A young entrepreneur optimistic about the future of his industry, Mustafa Najmudeen is the Director of Debug Auto Exclusive. He spent his formative years at Asian International School, gaining avid knowledge of the world surrounding him and later successfully graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nottingham, UK. As the oldest of his siblings, he was exposed to aspects of business quite early on by scrutinizing and interacting with his father.
To Mustafa, it was always a choice between studying architecture and pursuing a career in business. Still, when the time came to choose, he decided to pursue the family business, especially since he wouldn’t have to study architecture for the required 6-7 years. So, he started as a management executive, trailing his father and having a small desk in the office next to his table, which was a significant experience but not conducive to getting any work done. Nevertheless, despite its drawbacks, he found the high-level managerial exposure at such a young age to be fascinating.
The company was in the process of growing its marine and power-sports vehicle business at the time he joined, and they were halfway through the development of their freshwater marina on the Bolgoda Lake. Travel, adventure, and the outdoors, particularly the sea, have always been crucial aspects of Mustafa’s life, this combined the design and creative elements of the property development united so many of his interests and fervours that it was a no-brainer for him as to which sector of the business he wanted to be in.
When asked what principles he has picked up from his father as partners in the firm, Mustafa expresses that honesty and integrity are their’ modus operandi.’ This principle is addressed throughout the company and applies to all their interactions, whether with customers, suppliers, employees, or other stakeholders. In addition, Mustafa and his father strive to think long term, prioritizing relationships above pursuing opportunistic profits, which again leads to honesty and integrity, as it is impossible to build trust and produce long-term value without those principles.
Mustafa goes on to state that he believes his father exemplifies the virtues of hard work and perseverance. He has seen the results of sticking to basics, putting in the hard work, and being resilient, even when things haven’t always looked up or the light at the end of the tunnel seemed far away. This is possible because they have a long-term mindset and are willing to be patient where they might otherwise make a different decision.
For more than 25 years, the Debug Group of Companies has been a significant brand in Sri Lanka’s IT industry. Viewing how Debug Auto Exclusive came to be a part of the Marine and Powersports Sector, Mustafa conveys it began as an extension of a way of life, not as market research, an investment opportunity, or a need. It all started when his father and a few friends decided to import some Sea-Doo Personal Watercraft (PWCs) for their personal use.
Considering there was no Sea-Doo agent in Sri Lanka at the time, they had to import diagnostic software and technical training to service the Sea-Doo watercraft. As a result, Debug became a sub-dealer of the Thailand Distributor and developed an internal team to care for their boats. Although there were different guidelines and constraints in operating these vehicles during the conflict, they never actively pursued the business. However, when the war ended in 2009, BRP (Sea-parent Doo’s company) questioned Debug on the next step, and they decided to give the business a go. Thus, a hobby turned into a business opportunity.
Looking at where Debug Auto Exclusive is today and Mustafa’s goal for the company’s future, he voices that in ten years, they are proud to have established themselves as a pioneer and leader in the Sri Lankan Marine and Powersports market. While Sea-Doo has a global market share of over 55 per cent, Debug has a market share of above 90-95 per cent in Sri Lanka, which is a testament to their team’s hard work and dedication in ensuring that their clients have the best possible user experience.
He remarks that the Can-Am brand has helped them build the ATV segment, including being the preferred partner for South Asia’s first ATV adventure park. Debug feels that the water sports and power-sports industries in Sri Lanka have enormous potential and have only begun to touch the surface. Sri Lanka is well-positioned to provide locals and tourists with the ultimate outdoor adventure experiences, praising its plethora of natural resources. He stated, “Our vision is to be the enabler of the explorer’s passage – the provider of the tools required, the team to support, the backbone that facilitates one’s roving’s”.
Mustafa mentions that to do so, they’ve worked exclusively with several world-renowned brands – such as Sea-Doo, Can-Am, Prestige Yachts, Jeanneau Boats, Scarab Jet Boats and SeaBob to name a few – at the top of their game in the Marine and Powersports industries, each delivering distinct propositions that align with Debug’s principles of safety, technology, innovation, and customer service.
According to Mustafa, Debug Auto Exclusive core operations focus on the marketing and after-sales/technical support for all their brands, with a highly trained and equipped sales and after-sales team designed to serve their clients’ every need. They’ve also invested in a state-of-the-art freshwater marina, dubbed ‘The Marina by DAE,’ to provide a full range of marina services, such as storage, racking, maintenance, and servicing of boats and watercraft, to ensure their clients have a convenient, stress-free lifestyle. A swimming pool, hot tubs, outdoor cabanas, a conference suite, reading room, and lounge are all available at the Marina.
In addition, DAE Fun Runs are held for members of the DAE Sea-Doo Club. These are expeditions designed to explore and raise awareness of the many water-based activities available in Sri Lanka. Mustafa emphasizes that the number of experiences available to clients will be expanded across the product line. The Marina by DAE has been designated as Sri Lanka’s first official UIM AQUA-BIKE (PWC) Riding Centre, providing basic and advanced UIM AQUA-BIKE (PWC) Riding Courses. The UIM is a sanctioned associate body for powerboating and aqua bike racing by the International Olympic Committee. It provides a road for individuals who want to pursue the sport professionally. Because this lifestyle is still growing in Sri Lanka with many people having little or no knowledge of the safety and operational aspects of recreational boating and Powersports, Mustafa’s goal is to be a knowledge provider who can educate and guide his customers in all things power sport and marine, giving them a one-stop-shop and complete peace of mind.
To summarize, Mustafa notes that the business has expanded from its foundation of IT and now operates across three other key segments: Investments, Printing and Signage, and now Marine and Powersports. With a clear strategy and focus, they may currently expand their existing businesses. Debug’s future system, according to Mustafa, will be to discover high-potential prospects that align with their beliefs and passions.