I believe we shone. We are here alive and kicking, our businesses are growing, we are conquering international markets and territories, and COYLE has grown in leaps and bounds.”
A notable emphasis was given to the introduction of the COYLE theme for the year 2023/24, EVOLUTION: #Resilience, #Agility, and #Transformation. The incoming Chairman, Mr. Rasith Wickramasingha, stated, “Evolution is to upscale capability, enhance skills and increase creativity, innovate at a time of chaos, and re-imagine a new business environment. Evolution requires change: change in mindset, attitude, self-awareness, and acumen of the surrounding environment as well as culture.”
He went on to note that in today’s environment, every five years constitutes a generational gap and emphasized the need for COYLE to evolve as a chamber in order to be relevant and sustainable for the future. He further mentioned that decades of ill-conceived, politically driven policies based on the advocacy of a few, rather than consultative decision-making with recognized business chambers, have led to the current crisis. Elaborating on this point, Mr. Rasith Wickramasingha said, “Policy formulation should be done based on sound economic principles and business acumen. Businesses rely on stable policies so that they may plan ahead. Ad hoc policies which bring no economic benefit have led to losses in the private sector and leakage of foreign exchange from the country.”
He emphasized that it is heartbreaking to see that the individuals who strive continuously for the betterment of the country and persistently do the right thing get penalized while those engaging in unethical practices to avoid taxation are rarely held accountable. COYLE hopes for more genuine dialogue from policymakers regarding these issues and affirms that the organization’s globally exposed and experienced members could be a great value addition to any actions taken to revive the economy. What sets COYLE apart from the rest is that its members are made up of business owners and decision-makers who are passionate about doing something good for the country, who are genuinely aligned with this cause, and willing to embrace the future without diluting our national and cultural heritage.
The 24th Anniversary Celebration of COYLE closely reflected in its overarching tone the state of the country following the Easter Bombings, the pandemic, and the economic and political crisis. The event also honored and recognized the Chamber’s numerous members who weathered the storm by building resilience, being agile, and transforming their businesses. It also highlighted the many CSR initiatives undertaken by COYLE member organizations, many of which were carried out quietly, purely as a service to the country. These initiatives focus on communities most affected by the calamities of the past years and were chosen regardless of race, religion, or creed. With a host of esteemed and influential guests attending the celebrations, COYLE made this event a platform to convey a strong message calling for sociopolitical change in the country. COYLE believes that the hardline decisions taken by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, were tough but necessary considering the state of affairs. The Chamber also notes that as a result of these decisions, gradual change for the better is apparent in the economy. Considering the massive pool of collective experience, expertise, and connections held by COYLE, it is capable of providing significant value and insight for economic reform. Hence, COYLE urges the government to actively engage and work together with the Chamber to expedite economic revival.