Dulith Herath

Dulith Herath’s take on entrepreneurship

Every successful entrepreneur has a unique story detailing their success. In the case of Dulith Herath, it took him 14 years of 18-hour days to finally end up with his company being valued at 100 million USD. Mind you, throughout these 14 years, the growth was purely organic. No investors and no borrowings. Needless to say, we were most intrigued about his input on the topic of entrepreneurship.

Where did your drive to become an entrepreneur come from?

I think it goes back to my childhood. Even in school, my idea of role play was to be a leader. I recall how I would distribute ID tags to my friends, and they would assume the role of my employees. My strengths always seemed to lean more towards getting my classmates together so we could learn in groups.

 Is there a story behind the Kapruka name?

Literally translated from Sinhala to English, the word describes a wishing tree. Additionally, I wanted a name that easily rolls off the tongue, one that you cannot misspell. The name also does not limit me to one particular industry, it has even given me the freedom to trade services.

“I am also lobbying for entrepreneurship to be taught in schools. If we can learn about history, I don’t see why entrepreneurship is not part of the curriculum.”

Can you recall some defining moments in your career?

The first would have to be my initial orders that ranged from around 2 to 3 a week. Then I remember making my first million dollars. Eventually that turned into 10 million dollars and we kept growing. After Kapruka reached its peak, I appointed a new CEO to take lead of the business so that I could spend time on developing new ventures.

What other ventures are you currently occupied with?

One is called the Global Shop; this allows people to order from Amazon and Ebay with relative ease. Then have Grasshoppers. This is a business that facilitates the deliveries of other ecommerce websites and social media sellers in Sri Lanka. Java Lounge is also another one of my ventures in the local 3 café space.

 Do you think entrepreneurs have an abundance of opportunities in Sri Lanka?

In most developed companies, their economies are driven by it startups, for instance, Japan was completely developed by thousands of entrepreneurs. Sri Lanka on the other hand is a blank sheet, ready to be painted by all the unique ideas that entrepreneurs bring to the table. Having said, I believe that there are plenty of opportunities in Sri Lanka.

 In your view, what role should the government play in supporting entrepreneurs?

Governments do not need to intervene with the establishment of entrepreneurs. Personally, I prefer if they left me alone to do what I want to do. If you really want to establish yourself, you wouldn’t wait for the government to come and support you.

Do you believe that there are social issues which hinder the establishment of entrepreneurs?

For the most part, Sri Lanka is rural. In other words, there are so many rough gems around that need to be polished so that their ideas can be brought out into the light. What these individuals lack is the necessary soft skills. I believe that this is where the government should come in, help these individuals in developing their people, presentation and communication skills. I am also lobbying for entrepreneurship to be taught in schools. If we can learn about history, I don’t see why entrepreneurship is not part of the curriculum.

What are some instances in which a venture can fail?

If you think about it, setting up your own business is like jumping off a mountain and figuring out how to fly on the way down. If you crash, it is most likely because a pilot project was not conducted; it is important to remember to take baby steps. Even though this is the opposite of what most people say, you need to know when to give up as well. What I mean by this is, if you know that a venture is failing, have the courage. to give it up and start over with a fresh idea.

Do you have plans to expand internationally?

Kapruka is very stable at the moment so I do not have plans of taking it to other countries. However, Kapruka has led to the development of Grasshoppers, the wheels of ecommerce. The challenge isn’t to deliver a product to Rajagiriya, rather, it lies in delivering something to a rural village in Ratnapura. My next goal is to take the Grasshoppers network to other developing countries where rural deliveries are difficult to do.

 What would you want the next generation of entrepreneurs to know?

Improve your soft skills. A lot of young entrepreneurs have great ideas. but they cannot look eye to eye with a person. This is because they are too shy about being vocal regarding their ideas. Vulnerable people like this are at risk of falling into the hands of the wrong investor who may take them for granted. You might know how to walk the walk. but you must how to talk the talk as well.

Posted by Rachitha in Review Articles