A young ambitious sailor who spent six years of his prime in a Greek ship and started a small time import business is now the proud owner of a world renowned brand name.
Having started his import business from Japan by bringing down machinery for the maritime industry he also started exporting sea food products to Hong Kong and Singapore.
This export import business made him travel to Far Eastern destinations and it was during one of his trips to Thailand that he saw the advancement of computers. “Since I was already involved in imports, I thought that I should also get involved in buying and selling used computers,” he said.
S. H. M. Rishan recalled that this business was very successful as he could market these computers at a lower price.
Subsequently he opened a showroom at Unity Plaza, Colombo and then expanded his business to Kandy and Kurunegala and now they have 34 other outlets.
With the competition intensifying the price advantage he has enjoyed was narrowing and he has looking out of a way to give the cheapest and the best for Sri Lankans.
The brain storming sessions to find an answer to this question was the birth of Sri Lanka’s own Panora computer five years ago.
From Panora he has taken PC House to the BPO sector and to the pharmaceuticals and are looking for more opportunities.
Q: Did you not think that it was a risk to invest in a local brand when there were so many cheap imported computers in the market?
Yes it was a big risk as I knew that it was not easy to sell a locally produced computer like marketing an umbrella or a radio.
Many advised me that Sri Lankans would not invest many thousands and trust a local computer brand when so many world famous brands were freely available. I knew that if I was to make an impact I have to give out a good quality high performing product at a competitive price and Panora stood up to this demand.
Q: What was the investment for the process?
I purchased a land in Mattakkuliya and invested Rs. 200 million to have a factory for this computer business. Since the birth of Panora I have been increasing value addition and soon I can give a 100 per cent Made in Lanka computer.
Today PC House is the Business Partner in Sri Lanka for many international brands such as Intel, Philips, Gigabyte, Logitech / Labtec range of products, Power Tree Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems and Philips PC Peripherals. They also boast of their own branded PC “Panora”.
PC House is also business partner for IBM range of computer solutions and Gold System Builder for Microsoft.
Q: What made PC House to branch into Taiwan?
Subsequent to the Panora launch and the feed back I received from the customers I knew I have come out with a world class product.
Since Taiwan was a country manufacturing computer accessories and electronics I decided that the best way to enter the Asian market and beyond was from here.
This move too has been very productive as Panora is now popular brand in the East Asian and European countries. Panora is also being marketed in Bangladesh and the Maldives.
Q: What are the new markets for Panora?
We are now looking at the Gulf, African market and Pakistan. We also hold over 20 percent market share in Sri Lanka and this is very encouraging for a new and a locally produced brand. I am also happy to note that other local manufacturers too have got the confidence to follow us and put out locally assembled brands.
Q: What made you diversify to the BPO sector two years ago?
I saw that the Sri Lankan workforce, high literacy rate and Telco infrastructure suits the body chemistry for the BPO industry. I also knew that it would be hard for a newcomer to enter this industry and this was why I acquired local BPO companies that were not doing well. Today these companies have been turned around and I am looking for at least ten more acquisitions this year to expand the BPO business.
Q: What are the advancements you are currently looking at?
I have observed that the computer ownership in Sri Lanka is very low and in a bid to increase it I want to produce the cheapest computer and market it for less than Rs. 20,000. In addition, PC House is looking at producing a dual powered computer so that it can be used n areas where there is no power which would help to increase the individual computer ownership.
Q: How do you see the Sri Lankan economy?
It is developing and there are tremendous opportunities for investors.
Q: What do you think of the ethnic problem?
I think we will be soon looking at a better picture very soon.
Q: What do you think for the labour laws?
They are not made to suit the business environment. The Board of Investment should study this. As far as PC House is concerned we do not have any problems as I have gone out of my way to make our employees not only happy but rewarding.
Q: How do you see the infrastructure in Sri Lanka?
The road network has to improve. As far as the IT industry is concerned its infrastructure is far ahead than of the region.
Q: What do you think of the entertainment opportunities available for Sri Lankans?
These is plenty of entertainment in the City. I think even some developed countries do not have the number of Casinos that are available in Sri Lanka.
Q: Where would you like to spend your holiday?
I prefer a quiet area and I like being at Kandalama. If it’s overseas I prefer Australia, once again since it’s very tranquil. I also want to highlight the fact that the Be Sri Lankan Buy Sri Lankan is some thing that patriotic citizens must practice. I am not saying this to sell Panora.
The fact is that there are many locally manufactured products that are of international standard and buying them encourages the manufacturer to produce new items.
by Shirajiv Sirimane, Daily News