Thirst for Success – Sharm Fernando, CEO of My Cola Beverages

A Commercial Lawyer and a Banker for 12 years, Sharm Fernando, is the Chief Executive Officer of My Cola Beverages. He obtained his first-hand experience in selling services and products by buying and selling small commodity items by visiting retails outlets during the same period he has been working as a Business Promotion Officer. Thereafter, he joined a private bank and continued for 12 years, gaining overall experience in Banking and Finance. During this period, he completed Banking examinations, became an Associate member of Institute of Professional Finance Managers UK, FICIA (Canada). Later, he was selected to the Law College and continued his studies while working as a Manager in a finance company.

With his background in finance, he was regarded as a successful Corporate Lawyer as he started working in leading corporate accounts even upon his admission to the Bar as an Attorney-At-Law. In 2004, he began working as the Assistant General Manager to Head Credit, Operations and Sales where he was promoted as the Chief Executive Officer within a few months. Thereafter, he was involved in foreign projects as a legal consultant and a Director administration in the UK and Singapore. In 2016, he started his legal firm under the name of Sharm Fernando Associates in Sri Lanka and successfully engaged in local and foreign projects up to 2019. Early in the year 2019, He was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer/ Executive Director of My Cola Beverages, while his business partner Mr. Mahinda Perera (Attorney-At-Law) was appointed as the Managing Director there.

My Cola is a popular beverage brand in Sri Lanka, started in 1994 as a bottled water manufacturing company under the name of Pet Packaging (Pvt) Ltd. In 2004, Pet Packaging (Pvt) Ltd ventured into the Beverage industry with the brand name of My Cola.  Pet Packaging (Pvt) Ltd, introduced seven flavors to the local market namely My Cola, My Berry, My Orange, My Ginger Beer, My Cream, My Lemon and My Soda. Pet Packaging also introduced an energy drink by the name of My Power with a one way pet bottle. During 15 years of its journey My Cola faced various challenges with regard to its sales volumes but, in 2019 their journey changed with a clear achievement in the product quality, market share, brand image and the future marketing potentials.

Sharm described that the low scale operation of the company and non-corporate culture which inherited were the main challenges he and his partner faced at the beginning of their journey at My Cola Beverages. As a local brand the competition and the threat imposed by the International brands were addressed as the present challenges they face as a company. According to Sharm, developing the products to International standards with research and development, introducing the products to the Sri Lankan market with a lot of campaigning, giving the best to the end user while maintaining the quality and increasing volumes to achieve profitability are the remedial measures to keep ahead of the competition and face the threats. He mentioned some common suggestions concerning local companies in order to capture the market share competing against international brands. “Regulators and Policy makers should bring in heavy taxes for totally imported products to encourage local industries. There should be quality guidelines for local manufactures to replace imported products and ensure consistency in quality.  Local Companies should not be allowed to compromise the quality for high profit margins.  In any local product, if the quality is maintained, we should be able to capture the export market.”

Presently, My Cola Beverages plans to compete in the International market with a range of products which will represent Sri Lankan identity.

Sharm shared the changes My Cola expects to implement in the coming years. “My Cola will concentrate in continuous product development and exploring new flavors. While keeping the consistency in quality and taste, we will slowly and steadily capture the local market share by giving the best to our end user. Our consumers will be provided with an easy access to all our products at the most competitive pricing. We will create the real reason for buying our products over International brands and make the local Brand My Cola known in the International market. This is very challenging within a period of 5 years but if there are no lock downs beyond June 2021, it is not impossible as well. Our two partnerships with Sri Lanka Cricket  “ Official Carbonated Beverages Partner of Sri Lanka Cricket “ and “Official Bottled Drinking Water Partner of Sri Lanka Cricket “ will undoubtedly help us to enter into the International market due to the recognition given by Sri Lanka Cricket to our Brand.”

Since all previous solutions adopted by the industry have failed to present a healthy and environmentally friendly product, My Cola hopes to invest a considerable amount of time and money on finding the correct solution with the intention of getting the best for their consumers.

“Being a local Brand, We, at My Cola, will capture our space at any cost while safeguarding the company values at all times,” the CEO concluded confidently.

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