Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo 


Dian Gomes identifies key factors to maximise organisational strengths

Q: Are local organisations ready for the future?

A: Ever since Sri Lanka adopted open economic policies, the private sector has driven the economy; it has displayed resilience in the face of political and socioeconomic adversity.

Leading global fashion brands acknowledge Sri Lanka as one of the most progressive sourcing destinations.

Apparel has continued to evolve, having proactively responded to paradigm shifts in global fashion to position itself as an industry with the leadership foresight and management talent to take on increasingly complex challenges.

Q: And what are Sri Lanka’s main strengths?

A: Sri Lanka is blessed with a rich talent pool and strong entrepreneurial spirit. Many factors have contributed to this including our colonial heritage and free education system. The nation has also overcome immense adversity, and that has given it the will and resilience.

Sri Lankans are naturally creative in their approach to innovation and problem solving.

Leveraging on these inherent capabilities, local businesses continue to pioneer and lead the way in speed replenishment models, product and process innovation, and industrial automation. Our industry leaders are highly respected and the talent is considered as being among the best in the world.

Q: Are there any challenges to overcome?

A: Our investors and talent must have the confidence and freedom to operate. But volatility on the political and socioeconomic fronts  has held Sri Lanka back since independence, leading to a serious loss of talent.

Political stability backed by consistent economic policy will help rebuild investor confidence, motivate industrial talent to remain in Sri Lanka and drive us forward.

Q: Three fundamentals to maximise organisational strength are…?

A: Recruit the best, eliminate red tape and create a performance culture. Organisations are nothing without the right people in the right place. Continuously refreshing and evolving the talent pipeline is non-negotiable for an organisation to move forward.

Give your best talent the freedom to unleash their potential. Eliminate heavily centralised office functions and inherent bureaucracy. Encourage people to push boundaries and achieve great things. Use failure as a learning opportunity and celebrate victories.

Q: What traits should CEOs possess to drive great organisations?

A: Each CEO has a unique style; there is no single formula for success. However, credibility and trust lead to influencing and driving organisational behaviour with passion.

As an avid boxer, I used my passion for the boxing ring in the boardroom. Sports and business have a major overlap whereby passion can often trump talent or experience and provide an edge over the competition.

Q: And your mantra for teamwork is…?

A: Develop a strong common purpose and communicate this clearly in an impactful manner. It’s important especially for senior team members to draw parallels between corporate objectives and individual aspirations. When individuals start to identify with the team’s purpose, teams can be truly powerful.

The leader binds the team together by communicating with passion and purpose to keep team members focussed on a common goal.

Q: What trends are there in the global space?

A: There are many but digital transformation in the main is disrupting industries globally. The internet age and associated impact of social media have changed lifestyles, and created new commercial opportunities.

E-commerce is on the rise with conventional retailers being forced to take fresh approaches in branding, retail, distribution and supply chain activities. Proven industrial competencies may become irrelevant and organisations that don’t adapt are at risk of becoming obsolete.

With the continuous advancement of digital technology, manufacturing is moving into the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) powered by IoT. This will disrupt the way companies serve customer needs.

Q: And what lessons can Sri Lanka learn from the global greats?

A: Organisations must evolve and develop new capabilities. They must shift from a sole focus on core competencies and stay relevant by disrupting skill sets. They must also acquire new skills to become ambidextrous and drive incremental gains whilst pushing for disruptive change.

This is contrary to conventional business wisdom so Sri Lankan corporate cultures may take time to adapt. But it is important to recognise that some business rules will change in the digital age and industries may be disrupted by those outside their boundaries.

The interviewee is the former Chairman of Hela Clothing