The Best Of Two Industries

Dhanushka Fernando – Director of Inmarc Advertising and Finez Furniture & Interior

His career began with a passion to serve his fellow human beings. 

“It all began during the time of the Tsunami, when I offered my services as an undergraduate and volunteer for the Sri Lanka Red Cross to assist the people affected by the Tsunami. Quite unexpectedly, after just two weeks of employment they offered me full time employment. I was then promoted to the communication department of the International Federation of the Red Cross. This was a huge achievement in my career as I was probably the youngest Sri Lankan at that time to be employed by the International Federation of the Red Cross, which is the largest humanitarian organization in the world. This is where I realized my passion for communications, strategy and marketing. While at the Red Cross I was overlooking areas such as, coordinating and communicating with delegates, local program directors, relevant government officials, donors and humanitarian agencies to obtain data regarding red cross projects. I also acted as the main focal point for the collection and distribution of the monthly project progress reports to the relevant program directors of the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society.

After a couple of years at the International Federation of the Red Cross, I moved to an online marketing company as Head of Marketing, overlooking their global operations. This was just after finishing my degree and I was handling a team of nearly 50 people across the globe, which was truly an amazing experience at a very young age. I was also in charge of developing and formulating marketing and business strategies focused on the long-term objectives of the organization. Within a couple of years, I managed to develop a web platform that served the globe and acted as the main revenue generation catalyst for the organization. After this I moved to the client management department of Ogilvy Sri Lanka. This is where I managed to gain a good grasp of the local Advertising and Marketing industry. At Ogilvy, I was responsible for some of the biggest brands in the country as well as developing communication strategies and marketing plans.

Whilst I was working at Ogilvy, I began to think about starting my own business. But I was very young, and the startup culture was a completely novel concept at that time, especially to someone with a formal education background with a good job and earning a very stable paycheck. My decision was met with incredulity as people were more vary and reluctant to take risks. In their eyes, I had job security and led a comfortable life, yet I was yearning to break away from my comfort zone and take on the challenge of heading my own venture. The country per se was on a downward spiral with the economic condition leaning towards a decline and people cutting down on budgets and tightening their spending leash. Despite the negative boil down, I was determined to take the plunge. 

With minimal entrepreneurial skills, I boarded the proverbial ship with one client, who is still with us, and today we are humbled and honored to have been recognized as the ‘Advertising & Marketing Brand of the Year’ at the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards. This is the pinnacle of success for me as an entrepreneur, and for Inmarc as an organization. This goes to show that nothing is impossible and there is always room at the top if you’re willing to work hard with a vision in mind. We are permanently seeking opportunities to add-value to our clients by delivering unconventional ideas in relation to building their brand. We face innumerable challenges, but we raise the bar each time and take it on sans fear. At present, we are forging ahead in our business with partnerships with local and global industry-leading clients, and are in the process of expanding our operations to other countries. We have also opened our separate media agency (Inmarc Media) and technology arm (Inmarc Technologies) developing cutting edge software and mobile application platforms, in line with the current market and industry trends.”

Defining creativity, Dhanushka explained,

“Creativity is intrinsically subjective, and most of us are used to correlating creativity with the ability to express ourselves in some form of traditional art – painting, composing, dance, sculpture, designing, poetry etc. And those who aren’t able to express themselves in these artforms might not see themselves as being creative. However, I’d define creativity in a broader way. I believe it’s innate. For me, creativity is the ability to connect two or more disparate ideas to create new meaning. I believe that what you create as a whole is whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I also feel it goes hand in hand with innovation as well. The idea of creating something novel and interesting, and thereby giving people something that they didn’t know they were missing. I also believe that one needs to open up and explore the world as a whole in order to be creative, which in return can lead up to infinite possibilities.”

Questioned about the makings of a Thought Leader, Dhanushka replied, “For me a Thought Leader is someone who constantly tries to push their limits and set a benchmark in any task or industry they represent. This also comes with experience and knowledge. I also believe that Thought Leaders contribute a lot towards shaping any industry that they represent. They are perceived as experts and go-to people. Therefore, it’s important that they set a clear direction, and act with professionalism and integrity.”

