He started working with only one helper in a hut built in planks on a small marshy land without any facility and carried the finished goods to the village hardware stores on foot. With the greatest difficulty he saved some money and brought an old push cycle and extended the market to the neighbouring towns.
As demand increased he bought a motorcycle and carried a three wheeler load on it. Yet to survive in the trade he had to compete with the well established giants of the trade. It was like the battle between David and Goliath."
The young man who won The Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) award from Junior Chambers Sri Lanka in 2003 for Entrepreneurial Accomplishment and the Managing Director Danusha Marine Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Sumithra Fernando said rembering his humble beginning of his business.
Today, Danusha Marine celebrating their 15th anniversary is not only one of the leading manufacturers of fibreglass products in the island ranging from lamp shades to boats but also in the international trade importing fibre glass raw materials and exporting boats to Holland and Maldives thus bringing foreign currency to the country.
Sheer determination, dedication and a win-win policy has brought the company to what it is today. The dedicated and untiring staff is the pillar of strength on his road to success.
Appreciating the support from his customers as well as employees, he said that both the customer and the worker are equally important and he has a very good rapport with all the employees despite their grades.
Danusha Marine has given employment to 120 in different fields at different levels today. Fernando strongly believes in research and diversification towards expanding his business in the future.
'I started diversifying my business in 1999 to the tourism trade. Danusha Marine supplies their products to 60 hotels in the country. He was the number one manufacturer in 2004, for the Day Fishing boats.
He was hit very badly after the tsunami as all his poor customers around the coastal area lost their boats.
He was the only one who helped those poor fishermen to purchase boats on an instalment basis because the banks were not prepared to take that risk. At the time of tsunami they owed me more than Rs 4 million and I had no way to recover that money. It was only the NGOs who came forward to save me by giving orders to manufacture a large number of boats for the affected fishermen.
Fernando also warned the government authorities about haphazard purchases of boats from mushroom companies that have emerged during the tsunami whose boats could not be used for more than three months and also result in an enormous environmental problem in the future.
The country needs only 20,000 boats but people have got nearly 40,000 boats after the tsunami and there won't be any business for boats for several years, he said.
Among the awards he has won over the years are Entrepreneur of the Year 1996 (Western Province merit award Industry Medium Category, Sri Lanka Entrepreneur of the Year 1999 National and Provincial Bronze Awards, CNCI Achiever of Industrial Excellence 2004 (National Level Medium Category Merit Award) and International Gold Star Award from India in 2000.
An old boy of Chandrasekara Maha Vidyalaya in Moratuwa, Fernando thanked his former boss Dudley Fernando of Blue Star Marine where he worked for five years after his Advanced Levels and mastered the craftsmanship which brought him to the present position.
He married Nilmini at the age of 23. She is the Finance Director of the Company. He is also the Chairman of SME Chamber of the Kalutara district.