W.K.H. Wegapitiya holds a BSc in Business Administration from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management in Sri Lanka. He has also studied Energy Management at Oxford University, and is currently reading his PhD at the Postgraduate Institute of Management in Sri Lanka. Of his impeccable formal education, Wegapitiya says, “Formal education has helped me sharpen my commercial skills, laying a strong academic foundation for my entrepreneurial journey. However, the strong set of values and life skills I have gained while growing up amidst many hardships, as well as the many challenges we have had to encounter in setting up LAUGFS and expanding it into a diversified conglomerate with regional presence today, have been invaluable lessons. These have helped shape my character with strong qualities that I value; such as resilience, persistence, courage and passion.”
With his leadership LAUGFS Holdings has grown from strength to strength over the past two decades. Having become the first Sri Lankan LPG downstream distributor in Sri Lanka competing in a duopoly market with a multinational in 2001, LAUGFS Gas PLC was listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange in 2010, drawing an unprecedented response to its IPO. Soon after, LAUGFS Maritime marked the Group’s entry into the LPG logistics industry in 2014, with the acquisition of its first LPG vessel – MT Gas Challenger – to provide ocean freight services and related logistics to the LPG Downstream Industry in the South Asian and South-East Asian regions. In 2015, LAUGFS became the first Sri Lankan energy brand to become a multinational with the acquisition of Petredec Elpiji Ltd, one of the largest LPG downstream players in Bangladesh.
“At LAUGFS, we have a fantastic team led by our Group Managing Director, Thilak De Silva, who has been on this journey together with me for the past two decades. As a home-grown company, our growth journey over 22 years has been full of challenges at many levels. For example, when we entered the LPG downstream industry in 2001, we had to compete in the market with a multinational giant. These experiences have truly tested our tenacity and courage, and have helped me personally to master resilience and persistence to go after a strong single-minded vision with a lot of passion,” Wegapitiya recounts.
The Chairman is also a big believer in thinking big. “I believe that thinking small is a crime. I like to innovate and think beyond the ordinary. This has helped us to build pioneering businesses that could transform industries. It is with this determination that we started LAUGFS with the pioneering auto gas vehicle conversion businesses two decades ago. Today, we are setting up one of the largest LPG import and export terminals in South Asia. We have also inculcated this internally in our organisation with a strong ‘intrapreneurial culture’, where our colleagues are encouraged to think big, innovate and transcend the ordinary.”
Wegapitiya’s early challenges have shaped the way he runs his empire. “My parents have always been my role models. I grew up in a rural village with a lot of hardships, and they have taught me many values including the importance of hard work, sharing with those around us, harnessing limited resources and the importance of education. I also learned to live in harmony with nature at a very young age,” muses the forward-thinking entrepreneur.