July, 4, 2022
I’m Ranil Willadarage, an entrepreneur & a fashion designer by profession, the CEO & founder of the clothing brand called GFlock. I was born in Akuressa and moved to Colombo to study at Royal College after passing grade 5 scholarship exams.
Today I would like to reach out to the media, Sri Lankans, and all Sri Lankans living abroad with a single sustainable foreign exchange earning solution that I believe will help save our motherland, which has been devastated by the current economic crisis.
Before I get to that solution, let me explain briefly the nature of our business, its business concept, and the foundation for creating such a business concept.
Our brand is Gflock, a company that you may already know about. We are a fast fashion company founded on creativity. We design, produce and sell ready-to-wear garments to a wide array of customers.
While most brands around the world design and produce clothing based on the four main seasons, GFlock releases 40-50 new designs every week, categorized under casual wear, work wear, evening wear, menswear, linen & denim departments to be purchased by local and international customers alike through our three retail stores in Sri Lanka and GFlock.com online store, where we ship our products globally.
Despite the scale, there are only a handful of brands in the world that are capable of launching styles in this manner and GFlock is one of the most unique brands among them.
We live in a society fueled by capitalism. In other words in an economy where prices are determined by supply and demand. In the modern world the United States and other western countries represent demand, and most of the eastern countries, including China, represent supply. Due to the uncontrolled population of the world combined with its limited resources and the inability of the aforementioned two camps to represent a large portion of that population, they miss the opportunity to consume these limited resources. As a result of this anomaly, more than 24,000 people die daily from starvation or starvation-related diseases. More than half of these are child deaths. But unfortunately, the problem of hunger is not a problem felt by the leaders who determine the course of the society’s existence, so no solution is given to this problem. But when it comes to epidemic problems like corona, they manage to find all the necessary solutions.
The capitalist system is primarily dependent on the private sector. Although the government is party to this, it has little influence on this system. This is evident from the inability to regulate the 2007 global recession that began with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers. In the private sector, demand is represented by the consumer and supply by the businesses.
This capitalistic system has managed to amplify basic human needs into numerous wants and created a society full of confused people. For example, the need for a pair of shoes could be stretched from Malwatta Road in Colombo to brands such as Louis Vuitton where animals are raised and killed for the sole purpose of satisfying that need.
The consumer lives in a constant & monotonous cycle of working hard to earn money, either honestly or dishonestly to satisfy these befuddled needs and to present to society an image created out of ego & vanity.
Businesses representing supply exist as sole proprietorships, partnerships, private or public companies, and multinational organizations, of which the most influential model in global supply is a company. The idea herein is a system of governance consisting of a board of directors appointed by shareholders who hold the ownership of the company, along with a chief executive officer appointed by the board of directors.
The CEO is appointed indirectly by the shareholders to run the business according to their own interests. Shareholders are also customers who live in this system. Although their needs are better met than the typical consumer, most of the time their needs are based on prestige or social status.
This results in them driving the company's CEO to secure the necessary funds to meet their prestige-driven needs, and the company's CEO is unwaveringly committed to meeting the said needs of the shareholders who determine their job security. For example, if the shareholders of a pharmaceutical company want to make high profits, they will disregard the fact patients may not be able to afford the drugs and increase their prices to make high profits, which may even cause the death of the patient consumer due to the inability to afford the necessary drugs.
On the whole, the path taken by these parties representing the market who wouldn’t even hesitate to cut off each other's throats to make a profit to satisfy their own needs and enrich the ego that arises from it is the exact opposite of the journey preached by Lord Buddha and other religious leaders.
Due to such sins & atrocities committed throughout time the whole world is now suffering, facing disasters such as climate change, epidemics, economic depression, and world war.
As a solution for this, the business owner could, instead of allocating a high profit for their own gain, try to have the wisdom to recognize the impermanence of both physical and mental satisfaction achieved through overconsumption and try to lead a life that suits their true market value.
As we all know there’s nothing we can take onto the next life except the merits that we gather in this lifetime. Therefore the entrepreneur could obtain reasonable remuneration based on the magnitude of the organization and aim to share at least 1/3 of their profits to support the long-term enhancement of the underprivileged community and the environment, which may be directly or indirectly involved with their organization.
This could involve actions such as providing essential food items to the said community and conserving the environment through deeds such as reforestation.
As an organization, we are directly connected with the customer through the use of social media and we have discovered that we were able to fulfill all the actions which I have highlighted above due to the cause-driven purchases by customers.
When the customers realize their purchase contributes to a greater good that goes beyond just a piece of clothing, it gives them a high sense of self-satisfaction, and the next time they make a purchase they do it intending to support a greater good. In accordance with Buddhism and other faiths, such merit-driven purchases can help people achieve their spiritual goals all the while satisfying their daily needs.
Through this we create a cycle of transferring merits, from customer to business employee, from business employee to entrepreneur, and from entrepreneur back to customer. If this cycle takes place with absolutely pure intention, the impact is immense. This is called “Merit Circularity”
Our business operates under this concept.
As the Founder & owner of this business, I have lived on a monthly salary from its inception. That is the salary I earn as the CEO & Head of Design of the brand. That salary is credited into an account at Sampath bank and neither I nor the business has any bank accounts overseas. As my personal property, I own two cars and an unoccupied house. (I declare my assets as such because it is crucial for the content of this article.)
The vision of our brand is the same vision shared by our Lord Buddha and other religious leaders, which is “liberation of all beings from suffering” Money & Brand value follow as a result of this selfless vision.
