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Unpacking the possibilities with Ex-Pack

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With an upcoming IPO and listing on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Ex-Pack Corrugated Cartons Limited, Sri Lanka’s market leader in the corrugated carton industry, is preparing to embark on the next leg of its growth journey. The company is offering investors a handsome value proposition in both the medium and long-term, while potentially being the most sustainable and responsible manufacturer within the industry. Ex-Pack is also the most outward-facing corrugated carton manufacturer in Sri Lanka with half of its revenue generated in US Dollars from export earnings. Thus, we sat down with Mr. Zulficar Ghouse – Managing Director at Ex-Pack, one of Sri Lanka’s most respected businessmen, to gain a clear understanding of the business prospects and unpack the Company’s future possibilities.

Could you give us an overview of the business?

To capture our journey in essence, we started off as a simple manufacturer of corrugated cartons 24 years ago, and have since grown into a complete end-to-end corrugated carton packaging solutions provider. In the process, we’ve become the market leader in Sri Lanka, not just in terms of volume but also in terms of quality, sustainability and ethicality of our product. Today, 1 out of every 5 cartons made in Sri Lanka is produced by Ex-Pack. This is a significant achievement given that this is a highly competitive market, with a relatively large number of players. Still, we have managed to maintain our leading position for at least the last 5 years.

What is the current state of the business? Could you elaborate on your markets and international presence?

Presently, our team comprises of 295 full-time employees and, through our 203,000 square-foot manufacturing facility, we produce in excess of 2,600 metric tonnes of corrugated carton products each month. Among the players in Sri Lanka, we are also the most focused on export markets, and thus we serve over 600 customers worldwide, including major corporates and brands both in Sri Lanka and abroad. These customers represent a wide spectrum of industry, ranging from FMCG to consumer durables, apparel, tea, fisheries and some others. Of these, FMCG is presently the largest segment that we cater to and these customers account for 48% of our revenue.

Our edge has been our unparalleled quality coupled with our reduced lead times. In fact, even during FY 2021, which commenced 1st April 2020 and ended 31st March 2021, a time of great strain and upheaval, particularly in the logistics industry, we were able to achieve a remarkable 98% on-time delivery rate. This was made possible by our comprehensive, world class computerized manufacturing and stock management systems, coupled with our extensive storage facilities and dynamically responsive production model. In Sri Lanka, we maintain our own fleet of 16 delivery vehicles to ensure prompt and on-time delivery and end-to-end control of our process.

Over the years, we have become a strategic packaging solutions partner to our customers and we’re proud to say that we’ve maintained partnerships spanning over a decade with at least 30 of our best clients, and these relationships account for just over 50% of revenue. Furthermore, we serve customers in 8 countries including the Maldives, Qatar, India, the USA, Australia, Madagascar, the Seychelles and Reunion Island. This results in 52% of group revenue being derived in USD through export earnings, and we expect this figure to increase to 59% by FY2024.

Currently, our product portfolio includes regular slotted cartons, die-cut cartons, laminated cartons and a host of specialized products that are developed using recycled materials and designed specifically to meet customer needs. These specialized products include unique and innovative solutions such as wardrobe cartons made for the storage and transport of apparel items and light-weight fish containers.



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Business

‘Dollar reserves in SL plummet drastically, putting the economy in jeopardy‘

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Key personnel at CNCI forum

By Steve A. Morrell

Sri Lanka’s dollar reserves have declined from $ 7.15 billion in 2019 to $ 2.8 billion currently. The President conceded economic failures although reasons for such failure were not explained, chairman, National Chamber of Industries (CNCI) Canisius Fernando said.

Fernando added recently at a forum: “Forex reserves are insufficient to expedite payment of import bills. More so that cost incurred on container traffic for imports and or exports was on a rising spiral. In comparison to cost of container shipping recorded at $ 2,800 earlier, it is now $ 12,000, indicating a rise in multiples of 250.

