Poor and hungry cannot afford to wait,
World Bank President says

Washington: The following is a statement on the global food crisis made today by World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick after a meeting in Berne, Switzerland of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination:

The next few weeks are critical for addressing the food crisis. For 2 billion people, high food prices are now a matter of daily struggle, sacrifice and for too many, even survival. We estimate that already some 100 million people may have been pushed into poverty as a result of high prices over the last 2 years.

This is not a natural disaster. Make no mistake, there is nothing natural about this. But for millions of people it is a disaster.

Donors must act now to support the WFP’s call for some $750 million to meet emergency needs. Roughly $475 million has been pledged, but pledges won’t feed hungry mouths. Donors must put their money on the table, and give WFP maximum flexibility with a minimum of earmarking to target the most urgent needs.

This crisis is not over once emergency needs are addressed, as critical as those are. Though we have seen wheat prices fall over the last few days, rice and corn prices are likely to remain high and wheat relatively so. The international community needs to commit to working together to respond with policy initiatives, so that this year’s crisis doesn’t become a generation’s fact of life. Already hunger and malnutrition are the underlying causes of death of over 3.5 million children every year, robbing the future potential of many millions more.

Many donors, governments and international agencies have plans and policies.
Over the last days, we have seen pledges of financial support. The key now is to work together so that we can have an integrated international response.
So, I thank the Secretary General for convening this session of UN Chief Executives to help organise the UN response.

Ministers from over 150 countries have endorsed a New Deal for Global Food Policy. We must turn these words into action.
As we discussed here in Berne, a New Deal must embrace a short, medium and long-term response: support for safety nets such as school feeding, food for work, and conditional cash transfer programs; increased agricultural production; a better understanding of the impact of biofuels and action on the trade front to reduce distorting subsidies, and trade barriers.

The World Bank Group will work with the UN agencies represented here to identify countries most in need so that, with others, we can provide concessional financing and other support. We are already working closely with the IMF and regional development banks, to integrate our work.

At the World Bank Group, we are exploring with our Board the creation of a rapid financing facility for grant support to especially fragile, poor countries and quicker, more flexible financing for others. To address supply issues, we are doubling our lending for agriculture in Africa over the next year to $800 million.

We are urging countries not to use export bans. These controls encourage hoarding, drive up prices and hurt the poorest people around the world who are struggling to feed themselves.

Ukraine set a good example last week by lifting restrictions on exports of grains. This had an immediate effect by lowering prices in the markets. Others can do the same.

As we co-ordinate action, we must bring in the private sector and agri-business.
These are all critical issues for international action that must be fleshed out in the coming weeks so that millions do not find themselves in this same position next year.

But first and foremost donors must act now to meet the emergency and raise the $750 million for the WFP. The world can afford this. The poor and hungry cannot.


Is ‘Experiential Marketing’ the future of brand building?

By Asanga Ranasinghe
In today’s market more and more companies are realising that’ providing memorable experiences’ is good business. Consumers expect value to be delivered through experiences, and they are willing to pay for it. This is why the term ‘experiential marketing’ is fast gaining popularity; and a lot of articles and books are being written about it; and agencies are promoting it, as an area of expertise.

The reasons given for this growing interest in experiential marketing are:
• The capabilities of face to face communication to improve sales and create an emotional experience.
• Consumers’ avoidance of the ‘noise’ from traditional media, e.g. advertising, direct mail. It is not so easy, to ignore someone in person.
• The need for companies to stand out from the crowd and be noticed in commodity markets, people remember and talk about experiences to others.
• Increasingly, virtual companies needing to create a physical presence.
• The requirement to create relationships and engage with customers, in order to build advocacy, a valuable intangible asset.
• To demonstrate more targeted value to customers, as competition increases, experiences go a step beyond product and service.
• The ‘hype’ around customer experience and a vague understanding that, customers/consumers want experiences.
At the same time, there are some marketers who dismiss or misunderstand experiential marketing, by labelling it, as another form of product promotion, with entertainment, thrown on top.

What marketers need to understand is that, experiential marketing is not a specific marketing tool. It’s an idea. A mindset. A focus on creating fresh connections between brands and consumers, out in the world, where things happen; connections in the form of experiences; those that are personally relevant, memorable, interactive and emotional, connections that lead to increased sales and brand loyalty.

As a marketing methodology, experiential marketing aims to move beyond the traditional ‘features-and-benefits’ marketing, cast to a wide audience, that includes not only those who may benefit from a brand or product, but also those who would not benefit at all. (As a result of traditional marketing, people avoid messages, whenever possible and by any means). In contrast, experiential marketing, presents an experience, that people choose to attend to and participate in, after identifying the relevance of a brand or product, to their needs. Experiential marketing is the difference between telling people about features or benefits within the confines of the thirty-second TV spot and letting them experience it, and get their own ‘a-ha!’ event.

