Chamoth Dhasan Liyanage (MBA International 2022) is an entrepreneur who started his own global export-import company, DhasanGC and fashion company, Highlux Platinum – BOLDFI, combining his skills and interest in sales management, finance, business management, international business and apparel. We spoke to him about how it all started, the challenges and his advice to other budding entrepreneurs.
How did the business idea come about?
Just after I graduated with my Bachelors in Automotive Engineering from the University of Sunderland I had this idea of starting my own business, so I started my own auto repair shop. However this was not as successful as I hoped, and so I took a pause and decided to start a business with friends – Highlux Platinum – BOLDFI. In the meantime after my MBA at CCCU I slowly started making changes to my initial business to completely overhaul it resulting in a Global import-export business, DhasanGC, based in Sri Lanka.
BOLDFi came about as I’ve always had the idea of starting a business someday with my friends. We knew that once we graduated we would all go our separate ways, so starting a business together would keep those bonds close. A business together certainly makes it a very good reason for us friends to get together regularly and have meetings and all!
The initial idea was to start some sort of a retail online store, but given the economic situation in Sri Lanka we thought we might struggle. We then thought of starting a new magazine, we actually registered our private limited company named (HighLux Platinum Pvt Ltd), but again we changed our mind, as we saw many magazines closing down in the country.
Then, we saw the apparel industry was experiencing positive growth despite all the difficulties around it, and we decided that this would be an ideal route. I was the one who brought up the idea to the team and we all agreed to start with a focus on t-shirts.
Can you tell us about your businesses?
My first business failure taught me a lot – dealing with internal and external challenges and especially the COVID-19 pandemic. After this I wanted to create a better business and try again. If I fail again then I will try another time, this is the basic mindset I practice every time. And this lead me to study my MBA at CCCU. My learnings, during my study played a major role in the business’s rebirth with significant changes from the business name to operations of the company.
First, the business was renamed to Dhasan Globalcity Pvt Ltd and operations changed to provide a wide range of products and services to the global market including automobiles, auto parts, clothing also in partnership with my other partnering business. The vision of the company is “To help people fulfil almost all of their needs under one roof while providing no compromise in quality or service” and the mission is; ‘To offer as many as possible products and services to both local and international customers with best quality at the lowest affordable prices‘.
Our mission for BOLDFI is to make luxury clothing affordable. We wanted to make a super comfortable, elegant, extremely durable and stretchable t-shirts. We had a basic design in our mind and hired a designer who did the t-shirt logo artwork for us. After that was completed the manufacturing started, we partnered with a popular garment factory in Sri Lanka and they did the magic with our design. On the other side we did the packaging design, hand tags, pricing stickers, bags and all other necessary activity as well. Currently we do all the work ourselves – our group of four friends.
Starting a business is always a good learning experience, I personally think it’s a win, either the business will be successful and grow or it can simply fail, whichever route the learning and experience is a win for me.
What is your role?
For the DhasanGC business I own 100% of the company and basically did all the work during the start-up phase with the help of my parents and family. As the top management in my company, my main responsibility is to develop necessary policies and processes on how the business should operate.
In regards to BOLDFI the main roles I look after are business finance and operations, finance planning and management. In addition I support the marketing efforts, and I even built the website – as the owner I feel it is necessary to be involved in all aspects of the set up so that you have a good understanding of the business.
How did your time a CCCU help with your business?
My time at CCCU really helped me uplift my skill-set based on the fields of business. I was able to bring my first business up and running again with the knowledge and education I received throughout my MBA study.
My MBA at CCCU really helped me, especially in regard to market research and how to carry it out. Plus the financial planning and the final business plan really helped me personally to work on my own business.
Where do you see your businesses in 5 years’ time?
For DhasanGC I would love to take this business truly global with physical offices at least in a few other countries and become a leading contributing company towards the Sri Lankan economy. It is also my dream to see DhasanGC become one of the leading brands in Sri Lanka.
We would love to see our brand BOLDFI growing into a much larger brand, and open up physical branches, locally and internationally. We also want to introduce additional clothing to our brand, to increase the variety. I see it having multiple sub-brands based on different industries
What advice would you give others wanting to start their own business?
Starting a business is always a good learning experience, I personally think it’s a win, either the business will be successful and grow or it can simply fail, whichever route the learning and experience is a win for me. I do have experience failing my first start-up business which I started alone, which was one of the main reasons why I decided to study an MBA. One piece of advice in any start-up business is don’t expect everything to be smooth and be enjoyable – you will face many challenges, sometimes it may be financial or issues like delays, and many more. Just be prepared and try to plan around it to reach your goal.
My bonus advice is, if possible, have adequate cash in hand to manage expenses at least for 2 years without sales. This way it gives a much stronger financial foundation, that will help to ensure the business doesn’t fail due to lack of investment (although this isn’t always possible). I also recommend reading books such as The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, The Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Zero to One by Peter Thiel & The Hard About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.