Auctions go digital under ‘New Normal’ | Daily News

Auctions go digital under ‘New Normal’

Schokman & Samerawickreme celebrates 129th anniversary
Some of the much looked forwarded to indoor and outdoor auctions of Schokman & Samerawickreme
Some of the much looked forwarded to indoor and outdoor auctions of Schokman & Samerawickreme

Schokman & Samerawickreme the leading auction house in Sri Lanka, specializing in auctioning household and office furniture, motor vehicles, antiques, paintings, collectibles and machinery will celebrate their 129th Anniversary this year.

In addition to conducting valuations and real estate brokering, Schokman and Samerawickreme counts corporate, diplomatic missions and individuals among its clientele.

The Samerawickreme family, owned and operated business has a strong commitment to professionalism, transparency and ethics in all its operations. The great commitment made by co- founder Edwin Samerawickreme over a century ago is honored by every generation of the family.

The Managing Partner Navinda Samerawickreme together with Anuja Samerawickreme, Executive Partner and CEO shared their legacy of a great journey as the number one auctioneer in the country with ‘Daily News Business’.

Having completed their studies at Trinity College Kandy, Navinda and Anuja have traversed a long journey in auctioneering by joining the family business in 1990 and 1999 respectively. Both Navinda and Anuja Samerawickreme shared their views on their 129th milestone of the company with a deep sense of pride and admiration.

Q: Would you offer us your remarkable continuance as Schokman & Samerawickreme with your long history to date?

This business was started by a planter named Schokman who was domiciled in Badulla. Auctioneering was done by him as a hobby while mingling with his friends, during leisurely evenings over the weekends. Apparently there were few items he used to auction. This was way back in 1892. My grandfather, the late Edwin Samerawickreme, who lived in Kandy, used to attend the horse races in Nuwara Eliya with his family. He had met Schokman at the horse races and struck a friendship that eventually made them business partners.

They have started by auctioning estates, property, furniture, machinery and equipment, firstly in Badulla and then in other places in the upcountry region. With Schokman migrating later on, my grandfather continued the business under the original name of Schokman & Samerawickreme. My grandfather was blessed with many children, my father being one of the youngest. With time, the elder children too got involved in the business. My uncles were instrumental in expanding the business and in establishing an office in Colombo. We celebrated our 129th Anniversary on July 12, which is the birth anniversary of our grandfather and consider this as our founder’s day.

Q: What would you say is the secret behind your success?

It’s a family owned business, coming down the generations. At present, it is managed by me and my brother Anuja. Both my younger sisters are also involved in the business. Even during my father’s era, it was always the family who were involved in making decisions. I would say that family unity is the key factor of success. We have followed the golden advice given by our father. He always espoused that we stand together as a family, which gives us strength and an unbeatable force. Family is the strength of any successful venture.

Q: The general public is keen to know about your Digital Auction Platform which you recently launched in Sri Lanka?

The usual scenario has been the traditional method of conducting auctions, where people visit and inspect the items to be auctioned on the day of the auction they would congregate around the item to be sold and move from one item to the other. This method of auctioneering was not possible with the health guidelines introduced after the ban of public gathering was lifted subsequent to the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic. Therefore we had to innovate a mechanism which would adhere to the health guidelines as well as cater to the needs of our clients.

This necessity gave us the opportunity to go digital where the items to be auctioned would be projected on a digital screen and the bidders would participate at the auction whilst seated at the auction premises. Even new payment methods have been introduced to limit contact and to adhere to the health guidelines.

It was indeed a blessing to be able to adapt to the current situation in a short time period.

Q: What is your general attitude towards the trade and your clientele?

We have a wide network of clientele including traders, buyers, sellers, collectors and high net worth individuals who deal in machinery, furniture, antiques, paintings, motor vehicles, and real estate. However, we have no preferences or favouritism as we strive to give our best service to every client. We offer the same service equally for both buyers and sellers without any prejudice.

Q: The ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has diminished business. How have you faced this situation as a company?

To date we have not retrenched any employee of our company owing to the pandemic. However, the management and staff have been affected and have taken pay cuts in order to sustain the company.

There have been months where there had been no business at all due to the lockdowns, however the needs of the employees were met by utilising our reserves.

The showrooms in Kandy and Isipathana Mawatha are being opened with the restrictions. Prices of all items have shot up with the restrictions imposed on importations. Brand new items have become very costly and the second hand market also has picked up. However we sell products at a reasonable price.

After much consideration we have got financial assistance as working capital. We were able to withstand three waves of pandemic and I hope and pray the situation will come to a positive stead with the ongoing strict health regulations and the vaccination drive.

We have provided all necessary facilities to all staff and organized health awareness programmes for them in order to fight the pandemic and to continue work as a team.

Q: What motivates you?

You must always be honest in your dealings and have a clear conscience. We, as an organization, respect our clients whilst providing an honest service. I am immensely grateful to my father, who instilled in us invaluable qualities.

His vision for the business has always been strength and unity, which has made us walk through more than a century so far. One must achieve targets by ethical and noble qualities. I wish the whole world to be steady soon and free of Covid-19.

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