A Legacy of Expanding Vistas and Utilizing Resources to Good Use – Sun Match Company – Deshamanya Suri Rajan, Gowri Rajan and Prasad Rajan

Sun Match Company was established in the 1980s and is acknowledged as being the first company in Sri Lanka to produce premium wax coated safety matches under the well-known brand “SOORYA.” In addition, they take satisfaction in illuminating the household needs of Sri Lanka and Madagascar, and Kenya, where they have implemented turnkey projects in partnership with Pioneer Group of Companies, Sivakasi, India, under the brand name AFOMA. As one of the country’s largest family-owned businesses, Sun Match takes pleasure in conducting business with the highest level of professionalism and quality.

In an interview with Deshamanya Suri Rajan, Chairman/Managing Director of Sun Match Company, he hails from a family where the goal of life is to serve society rather than to make money. In 1935, his father, P T Rajan, established a dedicated residential facility and a school to teach children from tea estates who had little access to education at the time. He was the first to introduce hockey to Kandy, and the government even named a playground after him, the P T Rajan Municipal Playgrounds in Kandy.

Suri adds he intends to create a synthetic playground for hockey one day since it is the global standard for the sport so that the legacy can be passed down to future generations. He claims that people still enjoy sports. This year, Sun Match Company stepped up to work with the national Olympic committee to sponsor a medallion in badminton at the Commonwealth Games next year and hopefully the Olympic Games in 2024.

T R R Rajan, Suri’s brother, started “Sun Match,” which sells SOORYA wax-coated matchboxes. He recalls selling ‘Gini Petty’ from store to store and even driving a large vehicle during the company’s early days. The company’s goal is to create a difference in a Sri Lankan family, including the wider Sun Match family, who worked for them in Kundasale and Digana for many years. 

Suri is delighted to state that Sun Match has produced the safest match stick for Sri Lankans to use at home and on special occasions for the past 37 years. They are the first safety wax matches to achieve the SLS certification, and they believe in setting the bar for the rest of the industry. As envisioned by his brilliant sibling, the organization aspires to be a trendsetter and a leader who tragically passed away. Suri is confident that his brother is keeping an eye on him and how the company continues to lead Sri Lankan families.

When asked where the company will go, Suri expresses that they must now enable the next generation to take the company ahead with fresh ideas and goals. He claims he is there as a safety net but that it is his responsibility to allow the next generation to make errors and grow. He mentions how lucky it is that everyone is qualified and brings to the table ideas backed by research or best practices from around the world, resulting in the business being more of a family learning environment. Sun Match has had to modify its business model due to the pandemic’s disruption at the consumer level and Suri is quite content with the new culture that is emerging.

Suri, when asked how it’s been working with his niece as a business partner, responds that everyone in his organization is a professional. Although Gowri Rajan is his niece, she must win his respect in office by performing well. This is how the company is put together. This is their work in progress. Gowri, he says, has a solid desire to study and grow. After graduating in India, she studied for her MBA at the University of Peradeniya, and her family assumed her studies were over. Still, she broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first Rotary Governor for Sri Lanka and the Maldives and now serves on many international Rotary committees based in Evanston, USA.

He notes that they now see Gowri is getting her doctoral degree while driving new items into the market and managing the company’s whole marketing and sales in such a dynamic climate. Suri describes her as a “live wire,” bringing in honours and accolades for which he believes his brother, Gowri’s father, must be proud.

Suri, as Chairman of the organization, expresses his perspective in light of the problematic scenario we are in. Sri Lanka, he claims, has always fought back against external shocks. In 2004, the Tsunami struck, and the commodity bubble crashed in 2008. Sun Match has withstood civil war times in 2009, as well as Easter attacks in 2018. He is confident that they will survive this time and that a new world would emerge following the pandemic.

Hailing from native Kandy, Gowri is the eldest of three girls. With her famed father, T.R.R. Rajan’s untimely passing, she had no choice but to pick up the pieces and carry on with her life. Guided by her uncle, Gowri had to swim against the deep waters, which helped her gain her survival instincts and bring out the latent entrepreneurial DNA. She triumphed over many of her challenges through her perseverance and ability to work with people. She highlights her father’s words on the first day she started working in the family company where she was given a desk and chair and was told  “You must earn respect to be heard and must never command respect.”

