Having begun his career journey as an Accounts Clerk, Rajeev Gooneratne is now the Chief Executive Officer of Generation Next Sri Lanka. He has vast experience in the Telecommunications industry and in Distribution and Channel Management, and is a firm believer in his team.
Narrating his fascinating career journey, Rajeev stated, “As a school leaver, I was fortunate to commence my career at the oldest mercantile company in Sri Lanka, the George Steuart Group as an Accounts Clerk in their auto parts division, even though I initially wished to join the travel division. I worked there for a short period of two months before I realized that it wasn’t the most suitable industry for me to work in. Later, I joined their Pharmaceuticals industry as a Medical Representative before I was offered an opportunity at Muller & Phipps, which is a multinational company; I worked there for about three years. However, at this time I didn’t see a career growth in the Pharmaceuticals industry for myself as all senior positions were already taken up by young people. Then I joined Swedish Trading as a Product Manager and worked there for about six years. Swedish Trading was an organization that began pharmaceuticals from scratch and this was where my managerial experience started. While working there, Mr. Ashok Pathirage, whom I knew through my childhood friend Chaminda , offered me an opportunity to take over the Sales Operations of the Nokia business at Softlogic Communications. This was unchartered waters for me but I was excited to take up this challenge in a new industry and technology had started evolving so much by this time globally, and I could see lot of potential in this industry.
“So, I joined Softlogic as the Dealer Sales Manager in 2006, and it was at this point that my career started going in the right direction with the guidance of Mr. Pathirage and I consider myself fortunate to have been guided by such a visionary leader. My goal was to streamline and expand the business. Within a year, I grew the business from 10,000 to 40,000 units a month and as a result within one year I was promoted to National Sales Manager. I was still looking for ways to expand the business, and I realized the best way to do this was to demarcate territories and assign distributors. But it wasn’t an easy task as the business was already in operation and few key players were manipulating the market. But our Director/CEO at the time Mr. Samantha Rajapaksa agreed with me and encouraged me in this endeavor and we discussed the same with Mr. Pathirage. Being a forward-thinking businessman, Mr. Pathirage gave us the green-light to go ahead with the plan. This was very successful and we saw an immense growth of over 100% and Softlogic Communications became an integral part of Softlogic Holdings. I’m happy to say that this distribution model is followed by most companies in the industry to date.
“Within two years I was promoted to the position of General Manager Sales, and ultimately became the Director of Sales. I worked there for eleven years before I made a decision to migrate with my family. However, just as this was about to take place I was offered an opportunity to work with an investor on a start up in Sri Lanka through the recommendation of my business colleague Karthik, and that’s how Genxt Sri Lanka began. I saw it as a new challenge and experience for me, and hoped that if I built this company, then it will be beneficial to my career, so after much debate, I decided that I will take up this challenge and put my migration plans on hold.”
Rajeev added, “Generation Next commenced business in August 2017, and that’s where everything started. I built the company from scratch. We began with the mobile brand ‘LAVA’. This was a good brand but they were mainly manufacturing for the low-end segment of the smart phones, so they were not focusing on developing products to suit the trends in the market. My vision for the company was large at the time, so I wanted to grow the business as soon as possible. Back then, in 2017, I thought Genxt Sri Lanka would receive Apple distribution; however, it was given to an established company in Sri Lanka as Genxt Sri Lanka was still new in the market. But I refused to give up and kept asking our head office to request Apple to give us a chance by exhibiting our potential in the market with our experienced team. Then down the line, two new popular Chinese mobile phone brands started creating hype in the Sri Lankan market. Following the launch of VIVO, I had my first discussion with them, which was unsuccessful, as they wanted to conduct business on their own in Sri Lanka. However, I maintained and developed relationships with them, and I approached them again when they were looking for a nation distributor in Sri Lanka. VIVO was a brand that was much needed by Genxt Sri Lanka to grow and reach the people. Unfortunately, VIVO and Genxt had two different business strategies in mind.”
Questioned about how Genxt Sri Lanka was appointed as one of the Apple Authorized Distributors in Sri Lanka, Rajeev explained, “Genxt was appointed as one of the Apple Authorized Distributors in Sri Lanka in mid-2018. They had visited Sri Lanka and witnessed the hard work we had done for VIVO and LAVA, and I suppose they were convinced that we maintain great business relationships with our partners in open channel. So in 2018, they appointed Genxt Sri Lanka while there was an existing distributor and gave us a challenge. I had a very strong team and they worked hard to convince the big corporates that were working with our competitor, to work with us. Since the latter part of 2019, as the Authorized Distributor for Sri Lanka, we distribute Apple devices to all partners.”
