Cargills (Ceylon) PLC
At A Glance
|Where:||Colombo, Sri Lanka with 9 regional collection centers, 3 production and processing facilities, 138 retail locations in 22 districts, 15 restaurants, and an island-wide distribution operation|
|What:||Supermarket chain; food processing/ manufacturing and distribution; restaurants; training programs|
|Founders:||David Sime Cargill and William Miller|
|Year Founded:||1844. 1946: Became public corporation; 1981: Ceylon Theatres Ltd took controlling interest|
|Number of employees:||5,605|
|Total revenue:||12,053,952,000 Sri Lankan rupees (LKR) /
“This is not a corporate social responsibility program,” says Ranjit Page, CEO of Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest businesses, “CSR is our business.”
For its first 140 years, Cargills imported not only food but clothing, pharmaceuticals, and alcohol, largely to serve expatriates and the country’s urban elite. Today the company focuses on growing raw farm products and selling them within Sri Lanka. The mission of Cargills (which is no relation to Cargills USA), says Ranjit, is to “serve the rural community, our customers, and all other stakeholders through our core business—the food we love—and other related businesses. Our work is based on three main principles: enhancing youth skills, bridging regional disparities, and reducing the cost of living.”
To achieve its mission, the company has put together, virtually from scratch, the infrastructure to purchase a wide variety of food commodities—at prices based on fair trade principles— from over 10,000 Sri Lankan small-holder farmers. To create an integrated food delivery system, including the largest chain of supermarkets in the country, the company partners with, and offers technical assistance to, almost 2,000 small and medium-sized Sri Lankan companies. Many of the foods sold in the over 130 Cargills retail locations are processed within the company, including a wide variety of dairy products and meats, and they reach over 40,000 retailers across the island.
Born in northern Sri Lanka and brought up in Colombo, Ranjit himself is a one-man balancing act. He has sought to retain the local character of his family-controlled public company but add global shareholders through a publicly-traded ownership structure; to prioritize local consumers but keep reaching out to global markets; to stay focused but dream expansively. In recent years his business has been lauded by the World Bank, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and by others as a model for economic development via local food production and corporate social responsibility.