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Tuesday May 17th, 2022

Rainco’s Sustainability Driven Global Push

Ahamed Aroos Director and Chief Executive at Rainco

Ahamed Aroos, Director and Chief Executive at Rainco, a homegrown manufacturing firm, talks about building a lifestyle brand, sustainability, and global expansion during Covid-19, and why focusing on core values is critical to navigating safely out of economic crises towards growth.

As we head into a new year after two years of unprecedented economic crisis due to the unfolding global pandemic, what is your outlook for the business environment in Sri Lanka, particularly the industry you represent and the trends shaping the future?

The global economic phenomenon is such that from a recession comes a boom. Covid19 did create opportunities, and businesses that seized them and built resilience would have flipped the recessionary impact in the wake of the pandemic. That is what we saw in our industry and the global business landscape.

Consumers have become mindful spenders, demarcating their needs and wants. As a brand, you must have a powerful brand proposition to break through to consumers. From a business perspective, a lot of frills got eliminated. Office spaces were reduced by 70% but without any impact on the business. Grit and perseverance for long-term goals is the key to success in business. If you decide not to invest in marketing to establish your presence, consumers will soon forget you as you get lost among others who want to stay relevant in the market.

As a country, we are at our lowest in all measures of an economy. However, we are a country that is very resilient with a tendency to bounce back quickly. Although our macroeconomic figures show gloom, we are doing well in every other parameter. For instance, 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 one hopes we can recover quickly. Geographically, we are on the best trade routes. There is an ongoing freight crisis, but our location has a great benefit. There is potential to acquire competitive advantages in exports, services, business processes and tourism and establish the country as a regional hub. In terms of opportunity, digital penetration is at 7.1% in the region, so we have tremendous prospects to uncover yet! We should not wait for the government, but individual businesses should proactively tap into these opportunities. For instance, at Rainco, we are already exploring global partnerships to create a range of sustainable umbrellas.

Can you tell us about the challenges that confronted Rainco over the last two years?

Rainco is an outdoor, rain-wear company. Thus, the challenges we faced were many and complex. Consumers could not go out – this created a big dent in our sales. There is no necessity for our products if people do not go out, so the lockdowns disrupted the local market and caused us some stress. On top of this, there was a global supply chain disruption. The forex crisis created unprecedented price increases on top of that! All this put a lot of strain on us. However, we are trying to grapple with the situation and stay on top.

How did Rainco rewrite the script: how did you influence perceptions, change direction, and sharpen focus to push beyond boundaries for growth?

Consumers gravitate to brands that create value, so perception is everything. When I took over as the CEO four years ago, we decided to transform Rainco from a commodity manufacturer to a premium lifestyle brand.

To put this into effect, we developed designs that encompassed the values of Sri Lanka and highlighted personality traits to allow people to make a statement about their lifestyle choices. Sustainability is important to us, so we consciously moved away from unsustainable materials and brought significant changes to our packaging. Simultaneously, we aggressively explored opportunities in global markets and international partnerships. We boldly ventured out during the pandemic, growing our exports by 8%. The success was not overnight. We had been knocking on the doors of international brands such as Lidl, Happy Rain, ShedRain for a while, but it was only during the pandemic that we got the opportunity to present our products and work with them. It took grit for us to achieve that. We focused on our long-term goals even as things started to crumble in the domestic market in the early stages of the pandemic.

We believed in making incremental changes towards giant leaps. We changed our business model from an internally dependent firm to an interdependent one: this is where our focus came into play. We focused on the core of the business while the experts took over the non-core areas such as logistics and distribution. Meanwhile, we realized that the need of the hour was to be liquid and profitable, so that naturally elevated efficiency and innovation within the company.

Throughout all of this, not once did we talk about growth among our teams. We focused on aligning perceptions, setting clear directions, and sharpening our focus because growth is always an outcome if you get these right.

What is next for Rainco, and can your share your vision for the company?

Rainco has a set of core values as a guiding principle to achieve our vision and mission. They are goodness, partnership, ownership, and drive. The values embody our purpose at Rainco to enrich experiences and uplift lives in simple ways as entrenched in our brands. As a producer of umbrellas, we can help people get on with their day-to-day lives come rain or shine. Our mosquito nets can give peaceful sleep and keep families safe. Our vision now is to create a global umbrella brand with a strong Sri Lankan identity. We are gearing ourselves for that, and we have a mission to chase sustainability.

Locally, we have taken multiple sustainable initiatives, and globally we are trying to revolutionize the industry by creating a 100% recyclable range of products in collaboration with our international partners. We have made good progress in this direction in the last couple of years. We are looking forward to the next two to three years with a lot of excitement to bring more consolidation in this direction.