“Additionally, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP +) affecting our trade with EU countries, placed Sri Lanka’s reputation at a risk, meaning that countries could veer away from Sri Lanka prompted by a possible inability to honor our trade commitments. The clear example being trade with the US. Rather than await goods and services transactions with Sri Lanka, that could invariably take three months, US economists and their trade sector opted to transact trade with countries in close proximity to US shores.

“Dearth of container traffic and rising cost for on- loading and off- loading of cargo seriously affect trade imbalances. Consequently, the credit worthiness of the Sri Lankan economy is affected, which in turn seriously affects the GDP.

“Worker wages which were static because of trade shut- downs caused demands for increased wages. Wage demands of Rs 1,500 from employees became a major phenomenon in most sectors. The question at issue was the hypothetical position of business establishments of about 4000 employees demanding increased wages. This would cause closure of those companies resulting in unemployment.

“The proverbial domino effect of such repercussions would cause further chaos in the economy.

“There was no proper policy in most sectors. Suspension of the import of fertilizer and consequent confusion would, in the short run, result in famine and food shortages. Already this was evident in the public panic caused by having to stand in line to purchase essentials. That the crisis is upon us and the question of a quick solution is not feasible in the current context of the economy.

“Foreign investors are lured by the possibility of cheap labour in Sri Lanka to establish their businesses here, but in this instance too, this is only a hypothetical situation but not the reality.”

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Supuni Products gives back by way of welfare initiative, helps to uplift the needy patients with chronic illnesses

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Supuni Products first started in 2016 when the business proprietor, Supuni Lakmalie along with her husband only had Rs. 150 as investment. With that small amount, they purchased kollu (lentils) and kurakkan and ground them using a grindstone. This was the beginning for them and today, Supuni Products is a booming enterprise that specializes in ground spices and cereal, operating from the town of Nildandahinna, Walapane. Their products are of very high quality and 100% natural and consists of 15 different spice and cereal products including chilli, coriander, turmeric, pepper, curry powder, kurakkan, lentil (kollu) etc.

In 2018, Supuni Products received the opportunity to supply kurakkan flour and cereal to be included into the Poshana Malla, which is a nutrition package prepared for pregnant women, instigated by the government. The success of their business was such that they were able to gain an equity of over Rs. Four million during the past three years.

As part of a welfare initiative, they have also pledged to allocate one rupee for every kilogram of product sold, towards supporting patients with financial difficulties and require emergency surgery and for those with chronic diseases. While having had to run a business in the confines of their own home, the grant offering they received from the enterprise project allowed them to complete construction work of their new factory. She now hopes to expand the business, improve their supply chain, and create new employment opportunities.

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Dialog Enterprise offers Dell Technologies Cloud IaaS in Sri Lanka

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Dialog Enterprise, the corporate solutions arm of Dialog Axiata PLC, is working with Dell Technologies Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) in Sri Lanka to offer Dell Technologies Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions to customers to innovate and scale rapidly, reduce costs and increase performance of business-critical infrastructure.

“Together, with our combined forces, we bring the only hybrid multi-cloud partnership in the country, giving access to private clouds as well as to our existing public cloud, and for on-premises infrastructure, robustly powered by Dell Technologies and VMWare. Envisioning a one-stop multiservice solution for all enterprise requirements, we strive continuously to keep to the changing landscape strengthening the cloud play in the arena,” said Navin Pieris, the Vice President – Enterprise Business and Large Enterprise Sales, Dialog Axiata PLC.

Rather than making capital investments in hardware, storage and servers to maintain them, enterprises can harness and scale IaaS resources when needed, paying only for infrastructure services they consume. Mitigating and allowing for any threat of data loss, the cloud partnership also offers cyber recovery as a service with a guaranteed uptime of 99.95%, end-to-end management of data centers and 24×7 support with zero operational burden on the customer. Ensuring the same standardization, self-service, automation and analytics capabilities that exist in the public cloud, the partnership facilitates secure private clouds for customers along with servers, storage and customized enterprise, private and/or public cloud solutions as required by enterprises.

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