Marketers should not assume that, sending instant messages to cell phones, is experiential marketing. Even a TV or print ad, no matter how sensory, is not experiential marketing, either. Similarly, although hard to accept, even great websites are not truly experiential, not that interactive marketing, advertising and other forms of communicating with consumers aren’t valuable in the marketing mix. Of course they are! But, experiential marketing is to bring the brand ‘face to face’ with the consumer; to demonstrate brand values and build consumer expectation.It is this face to face demonstration, that makes it so impact. Experiential marketing strives to forge deeper emotional connection, with the target consumer, by using relevant multi-sensory stimulation.

A great example of experiential marketing is, what Dove body products has in its long running campaign for real beauty, challenging the stereotypical model of female beauty. This has included building an online sharing community, emotive photography, brand space road shows, in store sampling and using real women in its advertising.

Tom Peters says it well, in his new book ‘Re-Imagine’; Despite the fact that, experiences will be the essence of life in the New Economy, “ most companies trying to pull this ‘experience thing’ off will fail miserably. They won’t get it. This ‘experience thing’ is extremist. Not a dab of ‘delight’ here. Nor a pinch of ‘amusement’ there. But an entirely different way of life.”

Experiential marketing is a developing ‘scientific art’, growing out of the mature field of the marketing industry, to meet new consumer needs, in consumer engagement. There is, as yet, no such thing, as ‘best practice theory’, instead it’s a case of learning from ‘best practice examples’. At the CIM Annual Conference 2008, Sri Lankan marketers will be able to get into the den of experiential marketing, through great case studies, that will enable them to get up to about the occurrences, in this evolving, and exciting hour of brand building. There is a lot to learn!! Faster the better!!

The conference will comprise four conceptual presentations and eight case study presentations, ranging from modern trade, fashion retailing to telecommunications, services retailing and to hospitality trade and entertainment, catering to a wide range of industry interests.

(The writer, Mr. Asanga Ranasinghe is a Chartered Marketer, by profession and is the Head of Corporate Integration of The Chartered Institute of Marketing, Sri Lanka Region. He is also the Customer Development Director of Unilever Sri Lanka Ltd).


IPM CEO Forum will focus on what CEOs want from HR

The IPM CEO Forum which is an integral part of the HR National Conference on June 3rd, will focus on the theme ‘People Drive Business.’ The Business Leader’s Forum this year will be facilitated by Dinesh Weerakkody CEO Cornucopia Lanka Ltd and comprises; Amitha Goonarathne MD Commercial Bank of Ceylon, Murali Prakash CEO Browns Group, Dushan Soza CEO WNS Global Services and Peter Spirig CEO Holcim Lanka Ltd. The forum will focus on what CEOs want from HR, if HR is to get an imperative place at the strategic table, what are the issues that should be at the top of the agenda and how the contemporary HR executives stack up?

The discussion will therefore center on whether people drive business or whether the right people drive the business and also who are these right people and how do you find and retain them? Today, the number one priority for HR is attracting, retaining and growing talent both now and in the next several years? How are companies facing up to these challenges? Successful companies let go of people who cannot scale the learning curve and reward those great performers. Jack Welch was famous for letting go of the bottom 10% of performers in the company every year in order to foster renewal and constantly revitalise operations?

The CEOs will discuss how they manage poor performers in their companies? Employment Value Proposition (EVP) is what an employee gets working for a particular company. Rewards for Managing an EVP effectively are huge, increasing a company’s pool of potential workers by 20% and the commitment of its employees four fold. Companies with well-managed EVPs get away with paying less than 10% than those with badly managed EVPs. The CEOs will talk about how they put together an EVP to attract and retain key people. HR initiatives have now gone beyond just the work environment. Constantly HR needs to develop innovative people practices to keep employees motivated, and connected to work and their organisations. The 3 CEOs will share some of their people practices that help to make employees feel valued in their companies.

If employee engagement was once little more than a theoretical concept, that time is long gone. Not only can we now define it clearly and measure its existence and intensity, but we can also demonstrate the value to an organisation in concrete terms. The CEOs will talk about what drives employee engagement in their business? How they measure employee engagement and relate employee engagement to the bottom-line. The CEOs will talk about how important Work Life Balance is and how they have institutionalised it in their organisations?

