Asitha Samaraweera, Managing Director of Atlas said, “Atlas for 60 years have been working tirelessly to support the education and growth of our children. From teacher trainings to experiential learning and workshops for grade five scholarship students, all our efforts are focused on supporting the education and development of children. We are particularly proud of our 16 year old flagship CSR programme in collaboration with the Ridi Viharaya in Ridigama, where stationary is distributed to over five thousand children every year. Atlas will continue to invest in Sri Lanka in terms of employee capabilities, infrastructure and innovation, and expand reach both locally and internationally whilst doing its part to help uplift communities through its corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Being a 100% Sri Lankan brand, Atlas has had to face many challenges from the incept, from substandard and cheap stationary imports to low quality duplicates. The company has faced these challenges by constantly innovating its products, to manufacture high quality yet affordable stationary.
Samaraweera noted that the most recent obstacle Atlas has faced is a hate campaign targeting the organization, which originated on social media. The campaign is driven by hate speech, fake news and fake accounts.
“On the 21st of April, the country was shaken by terror attacks that left us all grieving and in shock. Fear, anger and frustration were emotions we all felt as Sri Lankans. Post these horrifying attacks and while trying to recover as a nation, certain parties took advantage of the situation and launched defamatory campaigns against local businesses, to gain short term competitive advantage. Atlas, a company that follows strict corporate governance, with rooted values and principles and actively contributing to the national economy, has unfortunately been on the receiving end of one such malicious campaign. We have been unjustly accused of many baseless and defamatory claims.” he noted.
The company confirms that nearly 400 posts or comments promoting hate speech and fake news against the brand have been made by fake accounts on Facebook and the social media platform has taken action to remove them as per its policies.
A further 148 defamatory comments and posts have been made by people working in competitor companies and those with vested interests. Today, 50% of the negative comments and posts against the brand are being made by fake profiles on Facebook.
Additionally, the company notes that at grassroots level, there is a campaign by unethical parties with vested interest advocating traders and teachers to boycott Atlas products, and children are being asked to not use Atlas products or worse, being punished for using them.
The company confirmed that firm action has been taken against this hate campaign. “We have lodged a complaint with the CID and we will be sending a Letter of Demand to some of the individuals responsible for these attacks. Additionally, we have launched a campaign for Trade, Schools and the public to educate them about the truth,” said Samaraweera adding that fake news circulating on messaging platforms such as ‘WhatsApp’ however cannot be monitored and traced.
Samaraweera said that, “60 years on, Atlas still operates based on its founding values and principles – Always care for employees, do honest business, contribute to the national economy,
Innovate to offer better products and operate with humility and respect. The unjustified hate campaign targeting Atlas is undermining the hard work and dedication of the 1,200 people employed in the company, thousands of dependents on this business, the growth of the local economy and overall wellbeing and unity of the country. Further, attacking local companies such as Atlas only opens the doors for low quality imports into the country.”
Despite the challenges Atlas is facing today, the company remains confident about its business stability and growth.
Key initiatives under its 60th anniversary celebrations are, a Scholarship Programme for deserving students, which will be an annual commitment to the children of the country. Further 3600 employee hours that will dedicated this year to serve schools across the country to build infrastructure and educate children on good values and habits.
NOTE TO EDITOR:
Atlas Axillia Co, originally known as the Ceylon Pencil Company (Pvt) Ltd. was founded in 1959 by D.S. Madanayake with 10 employees and 11 machines, during a time the market was dominated by imported pens, pencils and books. But the company proved that high quality yet affordable products can be produced locally and was able to offer more products to Sri Lankans over time.
Atlas exports to several markets internationally including Philippines, Maldives and Bangladesh and plans to further expand its reach in the region.
In 2018, Atlas wanting to expand its foot print in international markets searched for a company to partner with and Hemas Holdings PLC, another 100% local company with strong business ethics and a code of conduct as Atlas, was selected from several nominees. Today 75.1% shares of Atlas are with Hemas, a publicly listed company, while 24.9% shares remain with Nirmal Madanayaka, the son of the founder.