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Thursday May 23rd, 2024

Rainco’s Growth Story: From Local Leadership to Global Impact

Dinesh Dharmaratne – Chief Executive of Rainco

Spanning over four decades of innovation and leadership in the umbrella manufacturing industry, since its inception, Rainco has remained steadfast in its commitment to excellence, navigating through challenges—notably the unprecedented post-COVID economic crisis—and seizing opportunities to emerge as a truly global brand while maintaining a stronghold in the local market. In this interview with Dinesh Dharmaratne, Chief Executive of Rainco, we delve into the brand’s evolution, growth strategies and vision for the future.

How has Rainco’s journey from umbrella manufacturing to market leadership across multiple product categories evolved over the past four decades?

In 1977, our journey began with the initiation of umbrella manufacturing, a milestone that has defined our trajectory for nearly 45 years. From our inception until the turn of the millennium, we were actively engaged in the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of umbrellas under various brand names. Then, a pivotal moment for the company came about in the year 2000.

That year marked the establishment of Rainco as our flagship brand, symbolizing a strategic shift towards umbrella production, and in a few years our product range expanded to include mosquito nets and rainwear, further solidifying our position in the market.

By 2007-2008, our unwavering dedication and effort culminated in the achievement of market leadership across all categories within our portfolio.

How did Rainco navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and currency depreciation to achieve exceptional growth?

Our performance has consistently excelled, even amidst the challenges following the COVID-19 economic downturn. Notably, Rainco achieved remarkable growth in 2021 and 2022. However, as the economic crisis intensified, accompanied by sharp currency depreciation, we encountered a temporary decline in volume. Despite this setback, strategic adjustments were implemented by mid-2023, leading to a gradual volume recovery by the end of the last fiscal year. This resurgence resulted in double-digit growth across all categories, reinforcing our position as a dominant force in the market.

Furthermore, the adversities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted us to seek opportunities beyond Sri Lanka. This shift in perspective spurred a serious exploration of our global potential, culminating in a three-fold increase in our global business over the past year.

What are the primary factors driving Rainco’s sustained success?

I would identify three key factors contributing to our success.

Firstly, our people. We boast a dynamic, experienced, and passionate team that drives our business forward. Even our shopfloor staff possess considerable expertise, crucial for handling the labour-intensive task of umbrella manufacturing. Their resilience, particularly evident during challenging periods, ensures continuity in our operations. Additionally, our leadership team combines seasoned professionals with fresh perspectives, fostering innovation and adaptability.

Secondly, the power of our brand. Over its 24-year existence, Rainco has established itself as a household name and market leader for nearly 15 years. Our brand’s reputation for quality and reliability, reinforced by ISO certification, instil confidence in consumers, driving product loyalty and sales.

Thirdly, our robust distribution network. With a multi-channel approach encompassing general trade, modern trade, corporate gifting solutions, and e-commerce, we ensure broad market reach and accessibility. Our extensive touchpoints, including exclusive partnerships with major retailers, amplify brand visibility and availability, facilitating sustained growth and customer engagement.

How do you approach leadership in your organization?

Leadership style is a dynamic aspect of leadership in today’s world. I firmly believe in assessing each situation individually to determine the most effective approach. Rather than adhering to a single leadership style, I prioritize understanding the specific problem or issue at hand before deciding on the appropriate course of action. Maintaining a balanced perspective, neither too distant nor too involved, allows me to accurately identify and address the root cause of challenges and apply the most suitable leadership style accordingly.

 Accessibility is another key aspect of my leadership approach. I make it a priority to be available to employees at all levels, from shopfloor employees to sales teams, fostering an open and supportive environment. Particularly during challenges, I ensure that I am visible and accessible, whether on-site, in the office, or in the field, to demonstrate my commitment to supporting and guiding my team. Additionally, I believe in maintaining transparency and encouraging open communication throughout the organization.

 Rather than adhering rigidly to a specific leadership style, I adapt my approach based on the unique circumstances of each situation, prioritising effective problem-solving and decision-making.

How does Rainco plan to balance its ambition of becoming a global brand with its commitment to maintaining market dominance locally?

Our vision for Rainco is clear: we aim to establish Rainco as a truly global brand while retaining our stronghold in the local market.

In the local arena, our strategy revolves around driving innovation to maintain our leadership position. As the market leader, we must lead the industry by continuously introducing new ideas and products. This proactive approach has been pivotal to Rainco’s past success, and it remains integral to our mission of dominating the local market going forward.

On the global front, our ambition is to become a highly sought-after supplier renowned for both our product categories and our capabilities. We emphasize capabilities because, in serving the global market, we don’t merely sell products; we offer our expertise and resources. Whether it’s through private label manufacturing or promoting Rainco as a global brand, our aim is clear: to position ourselves as the premier choice within our product categories for clients worldwide.

The global market presents vast opportunities for us, particularly in sectors dominated by Chinese manufacturers. With the current global shifts away from China, we see a significant opening to capture a larger share of the global umbrella market, valued at approximately $5 billion. Our diverse capabilities enable us to cater to unique demands, whether it’s manufacturing photography umbrellas for top brands in the US, producing shoe deodorizers, or crafting sailing flags for sailors in Europe and the US. While these products may not align with our traditional offerings, they fall within our capabilities, showcasing our versatility and adaptability.

What are the key initiatives and strategies Rainco is implementing to drive growth in both the local and global markets?

In our local business strategies, we acknowledge the seasonal nature of our product categories. To tackle this, we are planning to introduce non-seasonal categories for distribution, capitalizing on our strength in this domain. With plans already in motion, we aim to launch these new categories within the current financial year, facilitating more effective navigation through non-seasonal months.

Furthermore, we are considering repositioning the Rainco brand to better align with evolving consumer needs and behaviours. Valuable insights from market research are guiding us in this endeavour. Despite recent budget constraints and logistical challenges faced by many brands, we have prioritized consumer research to shape our brand strategy for the upcoming financial year.

On the manufacturing front, we are exploring automation opportunities inspired by both Chinese manufacturers and Sri Lanka’s renowned apparel industry. Automating key processes in our factories will not only enhance efficiency but also increase capacity.

Internally, we are implementing an advanced ERP solution to enhance operational efficiencies further.

Regarding our global initiatives, we are approaching the launch of our first recyclable umbrella, targeting markets in Europe, the US, and Japan. This product caters to consumer demand for environmentally friendly options and signifies a significant opportunity for volume growth. We have secured full patent ownership for this innovative product.

We plan to establish a new, larger manufacturing facility with expansion provisions to bolster our export production. This move will accommodate our growing export operations.

Lastly, we are investing in building a world-class internal team to propel our global business forward. By recruiting industry experts with extensive experience in international markets, we aim to fortify our global presence and drive company growth. These initiatives stand as fundamental pillars of our growth strategy moving forward. 

(Rainco is the flagship brand of Avarna Ventures (Pvt) Ltd. The Avarna umbrella covers multiple industries including product development and manufacturing, retail, architecture and construction-related accessories, and sourcing services. The group of companies are dedicated to building workplaces that foster creativity and growth for their employees to succeed and forge ahead into the future, continuing to increase the reach of the Avarna brand)