The Success Story Of Maliban
By Ashwin Hemmathagama
From humble beginnings as a tea shop sixty years ago, Maliban has become one of the most respected and trusted brands in Sri Lanka, today. Following are excerpts of an interview with D. L. Weerasuriya, Chief Executive Officer Maliban Milk Products (Pvt) Ltd, where he explained the success story of Maliban’s journey.
Q: How did Maliban start?
A: Angunugaha Gamage Hinni Appuhamy, the Founder of this landmark venture who hailed from Akmeemana in the Galle District, opened a tea kiosk in 1916 at 1st Cross Street. He would have never believed that he was writing a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s business history when he set up his tea shop. With time this tea shop was converted into a hotel and later to a bakery that began manufacturing biscuits. With the help of his brothers A.G. Wickramapala and A.G. Jinadasa, the young entrepreneur Hinni Appuhamy was able to boost the business, and within six months, the demand for Maliban biscuits outstripped manufacturing capacity. The company thereafter decided to switch on to mechanized manufacturing and on August 4th, 1954 its first mass production facility was opened. By 1963 the demand had grown so much that the factory was moved to a more spacious location in Ratmalana, where it resides to date.
Q: Is there a reason for the name ‘Maliban’?
A: During the colonial regime the street where his tea kiosk was located was known as” Mali Ban”, and in Latin it means “market street”. He later named his business Maliban and that particular street became known as Maliban Street. The name Maliban is unique to our business.
Q: What is the secret of Maliban’s success?
A: The founder had pledged that quality would not be compromised under any circumstances. The same recipe will be used as long as Maliban has its roots in Sri Lanka. In 1926 he introduced the quality evaluation parameter, which is more like our religion. Even today we follow in his footsteps. Give the consumer, “superior taste with the best quality at an affordable price” was the vision of Founder Chairman A. G. Hinni Appuhamy. What differentiates Maliban from the others is our policy of using best quality ingredients and advanced processes with no compromises to ensure superiority in products that are delivered to the consumer. The owning family members taste samples of all the products that are manufactured, before the green light is given for delivery to the market. This policy is still adhered to and has become a tradition that is being continuously followed.
Q: Can you brief us about your product portfolio?
A: We have two key products; biscuits and milk. In the case of biscuits we have 26 varieties under 46 different sizes and in milk we have full cream, non-fat, and high-cal with milk calcium. During the past few years the total biscuit market had recorded an annual growth of approximately five percent. Maliban however grew by 15 percent and 24 percent during the last two years. Today, consumers are intelligent when it comes to buying of food products and they are confident about our superior quality which is why consumers are shifting to our brand and have a high brand loyalty. All our decisions are consumer centric.
Q: Would you consider becoming a public quoted company to woo investment?
A: Today Maliban is headed by Chairman A. G. Ratnapala Samaraweera, son of Hinni Appuhamy. The ownership of the company still remains a family business and will not get diluted; and as such we are not making room for outside shareholders. We don’t wish to get listed, as it may compromise the quality of our products since sometimes decisions can be more focused on commercial proportions rather than on product quality
Q: How would you see market competition compared with Maliban’s growth?
A: There are 38 biscuit manufacturers including Maliban in Sri Lanka. It is the customer’s choice. If you are honest with your consumers and offer them high quality products at reasonable prices then your business will grow in the long term. Secondly you have to communicate the benefits to the consumers. Maliban as one of the leading manufactures in Sri Lanka creates awareness through all its advertisements. Our responsibility extends for 72 hours from the time a Maliban biscuit is consumed. We care about our consumers and are ready to take responsibility if there are any side effects. For the last 75 years we have not received a single complaint.
Maliban milk was introduced 14 years ago. Based on quality we selected Australia as the source.