Sacheen Dinapala, Director of Dinapala Group, believes that failure is the first step to success and hence encourages the younger generation to focus more on gaining knowledge and begin a business when young.

“After higher education, I joined the family business. My advice to my younger self was to focus more on learning and trying and failing than pursuing qualifications alone, as I believe that everyone should start a business in their younger days, because failure is the first step to success, and that effort would teach you more than any qualification.”

Explaining how Sri Lanka’s Consumer Durables sector has evolved over the past years, Sacheen proclaimed that no major upgrades or innovations have happened over the last few years.

“However, there is no real breakthrough innovation in the Durables segment. Perhaps the most subtle upgrades are exaggerated through elaborate marketing campaigns. With regard to consumer spending, the sustainable segment in recent times has shifted the emphasis on providing rental and credit card installment facilities to consumers to increase overall spending as paying monthly is much more convenient than paying the full amount of the product in advance. Even in Dinapala Group, we are proud to provide our customers with rental-purchase payment plans and credit facilities, and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have introduced a way in which consumers can conveniently apply for a hire-purchase account online through our website with additional ease in making their installment payments online as well.

“I suppose this is the biggest change in the Consumer Durables industry in the recent past, the shift from consumer spending to monthly installment plans. The Dinapala Group has placed ethics and common courtesy at the top of its priorities when it comes to operating hiring-purchase accounts, and so far we are the only entity in the entire Consumer Durables industry that provides ethical hiring-purchase facilities where we do not charge default interest on late payments from customers and have completely outlawed the unethical practice of seizure of products from consumers. We are particularly proud to take this step, and most of our patrons supported this initiative, which only Dinapala Group had the courage to take.”

By way of example, Sacheen also stated that the Consumer Durables industry did well last year as demand for appliances increased during the lockdowns.

“For example, the consumer’s buying behavior turned to more sophisticated kitchen appliances to make the recipes and dishes that they previously had only in restaurants. There has been a significant increase in demand for laptops and tablet computers as well, as the Education sector embarked on online learning, which I believe has considerable room for improvement in terms of hardware and sound equipment used by teachers and students, which I believe is still a market in its infancy.”

When questioned about the major challenges that the industry will face in the coming months, the industry expert asserted that it would be the navigation of uncertain economic conditions, the fluctuation of the dollar and the increase in freight charges.

“With these challenges, the industry is no longer able to plan too far ahead in terms of product sourcing. Other than that, the restrictions on imports of certain products are also a challenge, as consumers who are used to certain products and brands find it very difficult to change their habits.”

Speaking about the emerging trends in the Consumer Durables industry, Sacheen mentioned the emergence of digital products.

“There is a new desire on the part of consumers to control their home appliances from anywhere through their smartphones and the emergence of wifi-enabled products that will no doubt be an exciting addition to this year’s product portfolio. Moreover, one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic was the emergence of mompreneurs offering home-made nutritious food without preservatives on digital platforms such as Uber Eats and PickMe Eats, and the industry needs to cater to this segment not only by selling products, but also by creating content. For example, Dinapala Group has launched its YouTube channel to help customers learn how to use products and increase the durability of the products they use, while also developing ways to make creative use of such products.

“Most of the videos we’ve produced, especially about kitchen appliances, have had a lot of feedback and have helped prospective mompreneurs take that crucial step in their dreams and I think it’s really important that businessed help this new segment of consumers in such a way, rather than just selling them products without any added value by way of knowledge.”

In addition, Sacheen opined that, in order to remain relevant, brands must focus on making their products the best, apart from service and correspondence with customers.

“Brands should seek to engage customers through online surveys and focus groups to see how they can improve and what value additions they can add to their products.This, I think, is the most important aspect that brands should focus on and, following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant improvement in brands using the digital landscape to connect with their customers, which is, of course, a good thing.”

In conclusion, the Director revealed that Dinapala Group will increase its product portfolio and continue its CSR projects in the coming years.

“We will increase the product portfolio by starting a mass distribution of air conditioners of all capacities together with the introduction of the Philips Lighting range in Sri Lanka, which would be the only global brand in Sri Lanka that caters for lighting solutions. We also hope to continue with more CSR projects with our ongoing donation project of 1,000 wheelchairs, of which we have already donated more than 100 wheelchairs. We strongly believe that in troubled times, it is the responsibility of businesses to give back to the society.”