Describing the creation of Finez Furniture & Interior, Dhanushka said, “For me any new business venture begins with passion and the desire to fill a gap in the market. My origins are from the city of Moratuwa, an area in the country that is synonymous with the manufacturing and selling of furniture. When I ventured into this business, I wanted to do something very different from traditional furniture manufacturing and selling. The space was already crowded with many “me too” players. With my design, marketing and tech background, I always envisioned creating something fresh and innovative that truly looks at solving a problem in the market. 

You see a lot of traditional furniture shops selling the same items in varying qualities and at different price points. Most of them lack differentiation and a unique selling point to attract the modern-day, tech savvy and well exposed customer, who is very quality conscious and always on the lookout for new designs and trends. They also want personalized attention and are not loyal to a particular brand as they used to be. Most of the legacy furniture manufactures struggle to attract this base of customers who yearn for something fresh and new in the market.

From our name itself, which is derived from the English word “Finesse”, we believe in designing and manufacturing elegant and high-quality modern furniture that will truly redefine any space. From the way we arrange the space at our concept store to the fabrics we select and the finishes on our furniture, everything is carefully curated to offer a sense of finesse and elegance to the customer. Currently our services range from total furniture manufacturing to interior design services. Modern aesthetically appealing furniture is a specialized area that needs a lot of attention to detail and solid craftsmanship. There was a clear need in the market for furniture and interior design companies to fulfill this need. Furthermore, we have a diverse range of furniture finishes that are distinguished and unique. Our factory uses modern spray-painting techniques to achieve some of these unique finishes. With high internet and social media penetration the urban and suburban buyers are well aware of the trending designs. Therefore, they are constantly on the lookout for furniture and interior design companies that can match their requirements. They also value great service and quality products. Something we take great pride in as Finez.”

According to Dhanushka, Finez is built on 5 values that are observed with great care –

  • Professionalism
  • Timely delivery
  • Quality of excellence – Design & Workmanship 
  • Workforce safety 
  • Rewarding partnerships with suppliers

“As Sri Lanka is developing as a country and with an array of apartments coming up, customers are always on the lookout for quality home furnishing products and personalized interior design services. We at Finez clearly look at filling this gap in the market”, he further added.

“Well it’s been tough. Currently I manage over 75 people in both businesses. So, time management and delegation are the two most important qualities to master and specialize. Hiring the right type of people who are willing to take on responsibility is of the utmost importance too. I believe that if you focus on the right attitude and train them well, you can always have a wonderful team. I’m blessed to have amazing teams at both of my businesses.

These people have been the key to driving the businesses. I also ensure that I have daily meetings with them, if not physically at least via conference call. With technology it has become easy to monitor and track work and tasks remotely. We have a system of co-collaboration between the two companies, where certain expertise and resources are shared for maximum return on investment. Also, at times Finez acts as a test bed for innovative marketing campaign ideas for Inmarc. I also have team leads and managers for each business with KPIs and duties allocated. I personally monitor and mentor them to ensure that their performance is consistently up to standards. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoy the challenges that each business poses as I believe that one can truly learn and grow by overcoming and facing challenges”, responded the Director when asked how he maintains an appropriate balance between his leading roles at Inmarc Advertising and Finez Furniture & Interior.

On the topic of how his experience in advertising contributes to his decisions, strategies and implementations at Finez and vice versa, Dhanushka stated, “When it comes to Finez, my knowledge and experience in advertising and marketing has really helped us to carve out a big piece of the market. If you take our social media presence alone, we have over 110,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, which makes us the leader when it comes to our social media presence. Apart from that we implement performance marketing across Finez and our team is very savvy when it comes to technology and the evolving trends in marketing. My advertising and branding knowledge has come in handy when devising the strategic direction of Finez and getting work done at a competitive rate on par with our sister company, Inmarc. When it comes to Inmarc, Finez has been a test bed to test certain innovative advertising and marketing campaign ideas. This in return has been immensely beneficial for both companies.”

Moving on to his major contributions to Inmarc Advertising, Dhanushka listed – 

  • Setting the strategic direction and purpose for the organization
  • Training co-workers and keeping them both agile and motivated
  • Business growth through partnerships
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