“Honesty, Sincerity, Simplicity, Punctuality & Hard work”
By Cassandra Van Heer
These are the qualities that one must possess in order to deliver quality driven services to one’s consumer.” These are the principles that Dudley Thambinayagam, Chairman and Managing Director at Jupiter Trading Company, encompasses into his work ethic. Principles he credits to his father, late Mr. A. J. Thambinayagam, which he
lives out to this day.
This philosophy has been duly rewarded. With a career spanning over 4 decades, Jupiter Trading has cemented its position as the leader in paper and board. With strategic locations in Sri Lanka, India and the United States, Jupiter paper and board constitutes to one part of now a much larger empire of the Jupiter Group,
including Jupiter Packaging, Jupiter Pharma, Jupiter Exports and Jupiter Plantations, as well as obtaining the reputed Waterman Pen franchise to Sri Lanka. But as Mr. Thambinayagam sits down with the Quadrangle, he tells us
how this success came about. He speaks fondly of his childhood.
“We learned the value of money, something I am always grateful for when the time comes to make my company budget!”
Living down Mayfeild Road, Kotahena (Colombo 13), with St. Benedict’s College on one side and Good Shepherd Convent on the other, attending St. Benedict’s with his three brothers was inevitable, whilst his three sisters attended the Convent. Recalling all his teachers by name, one seems to stand out; Mr. Pathanathan. A highly disciplined man who wore white on white and polished black shoes. “He would give us free tuition in the morning from 8-9 and again after school from 3.30-4.30 and was always available if we would have any doubts.” Dudley elaborates, “We were not allowed to continue with new work until the day’s work was signed off by him. All credit to him for teaching us to meet deadlines!” Letter writing skills and honing perfect English too were drilled in to a younger Dudley by the highly disciplined Mr. Pathanathan.
“My mother would give us one Rupee if we were going to St. Joseph’s, 25 Cents more to Royal & two Rupees if we had a match at St. Thomas’ ”
Mr. Thambinayagam continues about his disciplined yet enjoyable childhood, where religion and family played a large role. The day would begin with mass at the St. Lucia’s Cathedral and again, the rosary would be recited with his family before dinner each night. He notices the contrast to the lifestyle lived out in today’s rat race and is proud to have had discipline and values instilled in him from a young age from his school and family.
Like any school boy, Dudley too partook in the Cricket mania with much gusto. He tells us how he would be at every ‘Big Match’ and always on a budget. “My mother would give us one Rupee if we were going to St. Joseph’s, 25 Cents more to Royal and two Rupees if we had a match at St. Thomas’.” Always on a budget, young Dudley had to manage his money for his bus fare and any other snack he
would want. Elaborating, “We learned the value of money, something I am always grateful for when the time comes to make my company budget!” Speaking of fond memories from school, Mr. Thambinayagam recalls being in school during 1964 for the Centenary year celebrations and helping with the Schweppes drinks stand at the carnival and looking forward to free hoppers in the night. Another incident that comes to mind is his class trip to Kandy, during which an elephant happened to be on one of the deserted roads and a batch mate, now Most Rev. Dr. Emanuel Fernando Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo, a pious person even then, closed eyes and began to recite the rosary, while rest of the friends were clueless on what needs to be done at the end of which the elephant had moved on. A self-proclaimed good boy of Mr. Pathanathan, always sitting in the front row, Mr. Thambinayagam stresses the importance of a disciplined, well-balanced life.
Upon leaving school and completing a Diploma in Marketing, Dudley began helping his father participating in tenders, typing letters, making accounts all without the help of the technology we take for granted today. Collecting the mail from McCallum road, Dudley would get 50 cents from his mother; “The actual bus fare was 40 cents. I found a way to save more by taking the bus halfway, and walking the rest. So first thing in the morning I had already saved 30 cents, and then I would go for a movie on Saturday at the Savoy, Regal
or Majestic and buy Ice Chocks or ‘kadala’”.
