Dilan Gooneratne heads InQube Global, which functions as an internal incubator for the Brandix group. Brandix is an apparel manufacturer and one of Sri Lanka’s largest companies. InQube is attempting to consolidate the Brandix group’s expertise around supply chain and manufacturing, and develop innovative next-generation clothing and technology for product and processes across the value chain, from shop floor to store.
“We’re discovering the innovations that will transform the apparel industry,” Gooneratne says. InQube is building teams that can drive innovation and disruptive product creation, and creating an ecosystem to make that possible. This is a long-term play, building one product or solution at a time.
“The differences will be in what problems you’re trying to solve.”
With activewear manufacturing plants in Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Haiti, and an innovation hub in Colombo make up InQube. The company employs 9,300 people worldwide and recently acquired a UK based intimate wear retailer Quantum Clothing, a 160-year business with a global supply chain. Integrating technology with fabrics to create smart clothing is not a new concept. “The differences will be in what problems you’re trying to solve,” says Gooneratne.
Unlike most industries, clothing manufacturing hasn’t fundamentally changed in a century. “We probably made the same needle move faster, that’s it,” he says. Gooneratne has the conviction and tenacity to achieve results against the odds.
Before joining Brandix, he was responsible for an impressive turnaround at a leading apparel manufacturing group. It was during the global financial crisis in 2007. A manufacturing unit headed by Gooneratne with two factories was reporting heavy losses. The board was considering shutting at least one of the factories because the unit’s failure was a drag on the rest of the group. For an industry unforgiving of failure and mistakes, Gooneratne believed the answer lay in bold action.
“I believe in boldness. I don’t believe in fear,” he says. “I also want to make sure that other people are not afraid to make decisions and take risks, because otherwise, how do you create growth?” He engineered a turnaround and two years later, the manufacturing unit was a star in the group.
“We focused on product innovation and speed to serve our clients and to create mutual growth fast.” His unit was a hit with global brands like Nike. Soon Victoria’s Secret sourced its entire sports bra requirement from that unit.