Having met a group of Tamil businessmen who imported goods from India via Velvetithurai, he starts going up to Jaffna a couple of times a month, brings the cloth and starts selling on the pavements in Colombo. Carrying a bundle of cloth on his shoulder, he moves from place to place.
It is tough going yet he is so persevering. With the sale improving, he gets a nephew to assist him. They move one step further – they erect a makeshift rack between the walls of an oil boutique and a dry fish outlet at the Fifth Cross Street-Price Street junction and start selling the cloth. As business improves the young man looks for a little shop and finds one in First Cross Street.
The Japanese air raid on 12 April 1942 forces the young man to abandon Colombo and get back to their native place, Bataduwa.
Back in Colombo once things settled down, he gets back and resumes business. Wanting to expand the business he borrows 250 rupees from a chettiyar at an interest of two rupees per day. (It was increased to five rupees later).
Hearing of a place at Dias Place making shoes as a cottage industry, he offers to sell them at his shop on the understanding money would be paid once the shoes are sold. The business gradually grows and the sales staff is increased to eight.
This is the beginning of the success story of Samson Mudalali – the founder of DSI, leading footwear manufacturer and distributor in Sri Lanka today.
Diyanuge Samson who lost his parents when he was a child, was a self-made man who had confidence in himself. Hard work and honesty were the secret of his success.
He started importing shoes at the same time setting up his own little 'factory' at Kaapiri Mudukkuwa in Pettah to make shoes. With the restrictions imposed on imported products in 1962, he successfully negotiated with his Japanese business contacts to manufacture shoes in Sri Lanka. Necessary machinery was imported and a workshop was set up in Galle. There was no electricity in the village and the machines were run on a generator.
The range of products gradually widened - starting with Ballerina ladies shoes to slippers and children's shoes. Vehicles were bought to distribute these throughout the country. The factory was enlarge to manufacture other products as well – the first being travel bags. Suitcases and file bags were added later.
Having got married at the right age, Samson Mudalali brought up a well knot family with five sons and three daughters who, in due course, were groomed to take over the business. He promoted the sons to work with him during their university holidays thus providing them with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the business.
DSI was established in Galle in May 1962 – Samson Mudalali's 50th year.
After their graduation, the sons started joining the business one by one. The arrival of the second generation marked the beginning of a trend of modernisation.
A trip to Japan by the father and son Kulatunga gave them an opportunity to study operations in the Nishin rubber factory and at the end of the week-long visit the owner offered the old machines which they gladly accepted.
DSI was expanding. With the enactment of the Business Acquisition Act, for fear of a possible takeover it was felt safe to re-name some of the companies handling different businesses. Thus the Rajapaksa Engineering Works (fabricating and maintaining machinery), Taiyo Rubber Products (making shoes) and Galle Packaging (manufacturing wooden boxes for export) were born. Once the Act was repealed, these companies were renamed once again as Samson Engineering Works and Samson Manufacturers.
Exports to Saudi Arabia were a big breakthrough resulting from the Israeli war.
The second generation saw the need for diversification for future expansion. A garment factory was opened with Japanese and Koreans providing expertise. With Joint Ventures being the order of the day after the liberalization of the economy in 1977, DSI set up Lanka Polymer Limited as a BOI project in association with the Fiji buyer who was buying rubber products from BOI. Samson Exports Ltd concentrated on exports.
Since the 1980s the expansion has been rapid. Showrooms have been set up in key towns. Factories have been modernized with state-of-the art facilities. Awards - both at local and international – have been won. Product range has expanded.
In short , DSI has not looked back and today there are 29 companies in the Group. Samson Mudalai's sons give the lead in managing the entire operation.
Meanwhile, DSI has not forgotten the community. Through numerous CSR projects, DSI maintains a close link with the community.
The second generation has strengthened the company making DSI a household name in Sri Lanka and capturing market leadership in the footwear industry. The third generation is gradually moving in to take the business to further heights.
To mark the 50th anniversary of DSI group, the new Vision has been unveiled as “ Local to Global” .
There are two main categories of DSI products which have been the main contributors. The first is the core business –Footwear. DSI is the market leader which claims more than 60% market share in the local market and the product range is being exported to more than 40 countries in the world. Specifically manufactured product ranges are sent to specific regions including Europe. The second category is Tires and Tubes. As the market leader, the products account for more than 70% of the local market share . Currently, these products are being exported to more than 60 countries in the world.
The export business of these two categories has grown significantly over the years. In addition, the other product export businesses too play a vital role in achieving the global vision.
Over the past 50 years , the first and second generations have been instrumental towards the success and the market leadership the Group enjoys today. They have been able to convert the single business entity in to a conglomerate in keeping with the founder chairman’s corporate philosophy.
The task of the third generation will be to firmly establish the DSI brand in the region, increase global presence and move forward diligently.
As DSI celebrates fifty years from the day the company was established in Galle, 29 companies form the Group. The key ones are DSI Samson Group (with Dr D S Rajapaksa as Chairman & Kulatunga Rajapaksa as Managing Director), D Samson & Sons (Pvt) Ltd (Nandadasa Rajapaksa is Chairman) and D Samson Industries (Pvt) Ltd (Kasun Rajapaksa - Jt Managing Director).
The other second generation directors are D.N Rajapaksa, D. M Rajapaksa, D.R Rajapaksa, and D.A Rajapaksa.
The third generation directors are Mr.D.T.R Rajapaksa, Mr.D.D.K Rajapaksa, D.K.S Rajapaksa and Ms. D.D.S Rajapaksa.
As the Chairman DSI Samson Group, Dr D S Rajapaksa proudly says: " The leadership our father (D Samson Rajapaksa) provided us to achieve our business objectives and the support eh gave us to live together and work together under one roof as brothers and sisters is legendary. It is this guidance that has enabled all of us to be united and to work together in taking the dream through to its 50th year.