DIMO has long been a name synonymous with the automobile industry. The name itself is an amalgamation of “Diesel & Motor”. Rajeev Pandithage, who heads the Mercedes-Benz business at DIMO, no longer thinks of just the automobile industry.
He views future exploits in this segment as offering “mobility solutions”. DIMO is an 80-year-old company founded by four entrepreneurs. Rajeev Pandithage represents the third generation of one of the founders. When DIMO started, the company was focused purely on automobiles.
Today it has diversified into medical engineering, agriculture, construction machinery, marine and many more segments while representing over 90 world-renowned brands in Sri Lanka. Growth accelerated in the last few decades as the scope of business activities widened.
“We have to be future-ready.”
It now employs over 1,750 people. DIMO has recently expanded its operations into Myanmar, Maldives and East Africa. Pandithage is keen to push DIMO into new segments. “I wouldn’t say we’re looking further away from vehicles, but we are looking at diversifying and offering solutions, rather than just simply selling cars,” he says. DIMO sits atop some of the most valuable properties in Sri Lanka’s automotive landscape—the company in Sri Lanka represents Mercedes-Benz, Jeep and Chrysler. He suggests the focus will gradually move away from the mere sale and service of cars and commercial vehicles. With electric vehicle tech on the horizon, there are plans to develop the backbone of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure to meet future demand.
“If it moves, DIMO is the company that should come to the minds of all stakeholders,” says Pandithage. “There’s no other company in this sector that’s been around for as long as we have. So, we’re not going to shy away from being ahead of the curve.”
On the table are mobility solutions. These include concepts like car-sharing and ride-aggregation. DIMO has brought their own app to the table, “Pick My Load”; an Uber-esque solution to rent small or large goods transport vehicles for odd jobs. Public transport is another crucial aspect of DIMO’s mobility solution play. Electric and hydrogen fuel-cell buses have been proposed for service within Colombo. But developing Sri Lanka’s rail network is something that Pandithage feels has the greatest potential. “If we get our rail system sorted then we’re set. Despite being a leader in the automobile sector, I firmly believe that the development of public transport is the way forward. We have the solutions to get this moving as well.”
Pandithage is looking at a very different landscape beyond mobility. He’s working with policymakers for Sri Lanka’s future and is bullish about the potential his company can offer. Part of this is providing integrated solutions for the mooted Megapolis and Port City. This includes smart city solutions, where everything, from traffic and waste management, could potentially be included.
“We have to be future-ready,” says Pandithage. “One priority is recruiting the right talent and focusing on the development of what we have now. But we have to move fast to add these products and go to market quickly because the competition also has access to it all.”
DIMO is looking to be a major player in some very different spheres in the future. There’s a great deal of investment being channelled towards their agriculture and engineering arms. This readying for the future has required a restructuring of the business. The company operates on seven distinct clusters: mobility, construction, engineering, medical, consumer, marine repair and agriculture.
A separate cluster, tech and digital, is being mobilised across the rest as part of a bigger mission. “We will bring the change,” says Pandithage, whose eyes light up. “It’s about having the right thinking, the right people, and the right partners. When we partner with someone, we are very mindful of what they can bring to the table for Sri Lanka, and we want to change the industry here.”
Agriculture is an area in which DIMO is moving bullishly ahead in. DIMO dominates the local watermelon seed market while consolidating market presence in vegetables, fruits and maize segments. Retail is also on the agenda for DIMO’s diversification. As a strategic approach, the company is focusing on developing these sectors to mitigate the risk of being heavily reliant on the automobile sector.
The overall plan is to make DIMO known for more than just vehicles in the years to come and the means taken to get there is twofold. One is to transition DIMO’s strength in this field to become a mobility provider. The other is to explore new avenues of interest, with the emphasis placed on increasing their presence in the farming sector. “My dream,” says Pandithage, “is to be known as much more than just a mobility company”. He pauses, before returning to his statement: “I suppose I would love for us to be known as a sustainable mobility company that also fills up your stomach.”