Gowri is presently the Director of Sun Match Company, where she has grown the company from a Match Box manufacturer to a home environment enhancement company with Soorya Incense sticks, Soorya candles, and now the first ever All -Purpose Disinfectant in Sri Lanka called ‘SUN’ Disinfectants. She earned a BA, certified as a professional marketer, went on to earn an MBA, and is currently a Doctoral candidate in Business Administration, demonstrating the grit that brand Gowri has shown.

Understanding the changing consumer behaviour in Sri Lanka, particularly in the last year owing to the epidemic, is a challenging but fascinating task for Gowri. She claims that commercial constraints are severe since the epidemic is disrupting the consumer level. It is critical to produce new items in response to changing requirements, even if they do not always work at first. However, one must continuously attempt to get the brand back on course. She argues that sales have become a challenging endeavour due to lockdowns and that understanding retail behaviour and the financial ramifications is crucial.

Sun Match, on the other hand, has expanded as a company in the last year. Gowri has begun to adopt a new approach to working in Sri Lanka to manage the near term while keeping the long-term goal in mind. According to Gowri, one distinguishing feature of the company is that the majority of the employees have been with the company for more than ten years. So the company’s success is in its brands and people. The success of Sun Match is dependent on these two pivots.

When asked about the hurdles she experienced as a female director in the industry and how she overcame them, Gowri says she has evolved with the business through time and was taught by her father that she must earn her respect rather than command it. As a result, the issue was never about gender but about who could bring the best concept to the table and persuade the other team that it would succeed in the marketplace. Respect from the group comes naturally over time when the actions work in the market. As a result, Gowri claims she has never had any challenges as a female director because the organization’s value system emphasises achievement and a stronger work ethic than gender.

Gowri explains that success isn’t a trendy word in her work ethic; instead, she prefers to have an impression. The world seeks after people who are relevant and contribute worth to people’s lives. Even during the first pandemic lockdown, the housewife showed this intelligence. Moreover, before purchasing a product, consumers increasingly want to know what the brand stands for and who the maker is. As a result, she expresses that to influence our daily lives, we must connect with Sri Lankans by being purposeful.

Gowri says SOORYA is the first safety wax brand in Sri Lanka for almost four decades. Based on the changing needs of the market, they are currently expanding on this proposition. The company has lasted for so long because it is connected to Sri Lankan homemakers. She concludes that Sun Match Company is aware of their hopes and expectations in life and strives to fulfil them. ‘Nothing is impossible. With skill and focus, anything can be achieved”, she voiced. 

When Prasad Rajan, Director of Sun Match Company, is asked about the principles he has gained through working with the family in a business setting, he responds that after graduating from CIMA, he worked for a few years in a worldwide accountant firm like Ernst & Young. Prasad’s study focuses on the value addition that occurs during the manufacturing process. He emphasizes the importance of remembering that the corporation produces boxes of matches in the factory but sells “trust” at the moment of sale. Thus, his role entails value chain enhancement rather than cost management. He emphasizes that what sets Sun Match apart is the family’s trust, especially during difficult times. They also practice flexibility at work, which allows them to be more creative, which is one of the reasons he appreciates working in the family firm.

Speaking about how COVID-19 impacted Sun Match’s financial operations and how he overcame them, Prasad states that, like any other company, Sun Match’s supply chain was disrupted since the entire country’s supply network was disrupted as a result of the lockdowns. This was identical to what had happened to businesses in India. They also noticed that the organization’s working cash was being squeezed, forcing it to look for new sources of income. But, as the saying goes, there is a silver lining to every cloud. As a result of the crisis, they decided to rethink their business strategy, selling off underutilized assets and negotiating better rates with their suppliers and finance partners.

In conclusion, Sun Match’s winning strategy has responded to market demands by investing in advanced technology and efficient procedures to fulfil rising client expectations. The company’s original chairman’s governing concept has been a commitment to high quality, safety, consumer happiness, and sustainability. As a result of Sun Match’s ongoing development strategy, the company has risen to the top of the industry in Sri Lanka.

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