Ahamed Aroos, Director and CEO of Rainco, a local manufacturing company, talks about building a lifestyle brand, sustainability and global expansion during Covid-19, and why the focus on core values ââis essential to safely exit economic crises into growth.
As we enter a new year after two years of unprecedented economic crisis due to the ongoing global pandemic, what are your prospects for the business environment in Sri Lanka, especially the industry you represent and the trends? who shape the future?
The global economic phenomenon is such that a boom is born out of a recession. Covid19 created opportunities, and the companies that seized them and built their resilience would have reversed the impact of the recession in the wake of the pandemic. This is what we have seen in our industry and in the global business landscape.
Consumers have become attentive spenders, delineating their needs and wants. As a brand, you need to have a powerful brand proposition to break through to consumers. From a business perspective, a lot of the frills have been eliminated. Office space has been reduced by 70% but with no impact on activity. Courage and persistence in achieving long-term goals is the key to success in business. If you decide not to invest in marketing to establish your presence, consumers will quickly forget about you because you will get lost among others who want to stay relevant in the market.
As a country, we are at the bottom in every measure of an economy. However, we are a very resilient country with a tendency to rebound quickly. While our macroeconomic numbers are gloomy, we are doing well in all other metrics. For example, the economic growth projection for 2021 is 3.3%, which is encouraging given the global realities. At least 60% of the population is vaccinated, so it is hoped that we can recover quickly. Geographically, we are on the best trade routes. There is an ongoing freight crisis, but our location has a great advantage. It is possible to gain competitive advantages in exports, services, business processes and tourism and make the country a regional hub. In terms of opportunity, digital penetration is 7.1% in the region, so we still have great prospects to discover! We shouldn’t wait for the government, but individual companies should proactively exploit these opportunities. For example, at Rainco, we are already exploring global partnerships to create a range of sustainable umbrellas.
Can you tell us about the challenges Rainco has faced over the past two years?
Rainco is an outdoor rainwear company. So the challenges we faced were many and complex. Consumers couldn’t get out – it created a big drop in our sales. There is no need for our products if people don’t come out, so the lockdowns have disrupted the local market and caused us some stress. On top of that, there was a disruption in the global supply chain. The forex crisis has created unprecedented price increases on top of that! All of this put a strain on us. However, we are trying to deal with the situation and stay on top.
How did Rainco rewrite the script: How did you influence perceptions, change direction, and sharpen your focus to push the boundaries of growth?
Consumers are drawn to brands that create value, so perception is paramount. When I took over as CEO four years ago, we set out to transform Rainco from a manufacturer of commodities into a premium lifestyle brand.
To implement this, we developed designs that encompassed Sri Lankan values ââand highlighted personality traits to enable people to make a statement about their lifestyle choices. Sustainability is important to us, which is why we have deliberately moved away from unsustainable materials and made significant changes to our packaging. At the same time, we aggressively explored opportunities in global markets and international partnerships. We boldly ventured into the pandemic, increasing our exports by 8%. Success did not happen overnight. We have been knocking on the doors of international brands like Lidl, Happy Rain, ShedRain for a while, but it was only during the pandemic that we had the opportunity to present our products and work with them. It took courage for us to get there. We focused on our long-term goals even as things started to crumble in the domestic market at the start of the pandemic.
We believed in making incremental changes towards giant leaps. We changed our business model from an internally dependent company to an interdependent one: this is where our goal came into play. We focused on the core business while the experts took care of the issues. secondary areas such as logistics and distribution. During this time, we realized that the need of the hour was to be liquid and profitable, so that efficiency and innovation naturally high within the company.
Throughout all of this, not once have we talked about growth within our teams. We have focused on aligning perceptions, setting clear directions, and emphasizing our focus, because growth is always a result if you get it right.
What’s next for Rainco and can you share your vision for the company?
Rainco has a set of core values ââas a guiding principle for achieving our vision and mission. These are kindness, partnership, ownership and motivation. Values ââembody our goal at Rainco to enrich experiences and improve lives in a simple way, rooted in our brands. As a manufacturer of umbrellas, we can help people live their everyday lives, rain or shine. Our mosquito nets can provide peaceful sleep and keep families safe. Our vision now is to create a global umbrella brand with a strong Sri Lankan identity. We are preparing for it and we are on a mission to pursue sustainability.
Locally, we have taken multiple sustainable initiatives, and globally we are trying to revolutionize the industry by creating a range of 100% recyclable products in collaboration with our international partners. We have made good progress in this direction over the past two years. We look forward to the next two or three years with great enthusiasm to bring more consolidation in this direction.