In 1967, our founder G. Sathasivam built a single pharmacy retail store called Lanka Medical (Pvt) Ltd. in Gampola. This opening fuelled a quest of responsible entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka for the very first time and it greatly helped Sunshine Holdings throughout the last five decades, to foster great value among Sri Lankan businesses as a diversified company.
In 1977, we opened a new ‘super centre’ type of a store in Kandy where people could buy pharmaceutical products, home appliances, food items and cosmetics under one roof. At that time, it was the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. The 1977 government introduced new policies for imports which helped us to bring down world-renowned brands to the country and sell it through our retail store. By the time we moved our operations to Colombo, we were running a successful island-wide pharmaceutical distribution, partnering with local and Indian agencies.
The rest is of course history. Today, we have partnered with some of the biggest healthcare brands our healthcare business has acquired a 20% market share in the private healthcare segment. In 2005, we re-entered the pharmacy operations by launching Sri Lanka’s premier pharma, wellness and beauty retail chain Healthguard. It entirely changed the traditional perception of Sri Lankans on how pharmacies work and operate 24 pharmacies across the Greater Colombo area.
In 1996, we ventured into plantations by buying the shares of Watawala Plantations, when the government decided to privatize the management of the then existing 22 Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) which consisted of tea, rubber, cinnamon and palm oil, which we have steered to become the number one plantations company in Sri Lanka.
Watawala Plantations (WATA), which is managed under the Group’s agribusiness arm, Sunshine Wilmar (Pvt) Ltd., is a plantation company which is listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. With 3 palm oil estates located in the Southern province and the largest oil palm mill, in Nakiyadeniya, the company manages more than 2,690 hectares and employs close to 1,546 people. WATA has consistently been the highest market capitalized regional plantation company and has won many accolades for sound agricultural practices and financial management standards. The most recent being the First South Asian Plantation to receive RSPO certification (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).
Our consumer business, Watawala Tea Ceylon Ltd has become the largest branded tea company in Sri Lanka with the highest market share in the tea category of 35%. Over the last few years, our tea brands- Zesta, Watawala Tea and Ran Kahata – have become household names in Sri Lanka. Watawala Tea has been crowned as the ‘Most Popular Hot Beverage Brand of the Year’ at the SLIM Nielsen People’s Awards for four consecutive years, reaffirming the brand’s leadership and recognition among Sri Lankans. Further expanding our consumer business, beyond branded tea, into the FMCG sector of Sri Lanka, the much loved, household confectionary brand Daintee was purchased in August of 2020.
With our presence in these key sectors, as well as energy and dairy, Sunshine Holdings has evolved into a true Sri Lankan conglomerate. The journey had its own ups and downs and many setbacks in different time periods but we were able to face those challenges and thrive over the last 50 years to become a US$ 115 million company, today, with a strong, energetic workforce of more than 2,500.