Dimitri Sheriff is a man wearing many hats. A graduate in business management and economics with an LPC, he began his career at hedge funds in Bermuda and the UK before returning to Sri Lanka in 2012 to work at McLarens Group of Companies. Today Sheriff is the director of corporate affairs at the diversified IWS Holdings, whose interests include aviation, television, logistics and automobiles. He is managing director for the Volvo subsidiary and expects the revenue from Swedish Cars, the exclusive importer, to be Rs3 billion in 2019. Sheriff also has varied entrepreneurial projects.
His first business – and one of his most successful – was inspired by the habit of getting a McDonalds on the way to the airport.
His first business – and one of his most successful – was inspired by the habit of getting a McDonalds on the way to the airport. Fast forward three years and his company, a joint venture with Softlogic, runs the Burger King franchise at Colombo Airport. The initial investment was paid back in six months, and last year, the business did over $2 million in turnover.
Another business was inspired by his personal passion for fitness. Sheriff co-founded Ceylon Functional Fitness with three friends and launched CrossFit Ceylon, the first CrossFit gym in Sri Lanka in 2018. The business has been profitable from the start and a second gym, in Galle is planned to open in 2020. His experience of marketing this business led to the creation of the digital agency 360 Digital. Sheriff believes that the automobile industry is on the cusp of an electric revolution.
IWS Holding’s auto brands are already making the change. Porsche is launching its first fully electric sports car while Volvo has announced it will be going electric across the board. Currently, there are approximately 5,000 electric cars in Sri Lanka. Sheriff forecasts this will at least quadruple in five years. The government has proposed all new vehicles sold will be electric by 2040. The question, he asks, is will the infrastructure be in place to support it?
“The government is in an interesting predicament and can go two ways,” he says, “Either give a contract to one or two major companies to build the infrastructure, or go down a route with zero barriers to entry”. It is his hope that they choose the latter, opening the market to local entrepreneurs who can operate small roadside businesses with charging infrastructure. In this way, rural Sri Lankans could be empowered to monetise the coming revolution.