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The Akbar Brothers StoryEdit

Shaikh Hebtulabhoy, the first ancestor of the Akbarally Family arrived in Ceylon, from India, in 1864. He was the founder of M S Hebtulabhoy & Company in Ceylon at P O Box 105, 257 Grandpass Rd., Colombo, Sri Lanka. The company was one of the pioneers in tea, rubber and coconut exports and subsequently branched off into more diversified business in the medical and healthcare services. Queen’s Advocate Selby lived in a mansion called "Selby House", in Grandpass, which later went on to become the premises of M/S Heptulabhoy & Co, a flourishing export oriented business run by a Shaikh Hebtulabhoy, who renamed it to Selby Stores.

Akbar Brothers was formed in 1969, by three Akbarally brothers – Abbas, Abid and Inayet, and incorporated as a limited liability company, in 1972. Their father, Sheikh Akbarally Tyeabally, joined the Company in 1973. The company began diversification into tourism and warehousing in 1978 when the Welisara complex also commenced its operations. Quick Tea, inaugurated in 1979, handles the processing and export of tea bags. Hotel Reefcomber, a modern hotel in Hikkaduwa was also established in the same year.

The new Head Office of the company moved to T. B. Jayah Mawatha (Darley Road), in 1980. Akbar Brothers Exports was established, in 1984, primarily to handle the export of packeted tea.

Falcon Trading, another Akbarally family company, diversified, in 1988, into the manufacture of garments for export.

Akbar Brothers, for the first time, is the largest tea exporter from Sri Lanka, exporting over 21 million kilograms of tea in 1992. More warehousing facilities were built at Wattala in the same year. Tea House was also established, in 1992, to market specialty tea packs. In 1993, Falcon Apparels took over the garment manufacturing activities previously handled by Falcon Trading.

Akbar Pharmaceuticals commenced the import & distribution of medical products & surgical instruments in Sri Lanka, in 1994.

Flexiprint, producing flexible packaging to assist in the packing of tea including tea bag tags and envelopes, was also established in 1994.

AB Developments was established in 1997 and manages the warehousing facilities and requirements of the Group.

A state-of-the-art warehousing complex, Consisting of 380,000 sq. ft. of warehousing space, was built in Kelaniya, in 1999.

In 2000, Akbar Brothers continued to be the largest tea exporter, with an export volume of over 31 million kilograms of tea. This is the largest quantity ever to be exported by an individual company in Sri Lanka. In 2001, The Kelaniya complex expanded to accommodate a further 100,000 sq. feet of warehousing.

In 2001, 16 houses were built by Akbar Brothers Ltd., managed by the Shrinbai Shaikh Akbarally & Fathemabai Kanji Trust. The houses provide comfortable living conditions for 16 under-privileged families.

In 2002, Abbas Akbarally, Chairman, celebrated 50 years in the Tea Trade.

In 2002, Akbar Brothers continues to be the largest exporter of tea for the 10th year successively.

Quick Tea moved its operations to a state-of-the-art facility in Mabole in 2003. This expansion facilities the production of 15 million tea bags a day.

All-conquering Akbar Brand Lynn Ockersz – DN Tue Oct 17 2006

Chairman Akbar Brothers Abbas Akbarally Picture by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

An eye for quality and a quick responsiveness to changing market needs, coupled with a sensitivity to reasonable pricing, have brought the Akbar Brothers Group of Companies, the prime position of Sri Lanka's number one exporter of tea.

Today the AKBAR Brand of tea is marketed in over 70 countries and satisfied the taste buds of some 8 million customers world-wide, daily.

This is not only a measure of the popularity of the brand but is also reflective of the high esteem in which Ceylon Tea and the Country of Origin - Sri Lanka - is held by tea consumers globally, Chairman, Akbar Brothers, Abbas Akbarally says in this interview:

Q: You are noted as Sri Lanka's No. 1 Tea Exporter. What has contributed to your success?

