During these challenging times, we are delighted to share a more positive story on the incredible work being done by sustainable Sri Lankan businesses such as Ceylon Exports & Trading.
Dulara de Alwis founded Ceylon Exports & Trading Pvt Ltd in 2018 with the vision to share premium Ceylon products. The company, “Coco House”, is the first “tree-to-table”® Sri Lankan global coconut brand.
“I always wanted to integrate something authentic whilst uplifting the local community. I learned that entrepreneurship was the best way to meet that vision,” says Dulara. After seeing a factory in Sri Lanka’s coconut triangle close, he partnered with Altaf, a coconut enthusiast and plantation owner, to acquire the factory and build the business.
Starting with just a handful of shipments, the company currently exports several containers per month, with a global footprint of 20 countries, spanning five continents. Focusing on marketing, Dulara says the coconut industry in Sri Lanka is a 150-year-old trade with most manufacturers and exporters being legacy, multi-generational owners. Therefore, these companies use traditional trade fairs as their crucial lead generation tool.
Coco House mainly uses digital routes to capture clients as the only millennial, first-generation enterprise in the coconut manufacturing and export sector. They are ranked on the first page of Google in coconut product-related queries. In addition, they are active on other digital channels such as the B2B portal Alibaba and LinkedIn.
Dulara’s road was anything but a smooth one. Dulara recalls, “I had zero experience in the coconut manufacturing sector, exports and entrepreneurship before this journey. Moreover, since we entered by purchasing a closed-down factory, there were many overhead legacy costs. My biggest task was to drive global sales from scratch whilst understanding the ins and outs of the manufacturing and supply chain process”.
At the onset of COVID19, several supply-chain issues impacted the business. Lockdowns and quarantines meant bottlenecks due to delayed raw material deliveries, worker shortages and vessel jams at global ports.
On the flip side, whilst being quarantined, global consumers opted for organic and healthy foods, given that health was now a vital issue. Consequently, this resulted in a spike in demand for the products.
Dulara and his team are now developing a ready-to-drink coconut milk range with fruits and plant proteins. They believe going up the value chain is crucial to the company, industry and country.
Dulara adds that doubling down on authenticity, innovativeness, fairness, and transparency is key to global awareness of sustainable Sri Lankan products. And to other business owners following a similar path as him, he says, “Be driven to add value to a product, service or community, instead of monetary returns. If you are driven by purpose, the daily challenges of running a business will be more manageable.”