The hall of fame of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs

Bernard Botejue Industries

The hall of fame of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs starts with some of the oldest and the best known pioneers whop steered entrepreneurship through tough times.

Back in the Seventies, there used to be a few businesses for apparel and textiles. There were no shops or malls where clothes and accessories were available in plenty.

Bernard Botejue Industries is one such pioneering business that those who grew up during the Seventies will remember. That’s where everyone went for the T shirts and other clothing items at the time. They were one of the first ever Sri Lankan apparel entrepreneurs, making their presence felt at a time when most types of apparel was either unavailable or difficult to find.

The beginning –

Founded by Mr. Bernard Botejue in 1948 and recognized as the oldest apparel manufacturer in Sri Lanka, this family owned business grew into a formidable force in the apparel industry.

They rightfully belong in the hall of fame of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs ; their famous bananas and t shirts were the most sought after items back in the day.

What did they do right at the time?

The unique selling proposition for Bernard Botejue’s success back in the day was the Sri Lankan made banyan he marketed initially. Until then, there were only British made vests for men but the entrepreneurial streak in Bernad worked.

He started initially with borrowed capital from a friend – and with a few sewing machines from Japan. It was a test run of sorts but it worked.

He himself would knit and bleach the fabric before giving over to the 03 seamstresses who would then turn out the vests.

He would the take the produce around the island, selling his high quality, Sri Lankan made vest which his customers loved.

The company became a limited liability company in 1967 and the rest is history as they entered the hall of fame of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs.

Keeping up with the changing times –

When the economy opened up in 1977, they were at the right place at the right time. They entered exports and never looked back.

With international investors, came foreign currency and the company was ready to handle international orders. Those were the first days of textile exports for Sri Lanka but they were there, ensuring Sri Lankan quality and presence in the International market.

Sharing the benefits with the community –

Under the 200 factories programme launched in 1991, Bernard Botejue, by now a powerhouse in apparel, was ready to give back to the community. A factory was opened in Kolonna, a remote village which needed employment badly.

The company set up a state of the art factory with access to training for 500 people, complete with 200 machines. Today, there are 400 machines and the factory gives employment to 700 personnel. The factory has expanded as a part of the company’s community outreach with many lives in the area empowered and lives transformed.

The Bernard Botejue Kolonna meets global standards and is certified by WRAP (Worldwide Responsibility Accredited Production), SEDEX and the Garments without Guilt of JAAF. Their high quality knitwear is exported to destinations in the US and Europe.

Today, the second and the third generations run this uniquely Sri Lankan company which set the pathway for Sri Lankan apparel businesses to follow.

Watch this space for our series on enterprising and pioneering Sri Lankan business ventures and entrepreneurs in the Sri Lankan Halle of Entrepreneurial Fame, a unique series by vyapara.lk to encourage and inspire the new generation of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs.

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