A: Since the establishment of the Company in 1969, we have pursued a simple trading policy of providing our customers quality products with superior service at the best possible prices. During the last two decades, the global tea market is driven by continuous changes in technology, life style and other factors. We responded to these changing market needs.

From a trader in bulk tea, we transformed ourselves into a marketeer of consumer tea products such as tea packets and teabags.

We have heavily invested in capacity building of our automated and air-conditioned tea bagging factory complex at Mabole and equipped it with the most sophisticated German Tea Bagging machines.

We also built at Kelaniya the largest tea warehousing complex in the tea export trade for automated blending and packeting operations.

More importantly, we focused in marketing the tea products under our own brands to add more value to the product and enhance our corporate image.

These strategies led to our success. Today, our Group of Companies is not only the largest exporter of value-added teas as well as the largest exporter of branded tea products.

Our marketing operations contribute foreign exchange earnings totaling Rs. 14 billion annually to the country.

Q: How could Sri Lanka cope with the challenges emerging internationally to its position as a prime tea exporting country?

A: Tea industry in Sri Lanka has faced many challenges during its one hundred and fifty years of chequered history. The great depression of the 1930's, the controlled economy of the 1950's and the nationalisation of the 1970's had tested the survival of the industry.

The industry has proved that it is resilient enough to spring back to greater heights. Today the tea industry is private sector driven and doing well. Colombo Tea Auctions are fetching premium prices compared with other auction centers.

We cannot however be complacent. To sustain this premier position, we need to continuously strive to improve quality, increase productivity and reduce costs of production. On the marketing side, we should ideally export all our teas in processed form as consumer packs and bags. The exports of bulk teas in the form of raw material for processing in other countries should be phased out so that value-addition accrues to Sri Lanka.

The Government should provide the necessary fiscal and financial incentives to achieve this goal. The recent decision of Dr. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Treasury to exempt from income tax the profit derived from local manufacture of teabags is a strategic move designed to promote the local teabag processing industry.

Q: Given the fact that tea is no longer a prime foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka, what, briefly, is your assessment of the future of the tea trade?

A: I am always optimistic of the future of the tea trade. The quality, character and flavour which are inherent in Sri Lanka's teas due to its agro climatic conditions are our primary resource base. Ceylon tea has a world-wide reputation like Colombian Coffee, French Wine, Scotch Whisky or New Zealand Dairy.

Sri Lanka needs to preserve this unique character and image of her teas without dilution. In order to compete with other countries and maintain a sustainable edge over our competitors, Sri Lanka needs to engage in continuous innovation, competitive effectiveness, market diversification and value to customers.

With private sector in the driving seat coupled with Government facilitation, I am confident that the tea trade will forge ahead in the years to come. The Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Plantation Industries, Sri Lanka Tea Board and the Sri Lanka Customs have been always supportive of the tea trade through the introduction of various schemes for promoting export growth.

Q: Recently your firm was conferred a SLIM Award titled "International Brand of the Year". What were the considerations that led to the conferment of the award? And what are your sentiments on receiving it?

A: Our Akbar Brand was selected as the International Brand of the Year by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing. This brand has recorded an impressive growth during the last three years and is presently marketed in over 70 countries around the world. On the basis of 2 grams of tea per cup, AKBAR Brand is consumed on a daily basis by eight million customers world-wide.

This wide franchise is not only a measure of consumer confidence in the brand, but also projects the image of Ceylon Tea and the Country of Origin - Sri Lanka. Our brand strategy is to maintain and expand the focus of being a premium blend of pure Ceylon tea, sought after by customers world-wide for its taste, aroma and liquor.

We stay focused on continuous innovations of product lines, packing and processing. The Akbar Brand was selected by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing through a stringent judging process by a panel of judges comprising top marketers of the country.

The final stage of the selection included a verbal presentation of the Brands success story to the judges and replying to the questions they posed. The Board of Directors and our employees feel honoured by this award conferred by the prestigious Marketing Institute in Sri Lanka.