Then does it make sense to outsource certain HR functions and invest in e-HR services? The CEOs will share some of their experiences and frustrations around this subject. Most traditional HR performance metrics like employee turnover rates and total training hours provided, don’t predict organisational performance. What are some of the tools that can be used to show which investments in people are driving company performance? Finally, the CEOs will focus on the knowledge, skills and ability HR professionals need to be indispensable in the new world of work. The session will end with a Q&A. According to the organisers the CEO forum this year will provide an unique opportunity for HR professionals to get an understanding of what the CEO challenges present to HR; will it be an unprecedented opportunity for HR, or a no win situation?


“Managing risks on fluctuations in interest and exchange rates”

Sri Lanka has been experiencing chronic high interest rates and frequent exchange rate fluctuations and this has become a hotly debated topic in both business and academic circles.

High inflation in Sri Lanka has pushed interest rates upward causing a sharp increase in the cost of borrowing for businesses. This increase in interest rates and fluctuations of the same have forced companies to re-look at their capital structure and cash flow management. Similarly, exchange rate fluctuations also cause revenues and profits of companies (mainly importers, exporters and banks) to fluctuate greatly and this makes business planning difficult for such companies. In addition to this, the global demand is contracting due to the credit crisis and the recessionary situation in the west, impacting on the bottom line of companies. All these factors make cost management increasingly important, not only to remain competitive but also to survive in such a turbulent environment.

The interest and exchange related risks however could effectively be managed by using hedging instruments such as derivatives and other financial techniques. World over, companies effectively use hedging instruments such as derivatives and other financial techniques to effectively mitigate such risks and prevent surprise losses. Main types of derivatives include futures, options forwards and swaps. Essentially, these instruments are used to insure against uncertainty by fixing the price/quantity of an underlying commodity for a future date. In the case of interest and exchange rates, the underlying commodity is money and the parties to the hedging contract agree on the interest rate/exchange rate for a future date at the time of entering in to the contract. Management of interest and exchange rate risks using such instruments prevent companies from experiencing surprise losses (unfavourable movement in rates).

Effective management of the capital structure using debt and equity and short/long-term debt also becomes important when the cost of borrowing increases. High interest rates increase cost of capital and could lead to cash flow problems for companies that have not looked at scenarios and planned for it.

Although there is much debate on the negative effects of interest and exchange rate fluctuations in Sri Lanka, little emphasis has been given to managing these unfavourable fluctuations. Thus, the CCC training seminar on ‘managing risks on fluctuations in interest and exchange rates’ is timely and useful and would educate the private sector on how these risks could be managed effectively. The Chamber has invited Specialists on the subject with practical knowledge to share their understanding and expertise with the audience at this seminar. The panel would be chaired by Mr. Ronnie Peiris, Group Finance Director, John Keells Holdings and presentations would be made by Mr. W. A. Wijewardena, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka on ‘Basic Economics behind Interest and Exchange Rate Fluctuation,’ Mr. Amal Sanderatne, CEO, Frontier Research on ‘Sri Lankan Economy – A Brief Outline,’ Mr. Ajith Devasurendra, Managing Director/CEO, Taprobane Group on ‘Managing Interest Rates and Related Risks,’ Mr Trevine Jayasekera, Finance Director, Brandix Lanka on ‘Effective Structuring of Capital,’ and Mr. Mangala Boyagoda, Managing Director, Lanka Wealth Management (Pvt.) Ltd on ‘Managing Forex Flows and Reserves.’

The Seminar will be held on Friday, May 9, 2008 from 8.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. at the Ground Floor Auditorium of The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.


Michael Morrison at SLID/CIM ‘Power Breakfast’ forum

The Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) has joined hands with The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Sri Lanka Region in organising the next ‘Power Breakfast’ which is scheduled for May 7, from 7.30 a.m. to 9.00 a.m. at the Lower Crystal Ballroom, Taj Samudra Hotel. The keynote speaker at the forum will be Michael Morrison, who will address the audience on ‘The Power of Emotional Branding; in driving consistent, competitive and profitable market growth.’ The forum is meant for company Directors, CEOs and strategic level managers.

The forum will impart to the audience, strategies that can enhance brand perception; capture the imagination of existing and potential customers; strategies that can change the perception of time, influence buyer behaviour, thinking and decision-making with some valuable insights into case studies of some international brands.

