Early in his career, Sapumal had the good fortune of travelling to different countries and experiencing different cultures.
“Both in my early career and at Fonterra, I’ve had many opportunities to participate in international events. Interaction with different people and cultures allowed me to discover my passion for empowering human beings. These early experiences have helped me a lot in my new role away from Sri Lanka, as an HR Director managing two countries with distinctively different cultures.”
Sapumal cites leading by example and humility as some of the biggest lessons learned at Fonterra.
“Humility is at the core of the Fonterra culture because of our roots. We are a dairy cooperative owned by simple and hardworking dairy farmers. Humility has influenced how we value leading people by example. We cultivate leaders who are humble enough to get their hands dirty and show their teams how things are done, who pitch-in and volunteer when people need support, always thinking about the good of the whole company first.”
Sapumal was the project manager behind the conceptualisation of Fonterra’s new purpose statement in 2016 – a rallying cry to its people to work towards making Sri Lanka a healthier and happier nation. He was also the leader of a cross-functional Organisational Health Initiative team, set up to engage and empower teams across the company to work towards achieving this purpose.
During his time, Fonterra won the Human Resource Professionals Gold Award in 2014 and a Special Award for Performance Management.
He is enthusiastic about the opportunity to head the Thailand business and seeks to place the country on the global dairy cooperative’s map.
“In Thailand, it’s a challenging role filled with great opportunities to test HR principles in a complex cultural context. People management involves ‘reading the air’ and interpreting the same message in multiple ways to understand sentiments.”
“The business model is quite different to Sri Lankan FMCG organizations. With virtual markets, a different portfolio focus and a hugely connected and technologically savvy workforce, the opportunities and challenges here will allow me to further develop and grow.”
“After 15 years my motto continues to be: there is no such thing as extra-ordinary people; it’s just ordinary people who choose to do something extra.”