An Echelon Media Company
Friday July 12th, 2024

Ranjith Pandithage on Leading a Better Future

Ranjith Pandithage, Chairman of DIMO

One of the fastest-growing conglomerates in Sri Lanka DIMO has transformed into a powerhouse of innovation and excellence in mobility, agriculture, education, energy, healthcare and more. Under the visionary leadership of Ranjith Pandithage, the Chairman of DIMO, this expansion took an exponential trajectory.

Pandithage, looking back at the group’s exciting beginnings and the decades of changes and challenges that have made DIMO what it is today, says DIMO’s story begins in 1939, amidst the Second World War when four visionary young men—Stephen Peries, Pandithage Don Alexander, Cyril Algama and Harold Algama—founded an automobile workshop in Panchikawatta, Sri Lanka.

DIMO soon established partnerships with prestigious global brands like Mercedes-Benz and TATA, earning a reputation as a trailblazer in the automotive sector. The company expanded into manufacturing auto parts to assembling commercial vehicles further solidifying its standing in the mobility industry.

The year 1964 was a significant milestone when DIMO transitioned into a publicly quoted company, setting the stage for accelerated growth. In the 1970s the company formed DIMO Pvt Ltd, which extended its expertise into power engineering and medical engineering, expanding its influence within the engineering sector.

In 1990, DIMO took a step towards nurturing future talent by establishing the DIMO Automobile Training School. This initiative, which started as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project, evolved into the DIMO Academy, offering vocational and higher education through foreign collaborations.

Mobility Beyond Mobility

Embracing a strategy of diversification, DIMO ventured into the agriculture sector in 2017. It began by manufacturing fertilizers and later acquired majority stakes in several companies, including Plant Seeds (Pvt) Ltd, Plantchem (Pvt) Ltd, Tropical Health Food (Pvt) Ltd, and Virgin Oil International (Pvt) Ltd entering different sectors in the local agriculture value chain. This move demonstrated DIMO’s commitment to branching out into new, non-related industries.

The healthcare sector also saw DIMO’s expanding footprint as it ventured into healthcare devices, consumables, contrast mediums, and pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile organizing all healthcare operations under the DIMO Healthcare brand. This was part of a broader strategy to future-proof the organization by diversifying its portfolio.

In the realm of power and energy, DIMO Energy solidified its presence across various voltage segments, emphasizing renewable energy solutions. A significant step in 2024 was the commencement of manufacturing power distribution panels in Sri Lanka, enhancing the local manufacturing capacity. Concentrating more on renewable energy projects, especially solar, reflects the company’s commitment towards sustainable products.

Today, DIMO’s operations span across ten sectors including Power & Energy, Water, Agriculture, Healthcare, Education, Construction, Industrial, Building Services, Digital, Home & Garden, and Mobility. This wide-ranging diversification strategy has cultivated enduring partnerships with over 100 renowned global brands and reduced dependency on any single sector.

DIMO’s global footprint expanded through joint ventures, dealerships, and export-oriented products and services. Notable joint ventures include DIMO Coastline (Pvt) Ltd, in the Maldives, focusing on ship repairs and engineering solutions, and DIMO Bangladesh Pvt Ltd, which serves the construction machinery segment and is the only authorized distributor for Komatsu in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bangladesh. Miditer organic food brand and WURKAI  caravan are a few brands that cater to export markets under DIMO.

“Each decision and milestone has been driven by the vision to create value for all stakeholders and ensure sustainable long-term success. As DIMO continues to redefine industries and markets, we aspire to bear the beacon of innovation and resilience in the business world,” Pandithage says.

Progressive Stewardship

As DIMO expanded its operations globally and diversified into new industries, the challenges of leading such a dynamic conglomerate have intensified. In an increasingly volatile global market, the art of steering DIMO has become an exercise in complexity management and visionary leadership.

“The transformation has required a substantial evolution in leadership styles and strategies. It’s not merely about adapting to change; it’s about leading it,” he explains.

The top brass at DIMO have found themselves at the forefront of reimagining their roles and the very nature of the organization. This shift goes beyond traditional ambitions—it’s about cultivating the ability to thrive in a rapidly changing business landscape.

Under this leadership paradigm, DIMO has adopted a comprehensive view of its impact, prioritizing societal and environmental considerations alongside profitability. This reflects a significant shift from focusing solely on individual business units to embracing a holistic approach that encompasses the entire organization.

Leadership at DIMO now involves a blend of strategic foresight and a deep commitment to sustainable practices, ensuring decisions are not only beneficial in the short term but sustainable in the long run.

By considering the complete picture of their operations, from the minutiae of daily tasks to the overarching goals of the organization, DIMO’s leaders are setting a new standard for what it means to lead a global powerhouse in today’s complex market environments.

Global Partnerships

DIMO’s core values of integrity, people-centricity, excellence, customer delight, and accountability are in its business philosophy. Aligning with its core values, establishing the right partnerships was critical for DIMO to realize its potential. These international partnerships have been more than just business transactions; they have been transformative, setting new standards in ethics, quality, and sustainability. These collaborations influence not only the company’s operational practices but also its broader commitments to societal and environmental responsibilities.

As DIMO has expanded its reach, the importance of aligning with international norms and best practices has become a strategic imperative. The global partners have guided the company to uphold high ethical standards and commit to quality amidst the complexities of a global business environment.

For example, DIMO’s long-standing partner Siemens sustainability framework focuses on decarbonization, ethics, governance, resource efficiency, equity, and employability. DIMO’s own Sustainability Agenda 2030, also aims to forge a resilient business, creating resilient communities and conserving living plants. This exemplifies similar interests both companies infused into their sustainability policies.

