Playing a huge role in contributing to the success of the food industry in Sri Lanka, Shiran Peiris, Chairman of Asriel Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. is one to take initiative in turning dreams into reality, with his wife, Dimuthu Peiris, by his side. Shiran’s fervent personality and zeal for success strike to serve as the core reasons behind reaching heights and staying ahead in business.
Starting off with his escapade, Shiran recalled moving to Dubai at three and returning to Sri Lanka almost ten years later. Having completed his O’Levels, he then attended a private institute and moved to New York, the USA for higher studies. Dimuthu, born and raised in Sri Lanka, studied in Asian International School and came from a business background. Having had a unique field of interest, she pursued her higher education as a chocolatier in Singapore.
The couple’s meet-up dates back to their O’Level economy class, however, they went their separate ways and reunited years later. After which, Shiran and Dimuthu became more acquainted, and the duo’s adventure began.
Shiran’s first-hand knowledge came from the family’s idea to open their very own chocolate factory. Being 23 of age at that time gave him a complete grasp of the knowledge he needed.
In the HORECA, QSR, bakery, confectionery and beverage industry, almost 90% are known to use the chocolate from Anods Cocoa in their products, including home bakers! Anods Cocoa now successfully exports to over 16 countries worldwide and has also gotten into the retail business. However, Shiran, who was the Director of Operations during the establishment of Anods Cocoa says, “We don’t really compete in the retail chocolate segment, but we compete in the chocolate for value addition.”
Although Shiran and Dimuthu initially started off with chocolate, which without doubt remains to be their top production, they now act as a “total solution provider for the food industry”. “For me to sustain my business and for me to grow my career and to grow my business I have to expand the product we sell”, Shiran said, and thus having started off from Anods Cocoa and bringing to life Asriel Holdings in the year 2015, Shiran progressed to merchandising products such as fats and oils, flavours, cocoa ingredients, dairy products from Australia and New Zealand and many more. Deriving from the bare knowledge of doing even a hundred thousand revenue per month, “Asriel Holdings has moved to heights it cannot comprehend, especially by the grace of God”, Shiran states. “For me, it’s just the beginning”, he affirmed.
Shiran proudly explains the exceptional services Asriel provides alongside their products, such as R&D teams for troubleshooting, their own chefs and compromising unique solutions in the food industry that make for a more significant advantage. Being the market leader in the segment and a trendsetter in the Sri Lankan food ingredient business, Asriel Marketing continues to excel in areas such as importing, highest quality of storage and distribution, manufacturing as well as retailing. “With expertise and guidance we can develop some world-class products”, Shiran states.
Creating a prosperous operation at Asriel Holdings that constitutes access to over three hundred products, Shiran’s next stop was getting into the restaurant sector, a venture that started from the couple’s “must stop” eating spot, Chariot. The two fondly recall memories of dining there together, often after Shiran’s cricket practices. Rising to the opportunity of taking over the top QSR brand in the 1980s that was preferred and well-established, Shiran and Dimuthu bought Chariot in 2019.
The restaurant, however, was only operational in the year 2020. Due to the four-wave pandemic of Covid-19, the couple is yet to gain momentum with that very project, one that’s near and dear to their heart. “From the day we started, we were going through continuous intervals of Covid”, Shiran explains. “We are operating only two outlets for now”, he continued. Chariot has been known to withhold a rich heritage since the onset and the couple intends to continue building the brand around it. Alongside the process of opening more Chariot outlets after Covid, Shiran and Dimuthu are also expecting to launch an online retail supermarket shortly, taking Asriel Holdings up a notch.
When asked about managing the company amidst the new normal, Shiran talks about Covid being a temporary phase, and that life does go on. However, he finds purpose in challenges that come his way. “Everyone can be a hero in an easier norm, but your character and future is tested during this time”, he says, “This is the opportunity to perform, and I’m enjoying it”. As per Shiran, it allows him to test skills and develop new marketing strategies to better himself and the company. So, while the pandemic did come with its own set of hardships, it has also given space for Asriel Holdings to grow.
Having a life partner as a business partner makes way for a beautiful journey, especially when doing it from scratch. However, it does come with its own set of pros and cons. When the couple was asked for their point of view on it, Shiran talks about how the most significant advantage of having a wife as a business partner is withholding the beautiful opportunity to watch the company grow together for the generations to come. Witnessing every fruitful moment allows the couple to celebrate their gains and achievements together as one. Upon asking the wife’s opinion, Dimuthu says that the most significant advantage she feels throughout is “Being together always,” and adds with laughter, “I don’t know if that might be a con for him.”
However, the couple does find the constant talk of work; even at home, they need to overcome this to have a healthy work and life balance between being a couple and business partners. Dimuthu says that Shiran is very particular in receiving updates and is almost in six WhatsApp groups with employees that report nearly every move, even when he’s at home. She chuckles as she candidly mentions leaving five out of the six groups.
While discussing their role as partners, Shiran mentions that he runs the company as a whole and manages the strategy in every aspect. Dimuthu acts as his right hand at all times, the “second in command”, and is aware of Shiran’s working concept, making it easier for Shiran to relax and even take a break when it is called for. While Dimuthu is indeed involved when needed, she mentions that her main focus is to be a wife and a mother to their three kids. Thus, the couple’s ability to coordinate their duties and roles makes for smoother and successful growth.
When asked what Shiran’s vision for the future of their company includes, he talks about looking forward to plenty of successful expansions. “From 2015 to 2021, we have expanded from food manufacturing to distribution to storage to restaurant to retailing, five different segments in six years”, says Shiran. Having had to manage their overhead and capital cost due to the Covid-19 situation, Shiran has plans to expand Chariot by opening several branches and creating sub-brands. He is also looking forward to expanding his manufacturing process alongside the opening of their online store. Having started with just two employees, Asriel Holdings now holds over 200 and has taken significant precedence.
Dimuthu confesses to learning a great deal from Shiran. At the same time, Shiran, who called Dimuthu a “passionate foodie” in sweets over savoury, proudly expresses his wife’s unique knowledge as a critical factor in turning their passion into an ever-growing profession. Having each other’s back in the good times and bad, reaching prosperous heights as one since the beginning of time, Shiran and Dimuthu focus on being creative and intelligent amidst the exigent demands thrown their way. They look forward to much more shared procurement in their extended journey as life and business partners.