"The success of the Plantation Sector is in its people"

 Dr. Dan Seevaratnam, Chief Executive – Watawala Plantations PLC


Dr. Dan SeevaratnamThe Institute of Personal Management Sri Lanka (IPM) conferred its prestigious 'Lifetime Gold Award' for 2012 on Dr. Dan Seevaratnam, Chief Executive of Watawala Plantations PLC, the first ever occasion where a professional Planter has been the beneficiary of this award.  The award not only enhanced  Dr. Seevaratnam's collection of Gold medals won during his career, but also marked a significant achievement for Sri Lanka's plantation industry being the first ever such award to be clinched by this people intense sector.

During his career spanning 40 years which began as a Trainee Superintendent in a Sterling company, Dr. Dan Seevaratnam has witnessed as well as pioneered a number of developments in Sri Lanka's plantation industry.

“My vision is to empower people to perform to their potential,” says Seevaratnam who now heads a listed multi-crop plantation company. “We need to be able to trust people and empower them because unleashing human energy has vast scope,” he adds.

“Unlike other industries, 70% of our costs are people which translate into the fact that we are in  more of a 'hearts and minds' game than one that is technology driven,” stressed Seevaratnam. 

During his  four decades of service to the plantation industry, Dr. Dan Seevaratnam took many initiatives most of which were aimed at facilitating the 'paradigm shift' in the perception of an estate worker; from merely a laborer working for simple income to a profession that provides a 'dignified livelihood'.

Dr. Dan Seevaratnam joined the industry at a time when plantation workers who were its backbone were referred to as 'coolies' and laborers. However today all employees at Watawala Plantations owned estates are referred to as 'associates,' as a result of an initiative taken by Seevaratnam himself.  

“By calling them associates since two-three years ago we addressed their fears, frustrations and aspirations, working as ‘partners in progress’ with the management,” says Dr. Dan Seevaratnam who considers the initiative as one of his significant achievements in HR application.

“I believe the way forward for the industry is to move away from the crippling wage based model to a proprietary model,” says Seevaratnam. “Let the associates do what they are best at and we, as management, can invest in factories and new technology to produce Ceylon Tea of the highest quality and character.”

Dr. Dan Seevaratnam says motivating people stands as the biggest challenge in the industry in terms of managing human resources.  “Since value is created or destroyed within the plantations, it makes sense to spend more time among the associates to understand their aspirations and motivate them to improve productivity.” he said.

Released in July 2012