The collaboration with global giants like Siemens, Mercedes-Benz, Komatsu, KSB, and Michelin has empowered DIMO to enrich its product portfolio with energy-efficient and sustainable solutions. These partnerships facilitate DIMO’s goal of generating 50% of its revenue from sustainable products and services by 2030, underlining the company’s commitment to fuelling the dreams and aspirations of the communities it serves.

Moreover, the respect and acceptance that DIMO enjoys from these world-class partners not only boost its brand equity but also affirms its status as a leader in ethical business practices. Through these global partnerships, DIMO not only sets benchmarks in operational excellence but also contributes to a sustainable future, reflecting its deep-rooted commitment to quality and ethical standards in every facet of its operations.

The values that DIMO garnered from these partnerships also extend to its commitment to empowering people and communities in Sri Lanka.

ESG at the Core

DIMO has strategically realigned its operations to integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, reflecting a profound commitment to sustainability. This shift is not just a component of DIMO’s strategy but is central to its core operations, reshaping how the company approaches business on all fronts.

The inception of the ‘Sustainability Agenda 2030’ is a landmark in DIMO’s sustainability efforts, setting clear, actionable milestones that underscore the company’s dedication to ESG principles. This comprehensive agenda is part of a broader strategy to embed sustainability into the fabric of DIMO’s operations, ensuring that every business decision upholds these values.

DIMO has adopted rigorous ESG reporting practices to enhance transparency and accountability. By engaging independent auditors to verify non-financial data—including sustainability-related disclosures—DIMO ensures the integrity of its sustainability reports and shields itself against accusations of greenwashing. This meticulous data collection and reporting process not only facilitates informed decision-making but also bolsters DIMO’s reputation as a leader in ethical business practices.

Looking to the future, DIMO sees ESG as a transformative force for its supply chains and operations. The company plans to leverage sustainable technologies to further ensure its operations complement ESG compliance. These technologies are expected to improve operational efficiencies, foster customer loyalty, enhance brand perception and boost employee engagement.

The anticipated benefits of these ESG-focused initiatives are multifaceted, promising not only to enhance DIMO’s operational capabilities but also to create significant value for its stakeholders. By embedding sustainability into its core strategy, DIMO is not just adapting to a trend but leading the way in transforming business practices for a sustainable future.

Growth Stability Path

As the head of DIMO, a fast-growing, diversified conglomerate spreading its wings beyond Sri Lanka while remaining committed to driving transformations in the home economy, Pandithage has navigated the group through a myriad of challenges that test the resilience and adaptability of the organization.

DIMO has encountered significant obstacles including unpredictable policies, fluctuating taxation, cumbersome procedures, and complex regulatory approvals. These issues have not only impeded long-term planning and efficient resource allocation but also constrained the company’s capacity for swift innovation. The lack of a robust competition policy and widespread corruption further distort market fairness and growth potential.

To counter these adversities, Pandithage emphasizes the importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing with policymakers. He advocates for more transparent and consistent regulations, actively participating in industry forums to help shape a more predictable business environment. This strategic approach underscores his commitment to reinforcing DIMO’s leadership in the sectors it operates in while focusing on agility, adaptability, and a long-term vision for sustained growth.

However, he stresses the importance of successful debt restructuring and the implementation of credible structural reforms as priorities for economic stability and growth. These reforms are crucial to attracting new capital inflows and maintaining economic resilience.

Pandithage also highlights the critical role of the private sector in driving economic and governance transformation in Sri Lanka. He believes that the private sector can drive change by enhancing innovative capacities, developing world-class human resources, introducing technological advancements, and sharing new knowledge. Sustainability should be at the heart of the private sector’s strategy, guiding businesses towards comprehensive social, environmental, and economic development. This approach will not only foster sustainable growth for future generations but also contribute to real transformation within the country.

Vision & Guidance

Looking forwards, Pandithage remains optimistic about Sri Lanka’s potential. He sees the nation as brimming with opportunities, underscored by its demonstrated resilience and resourcefulness. He believes that by focusing on sustainable solutions in untapped sectors like agriculture, power, and energy, Sri Lanka can unlock significant potential and reduce economic vulnerability.

Fostering innovation at policymaking levels, technological adaptation, and ethical business practices are identified as key drivers for the future. Improving the investor-friendly climate and leveraging the tourism sector to develop “Sri Lanka” as a globally recognized hub for sustainable solutions is important in this journey, he elaborates.

Pandithage envisions “Sri Lanka” as a global brand known for sustainable solutions, developed through leveraging green technologies and adopting ethical business practices. This vision includes building a green economy for Sri Lanka, that fosters eco-systems where communities can thrive through green entrepreneurship while enabling global consumers to meet their net-zero emission standards.

Chairman Pandithage offers powerful advice to the youth aspiring to make their mark in the corporate world. “Adaptability, agility, and a relentless pursuit of learning are fundamental for success in today’s rapidly evolving corporate landscape,” he emphasizes. Sustaining your passion and seeking constant inspiration are key drivers in achieving your specific goals. By fostering an environment of interactive dialogue, knowledge sharing, collaboration, and mutual respect, we can promote both personal and collective growth”, he says.

In today’s context, young professionals must cultivate a diverse range of skills to evaluate and apply knowledge effectively in response to the dynamic challenges of our changing environment. Equipping oneself with versatile, transferable skills is paramount, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee. These skills, acquired through various career experiences, serve as a multifaceted toolkit applicable in any professional setting, elevating you from a good employee to an invaluable asset, Pandithage encapsulates.

“Embark on purposeful initiatives that can have a positive impact on the country. Seek out opportunities that align with your values and contribute meaningfully to society. By doing so, you not only advance your career but also help create a better, more sustainable future for all,” he concludes.