A schoolboy entrepreneur got a shock of his life when he got a letter from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) asking him details of his business and whether he had previously paid any taxes.
Harsha Prasath (18) from Polonnaruwa got into problems with the IRD after he registered his business of selling tea packs with the Polonnaruwa Pradeshiya Sabha early this year. An A’ Level student at Royal College, Polonnaruwa, he told this reporter on Tuesday that registration was necessary, as, otherwise, he would not have had been able to distribute his tea packets to the shops in the area.
Prasath who makes a profit of around Rs. 3-5,000 monthly from this business, now armed with a letter from his school principal, plans to sort out this matter with the IRD.
Padmasiri Dias, Vice President, Young Entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka (YESL) told reporters that the IRD does this for the purpose of collecting BTT. “But actions such as this does not help to develop the entrepreneurial culture among schoolchildren,” he said.
Prasath, a YESL member, gets his teas from Hatton and with the aid of a packaging machine, packs them and sells them to schools’ canteens in his hometown, parents’ of his friends and nearby shops, pricing a 100 gram pack at Rs. 55. He does his sales rounds on a push bicycle.
The youngest of three children, Prasath would be sitting for his A’ Levels under the Commerce stream next year. His father retired prematurely from the Wildlife Department after suffering injuries upon being attacked by an elephant.
His elder sister and brother are married and are living in their own homes.
According to YESL Alumni Secretary Ms. Thilini Alahakoon, there are some 5.5 million children in the country. They will have to be provided with jobs sooner or later. Therefore entrepreneurship is the way forward, Alahakoon who is reading for a Management degree said.
However in quite a few instances, parents of youth who want to be entrepreneurs, are opposed to this idea. A case in point is Gayan Panditaratne, a banker. Hailing from Galle, but being employed in Colombo, Panditaratne has invested in the necessary equipment at his home in Galle to start a fruit drinks business. However his father, a lawyer, is allegedly opposed to him going into business. Nevertheless Panditaratne who plans to get married soon, has his sights in his fruit drinks business, in which he wants to get involved full time with his future wife.
The entrepreneurial bug bit Panditharatne while still at school, where a couple of his schoolmates formed a company and started selling cleaning equipment to classrooms.
YESL President Patrick Amarasinghe told this reporter that there is another 18 year old schoolboy from Richmond College, Galle, who has become a millionaire by supplying rubber tapping equipment and the necessary chemicals to rubber estates and factories in the area.
Prasad Randika began his business by first selling Karapincha leaves as a Fourth Standard student in 1998 before venturing out into selling tea sacks. But the tsunami destroyed this business. Not to be undone, and having had already saved Rs. 400,000 from his tea business, he then began to focus his attention on the rubber sector, initially supplying them with the coconut shells needed to collect the latex, and afterwards in the supply of tapping knives and chemicals.
Randika has visited Harvard and also the UK, to share his experiences. He has also received a second invitation to visit the USA, added Amarasinghe. Randika is following a course at the Rubber & Plastics Institute, Rajagiriya.
Recollecting her own experiences as a schoolgirl entrepreneur, YESL Alumnus President Kaushaly Rajapaksha now working as a manager in a mercantile firm said that they started a company called Horizon with a couple of other schoolgirls in her alumnus, Musaeus in 2004/5. They began making denim slippers for the students and even exported them to China.
Horizon also imported toilet ancillaries from Holland, and made a Rs. 90,000 profit from that venture. The YESL school programme was begun in 1998 and has now spread to Colombo University, bringing the message of entrepreneurship to undergraduates as well.
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