Entrepreneurship - Mr Gnanam

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Entrepreneurs – normally defined as “risk-takers in new venture creations – are uniquely optimistic, hard driving, committed individuals who derive great satisfaction from being independent. Starting a new business requires more than just an idea; it requires a special person, an Entrepreneur, who combines sound judgement and planning with risk taking to ensure the success of his or her business. Entrepreneurs, driven by an intense commitment and determined perseverance, work very hard. They are optimists who see the cup as half full rather than half empty. They strive for integrity. They burn with the competitive desire to excel. They use failures as a tool for learning. They have enough confidence in themselves to believe that they personally can make a major difference in the final outcome of their ventures. (Kuratko, 2009, p-29) Arulanandan Yesuvadiyan Samuel Gnanam alias AYS Gnanam was a legend for true "Entrepreneurship", whose life provides several very valuable object lessons for up and coming small industrialists and young entrepreneurs. Coming over from India as a kid and settling down in an alien country he worked tirelessly under most difficult circumstances to build up his business wealth. Mr Gnanam was no Henry Ford; he took to business from small beginnings as a small trader in steel and by the time of his death his local brands Cyntex and St Anthony’s have become major players in Sri Lanka. He had neither affluent family background nor a powerful school tie to boast about, but he seized opportunities at the correct time and created economic wealth. Sheer hard work, drive and entrepreneurial skills made him a business tycoon from a mere trader. He was conferred the national honour of Deshamanya for his contribution towards industry in Sri Lanka; heads of state, industry leaders and senior civil servants consulted him regularly on industrial policy; and according to the CEO of Japan’s Sanyo Corporation, he always got a VIP treatment when he visited Japan, as they appreciate his integrity and in-depth knowledge of industry. A. Y. S. Gnanam as a young man had big dreams, but he also had well-defined goals and a clear path of progress mapped out to achieve these dreams. And his was a rags-to-riches story that runs parallel to top notch individuals.

Background and Environmental Conditions that led to its Emergence Entrepreneurship is a dynamic process of vision, change and creation. It requires an application of energy and passion toward the creation and implementation of new ideas and creative solutions (Kuratko / Hodgettes, 2007) The above definition is well described in Mr Gnanam’s entrepreneurial history. Born in India, Gnanam at the age of 10 accompanied his father, mother and three siblings to live in Sri Lanka. His initiation into trade was as a porter at his brother’s shop. But the then ongoing Second World War and gloomy business outlook prompted his brother to shut his shops down. He had been working for someone else all these time, and saw an opportunity to do something for himself. With just Rs 10,000 in capital he hired a yard and started buying and selling scrap iron. There was a severe shortage of scrap iron in India at that time, so he was able to export in big quantities. The business was called St. Anthony’s Hardware. There was a lot of surplus construction equipment and materials imported by the military, and as soon as the war stopped, all this material was left over. The goods at all the camps in Colombo, Veyangoda and Trincomalee were either auctioned or sold by tender. Mr Gnanam bought 750 tons of cables at once and sold it, making a good profit. He started buying and selling big quantities of other products and as a result, had lots of cash in hand. Mr Gnanam bought land in Panchikawatte and began importing building materials; because by this time, all the surplus material available via the military had been exhausted. By now, he was considered one of the leading...
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