Hela Coco inventor: A success story of 200 failed attempts

’CAN’ Weekend Market at Colombo City Centre: Supporting creative entrepreneurship

Friday, 19 February 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Hareendra Mahakumara (left) with Muttiah Muralidaran at the CAN market CCC

CAN Market by the Creative Isle and Colombo City Centre celebrates yet another entrepreneur talent.

Hareendra Mahakumara

Hela Coco Inventor Hareendra Mahakumara endeavouring to establish a local brand among international soft drink brands says he was unsuccessful 200 times in his attempts to can king coconut water. Only people of persistency know that the endless curiosity to succeed in a targeted task and shedding sweat to satisfy it are the roads to success. Such people shed sweat with persistency to achieve their objectives. Hareendra Mahakumara, whose experiments to make his product successful failed over 200 times, achieved success at the end, becoming an exporter bringing pride to our Motherland.

“A statement given to a newspaper by 2012 Olympic Medallist Tennis player Andy Murray to a newspaper made a deep impact on my mind. Murray stated that the energy drink that made way for his victory was young coconut (Kurumba) water. Seeing that, I got desirous of canning, bottling and marketing water from king coconuts and young coconuts, abundantly available in our rural areas.” That was how Hareendra embarked on his long journey. His journey was not smooth. All his friends and acquaintances questioned whether consumers will drink bottled and canned king coconut and young coconut water in a country where king coconuts and young coconuts are amply available.” However, Harendras argument was, “If countless bottles of drinking water are selling in this country with so many freshwater resources, there should not be any reason for bottled king coconut water to not sell.

Harendra started bottling king coconut water utilising his full strength and the support of his family. Soon after opening a king coconut or a young coconut, the water in it is affected by microorganisms, causing differences in taste and freshness. There was no way of preserving it for more than one day under any condition. He walked all over the village seeking king coconuts and bottled their water bearing massive business dreams in his mind, but there was a flaw somewhere. There were massive errors in my manufacturing methodology. Truly, I was unsuccessful in over two hundred attempts. But, every time I was unsuccessful, I endeavoured to experiment with a new methodology,” states Harendra.

Hareendra realised that, if the king coconut is to be sealed as it is opened; new technological machinery is needed for this industry. Even though a local research organisation had discovered that technology, Hareendra’s expectations were in vain as it had been sold to a large-scale manufacturing organisation even at that time. He then decided to manufacture the machinery needed for the industry by himself. He developed the ‘Beverage Can Seamer,’ necessary for canning king coconut water truly to the level of an imported machine. Such a machine would cost over rupees two million if imported. The best evidence of the level of technology in Hareendra’s machine was that two local large-scale organisations purchased the beverage can seamer machines manufactured by Hareendra.

Canning and bottling king coconut water under the ‘Hela Coco’ brand is launched through such a challenging environment. He selected the tourist hotels of this country first as the market for his products. “When I tried to market my ‘Hela Coco’ energy drink to tourist hotels, their Managers asked me whether I don’t have any other product to manufacture other than this nonsense (vikara) product. I did not receive positive feedback from all hotels.” However not being discouraged by such reactions he continued to pursue markets for his product and gradually started introducing his product to tourists through hotels. 

The positive feedback obtained from the tourists encouraged him further. With his local market gradually developing, Hareendra aspired to trademark a Sri Lankan brand among popular drink brands of the world. He sought the support of the Export Development Board. “Among the State Intuitions of Sri Lanka, the Export Development Board is one institution that extends a helping hand to up-and-coming entrepreneurs and really acts. The field of exports is very complex. The guidance they offer people like us who have only local market experience to overcome its challenges is excellent,” Hareendra said.

When taking a particular product to the international market, being manufactured to comply with international standards and having quality assurance certificates is as important as creative packaging. Nothing artificial such as taste enhancers, preservatives or chemicals are used in the production process of Hela Coco energy drink. It is a value-added product that can be kept at room temperature for over a year. According to Hareendra, the secret is in its packaging. Furthermore, the Hela Coco energy drink has passed laboratory tests in about 15 countries. Hareendra expanded his product range to King Coconut Soda, Frizzy Orange and Coriander, and Ginger Energy drinks.

Hareendra, who used to earn a monthly salary through doing sales promotions for various businesses, is today an up-and-coming exporter. By now, he has reached a production capacity of about 30,000 king coconut water cans and bottles. The nutrients in king coconut water can be absorbed by the body very quickly. Furthermore, the opinion of Doctors is that king coconut water, having more special nutritional qualities than conventional energy drinks is optimally suitable for those who do tiring work and specially sports persons. There will be a high local and overseas demand for Hareendra’s indigenous drink in the future because of that.

Hareendra, who had overcome the export barrier in the midst of various challenges and social pressures, has one more dream remaining. “One of my biggest expectations is taking the brand name ‘Hela Coco,’ manufactured in our country, to the level of cola drinks with the highest demand in the world in five years. Our country is wasting talent. Entrepreneurs can change the world. If a youth could experience the happiness of creating a new business enterprise, he or she will realise that that it is the ultimate sense of fulfilment.” Hareendra this young man of courage who is making an impact in the market of exports, encourages the youth to attain the exhilaration of entrepreneurship. “I thank Keshini Ann Suraweera for creating B2B & B2C opportunities through the CAN weekend market platform at the Colombo City Centre every Friday to Sunday. This is ongoing programme to introduce local brands to the urban market.

The CAN weekend Market earned the support of Philanthropist Muttiah Muralitharan’s Foundation of Goodness and Dilith Jayaweera who endorsed the initiative as being a novel platform that could create opportunities for micro entrepreneurs throughout the island. This initiative is a collaboration between the Creative Isle and CCC further supported by Derana, Scope Cinemas, Antyra, Foundation of Goodness, NEDA and UNDP. 

Let us unite and support local businesses during these challenging times. 

CAN looks forward to hearing from those who are keen to participate and support this initiative. For all inquiries contact the CAN market social media/web: Canmarket.thecreativeisle.com;

Email: [email protected]/Hotline: 0718698084.