The history of development and expansion of the Hemas group is one of determination, innovation and strategic decision making during times when adversity and change were sweeping through industries and the nation. The year 1948 was a historical year for the country and for Hemas. It was the year Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was known then) received its independence. And it was the year that Sheikh Hasannally Esufally (MBE), driven by his interest in medicine and community service, established Hemas (Drugs) Ltd.
Construction of the Hemas Fort building was started in 1956 whose first commercial tenants included the Central Bank, DFCC and CIC, and its stands to this day hosting several companies in addition to several sector offices of Hemas.
It was in the backyard of his residence in Flower road that Sheikh Hasannally Esufally started manufacturing soaps and creams. This backyard project became a commercial proposition, and a profitable one, when in 1962 in collaboration with a French multinational he commenced production of toiletries on a grander scale.
Dealing with Economic Challenges
With the nationalization of industries and changes in the commercial arena in the early 1970s, Hemas identified and entered a promising industry as it diversified into travel and tourism: a strategic move which to this day has helped bring in tourists both private and corporate to Sri Lanka. In 1978, following the opening of the economy Hemas ventured into the business of commodity exports.
The next 20 years that followed saw the company expanding into new areas of interest, setting solid ground and partnerships. It started with recognition of Hemas’ endeavors in the travel sector as Hemas Travel was accredited by International Air Transportation Association (IATA) in 1982. The year 1983 saw investments being made in an eight acre industrial complex at Welisara for the manufacture and warehousing of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Clogard toothpaste which currently enjoys a 35% market share locally (while being recognized globally) was launched in 1990. Major strategic decisions were put in motion as divestment of the group’s commodities business was made in 1991, followed by re-entry into apparel manufacture and entry into the field of Freight and Logistics in 1992.
Restructuring of group operations occurred in 1993, where individual businesses were organized into separate subsidiaries with accountability to the parent company. During the same year, Hemas Drugs Ltd., was renamed Hemas Holdings (Pte) Ltd. Hemas travel sector key milestones in the next two years with Hemas Airline GSA Division being established through GSA for Malaysia Airlines in 1994. Then in 1996, the group acquired controlling interest in Serendib Hotels Ltd., launched Prime Destinations to focus on outbound tour operations and entered a strategic joint venture with Forbes and Walker Group to manage GSA for Emirates.
Hemas House, one of Colombo's best commercial properties in prime land was set up in 1997 and now stands as a recognized landmark. The 50 year saw establishing of a state-of-the-art apparel manufacturing facility in Welisara as well as the acquisition of Goya perfume brand.
Moving into the Millennium
Hemas obtained sole GSA status in Sri Lanka for Emirates Airlines in 2000 and was appointed as GSA for LTU International Airways in 2002. A grandson of Sheikh Hasannally Esufally, Mr. Husein Esufally was appointed Group CEO in 2002.
In the following year (2003) Hemas Holdings listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. Hemas entered into the power sector in Sri Lanka in 2003, by setting up Heladhanavi as a joint venture with Lakdhanavi Ltd to operate a 100 MW power plant. The two companies set up a soap manufacturing plant as well.
The year 2005 saw several important events taking place for the group including 70% of its apparel business being divested, acquisition of Nimex paper business, entry into the food sector, investment in a SAP ERP system to better integrate the group’s operations. Deshamanya Lalith de Mel was appointed Non-Executive Chairman in 2006. It was also the year that the group entered courier services via its transport and logistics sector by acquiring ACX and Skynet services.
The hospital sector was successfully forayed into, with the initial step being the building of School of Nursing in Ragama in 2007. Hemas flagship hospital was set up in Wattala in 2008 and Hemas Southern Hospital was developed by its acquisition in 2009. The group’s interest in the power sector was furthered by setting up of Magal Ganga Mini Hydropower plant in 2008 as the Okanda Power Grid (Private) Limited project followed by starting of Upper-Agra Oya Hydropower mini hydropower project in end 2009. In 2011, Hemas hospital became the first hospital in Sri Lanka to offer capsule endoscopy technology.
Today, the deep rooted belief in balancing a solid education, welfare and sport, which Sheikh Hasannally Esufally truly believed in, runs in the veins of his grandsons who lead the company; these beliefs are imbedded in the culture of Hemas.