The New Economy interviews Mahesh Amalean, Chairman of MAS Holdings, on helping women become better business leaders
MAS Holdings has enjoyed 25 years of success thanks to its originality and creativity. Its manufacturing capability, good ethics and sustainable focus continues to attract premium brands and retailers to the company. Mahesh Amalean explains how sustainability has been at the core of the business since its inception, and how empowering MAS Holdings’ female employees has added value to the company, as well as to Sri Lanka’s communities.
The New Economy: Tell me how MAS holdings has embedded this culture of new thinking to the business?
Mahes Amalean: MAS Holdings right from the inception has differentiated itself by really looking at manufacturing products that were different to what the industry really told them. We decided to embark on manufacturing intimate apparel when the rest of the industry really were manufacturing casual wear. So we started this new thinking of differentiation right from the inception. Another piece to that differentiation is that we entered into strategic relationship with customers and suppliers who are best in class and brought home to Sri Lanka world class technology. We also brought professionals to manage our business, which is very different to how the apparel industry was managed in the country. and what we did was we gave them a few guidelines on the basic principals and values and business ethics that we believed we wanted ingrained in each one of them. and we put that in place and then left them alone to really be entrepreneurial and to think differently and to let them grow the business. So it really started right from the inception of our business.
The New Economy: You’ve been recognised for your work empowering women so why is female empowerment important and what have you achieved so far?
Mahes Amalean: In our business we employ fifty eight thousand people and after which almost ninety percent of those employed with us are women. So empowering women and adding value to them became an integral part of our work that we do. The program that we put in place is called women go beyond program and the program was designed so that they can be better leaders in the business and at the same time enhance their soft skills like motivation skills, like planning skills, and leadership skills. So we’ve done that and through that they have contributed enormously to the company and at the same time contributed significantly to their communities.
The New Economy: You’re also committed to environmental sustainability as soon in your Intimates Thurulie plant. tell us more.
Mahes Amalean: Our drive for sustainability which really started with being frugal with how we use either the environment or even funds for that matter develop the business was really enhanced by a program that one of our customers, Marks & Spencer, put in place. And in their program one of the activities was to set up an eco friendly carbon neutral manufacturing plant to produce intimate apparel. So together we established a plant which we call Thurulie, in Sri Lanka, which is the first new packingham lead certified intimate apparel manufacturing plant in the world.
The New Economy: and you also have a program to educate students about sustainability?
Mahes Amalean: The sustainability program that we took the students in the communities where our plants are held is called the eco go beyond programme and through that programme we have been able to impact almost seventeen thousand five hundred students in the last five years and this program is basically put in place in order to really impact the thinking and the behaviour and the actions of the youth of tomorrow. And getting them to understand the importance of sustainability and the importance of taking care of the environment as much as the importance of education and health.
The New Economy: How else do you support the communities that you work in?
Mahes Amalean: All our manufacturing is based in rural Sri Lanka and our manufacturing actually has been set up in such a way that we take work to the work force instead of bringing the workforce to work. And by doing that we have been able to ensure the social economic balance of the communities. When you go out and establish a plant in the community, you employ the youth of the community. Whilst the community really appreciates what you have done in creating employment in that area, you really become a citizen of that community when you do more than that. you contribute to some of the communities needs. Sometimes there are needs in the field of health, in upgrading schools, in upgrading community centres. So when you do all those things as you continue to develop and grow your business the community begin to see the value that you bring, not only to the youth but also to the rest of the community. And that’s when you become really invited to be a citizen of the community.
The New Economy: So finally tell us about the growth plans, your vision 2020 program and your corporate strategy over the next few years?
Mahes Amalean: Our thinking is that we would like to take our business international, and become a global company. And by 2020, actually double the size of our business. We are a billion dollar company right now, and we see ourselves growing to become a 2 billion dollar company. By doubling the core of our business, and also strengthening our portfolio businesses by adding agencies in the field of information technology and brands.
The New Economy: Mahesh, Thank you
Mahes Amalean: Well thank you very much, I really enjoyed this discussion, thank you