Our mission is to work for that selfless purpose with honesty, drive, determination, and discipline.
Adapting to such a vision and driving a business for revenue and profit in this system and society with degenerated human qualities is an extremely difficult task. But it is impossible to choose selfishness while staying true to your conscience, so there is no intention of giving up until the goal is achieved.
1/3 of the profit from our business is spent on providing a monthly essential goods package worth Rs. 8000 to our indirect employees who function as garment workers. Every week we practice gratefulness by publishing photos of such acts on our Facebook page and thanking all our customers who contributed toward these worthy causes. In other words, we transfer merits. Our intention through this is to share with them the satisfaction of having contributed to such philanthropy and to enable them to earn merit by making intentional purchases the next time they buy something from us.
Our concept for the conservation of the environment is based on creating meaningful bonds between humans & nature. We aim to create strong & long-lasting bonds that can inspire people to start treating trees as equal beings so that they will think twice before harming even a single leaf.
We initiated the project of giving away a free plant with every purchase on 2018’s world environment day. Within the course of 4 years since its inception, we have managed to create over thirty thousand such meaningful bonds that link our brand and customers together with Mother Nature. It is our belief that we can inspire future generations to contribute to the sustainable preservation of the environment through the example by creating relationships that link man and nature in an intimate way that goes beyond just a clothing purchase.
As a nation, we have hit rock bottom. The only way to go if we keep continuing to fight each other is 6 feet under.
We cannot start attacking each other again, destroying public property and setting fires, and fall even further. Everyone has to come together as a team and find a way to move up from here.
What I am going to suggest to you is a clear single sustainable solution that can save this country.
Most of our Sri Lankan expatriate community purchases their clothing from brands such as Zara, Mango, Myer, Uniqlo, H&M, and Shein. Most of these brands are based in Europe and other developed countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Sri Lankans living in the United States, Canada, Australia & Europe tend to spend an average amount of $300-$500 as their annual clothing budget on the aforementioned foreign brands.
My kind request to our Sri Lankan communities abroad is to spend your clothing budget at Gflock, and place orders through our global online store, which is brought to you through the efforts of young creatives in Sri Lanka.
In return, as the owner of Gflock & an entrepreneur, I am prepared to offer 51% of the business’s shares to the Sri Lankan public in 2025.
By implementing this model combined with this expected income we will be able to create new jobs across the country and provide them with adequate wages while also contributing to the families of those employees with monthly rice and dry ration packages to further strengthen their quality of life and help overcome poverty.
By this, we are creating a strong public movement that can save the whole country.
We know that a fashion company is a business that can bring a lot of revenue. If we take Zara, another brand with a fast fashion business model like ours, their annual revenue is between $ 20-25 billion. H&M also has a similar revenue. The business we need to focus on here is the Shein brand. What’s significantly different here is that Shein has zero physical brick & mortar stores and functions solely as an online-based platform. Founded 14 years ago in Nanjing, China, they now ship to over 220 countries. With highly competitive prices and their online-only B2C model, Shein’s annual revenue is now at a staggering USD 15 billion.
Another specialty here is that with the arrival of the pandemic their annual revenue increased exponentially within the course of three years and the $3.5 billion revenue in 2019 grew to a massive $15.7 billion by 2021.
So just imagine the potential of this, if a fast fashion business can reach $12 billion annual revenue in 3 years this is where we should find inspiration. We believe that Gflock business model can reach the target of USD 5 billion annual revenue within the next 5-7 years.
Furthermore, we can easily compete with Shein because of the fact they follow an ideal called “disposable fast fashion”. At Gflock we have the ability to provide high-quality garments at the same price.
Our other competitive advantage is the merit circularity concept of our business model which I have already explained about.
With these two competitive advantages, I feel we can achieve better accomplishments than Shein. I strongly believe that with the help of Sri Lankan expats in 5-7 years it will be possible to reach an annual income of USD 5 billion. The Gflock business model is set up in a way that can be scaled up as needed, I am confident that my team and I have the specialized knowledge, experience, honesty, drive, determination, and discipline required for that.
So I kindly request our Sri Lankans living abroad once again to think about your home country that is on the verge of collapse when spending your monthly clothing budget and buy from Gflock, a brand founded and run by the creative younger generation in your home country.
Not only that, if you can be a brand ambassador for this business, promote the goal of saving our country to at least 5 more natives in your country and get them to buy clothes from us. If that can be achieved, we will be able to get rid of the oil and gas queues, the shortage of medicines, and the shortage of food and bring the country back to normalcy sooner than we think.
Furthermore, do extend your support & buy clothes from other Sri Lankan fashion brands. I also kindly appeal to the brand owners to provide some relief to uplift the living standards of low-income families in these difficult times.
I urge all media to help carry this message as much as possible to Sri Lankans living abroad. That is the biggest support you can give us at this crucial moment.
This is a sustainable solution that we Sri Lankans can implement on our own without begging for help from other nations. I am positive with your support this target can be achieved 100% and that we can save our country together. If anybody wants to oppose and say that this cannot be done I am ready to accept the challenge and prove that this is indeed achievable.
What sets this solution apart from all the other solutions is that this is ready to go from this moment onwards. We are a company that is already bringing in a dollar revenue to the country. All other solutions that have been suggested so far are long-term solutions that take time to get to a level where it can start earning dollars. We no longer have time to waste. Kids are beings hospitalized every day from malnutrition. People are dying without access to essential medication. We have to hurry. As our youth struggles to change the political system that has plunged us into this situation, we will immediately begin the struggle for the dollar. After all, it is just two sides of the same coin.