From the business of sport to a cuppa
Q: Could you tell us how your experience as a national tennis player has influenced your leadership style and decision making in the business world?
A: Sports and business have a lot in common in terms of motivation, values and vision. Moreover, sports can bring cultures and people together.
Being a national tennis player motivated me to strive for excellence – staying focussed, patience, planning strategy, hard work and integrity are some of the leadership qualities I learnt as a national player.
These qualities have contributed to my decision making in the world of business.
Q: Tennis is known for its competitiveness. How do you apply the principles of competitiveness and sportsmanship to your marketing strategies?
A: Competitiveness brings out the character of a person. Focus, preparation, determination, energy, fair play, respect and honesty are important principles, in the context of competitiveness and sportsmanship.
Products, pricing, people and processes are critical to developing market strategies. Identifying prospective clients and their needs through customer relations and service is paramount.
And likewise, analysing market competition and opportunities is essential. To this end, applying the principles of competitiveness and sportsmanship has helped me achieve my goals.
Q: What attracted you to a career in marketing in the tea industry – and what distinctive perspectives have you acquired through your experience in this field?
A: Tea has been my passion for over three decades since joining John Keells Holdings (JKH), which in addition to being a leading conglomerate, is a leading tea broking house in Sri Lanka.
It was a fantastic experience and my 28 years in the industry contributed to sustaining my passion for the tea business.
Learning new skills while developing your own, understanding the world of business and building a personal network are some of the perspectives I gained in this field.
Q: In tennis, there’s an emphasis on precision and strategy. How do you translate these qualities into your approach to marketing?
A: At its core, tennis is certainly a game of skill and strategy – and it emphasises precision. Although one has seen a rise in power-based tactics with the advancement in racket technology and an increase in players’ physical fitness, the emphasis remains on strategy and precision.
Similarly, while the methods of analysis and technology in market research have also evolved, marketing strategy and precision continue to target a brand’s customer base accurately. It involves nurturing customers, prioritising existing customers and providing a better customer experience.
Q: And how do you see the future of the tea industry evolving? And what opportunities or challenges do you anticipate?
A: Global black and green tea production is expected to increase while consumption is also set to grow. The health benefits associated with tea have been a significant contributor to industry growth.
Some of the opportunities include sustainability and ethical practices, and premium and speciality teas. And of course, climate change will play a critical role in the future of the tea industry.
Meanwhile, international trade is becoming more challenging due to supply chain factors.
Challenges that the tea industry is likely to face will also come from the introduction of other health drinks. In our ever evolving world, people are looking for more and more health benefits when consuming food and beverages.
Q: What advice would you offer fellow Sri Lankans who are considering a move to New Zealand for work or study?
A: New Zealand is one of the most unique destinations on Earth where sweeping, verdant landscapes and pristine wilderness abound.
In addition to its endless natural attractions, New Zealand is also known for its rich culture, friendly locals, and excellent food and wine.
The country’s education system offers qualifications and skills to excel anywhere in the world.
Q: And what do you miss the most about Sri Lanka while living in New Zealand – and how do you cope with any homesickness or nostalgia?
A: What I miss most about Sri Lanka while living in New Zealand are my extended family, friends and delicious cuisine.
However, regular visits to Sri Lanka and the closely-knit Sri Lankan community in New Zealand have helped me cope with any homesickness I’ve experienced.