The keynote speaker, Michael Morrison is a visionary expert with a rare calibre who holds a great deal of knowledge and experience in the discipline of sensorial marketing and experiential retailing. Morrison holds a Bachelor of Economics and a Masters Degree in Business from the Monash University and a Diploma in Organisational Behaviour from the University of Swinburne. He has travelled extensively and has been a guest speaker at a huge number of forums and conferences around the world. His doctoral thesis is focused on the power of experiential retailing and its influence on retail brands, store atmosphere and the total shopping experience. He is presently attached to the Department of Marketing, Faculty of Business and Economics at Monash University and is the Co-ordinator, Master of Marketing (Retailing).

In its endeavour to take marketing and marketers to the boardroom and towards the recognition of the marketing profession as the key driver of business success, this year, The Chartered Institute of Marketing Sri Lanka Region has collaborated with the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors to organise this ‘Power Breakfast’ forum. The objective of the forum is to enlighten the top level decision makers of corporates on the significance of strategic marketing and how it could help organisations to enhance value created for its customers and increase the value of organisations.

The Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID), which was launched under the auspices of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in April 2000, seeks to enhance the professionalism of business leaders and tackle corporate governance issues from the top down. The institute strives to educate, inform and assist directors in effectively governing the companies on whose boards they serve. SLID serves as a valuable support network and a source of advice in resolving problems that arise in the course of a director’s responsibilities, while creating a forum for key business leaders to meet, fraternize and develop strong peer networks.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing is the world’s largest and most prestigious professional body for marketing with over 50,000 members world-wide. The Chartered Institute of Marketing Sri Lanka Region is the fastest growing CIM body, with nearly 1,080 members and 3,000 student members.


CIMA inaugural world conference in Sri Lanka

The Inaugural CIMA World conference has been scheduled in Sri Lanka from 28 to 31 May, 2008. The 4-day event, which is part of CIMA’s international events calendar is expected to attract approximately 1200 delegates, including around 200 from CIMA’s global membership, business and a diverse group of corporates, business leaders and professionals.

Details of the programme were formally announced at a press conference held in Colombo. President of the CIMA Sri Lanka division Aruna Fernando welcomed guests and briefed the media on the objectives of the World Conference being held in Sri Lanka. He then went on to explain that the conference itself was unique as it was based on a focused theme of 4 pillars highly relevant in today’s context. The four pillars that would be deliberated and the finding publicised is on – Peace Building, Innovation, Global Branding and Leadership.

Suthesh Balasubramaniam, Chairman, Technical committee of the conference elaborated on the theme of the conference - Igniting Passion. Blazing Trails and confirmed that the conference will feature eminent speakers who have specialised and gained world recognition in their respective fields and emphasised that the worldwide audience would gain insights for their future development.
Included in the list of speakers, explained by Balasubramaniam were, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Gandhi Peace Prize and Martin Luther King Award - John Hume of Northern Ireland, Prof. Kader Asmal – Chairman: ANC National Disciplinary Council of South Africa and former Minister of Education, David Steward - Executive Director of the F. W. de Klerk Foundation of South Africa, Dr. Atta-Ur-Rahman - Federal Minister/Chairman, Higher Education Commission; Adviser to Prime Minister for Science and Technology of Pakistan, Samina Rizwan - Oracle Corporation’s Regional Director for SAGE (South Asia Growth Economies) West of Pakistan, Peter Vellappan - former Secretary General of the Asian Football Confederation Malaysia, CAO Yuanzheng – Chief Economist of the Bank of China, Norman Lyle –Director of Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong, Jehangir S. Pocha – Editor of Business World India.

This summit gives the opportunity to showcase Sri Lanka as a centre for international conferences and endorses the capabilities and skills within the CIMA fraternity in organising and successfully implementing a world class event. Also, the benefits of learning from some of the today’s most influential leaders, and witness them sharing their thoughts and views on areas most critical to Sri Lanka as with Peace, Innovation, Global Branding and Leadership.

There would also be other activities to consider while in Sri Lanka. Attendees are offered several networking opportunities ranging from informal Bowling, Golf tournaments, Gala dinners and Theme nights to more formal forums. There would also be opportunities to the sponsors of the conference to exhibit their Sri Lankan products and services.

The Platinum Partner for the Summit is Sri Lanka Telecom whilst the official airline for the conference is SriLankan Airlines.
Interested parties who want to attend this 4-day forum on the World Conference are invited to visit the conference website – www.cimaglobal.com/srilanka. The site offers detailed information on the speakers and the agenda, and also allows online registration and payment options. For its international audience, the site also offers special rates for registered delegates with regard to airfares (up to 10% off) on the conference’s official carrier – SriLankan Airlines - and preferred hotel room rates at partner hotels, the Cinnamon Grand, Ceylon Continental Hotel, Holiday Inn, Trans Asia Hotel, Galle Face Hotel, Galadari and the TAJ Samudra.