Managing Director and Group CEO Ramesh Schaffter aims to make Janashakthi one of the top ten listed companies in terms of market capitalisation. To achieve this, the group will invest in businesses with strong growth potential while pushing the boundaries of its existing portfolio of companies in insurance, finance, and real estate. Creating value for shareholders, customers, suppliers, and people employed across the group is a top priority. In this context, the beauty of Janashakthi’s growth strategy is its constant commitment to the people and communities of this country. “Our communities around us are as important,” Schaffter explains. “While we are committed to developing the nation with our businesses in the finance, insurance, investment and real estate sectors, our strategy also includes empowering people and communities. We have a responsibility to do just that.”
Since its inception, the Janashakthi Group has positioned itself as a contributor to nation-building by uplifting people and communities. Why is this so important to the group?
The very meaning of Janashakthi embodies our ethos: Jana means people, and Shakthi is strength. So, we are all about empowering people from our employees, business partners, customers, stakeholders to the broader community of Sri Lankans. Every business we are in contributes towards uplifting the economy and living standards of the people.
We have taken the initiative to reach out to the population with a strong local ethos. Naturally, that ethos spills into the corporate level: we have embraced national objectives as our own and demonstrated this over our 26-year lifespan. We look forward to continuing these efforts in the future.
How is giving back to the community tied up with the business objectives of the group?
Primarily being in financial services, what we offer is intangible. Therefore, we have taken several initiatives to reflect our values of serving others before ourselves, which is inherent in our culture. As a responsible business, we have an obligation towards our shareholders because they have invested in us. However, we are also equally committed to serving the best interests of our employees, suppliers and also the people of this country. As we focus on instilling the spirit of innovation and excellence in our people across the Janashakthi Group for business growth, we also pursue initiatives to give back to the community with a similar intensity.
Can you tell us about some of the initiatives of giving back to the community and the impact these initiatives have had?
From Janashakthi’s inception, we have tried to do things that were relevant, timely and genuinely impactful. We constructed several desperately needed name-boards for both streets and schools; we conducted the famous pedestrian crossings project for the 50th Anniversary of Independence, enhancing pedestrian crossings around Colombo and installing Belisha beacons.
We have also implemented scholarship programmes for children. In keeping with our values of excellence, we also have sponsored the CIMA Janashakthi Pinnacle Awards to recognize excellence at various levels of management and the Janashakthi National Civilian Bravery Awards to recognize acts of bravery and selflessness at the national level.
We have supported the national cricket team for many years, sponsoring several Test series even during dire times. We have sponsored sailing, cycling, squash and much more. Many national athletes who went on to win medals at a South Asian level were supported by Janashakthi. In general, we aim to identify people who perform at a national level. In supporting both sport and excellence, we have established a guiding light for ourselves.
We have established a philanthropic arm in the group, Janashakthi Foundation, to ensure better focus and outcomes. All the companies within the group will contribute a part of their profits to philanthropy which will revolve around three pillars. One is sports, which we already have a leaning towards; the second is education which can leave a multiplier effect; the third is uplifting communities.
What is the Group’s approach and vision for the Janashakthi Foundation?
Our approach to CSR is a little bit different. We aim to help people and communities grow and to help themselves grow and to uplift rather than keeping them down by perpetuating a culture of dependence. Sri Lanka does not lack talent in any field; it simply lacks opportunity. We will create those opportunities so that young Sri Lankans may take their rightful places as the leaders of tomorrow in whatever profession they may choose. We strive for the maximum impact possible.
Sri Lanka has only won two Olympic medals in its entire history. Countries smaller than us have succeeded where we have failed. We are looking at how best to allocate resources to foster talent and mould them to compete and excel at the international level in keeping with the aspirations we have for ourselves as an organisation. In education, we are looking at various options on how we can encourage and reward excellence. In the future, we may expand our pillars of focus. We provided aid and relief during natural disasters and distributed essentials to many families in need during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Our corporate and investment policy aims to generate inclusive outcomes. As such, we avoid businesses that cause social harm and focus on those that inherently uplift people’s lives and prospects. Take what we have done with life insurance with Janashakthi Life. One of our greatest achievements is making life insurance more accessible to households.
Too many families are destitute because the breadwinner dies, and they have no insurance. Providing insurance means bringing protection to each of these vulnerable families. In that sense, we feel that we contribute greatly to the community and the nation. Furthermore, we have partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for people with inadequate access to shelter, while Kelsey Homes, one of our subsidiaries, is opening the property market to the hitherto neglected middle-income segment with affordable but yet world-class solutions. First Capital, an investment bank in the Janashakthi fold, is building viable alternatives to traditional financial services.
Overall, the goal is to deliver quality, affordability, and good customer service to transform lives. Our priorities include organisational development, fair process, customer centricity and investing in the competencies needed to be agile, speedy, and resilient. The group’s five core values are to be ethical and honest, transparent, performance-driven, respectful and collaborative. These are embedded across the group in ‘performance driven’ meritocracies. We embrace diversity and the combination of this and merit-based decisions will enable our people to grow and be the best they can be.