Mar 05 2021. views 575
“The Disruptor Series” profiles businesspeople and entrepreneurs making waves in their industries; redefining their businesses, spearheading innovation, tackling unprecedented change and disrupting the status quo. Founder/Managing Director of BH Packaging Pvt Ltd and Assistant Director at CIB Shopping Centres, Buddhika Wijesundara, has always sought to ensure his businesses have a purpose; to this end, he has implemented and introduced environmentally friendly/ bio-degradable packaging. During the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020, BH packaging also started producing clinically approved face masks and medical overalls. In this edition of The Disruptor Series, Buddhika talks about his business ventures, important elements in ensuring its success and lessons he’s learned along the way.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have always dreamt big” shares Buddhika. “Dreaming big does not mean to be unrealistic in any way”. Even as a young child, Buddhika always harboured hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps. “I have always wanted to become a successful businessman like my father and wanted to do something big. I’ve seen his work ethic, discipline, commitment and sacrifices and have always thought of him as my role model. I have never seen such an inspirational business icon with an extraordinary combination of enthusiasm, passion, vision, ability to work hard and charisma. His work ethic is beyond exceptional and I am saying this not because he is my father, but because I have personally experienced it”.
Elaborating on his life growing up, Buddhika shared “I am the third in a family of five. I come from a business family and my dad is the founder/owner and Managing Director of CIB Shopping Centres (Pvt) Ltd which is affiliated with Wijaya Group (Pvt) Ltd. So business is something I grew up with and have been exposed to from a very young age. I schooled at DS Senanayake College Colombo 7. Basketball has been my hobby and more like my obsession and passion ever since I was a boy and it still is. I was the under 17 basketball captain in school and have been a popular icon at school for my talent in playing ball as well as for the number of victories. Apart from playing basketball I also enjoy any sort of outdoor sport. Only my closest circle would know that I also enjoy music and singing during my leisure time”.
“I grew up in a traditional and conservative background where my father guided us in accordance with Buddhism and taught us right from wrong. We were trained to associate the Buddhist temple very closely and we observed sil on every full moon poya day. Our father made sure we attended almost all special company events starting at a very young age and we used to sit still for hours listening to speeches given by my father and other company officials and/or chief guests, sometimes unable to comprehend what was been said because we were too young. My father always gave priority to disciplining us and it is definitely something that has brought me this far in life and made me who I am today”.
Although Buddhika supports his father who is still very much involved at CIB Shopping Centres, he always wanted to carve his own niche by starting something on his own, be independent and most importantly, to learn out of it. “Also, rather than to directly get myself involved in the family business, I preferred to start a business that could potentially support my family business and this is what made me come up with this backward integration strategy”.
“I am the Founder/ Director of BH Packaging and this business is a result of an idea I envisioned when I was schooling. I was aware that we were importing packaging from China, hence thought why not create a backward integration strategy”. Identifying a gap in the market, Buddhika realised that “most manufacturers had ordinary products which were not recyclable and were not ecofriendly. This wasn’t a concern at the time I was developing my business plan, yet as a measure of foreseeing the future, I decided to start off with eco-friendly packaging solutions which are 100% recyclable polythene and given the environmental concerns which were imposed later this has been a wise decision. We also manufacture non-woven cloth packaging/bags which again is 100% eco-friendly. We also have introduced the built-in biomaster silver technology in our bags (the ones we produce as reusable supermarket bags) that helps prevent the growth and spread of harmful bacteria.”
“BH Packaging (Pvt) Ltd. is a B2B company that provides eco-friendly packaging solutions to businesses. We are the main packaging solutions provider to CIB Shopping Centres and I am doing this as a backward integration strategy to our family business. On the other hand, we also provide packaging solutions to various other companies including DSI Samson Group, Mascon Mesh (Pvt) Ltd., Nature’s Beauty Creations (Pvt) Ltd., JF & I Packaging (Pvt) Ltd., Chenara Dodge (Pvt) Ltd., Medi Help Hospital, Nihal Apparels (Pvt) Ltd., and Sereppu (Pvt) Ltd”.
Being a part of two successful businesses is not within its hurdles, but Buddhika cites a piece of advice that has helped him. “This is something my father has told me and is something I will always live in accordance with. He has told me to always focus on a given situation and to give my fullest to whatever I do; be it at a temple - worship hard, be it a game of basketball – play hard, be it a business – work hard. This is something that has helped me to stay focused on whatever I do”.
It is this very same advice that has helped Buddhika prepare for unforeseen challenges. “Stay focused no matter how challenging the situation can be. Always have a back-up plan when developing a major plan. Maintain a reserve always. Be open to ideas and never lock yourself to just one idea. Given the challenge brainstorm and try to convert the challenge to an opportunity and/or try to find an opportunity from within the challenge. Always be prepared for the worse and never get comfortable with your current situation”. But he also learned many hard lessons in his entrepreneurial life, but one he reiterates is that “Speed kills you and this applies in business too. You try to speed up unnecessarily, you can never survive. Slow and steady – that’s what will take you to where you want”.
Recalling his own experiences, Buddhika advises first-time entrepreneurs to “stay focused on your idea no matter how challenging it gets. Switching from one idea to another every time you come across a challenge or a difficulty will only end up getting you off track. Patience is key whether when it comes to dealing with both people and situations.” He emphasises that the main reason people are afraid to start their own businesses is “the risk factor! Most people cannot and do not want to take risks, rather wish for a risk-free smooth and easy journey. This does not happen in reality. Never fear risks as it is a part of your journey and there’ll be no business without risk. Be resilient, hardworking, enthusiastic and most importantly passionate about your business idea. It is your idea and no one would know it better than you”. The key elements to running a successful business? “Hard work, punctuality, integrity, headship and overall work ethic”.
“Currently, I am in New Zealand and have initiated a venture here for importing automobiles and machinery to New Zealand. Simultaneously I also overlook my business in Sri Lanka. Given the 7 hour time difference between Sri Lanka and New Zealand at present I identify myself as a businessman working 24 hours day. I also have another company formed in Sri Lanka which is BH Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., which is dedicated to international trading. Today I find myself working in full capacity yet I feel there is more opportunity out there and more space for me to grow. In the long run, I want to diversify my business to different aspects and not just lock myself up and settle down in doing one thing. Overall I want to see myself as an ethical and successful business tycoon one day and I have set myself a timeframe for this as well. My intention is to take BH to global heights”.
“On another note, this journey so far has not been a smooth one. There have been countless obstacles and challenges and with COVID things have only added up. Nevertheless without the support of my nearest and dearest pulling strings through wouldn’t have been possible therefore I wish to acknowledge the efforts of three people. As mentioned my father is and has always been my mentor, biggest inspiration and greatest support at all times. Overlooking and managing business in Sri Lanka from New Zealand has not been easy if not for the enormous support provided by my Manager Pathum Gamage. Last but not the least, my wife Dr Hasni Atapattu Wijesundara for her continuous support not only as a life partner but also as a silent partner in business. Hasni holds a PhD in Business Management from Lincoln University, Christchurch - New Zealand and she specializes in business succession planning in family business, small and medium scale business start-ups and development and as well as in ethnic minority entrepreneurship. She is an academic and an independent business researcher, hence her knowledge and expertise have helped me succeed in this journey in many ways”.