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Tuesday June 25th, 2024

Defying Odds: The Tenacity of Gnext’s Tech Triumph in Sri Lanka

Rajeev Gooneratne Chief Executive of Gnext Sri Lanka

Typically, an economic crisis – rift with the forex shortages, import restrictions and high duties coupled with high taxation, inflation and shrinking disposable incomes – tends to deplete demand for electronics, even essential ones like smartphones. Bucking this trend takes somethingspecial to manage inventory, pricing and forex reserves, not just to survive but to generate growth. Gnext
Sri Lanka is one such company. Since its inception in 2017, Gnext Sri Lanka has risen as the pivotal agent and service provider for Apple and Xiaomi, demonstrating impressive growth, even amid the economic challenges gripping the country since 2019. Rajeev Gooneratne, the Chief Executive of Gnext Sri Lanka, delves into the company’s remarkable trajectory, its adept navigation of economic hurdles, and its forward-looking aspirations for Sri Lanka.

As the premier agent, distributor and service provider for Apple and Xiaomi in Sri Lanka, tell us the Gnext Sri Lanka story and the journey thus far.

We set up operations in Sri Lanka in 2017 when the founder and Managing Director of Singapore-based Gnext, Kailash Gupta, recognized Sri Lanka’s untapped potential. Initially aspiring to partner with Apple, our fledgling status led us to commence distribution with Lava, a Chinese brand already in Sri Lanka, and soon after, we expanded our portfolio by partnering with Vivo.

Despite this, the parent company of Gnext’s success in distributing Apple across nine countries continually stoked our desire to introduce Apple devices to Sri Lanka. Incidentally, when Vivo established its Sri Lankan operations, we seized an opportunity to collaborate with another renowned brand, Xiaomi (MI). Xiaomi’s arrival was transformative for Gnext Sri Lanka. Globally celebrated for their cost-effective, cutting-edge Android devices, they quickly captivated Sri Lanka’s youth. This popularity turbocharged our distribution across the country.

Our tenacity to succeed in this market – mired in its worst economic crisis since independence eventually – paid off when Apple granted us a sole distributorship in Sri Lanka. Representing both Apple and Xiaomi, Gnext Sri Lanka emerged as a distribution juggernaut for two of the world’s most coveted brands, spanning iOS and Android ecosystems. This partnership with Apple also birthed the Gnext Store and Apple Service Center, elevating our market presence.

Managing Apple and Xiaomi, two brands with distinct identities, was challenging. Yet, our relationships with both flourished. Over six years, despite hurdles, particularly in the recent two years, we celebrated remarkable growth. Today, Gnext Sri Lanka stands tall as a premier mobile distributor in Sri Lanka. Despite the challenging economic conditions in the past four years, we’ve remained operational and grown the business, showcasing our resilience and the faith Apple and Xiaomi have in us. Our journey has been monumental, but it’s only the beginning for Gnext Sri Lanka. We’re on an upward trajectory, eager for what lies ahead.

Recent economic challenges have tested the resilience and adaptability of many businesses. How has Gnext Sri Lanka navigated these challenges?

A growing concern for us is parallel imports. Increasingly, people are circumventing legitimate channels to import mobile devices without paying due taxes, leading to an unfair market advantage for authorized and legitimate dealerships.

Parallel importers might offer warranties, but these often fall short. We regularly see customers who’ve opted for cheaper alternatives seeking support at our service centres. Genuine service
centres, especially for brands like Apple, are governed by stringent standards. Therefore, consumers, drawn to lower prices, soon find themselves without reliable after-sales support for basic
repairs or maintenance. The forex outflow from parallel imports also threatens the broader economy because they don’t contribute to the collection of duties and taxes, further compounding macroeconomic imbalances.

In addressing the threat from parallel imports, we’re proactive, introducing value-added promotions, spreading awareness on social media, and introducing a] two-year warranty to reinforce customer trust. Our focus is not just on sales but on building lasting relationships with our partners and customers. Setting ourselves apart, we prioritize the customer experience. At our outlets, we offer demo devices, allowing a hands-on feel. This commitment to trust and a comprehensive customer experience distinguishes us in the market.

Given the fast-evolving nature of the global communications industry and Sri Lanka’s reviving economy, what current market trends are you most excited about, and how do you see Gnext Sri Lanka capitalizing on these opportunities?

Currently, AI tops my list. I’m particularly enthusiastic about two developments: the prospects of the Sri Lankan market and the rise of artificial intelligence. The AI potential is undeniable, with its
applications set to expand across various domains.

Moreover, Sri Lanka is on the cusp of a technological leap with the impending rollout of 5G networks that promise to be a game-changer for the mobile industry, unlocking an exciting array of innovative services and capabilities. As 5G unfolds, we can anticipate devices evolving, enriching user experiences in downloading, streaming, and more.

In essence, the world is amid transformative advancements. With 5G and AI steering the helm, I’m confident these dual forces will elevate our industries and people’s lives to unprecedented heights.
Gnext Sri Lanka is set to be a key player in making available cutting-edge devices from Apple and Xiaomi – representing a broad spectrum in pricing so that the latest technologies will be available to everyone in Sri Lanka.

What is your approach to leadership?

My leadership approach is built on trust, empowering team members to take ownership and innovate within given guidelines. The consistent dedication of our team, even during adversities, showcases the strength of this approach. Led by our MD Kailash, our Head Office mirrors my belief in valuing people. In all challenges, their support has been steadfast. My guiding principle as a leader remains: people drive a company’s success. It’s a belief I will continue to uphold.

Can you share your plans for Gnext Sri Lanka in the upcoming years?

The horizon looks promising for us. We’re not just content with our current position; we have ambitious plans in the pipeline. Our expansion drive will see an increased retail presence. Furthermore, we are excited to introduce a brand that not only stands apart from our mobile offerings but also promises to bring a thrilling experience that Sri Lanka truly deserves. That brand is Dyson, a Singapore-based multinational technology company renowned for designing and manufacturing innovative household appliances, such as vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, and hair dryers. Our mission is multifaceted: We aim to grow the retail side of the business and enhance consumer experiences by collaborating with prominent global brands. As Sri Lanka stands at the cusp of technological advancements, we acknowledge our lagging position on the global tech stage. At Gnext Sri Lanka, we aim to bridge this gap by consistently updating our offerings, integrating contemporary technology-driven products and accessories and introducing fresh brands. That’s precisely where our focus lies at the moment.