And so began Mr. Thambinayagam’s career along with his father at the age of 21, helping the family business, A. J. Thambinayagam and Co. Regular participants in the National Paper Corporation tenders, Dudley and his father began building a list of reputed paper suppliers, primarily from Japan and Finland. Working under varying circumstances, such as under the restricted government of Madam Bandaranaike and the liberal economy under President J. R. Jayawardena, Dudley and his father persevered through the obstacles and supplied to the private sector the orders that the National Paper Corporation could not. This entire process of obtaining orders, licenses and proforma’s was undertaken by young Dudley who had a keen eye for the business.
the J. R. regime, Mr. Thambinayagam recalls working with a government corporation in Bangladesh, a process which took several months, hindered furthermore by bad communication during a period where Globalization was not at the stage it is now. But with his incredible work ethic and commitment for business, Dudley ensured that the orders were met in a timely fashion, whilst establishing the company and building a supplier and client base through travelling and attending seminars and exhibitions.
April 1975 marked the birth of Jupiter Trading with Mr. Thambinayagam buying the franchise which was located down Bristol Street. Alternating work between his own agency and Jupiter, Dudley found himself engaging in a barter system of sorts with sailors for products one would now find in a duty free store. Driving a Vespa at the time, every Thursday morning, Dudley would collect 5-6 boxes of Reynold pens which were in high demand from sailors. Then even before his shop would open, would have earned a profit for the day by selling those pens on his way to the shop to buyers who are lining up outside his shop.
Needing a larger space to conduct his operations, Mr. Thambinayagam moved to Grandpass in to a room that was larger than he envisioned. In order to fill up the space, Dudley started a printing press with 2 machines, importing papers and making plastic thread spools with machinery brought down from Madras.
In 1983 Mr. Thambinayagam married Vijitha, who studied at Good Shepherd Convent. The ’83 riots began just a month after the wedding and Dudley found his business affected. However, instead of following suit and leaving the country, Dudley took the words of a close friend to heart; “War time is the best time to stay back and build up a business.” With the support of his family, suppliers and customers, Dudley pushed through the obstacles and
re-established his company.
and permanent home amongst the plush surrounding of Lake Drive. Mr. Thambinayagam ensured that his office and family remained close to one
another in order to strike a balance – Principles instilled by his own family. Mr. Thambinayagam himself is the 2nd generation of the company and his two sons, Neville and Vishan, constitute to the 3rd generation, continuing a legacy born over 40 years ago, whilst his daughter Dr. Puvitha practices medicine in London. Dudley comments on how his wife played an instrumental role in setting up the office down lake drive. Elaborating he further states, “She is instrumental in the success of all of us.”
“Success is earned through sleepless nights & hard work.”
Once his business was successfully established, Mr. Thambinayagam began getting involved more heavily in school matters during the 80’s through OBU of St. Benedict’s College. With Felix Dias and Eric Motha involving him in the
Dance Committee, which Dudley has served on now for the past 30 years, he is also heavily involved with many other Benedictine projects such as the Building project and Swimming pool development to name a few. Mr. Thambinayagam stresses the importance of working with the best of people of the Dance Committee, all of who are unanimous, and united and
always come together to bring about the best of annual dances, whilst earning a profit to further develop their beloved Alma Mater.
In addition to being Vice Patron Old Boys’ Union and a loyal Old Benedictine, Mr. Thambinayagam was also involved in the Lion’s Club movement, holding many a prestigious position on the board. He commends the work done by the club as highly rewarding, particularly citing the medical camps which provide free healthcare and eye glasses to the less fortunate. To cap off a busy work schedule, Dudley is also the current, and indeed the first, Honorary Consul to Estonia, appointed by the government of Estonia in 1997. He also sits on the board of the National Chamber of Commerce, the Sri Lankan Association of Printers – Where he held the position of President from March 2011-2012 and previously the positions of deputy president and vice president. He also sits on the board of the reputed Ingrin School of Printers Despite the vast global reach of the Jupiter Group, paper remains the heart and soul of the industry. Still following a disciplined schedule, Mr. Thambinayagam stresses the importance of time management and of having a well-balanced body, mind and spirit. With a strong faith, Dudley believes in the power of prayer, and attends holy mass every day, as well as his evening walks. All this leads to a balanced life-style where he has a strong rapport with his staff.
A consumer driven company constantly striving to provide a clear, clean service to the consumers, Mr. Thambinayagam has made his mark in many circles, both locally and internationally, gaining the support of suppliers and customers along the way. He concludes with a smile, “Success is earned through sleepless nights and hard work. Punctuality and humility count. And always hold your family close.”