“Working at renowned multinationals such as Cisco, IBM and HPE equipped me with invaluable experience in effectively collaborating, adapting and catering to diverse cultures. These experiences exposed me to the intricate process of product creation, the structuring of significant B2B partnerships, and the financial and legal aspects associated with them. Without this blueprint and the invaluable relationships built over the years, the NCINGA journey would have taken much longer”
Imal Kalutotage has left an enduring impact through his startup, nCinga Innovations. Before that, he held a string of regional positions with several multinational tech companies. With resolute courage, Imal has embodied an entrepreneurial spirit, showcased exceptional leadership skills, and demonstrated unwavering dedication, driving the impressive success of nCinga Innovations within a relatively short period of just 5 years. Imal’s exit from nCinga Innovations, marked as one of the highest exits in Sri Lanka, has not only transformed his own trajectory but has also had a profound impact on the Sri Lankan business landscape, inspiring aspiring entrepreneurs and contributing to the growth of the ecosystem.
From academic excellence to entrepreneurial inspiration
Imal is a determined and resilient individual, who does not come from an entrepreneurial background. Growing up in Gampaha, with parents in government service, Imal faced the untimely loss of his father at the age of 14. However, his mother continued to be a pillar of strength, instilling in him the values of courage, perseverance and excellence. With her guidance, Imal excelled academically and secured a place at the prestigious Ananda College, where he distinguished himself in academics, sports, and leadership. He achieved outstanding results in his Advanced Level examinations, setting a new benchmark at Ananda College. When he was selected to follow Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering, which has the highest entry requirements at Moratuwa University, Imal embraced the opportunity and pushed boundaries once again.
It was during his time at MillenniumIT, a startup at the time, Imal found inspiration in Tony Weerasinghe, who played a pivotal role in shaping his entrepreneurial aspirations. In Imal’s words, “I witnessed first-hand how Tony cultivated a risk-embracing culture, consistently pursuing ambitious projects and fostering an environment where everyone’s opinions were valued. I drew on these lessons in nurturing a collaborative and informed culture at the companies I subsequently founded where collective decisionmaking, recognising and actively empowering the insights of creative minds were central to driving innovation and success”.
Imal’s exceptional negotiation skills and business acumen enabled him to successfully close multimillion-dollar transactions during his tenure at renowned multinationals. This further solidified his track record as a skilled strategist in B2B partnerships, showcasing his ability to deliver results and in high-stakes business environments.
“Even though I was a high-performing corporate professional, I realised that in multinationals, everyone is reduced to being just a number on payroll during layoffs. This nagging feeling made me quit and start my entrepreneurial journey, utilising the money received from a golden handshake at HPE as seed capital. Joining me in this venture was my tech-savvy schoolmate, Viji-Vijitha Abeywardena” explains Imal, reflecting on his decision to leave behind his lucrative career with multinationals.
Founding and Exiting nCinga Innovations.
Imal’s passion for starting and scaling a business and his deep understanding of markets led him to conceive the idea of nCinga Innovations, aiming to revolutionise the apparel industry in Sri Lanka. After a period of experimentation, nCinga Innovations honed in on a single product solution and perfected it through collaborations with major apparel companies in the country. The startup’s platform revolutionised operations on the factory floor of apparel manufacturing by automating processes, enhancing efficiency and minimising defects. By providing real-time production data and actionable performance reports, nCinga Innovations’ solution empowered manufacturers to make informed decisions and optimise their operations for enhanced outcomes. Armed with a real-time platform, nCinga Innovations swiftly entered regional markets, including Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, effortlessly scaling the business to over 100 factories. Imal’s keen intuition for building partnerships played a crucial role in this rapid expansion.
Recognising the potential of the product, Zilingo proposed a buyout of nCinga Innovations just before the pandemic. Imal acknowledges the support received from Dunamis Capital, which made the initial seed investment in nCinga Innovations and then follow-up investments made by BOV Capital and Dialog Digital Innovation Fund. He gratefully mentions the late Dinesh Schaffter as a truly supportive angel investor who wholeheartedly believed in nCinga’s potential and provided funding during those formative and trying stages.
Innovative tech-fueled startups
Amidst the frequent discussions about launching a startup, the less spoken-of aspects involve the challenges of scaling and eventual exit, mainly because only a handful successfully navigate through these phases. Imal’s initial venture provided him with valuable insights into these domains. Explaining how his upbringing shaped his approach, Imal states, “The principles instilled in me by my parents guided me to focus on creating startups with a more peerdriven and sustainable mindset”.
Among Imal’s subsequent ventures is NCINGA , a Singapore-based global technology solutions provider for telecoms and large enterprises. Another is IFIINITY, a Singapore-based company offering innovative technology solutions for Banks and Financial Institutions. These companies solidify his ethos. For example, NCINGA has evolved into a company with more than USD 10+ million in annual revenue and IFINITY has expanded into markets such as Indonesia and the UK in under three years.
The venture capital fund, nVentures, licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, created on the foundation of Imal’s experience and exposure, has backed ten startups from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Singapore in a very short time. nVentures has become a prominent early-stage fund attracting global investors and other leading VC funds looking to invest in startups.
In addition to these ventures, he playfully refers to his exploration of organic agriculture as his “weekend project”.
Imal’s story proves that talent is universal, but access to capital and markets is not. Therefore, he believes in empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups. He believes in a peer-driven culture and spends time passing on the lessons and experiences he has amassed over the years to the succeeding wave of entrepreneurs.
Thanks to our friends at Biznomics Magazine! Check out the full article on their website – https://biznomicsmagazine.com/creating-something-big-out-of-passion-perspiration-and-perseverance/