A persistent entrepreneur with a tenacious mindset to conquer the corporate world, Dhanushka Fernando, the CEO of FINEZ CAPITAL VENTURES and INMARC HOLDINGS, paints a detailed account of his life story.
Stepping into his entrepreneurial shoes back in 2009, Dhanushka approached the daring corporate atmosphere during the contagious global recession, which drove him to create a venture of his own. The thought that he had was, “If I could do something better and offer something more competitive to the market, there is always an opportunity.” The first industry that he stepped into is advertising, media, and communications, hence leading him to establish INMARC Advertising. At a time when the market prices were skyrocketing, Dhanushka managed to take advantage of the situation as he didn’t have as many overheads as the bigger companies in the market. Therefore, he was able to provide a high-quality service for a very reasonable price. “I would call myself an entrepreneur more than a businessman because I look at things as how well you could add value and contribute to the overall company apart from having a focus on only making money,” said Dhanushka. He was able to venture into a new industry of furniture, interior, and home décor retailing in 2016. “Money is an outcome but beyond that, being an entrepreneur is how you could add value to the communities, your employees, and make a difference that will contribute to the overall wellbeing of all stakeholders.”
INMARC focuses on offering B2B services to clients locally as well as overseas whereas FINEZ is committed to providing furnishing, interior, and home décor solutions that add value to customers. The two companies as a whole, currently consist of over 100 employees. Dhanushka is content that he was able to make that courageous decision in time which has brought him to where he is today, amidst knowing all the challenges that are attached to running a business in Sri Lanka, explicitly due to all the unstable macroeconomic factors that affect businesses. The current economic crisis and political instability that came in succession with the COVID pandemic affected all industries. Dhanushka says, “It’s important for an entrepreneur to always keep their headstrong. If you let these things affect you and your decision-making process, it would impact the entire organization. So, we have to weather the storm. There are good times as well as bad times, when the times are good, you need to make sure you have enough arsenal to survive during the bad times as well.” The right leader understands the value of the team that backs them up to succeed in achieving their goals. “If your team is supportive, know what your bigger vision and your purpose are, then they support you and grow with you. It’s the people who will take the organization forward,” says Dhanushka, emphasizing the importance of his team and the contribution that they bring into the organization.
The decision-making process in both INMARC and FINEZ is structured and organized with a theme of being prepared for the variables with the ultimate vision in sight. “We set a target with individual goals that we want to achieve in a particular quarter or year. This is communicated clearly to the team and they are given their KPIs to guide them towards it,” Dhanushka said when he was asked how the decisions are communicated to the staff. In a crisis like the one that is plaguing the economy, there is a need for a quick decisionmaking process, “It’s not ad hoc but again as I told you earlier macro factors (things that are beyond our control) change very fast. Then we, as an organization, needs to change our course as well. We have to make quick decisions, certain decisions to be taken within 24 hours, not only take but implement them as well”, he adds. The success of any implemented decision lies upon the impact it has made on the bottom line and the overall betterment towards the organization. The difficult challenge that Dhanushka had to face in the recent past is motivating his team through these tough times. Fortunately, Dhanushka was able to make sure that the team has their promised job security at crucial times like these, “If your team is not taken care of, you won’t be able to succeed in business. It has been tough circumstances and luckily, we’ve been able to retain our team members and pay them in full as well. That’s probably because the decisions we have taken previously have gone right for us.”
Transparency and communication play a vital role in Dhanushka’s leadership style, which is crucial in managing both companies. “During the good times, we make sure that our organization is thriving and we are doing well so that during bad times we can take care of the employees and the organization. Some of the good things we were able to do during these times are, rewarding our team with year-end bonuses, company outings and events to boost employee spirits, and also pay their remuneration in full without pay cuts. We haven’t let go of any person up to now due to this crisis. We are not trying to cut down the people that are working but are planning to always grow and hire more people,” Dhanushka stated with passion interlaced in the fabric of determination, keeping up the streak.
Dhanushka has evaluated and considered some well-thought-out strategies to face the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. At INMARC, they are currently focused on foreign markets than the local market, “We hardly handle local clients because it’s a B2B service-related business. A lot of companies are heavily affected and one of the first things that they cut down is the marketing budget because of that we understand that providing services for foreign countries and other markets is much better for us rather than focusing on the local market. That is how we try to mitigate risks locally, for INMARC.” On the other hand, Dhanushka states that offering quality products and services in par and above their competitor’s standards, further inclines FINEZ’s customer retention. To tackle the problem of travel restrictions that had often been a hindrance to the customers visiting the store, Dhanushka states, “We try to harness social media and online platforms where people could inquire and place their orders, aiming for a smoother product delivery, rather than visiting our showrooms.”
So, when I say it’s a journey, there are the good, bad, ups and downs, and also one needs to identify the bigger purpose when it comes to doing a business – Why you are doing, what you are doing.” The hidden aspect of starting a new venture that is often overlooked is the in-depth research that should be done, “People just try to start something and they try to make money, it doesn’t work like that. You have to understand the whole purpose and then build it. Do some solid research, take about a month or a few months to come out with a proposition of why you are doing, what you are doing, and then you need to master several skills to do business. Say, if you are a designer, only knowing designing won’t help; if you are a photographer, knowing only photography won’t help. Whatever it is that you are passionate about itself will not help you to be an entrepreneur. You need to know about HR, finance, and every other aspect. You have to go through the mill and learn while also having someone to assist you like a mentor. Then that person will be able to tell you their experiences and share them.”
“Take bold decisions where even if you fail, it’s a learning experience. There is nothing that comes out of a mistake apart from learning, for an entrepreneur. You might lose some money or other things but it is always a lesson to be learned. To any budding person who wants to be a businessman, that’s my advice to you”, Dhanushka advises the upcoming entrepreneurs.