He further continued: “In mid- 2018, while I was in Singapore to attend a review meeting, I was informed by my boss Mr. Kailash Gupta that the Vice President of Xiaomi was in Sri Lanka and on the look for a national distributor. At the time, Xiaomi was a brand which was known to a particular customer segment in Sri Lanka so I knew that this was the brand Genxt Sri Lanka needed, as I believed that it would be a turning point for the company as Xiaomi’s product offerings are great and budget-friendly. Fortunately, I had a contact to get through to the Xiaomi team that arrived in Sri Lanka, so following my return to Sri Lanka, we were informed that they wanted us to visit India to give them an introduction of the company. Unfortunately, at that time, they hadn’t made a firm decision to commence business in Sri Lanka. Since I was taught not to give up, I kept in touch with them, and in August 2018, they informed me that they were arriving in Sri Lanka for a market survey, and I aided them by providing information regarding market trends and key players in Sri Lanka. I requested for a meeting with them, and I convinced them to work with us by presenting our business case and vision for the brand. To our surprise, my Managing Director, Mr. Kailash Gupta and I were called for another meeting in India and finally they agreed to work with us.”
He went on to say, “We launched Xiaomi in Sri Lanka in late 2018 and from then onwards, we have delivered what Xiaomi wanted. The Xiaomi brand revolves around ‘honest pricing’, which means that better specifications are offered to consumers at a better price than that of the competitors. This is a popular brand among the youth, because they can get a product with advanced specifications and good hardware for the best price. There are no issues in terms of services because the software and the hardware are extremely good, and comes with exceptional camera performance. Also, Genxt Sri Lanka doesn’t merely distribute Xiaomi mobile phones; we also bring down accessories such as Xiaomi power banks, ear phones and Mi Fitness bands as well. By the end of this year, we are planning to bring down more accessories. With Apple, we are currently distributing iPhones, watches, MacBooks, iPads and iMacs. Apple is a brand that any organisation would love to have as it’s one of the most recognized and loved brands in the world.”
Elaborating on the challenges he had to face when establishing a foreign company in Sri Lanka, Rajeev stated that he had to face many barriers especially when it came to banking facilities and had to endure much pressure as the owners of the company were not in Sri Lanka. “However, now the financial institutions have become flexible because of our revenue and our existence in the market for the past three years.”
Speaking of the success of Genxt Sri Lanka, the CEO expressed, “We are proud because starting from zero revenue just three years ago; we have grown in to a one billion plus revenue per month business. It was not an easy journey for us. It all happened because of the team. When we commenced operations, many said that we will close down soon but we are still standing strong. I believe that as a distributor, what a brand needs from you is the focus and how you expand your width of distribution in a country. And what partners want are good margins, and consumers want value for money. I think our products and strategies successfully fulfill these. Generation Next has its head office in Singapore and is the authorized distributor of Apple in many other countries in the region. Generation Next, globally distributes many other key technology brands in different markets.
On the topic of import barriers, Rajeev stated, “Initially when this came up, we thought it would be a problem for us, however, our professional and genius financial team discussed the matter with the financial institutions in Sri Lanka, and we somehow managed to import within the government rules and regulations. Right now, the business is running smoothly.”
Genxt Sri Lanka is a company that believes that partners and retailers also should grow along with the company. According to Rajeev, they don’t dump stocks to distributors or partners; instead they make sure that whatever the partners purchase will move out to the end user so that their cash flow will not get stuck.
Expressing his views on the new government rule that all mobile phones should be ‘TRCSL approved’, the industry expert opined, “It’s a bold move that the government has taken and this should’ve been done some time back. It will definitely support not only us, but the end user as well. The government was losing millions in taxes due to parallel imports. If a person wants to bring down a mobile phone then they can get their product registered in less than 10 minutes through the TRCSL site”.
Moving onto the company’s future opportunities, Rajeev stated that Genxt Sri Lanka will be one of the key companies in Sri Lanka in the coming years. “We are planning to further expand into the Technology industry and have plans for other ventures as well. The objective of Genxt Sri Lanka is to become the number one mobile distributor in the country by offering the best products and service experience to our partners and end customers. Currently, we have the two best agencies and we are also the Authorized Apple Service Provider. Through this we provide the best services to the people. We also have a retail outlet through which the customer can experience the product.”