The Managing Director, Chief Executive and Co-founder of POTENZA believes he has the key to unlocking the country’s potential.
What was the vision you had for POTENZA when you co-founded the company?
The legacy I wanted to build is for POTENZA to be the largest, most impactful and productive company in Sri Lanka and also in the region. I want POTENZA to be a global brand that talks about enterprise productivity. We will get there by 2025, I reckon. By then, POTENZA would have grown to a 250-strong team hitting $10 million in service revenue annually.
Sri Lanka has a productivity problem that we wanted to address with POTENZA. I find that too few companies in Sri Lanka efficiently manage their human resources. Intelligent automation can deliver significant productivity gains and drive sustainable business growth. Unfortunately, people are employed to do mundane tasks rather than create value. Even some of the largest businesses here are slow to appreciate the value of intelligent automation, and even digital technology for that matter, only scratching the surface at best.
If the economy is to reach the growth trajectory everyone talks about, businesses will have to do much better in productivity. That will be difficult if the public and private sector continue to offer mundane, low-skilled jobs that generate little or no value addition. I co-founded POTENZA with Mithila, with that purpose in mind, to be a catalyst for change.
Let me give you an example. A client in business process outsourcing for global insurance companies took ten days to process 24,000 insurance claims with a 7% error rate. We introduced the client to Intelligent Automation, and they could process 24,000 claims in just 10 hours with zero errors. POTENZA essentially enabled them to now canvass more clients and observe more work in Sri Lanka as a BPO attracting more foreign currency earnings for Sri Lanka. We helped another client, a local conglomerate, automate tax submissions, including income tax and VAT, across the group. We freed up 99% of the time it earlier took! These are the types of exponential productivity gains we are enabling for our clients.
How has the journey been so far?
We incorporated the business in 2016 as a Business Tech Consultancy and devoted the first year to build the team and set up our office. POTENZA started operations in April 2017, and four years on, the company employs 80+ people and makes over $1 million a year. Over 70% of our revenue comes from overseas clients.
Our consultancy practice is composed of three pillars. The first is SAP Consulting where we help businesses from Implementations to Value Engineering in SAP, helping them realize more value out of the SAP investment. The second is an award-winning Data Analytics practice with strong Data Engineering and Data Science capabilities, which is the business that is taking POTENZA global.
Our third and most innovative venture is in Intelligent Automation, where we drive exponential productivity outcomes for our clients locally and globally. We pioneered this concept in Sri Lanka, and before us, no company had a dedicated Robotic Process Automation (RPA) practice. We were the first Certified Centre of Excellence in RPA and one of the first five in the Asia Pacific, a status which we maintain to date. Our local clientele includes DFCC Bank, NDB Bank, AIA Insurance, Hayleys Plc, LB Finance, and Hemas Holdings Plc.
We have clients in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US, including the London Stock Exchange Group and US-based Bombardier, the world’s fourth-largest transportation company. We have an office in Singapore and a 50-50 joint venture in Australia called BGC POTENZA, and the team in Sri Lanka serves as the centre of excellence and technical hub.
I find that too few companies in Sri Lanka efficiently manage their human resources. Intelligent automation can deliver significant productivity gains
How has the unprecedented global pandemic impacted POTENZA?
During the pandemic, we made a conscious decision not to lay off people or slash salaries. We implemented Work from Home protocols weeks before Sri Lanka went into lockdown in March 2020, and now almost all of our overseas projects are executed remotely. We did our best to ensure our staff had enough food and other essentials during this period. Our biggest asset is our team, so even though projects slowed down during the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, we invested in training and spent time role-playing various situations. As a result, we have a team of people dedicated to upscaling POTENZA. Despite the pandemic, we had a good year. We scaled up operations in 2020, enabling us to offer salary increments and bonuses in December, putting our team first on our agenda.
What was the one business lesson you had to learn the hard way?
When we co-founded POTENZA, I was keen to have the absolute best people around us, who I felt had the skills to upscale the business. You tend to place trust in the capabilities of the people you hire. But when you run a business, you quickly learn that it is not enough. You must surround yourself with people who share your values. I learnt not to tolerate poor attitude and mismatches in values no matter how skilled and talented a person is, because it never brings long term success