Practice with purpose. Play with passion – Dilupa Pathirana, General Manager of Barista Coffee Lanka Pvt Ltd

The General Manager of Barista Coffee Lanka Pvt Ltd, Dilupa Pathirana, aspires to learn, unlearn, and evolve every day. He recognizes that errors are unavoidable but insists that it is important to avoid making the same mistake twice because something done twice is no longer a mistake, but rather a decision. His personal experiences have made him a firm believer in hard work and lives by the phrase, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”.

Commencing his career at Sri Lanka Insurance as a Brand Executive, He completed his Bachelors in Marketing Management at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, while simultaneously qualifying in CIM, after which he joined Asian Alliance Insurance as the Brand and Channel Development Manager, following which, he was appointed as the Brand and Activation Manager at Lion Brewery PLC, where he was promoted as a Category Manager. From there, Dilupa decided to move to Ceylon Hotels Corporation as the Head of Marketing & Operation. Upon completing his MBA, he joined Barista Coffee Lanka Pvt Ltd as the General Manager and that is the position he holds today. It is all of these experiences – 15 years working with top corporations, and the last 10 years specializing in the Food and Beverage Industry that enables Dilupa to reach greater heights.

When asked what he believed are vital ingredients to becoming a successful entrepreneur, he said that being brave enough to take risks is vital. He went on to share with us an anecdote, with Roy Ash, Former Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget, who once said, “An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it”. He continued by saying that the most successful entrepreneurs spend a lot of time and effort on their personal development, and it prepares them for emerging opportunities and helps them make informed decisions about their business. It is important to be resilient, and Dilupa believes that a successful entrepreneur should have the strength to address temporary challenges and move past their past failures because failure is not the opposite of success, but a part of it.

Barista Coffee Lanka has built an impressive Brand Equity with impactful marketing competencies in the recent past. Dilupa shared with us that the road to great brand equity is a long and winding way from brand salience to brand resonance. He feels that while marketing competencies play a vital role in building equity – this alone is not enough. When it comes to the delivery of the brand identity which is set, Operations, HR, IT, Finance and Procurement must play their role harmoniously. If you assess a brand’s promise against its actual delivery, some organizations fail because they are unable to offer what has been promised, at Barista, they pay special attention to all the above-mentioned aspects of the business, knowing that consumers are evaluating them each time they sip a cup of Barista Coffee at their cafes or at home. Therefore, every part of that value-generating process must be synchronized, and Barista works very hard to do that.

Inquiring on the future of the Cafe Industry, Dilupa believes that as the market leader, they have a responsibility to grow the market, and it is important to “doing things differently” than “doing things better”. In an environment where services are rapidly duplicated, an innovation mindset, streamlined processes, and focused resources are needed to continuously disrupt the marketplace, One of the most effective ways to do that is to make the cafe experience more accessible.  Despite being pressurized by big overheads and large capital expenditures, Barista managed to cut down and create accessible price points to grow the category. This is why Barista shows business growth even in these adverse macros and microenvironmental conditions.

When asked about the values associated with the brand, Dilupa says, Barista’s core value is their endeavor to brew the perfect cup of coffee. This has been their cornerstone since inception – when it comes to the quality of coffee, they do not compromise. This is evident by their loyal customer base. Additionally, Dilupa is confident that Barista offers value for money, and that they constantly work towards creating more functional and emotional benefits, while maintaining affordability and convenience, Piccolo, is a prime example of this – customers can get a quality coffee delivered to their doorstep for just Rs. 199/-. Today, this makes up 30% of their total coffee sales. Dilupa and Barista ensure that their employees are constantly engaged and inspired so that they perform to their highest potential. They believe their employees are brand ambassadors and believe that to win the marketplace, they must win the workplace.

Speaking about how Barista Coffee Lanka managed to stay afloat during the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, it has been made abundantly clear to us that the café industry is among the most adversely affected industries in the world. The biggest challenge they face is the need for physical distancing. Cafés are only permitted to operate at 50% capacity, which offers no hope for profits as overheads such as rent, salaries, and utilities are fixed. Last year has been a very challenging one for Barista. However, Dilupa was positive in saying that they realized that there were still opportunities for innovation and built trust around the brand. The innovations came not only from their products but also their supply chain, service delivery, operational process reengineering, and overhead structure streamlining. During the pandemic, Barista was able to increase its delivery business by almost 100% with the assistance of both local and multinational delivery partners. Realizing the importance of category recruitment and generating maximum value to their customers, Barista experimented with its ‘store within store’ concept, with lighter CAPEX and relatively smaller overhead structures. This worked very well even during the pandemic and achieved their intention to create a lower entry price point to the category. Barista also opened 4 new outlets during the pandemic, including a franchise in Thalawathugoda, a highly potential residential area. Dilupa has an inspirational perspective on this global challenge and believes that companies and their leadership will be judged by how well they handle the pandemic, because at the end of the day, customers and other stakeholders will probably forget what the brand did and said, but they will not forget how your brand made them feel during these difficult times.

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