(Ceylon Today : 13 November 2014)
Q:How did Maga come about and what are your strengths?
A: I worked as an administrator for a few Japanese companies in the mid 1970s. At these companies I learnt about construction management, the related issues and procedures in this business. I decided to set up a construction company which resembled a Japanese company with proper work ethics and so on in 1983. Starting with a small capital, I invited my brother and a friend to join in.
The work experience we gained while working as a subcontractor to Japanese firms was really helpful. We earned goodwill especially for timely completion and the quality of the work. It gave us a major breakthrough to become a key construction firm. The greatest strength of Maga is my team. As we celebrate three decades of success, I would like to express my gratitude to my staff.
From the inception, Maga was driven by a vibrant team which was the nucleus behind its success. Another key strength of our company is that we never compromise quality for anything. Another fact is that we take utmost care in completing the projects in the given period and fulfilling the customer requirement. This paved us the way to become the number one constructor in the country.
Our core business strategy has always been to provide quality construction products and services within the shortest possible time, and at the most competitive prices. These facets are underscored by exceptional quality and a remarkable after-sales service. The organization has earned itself an enviable reputation in the industry for speedy construction of buildings, roads, bridges, water supply and drainage facilities, and marine structures. It also possesses the largest capacity in terms of volume — providing total construction solutions from concept to conclusion.
Q:What are the challenges before you?
A: The major issue is that the country does not have enough skilled workmen. We find it extremely difficult to find good managerial level personnel in Sri Lanka due to the high levels of brain drain into Middle Eastern countries. I think there was a mismatch between educational qualifications and industry requirements as well. However, I think this issue has been given some importance and we see an improvement.
I also think there is a great need for an attitude change among our people. If we think the money will resolve all our issues we may be wrong; there should be basic values in our lives. No matter what business we are in, as humans we must maintain basic values. If we do not maintain those values the social structure will be in danger of collapse. As a firm, we address these issues in all our forums and keep educating our team.
We have been able to generate an average of 20%-25% increase in our revenues and we were able to maintain that impetus up to date. We reinvest over 90% of our profits back into the business and that it one of the reasons why we are the leader in the industry today. We also invest over four per cent of our profits on research and development, which I think is imperative for the firm which is engaged in a highly competitive industry.
The re-investing has helped us acquire the plant and machinery required for large construction projects from reputable international suppliers, and it successfully built up a dynamic and dedicated team armed with the necessary knowledge and experience to offer world-class standards. It is the company's dedication to high quality and its depth of experience that has enabled Maga to secure some of the most prestigious construction projects in Sri Lanka.
This year, we expect a growth of over 25%.
Q: How has the construction industry performed during the past five years?
A: With the dawn of peace, we saw that the industry picking up with tremendous momentum. Last year, the industry showed an accelerated 23% growth, which is far ahead of the economic growth. The contribution of the construction industry over the past 10 years has been significant to the growth trajectory of the economy, and we expect that the industry would grow steadily in the years to come.
Q: Where would you see Maga in 2020?
A: Well...we would like it to be developed beyond our Sri Lankan borders. We have already planned for it, and our vision by 2020 is to be on par with any international construction company while anchoring more and more into the local soil.
Q: What are your views on urban regeneration?
A: I think it is imperative for any country. If we look back at the situation in China and Japan; one of the major problems they faced was improper urbanization. With well planned infrastructure improvement and town planning they were able to overcome that situation. I think in the near future the city of Colombo and other major towns in our country also will be in good shape and will become model cities in the world.
Q: Are there any plans for diversifying into other sectors?
A: Well...there are future plans for diversifying into new sectors; but at the moment we do not have any immediate plans. Currently we specialize in what we do best. We got few offers from leading international companies to merge with them to enter the Colombo Stock Exchange, but we turned it down as it was too early to enter the market then. However, as we grow we will consider such opportunities for the best of the company and for the country.
Q: What qualities must businessmen possess in order to be successful?
A: The foremost thing is discipline. I think it is important inculcate discipline and create a passion for work. There are some contractors who can do a decent job within the given timeframe. But a great majority has still to learn planning, organizing and managing the projects. They should resort to build stable and reliable organizations. Discipline is important for a person to succeed.
It is crucial to uphold business ethics and social values while we are generating profits. As businessmen we work towards earning good profit margins, but we must also appreciate our human values and do something in turn for the country and for its people. If we forget the values and continue focusing on other benefits only, it is inevitable that the foundation that we built will be fractured. So, I believe that all the industry stakeholders should take these facts into consideration.
Q: What are the key projects in the pipeline for Maga?
A: At the moment there are quite a few significant projects that we are involved in both public and private sectors. During this month as we celebrate the 30th anniversary, we will also reach the structural completion of the tallest building (205m) in Sri Lanka, the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Colombo. We are in the process of completing the 97km Anuradhapura-Trincomalee Road, NSBM green University in Homagama, 47-storey Clearpoint Residencies — Sri Lanka's first sustainable high-rise and world's first vertical garden to name a few.
We are in the process of building a 32-storey head office in Narahenpita with an investment of Rs 2.8 billion, which will be completed by 2016.
Q: What are your views on green buildings?
A: We were one of the pioneering companies that introduced green building to Sri Lanka. Our first project was the MAS Thulhiriya project. Green building is costly compared to the traditional construction methods, but the benefits are much greater. Sustainable development was at the core for Maga Engineering since inception, and has been embedded in the company and its operations. We are one of the first private companies in Sri Lanka to publish its performance in a dedicated Sustainability Report as per the guidelines of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The trust placed in the company by our stakeholders helped Maga secure the Platinum rating in Sri Lanka's Corporate Accountability Index, and the first Green Award in the public and private sector.
Q: What are the company's achievements?
A: Maga won a record of 71 National Construction awards within 20 years. We were also recognized as the leader in the Construction and Engineering sector by the National Chamber of Commerce for six consecutive years. Maga was the first Sri Lankan construction company to possess an integrated quality, health, safety and environmental system certified to international standards, and the first privately-owned company in the country to publish under the Global Reporting Initiative G4 guidelines, the world's leading standards for sustainability reporting.
Q: What are your views on the current national development initiatives of the government?
A: In this country, for over 30 years the infrastructure development was neglected. Soon before the war was ended the government initiated some major infrastructure projects, and I believe that it was a right decision, which any responsible government would take. By the time terrorism was defeated the government was in a position to provide roads, bridges, water supply, irrigation system, electricity and communication network to the people to freely move and continue their normal livelihoods. So, I think the government had recognized the needs and implemented correct policies to develop the country in the right directions.
I still feel that, although Maga has achieved such a great status in this country; company's vision has to be carried forward into the fourth decade focused on making optimum use of the collective resources — its managerial proficiency, employee expertise, brand name and financial strength, whilst continuously refining the efficiency of processes, and unwavering adherence to quality, safety, environment and sustainable development.