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John Keells Holdings

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

About John Keells Holdings

  • Banking & Financial Services
  • Construction & Property Services
  • Entertainment, Travel & Hospitality
  • Retail, Sales & Consumer Goods
  • Technology
  • Transport & Logistics

What it does: John Keells Holdings PLC is a holding conglomerate, with companies spanning across a variety of different market sectors including IT, food manufacturing and services, stockbroking, life insurance, real estate, hotel management, and more.

Best known for: John Keells Holdings is the single largest conglomerate in Sri Lanka listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. It’s best known for its broad encompassing interests and investments, which contribute to nearly every aspect of the local economy.

Staff stats: 10,000+ employees between 70 different companies.

The good bits: With such a wide range of companies, you’ll have plenty of different sectors to choose from. They actively encourage grads of many fields to apply and place extra emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The not so good bits: Salary ranges aren’t always competitive or ideal and you’ll work some hard days. 

Hiring grads with degrees in: Finance, Accounting, Business, Management, Marketing, IT & Computer Sciences, Mathematics, Statistics, Systems Development, Software Engineering/Development, Engineering, Human Resources, Arts (graphic design), Food Sciences, Biology, Microbiology, Animal Sciences. 

The John Keells Holdings story

John Keells Holdings PLC has a colourful history beginning in 1870 as a small import and export exchange brokerage. Though it was initially named E. John & Co., the name went through multiple different name changes through its time. In 1948, the company merged with two London tea brokers, becoming E. John, Thompson, White & Company Ltd. Over the next 26 years—through a multitude of mergers, acquisitions, and expansions—the company slowly but steadily evolved into John Keells Holdings Ltd, which is now the largest holding conglomerate in Sri Lanka.

Today, John Keells Holdings PLC continues to grow and expand their holdings and investments. With a collective yearly revenue of around $10B, they've been previously recognised as the #1 company in Sri Lanka's Top 25 Companies yearly ranking.

The recruitment process

The application process at John Keells Holdings is pretty simple. You sign up through their career site, send in your application and then wait for the next steps. Overall, the process, from application submission to the company’s post-interview decision, generally takes around two weeks to complete.

The interview process often begins with a short test, which can include a mixture of technical, practical, and behavioural questions. The next step involves a traditional face-to-face interview. Who you interview with depends on which position you're aiming for, but you'll be interviewing with an HR executive, an interview manager, or potentially even the CEO (especially if you’re gunning for an executive position). Interviews are pointed and specific, but not overly harsh or demanding. Common intro questions cover cultural fit or behavioral-based categories, while the rest are related to the respective available position in which you’re interested.

Career prospects

With 70 companies servicing different economic sectors, career prospects at John Keells Holdings are plentiful for fresh grads. Grads of many different degrees can look forward to choosing from specific positions and industries they prefer. From an Animal Science or Biology major to a Business or Accounting major, they have opportunities available. 

John Keells Holdings offers raises and bonuses based on a performance system. Hard work is met with some incentives, though, on the downside, salaries for otherwise lucrative positions in other countries are surprisingly low. Though they do offer raises and bonuses, past employees mention that many jobs offer less than the typical salary range. However, they do make up for this by providing extensive training. New graduate hires and interns can look forward to a wealth of helpful and guided training for their respective positions. On top of gaining valuable insight into practical applications of your skills, they also often pay for whatever other certifications you may need along the way.


The salary ranges at John Keells Holdings PLC are highly variable depending on which of the companies you work for and what position you want. Grads interested in becoming HR executives can expect an annual average salary of just below 118,000 LKR ($650 USD) per month. Managers will make around 127,000 LKR ($699 USD) per month, while data analysts pull around 105,000 LKR ($578 USD) per month.

The culture

With such a broad range of industries, and consequently career choices, comes a full range of culture. Though the exact culture depends on where you’re working, there are a few commonalities between the companies. It's a relatively comfortable environment, with extra emphasis on friendly competition and working hard. Reportedly, working hard (which means working late), is almost ingrained into the culture, so it's safe to assume you'll be working some late nights. 

The most notable aspect of the culture within John Keells Holdings is their enthusiasm for learning and teaching new skills. Fresh grads can look forward to being pushed to succeed and surpass what they've learned throughout their schooling. Essentially, they help you adapt what you learned from your education and apply it to real-world situations. 

At first glance, this competitive and cooperative based organisation is eager to help you move you up the ladder, especially if you're an intern. Interestingly, while they don't directly address it, they don't seem to mind which ladder you choose to climb (as long as it's within their holdings, of course). This is because they recognise offering flexibility between such a broad range of industries helps keep employees long-term. While many of their top positions require years of experience, it's entirely possible to work your way up through a single company, or by bouncing between a few.

Social contributions

John Keells Holdings has significant influence over practically every corner of the Sri Lankan economy and fortunately uses its power to help combat a variety of environmental and social issues. Notable outcomes of these interests include the John Keells Foundation and Plasticcycle.

The John Keells Foundation was started to build a close commitment to the communities and environments in which they do business. A minimum of 1% of their annual profits is allocated to various social responsibility initiatives. The foundation provides funds to several different areas, including environmental protection, health, education, arts and culture, disaster relief, and livelihood development services.

Perhaps their most notable contribution to conservation is their pollution reduction project, named Plasticcycle. The Pasticcycle project was started to encourage more Sri Lankan people to recycle their plastics, especially single-use plastics. After significant success with an initial trial-test of only three bins, Plasticcycle now has 86 recycle bins locations around the country. 

General vibe of the place

The general vibe of the place is a highly competitive atmosphere, yet still with a cooperative feel. The training for interns and new grads is both exceptionally comprehensive and beneficial. However, initial jobs are not often seen as your primary field career choice, but rather a means to land a better paying position. Also, initial positions often don’t pay as well compared to other companies, so, if you’re looking to start making a high wage immediately, John Keells probably isn’t the best place to start. Overall though, you have multiple industries and career paths to choose from, all accessible from within the same company umbrella—a rare characteristic among companies in general.

Jobs & Opportunities

Locations With Jobs & Opportunities
  • Sri Lanka
Hiring candidates with qualifications in
Business & Management
Creative Arts
Engineering & Mathematics
IT & Computer Science