Sri Lanka: Gordon de Silva, Manufacturer

Gordon de Silva, Manufacturer in Sri Lanka

To put his ideas into practice, entrepreneur Gordon de Silva from Sri Lanka set up a company – with great success. And he is not the only one to benefit. In 2006 he employed a workforce of 50; today, this has grown to 300. His medium-sized company produces, processes and markets Fair Trade products made from coconuts. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ is supporting small and medium-sized companies like de Silva’s in developing marketing strategies and handling finance and management issues.

What motivated you to start your own business?

When I started my career I knew little about the potential of organically produced products. I did some research and within a few months I realised producing virgin coconut oil under organic conditions in Sri Lanka was a distinct possibility. Sri Lankan coconut growers were organic by default and I wanted to sell this.

How did Sri Lankan-German partnership foster your business?

Soil fertility development is part of the organic certification process. To improve the fertility we initially tried to encourage our growers to keep their own compost. But many growers didn’t have the knowledge and the resources. With the support of GIZ we installed a compost facility that currently processes around 450 tons of compost which we give to all our registered growers at a non-profit subsidised price.

How do you process raw organic coconuts?

Our production process commences with the husking of the coconuts and their delivery to the factory, followed by the shelling of the coconuts and the washing, drying, filtering, expelling and bottling process, under the highest degree of hygienic conditions and free of any microbiological infections. We have a microbiological lab with three full-time quality control officers ensuring that what we ship is 100 per cent quality.

In what way is your company different from profit-driven businesses?

As part of our fair trade certification, we are committed to disbursing our earnings. Growers, workers on their estates, huskers, truckers and our workers in the factory all benefit. Since its foundation in 2007 the company has disbursed 400,000 euros to education, health and social projects.

How has your company developed?

In order to meet the seemingly ever growing demand for virgin coconut oil, we have expanded. We have registered over 14,000 acres of organic coconut estates belonging to 725 individual growers with land ranging from 5 acres to 150 acres. Besides cosmetic oil we are now supplying our buyers with a greater proportion of food grade oil.


        
    
The sign board of Gordon de Silva’s company, Serendipol.
The sign board of Gordon de Silva’s company, Serendipol.

        
    
Gordon de Silva believes in the philosophy that business policy is not only about making profits but also about taking care of social and environmental aspects.
Gordon de Silva believes in the philosophy that business policy is not only about making profits but also about taking care of social and environmental aspects.

        
    
Huskers are in demand in the region due to their unique skill set. They remove the husk from the coconut before it is sent to the factory.
Huskers are in demand in the region due to their unique skill set. They remove the husk from the coconut before it is sent to the factory.

        
    
Employees use hatchets to prepare the coconuts for processing.
Employees use hatchets to prepare the coconuts for processing.

        
    
Employees share a light moment amid their busy work schedules. Fair trade ensures the work force is employed on fair terms.
Employees share a light moment amid their busy work schedules. Fair trade ensures the work force is employed on fair terms.

        
    
Virgin coconuts are prepared thoroughly before being sent to the dryers.
Virgin coconuts are prepared thoroughly before being sent to the dryers.

        
    
Dried coconuts go through a crusher and a dryer before being sent to the expellers for the coconut oil extraction.
Dried coconuts go through a crusher and a dryer before being sent to the expellers for the coconut oil extraction.

        
    
Quality control: An employee checks the jars before they are sent to the bottling plant.
Quality control: An employee checks the jars before they are sent to the bottling plant.

        
    
Early stages of coconut plants in a nursery…
Early stages of coconut plants in a nursery…

        
    
…and a coconut estate with full-grown coconut palms. The virgin coconut products are exported, for example to the United States.
…and a coconut estate with full-grown coconut palms. The virgin coconut products are exported, for example to the United States.