Lakshman De Fonseka is building ALFT Packaging to meet a gap in the Southeast Asian region for hi-tech, high-quality, next-generation packaging materials and solutions on par with international standards out of its factory complex in Sri Lanka. The 200,000sqft complex has temperature-controlled finished goods stores, a solvent storage facility with direct underground access to the factory, an ink kitchen, an in-house prepress facility and more. As Chairman of ALFT Packaging, De Fonseka ensures that its state-of-the-art facility – built to impeccable Japanese standards and equipped with cutting-edge German machinery – is geared to exceed customer expectations amidst mounting economic challenges here and overseas. He explains how in this interview:
Can you briefly give us an overview of ALFT Packaging and the milestones in its journey thus far?
ALFT Packaging is the only purpose-built packaging company in Sri Lanka with cutting-edge technology, global standards and affordable and innovative solutions for every aspect of packaging. ALFT started five years ago to revolutionize this space and do what companies like MAS and Brandix did for the garments sector. Their example elevated the entire industry, and Sri Lanka now enjoys a reputation among global brands for innovative designs, fast lead times, superior quality and high-end products. We aspire to have a similar impact on the local packaging industry and put Sri Lanka on the map for high-value solutions.
That is what ALFT is for the packaging industry. We serve over 100 brands, and every milestone we set for ourselves is about being on par with global industry practices, be it hygiene, safety, training, machinery or services. Recently, we celebrated our investments into CI Flexo technology that unlocks marketing opportunities for our clients and their brands.
How is the unfolding economic crisis impacting the packaging industry in Sri Lanka?
The unfolding economic crisis and global supply chain headwinds have disrupted supply chains, making it difficult to procure raw materials. The liquidity issue in the banking system has also made it even more challenging to access funds for procurement.
However, we have anticipated these issues and steadily built our inventory for all the brands we serve. We are also helping our clients deal with the economic crisis in two ways. First, timing is everything to our clients, so we have innovated our processes to ensure timely delivery. Second, with rising media and marketing costs, our clients have become more innovative and are exploring more ways to engage their audience through packaging, so we are helping to unlock those opportunities.
Despite the uncertain economic outlook, we invested Rs4.5 billion in CI Flexo technology. While most businesses are not committing any capital investments, we had the conviction that the unfolding economic challenges required us to upscale our services to help clients navigate through the crisis and contain any supply shocks that could impact consumers.
The new technology will help reduce production times, benefitting the company, our clients and end consumers. We can also offer a range of value-added services – while most businesses tend to overlook packaging, it is a critical marketing tool. So we are unlocking the full spectrum of packaging for our clients. For example, we can deliver a new development within 7 to 10 days, giving our clients the flexibility to respond to market demands. Already a few clients of ours have adopted it. Prima Noodles used our new technology for their packaging for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and had a successful marketing campaign that season.
What gives you the edge in the market?
Our people and technology make all the difference and give us an unsurpassable edge in the market. In technology, we have state-of-the-art gravure and CI Flexo printing and packaging solutions, giving our clients a clear advantage over their competitors. We have certified our plants with all the quality parameters related to the industry. Another advantage is we are the only BRC A+ certified facility in the country, and our hygiene and safety standards are unmatched. In this digital age, contaminants like insects or foreign bodies inside packaging can spell disaster for brands, and ALFT offers a 100% guarantee that it will never happen.
What is your approach to innovation and technology? How are you harnessing these for growth?
Our approach is simple. Local excellence through global benchmarks, and soon enough, that will lead you to global excellence in the local context. ALFT invests in technology based on anticipating evolving client needs and strategically builds capacity to ensure we are the first in the market to offer services that will support our clients in their growth journey.
We feel very positive and excited about the future here at ALFT. Although we are a highly technical industry, our success so far is based on the quality and commitment of our teams. We are optimistic that the industry will grow to cater to global brands and aspire to lead that transformation. We plan to venture into the export business, and I am confident that the recent investments, backed by the dedication and passion of our people, will enable ALFT to break into the international market.