BizPact to attract regional investment

By Azhar Razak
Business for Peace Alliance (BPA), Sri Lanka’s network of regional business chambers plans to host a regional investment conference, ‘BizPact’ in Colombo at the BMICH from June 25-29. The event will be the first major post war initiative to try and attract both national and international investments to the peripheral regions of Sri Lanka, says BPA officials.

‘The event will highlight regional investment opportunities in Sri Lanka focusing on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s). We have already picked twenty such potential projects around the island, to showcase to the investors,’ Mrs Manique Mendis, BPA Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer told reporters last week.
Mendis said that the event would be timely with the end of the war and Sri Lanka being on the verge of prospering into a new economic era.

‘We expect Colombo based businesses, the Sri Lankan diaspora, the international community to get together to join hands and work with a common objective to rebuild Sri Lanka,’ she said.
She added that when BPA initially planned to feature the event, the war was still on and the confidence levels were not as high as they felt now.

‘Fortunately, the war has ended and now we are in a different climate geared up to rebuild Sri Lanka,’ she said.
Supported by government agencies and big business chambers, the BizPact investor programme will be launched in Colombo and supplemented with visits to the ‘investment friendly’ regions. Among the projects that would be on display to the investors are business opportunities in the fields of tourism, ceramics, furniture, apparel, recycling, foodstuffs and leisure in locations around the island.

‘These are not huge BOI projects but small projects to build capacity, to empower people for a better Sri Lanka,’ Mendis said.
Besides matching investors and deserving entrepreneurs from the regions, the conference will provide prospective investors an opportunity for dialogue on policy issues relating to investments with high level government officials and offer first hand insights into the regions revealing the ground realities of the Sri Lankan situation, organisers said.

The Chairman of BPA, Suresh De Mel speaking at the occasion said that he was confident of attracting a good number of investors to the island with the symposium also turning into a success.
‘The Sri Lankan diaspora irrespective of where they are resident always have a soft corner for Sri Lanka’s development. Therefore, we are pretty sure they will respond to this call,’ he said.

BizPact conference will be organised by BPA in collaboration with the Government of Sri Lanka along with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Board of Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka Tourism Authority, and Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process and the National Chamber of Exporters.

The symposium content will include presentations scheduled to be held on June 25 on SME investment opportunities in Sri Lanka, BizPact projects, call from the regions of Sri Lanka (discussion on conflict sensitive post war investment), understanding conflict sensitive investment climates (highlighting the importance of context) and networking.

‘The inaugural conference will be followed by travel to the regions/project sites on June 26 and a wrap up conference in Colombo also scheduled to be held on June 29,’ M I M Pathaulla, BPA Vice Chairman said.

A network set up in 2002 by the regional Chambers of Commerce throughout Sri Lanka, the BPA, is a “not-for-profit” company engaged in conflict transformation and empowerment of rural communities. As a “bottom-up” and inclusive initiative that works with partners to deliver regional capacity programs, the BPA advocates for “social cohesion through commerce” to bring about prosperous, peaceful and sustainable communities.


End of war in Sri Lanka revs up hopes of Indian auto makers

By Anupama Chandrasekaran
The recent escalation in conflict between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE hurt exports of auto makers such as Ashok Leyland and Mahindra and Mahindra

Indian vehicle makers facing sluggish domestic and overseas demand, are peering at a conflict-free Sri Lanka for a sales boost.
The recent escalation in conflict between the Sri Lankan army and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) hurt exports of auto makers such as Ashok Leyland Ltd and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M).

On May 18, the Sri Lankan authorities declared victory against LTTE in a war that spanned over a quarter of a century.
Big fall: Workers assemble engines on an Ashok Leyland Ltd production line in Hosur, Tamil Nadu. The firm saw Sri Lanka’s contribution to its exports fall to 15% in 2008-09 from 50% in past years. Rogan Macdonald / Bloomberg
“I do expect the overall investment scenario for Sri Lanka to improve,” said Nisha Taneja, professor at Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier), an autonomous think tank on economic policy.

“From an India perspective, I foresee further expansion of connectivity to the northern region. This will open up a completely new route, which will reduce transaction costs and provide a corridor for easy linkage.”
The auto industry has been riled globally by the economic slowdown. In India, sales of passenger and commercial vehicles slipped for the first time in seven years to 1.9 million in 2008-09, from two million the previous year, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

The country’s exports of such vehicles, though, climbed to 378,412 in fiscal 2009 from 277,395 earlier. Companies Mint spoke with, however, said exports to Sri Lanka fell in 2008-09.
The strife-ridden nation has been a key export destination for Indian firms. India’s auto exports to Sri Lanka in 2007-08, before the tensions mounted, had risen to $249.19 million, at least five times the $45.27 million figure in 2001-02, according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

M&M is already in talks with prospective dealers about starting a franchise in former LTTE strongholds.
“There had been some impact due to the conflict growing in recent months since we were not able to carry out our field activities aggressively, and also the impact was further aggravated due to the financial turmoil (global credit crisis),” said Pravin Shah, executive vice-president of international operations for M&M’s automotive business, via email.
M&M’s Sri Lanka sales volumes fell 23% to 850 vehicles in 2008-09. It expects demand to grow by 20-25% in the coming months in the nation for its utility vehicles and pick-up trucks.

“It will be ideally suited for these regions where the road infrastructure is not yet developed,” Shah wrote. “We are actually focusing more on making the after sales service and spare parts availability rather than just having showrooms… We are sure of covering the region in next 6-8 months time.”
One of the worst-hit Indian vehicle makers in Sri Lanka has been Ashok Leyland. The Chennai-based firm saw Sri Lanka’s contribution to its exports crash to 15% in 2008-09 from 50% in past years, Ashok Leyland’s chief financial officer K. Sridharan told Mint over phone, blaming the conflict.

The firm’s average annual sales of about 3,000 vehicles in Sri Lanka halved to fewer than 1,500 last fiscal, Sridharan said. The company claims it has traditionally been one of the biggest auto players in Sri Lanka with a 65% share.
Icrier’s Taneja finds it hard to believe that companies whose businesses are focused largely around Colombo, have been hit by the recent complications. “I don’t think the escalation of the ethnic conflict affected trade between India and Sri Lanka,” he says.
One example is Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. India’s largest car maker claims to be unaffected by the heightened tensions between the Lankan government and Tamil rebels the past few months, though its exports to the country slipped.

The car maker said it lost its 2006 market-leader status as demand for bigger cars jumped following a concessional duty scheme for Sri Lankan government employees. It expects demand in the nation of 20 million people to grow as construction of new roads, bridges and buildings takes off.

Indian vehicle makers stand to gain as more trucks are employed to haul cement and machinery to aid infrastructure building, while better roads and better standard of living post war are expected to spur demand for passenger cars.
Still, some observers see such outcomes to be hyped.
“I think rebuilding will be limited to certain pockets and there probably won’t be large-scale rebuilding as was the case after the tsunami-hit Sri Lankan coasts a couple of years ago,” said Mahantesh Sabarad, a senior auto analyst at Centrum Broking.

( Courtesy Livemint.com)


Challenge is to revive the economy – Dr. Kohona

By Ishara Jayawardane
“Those who are in the forefront of the business community can learn a lesson from the government when it comes to overcoming adversities and that one can triumph over obstacles if one has the will”, was the message of the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Palitha Kohona at the 9th annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Speaking on the theme “Unconventional Marketing Strategies to Survive Turbulent Times” Dr. Kohona said; “Sri Lanka is one of those rare cases where terrorism has been comprehensively defeated. We did it despite the fact that the world told us that we could not do it”

Dr. Kohona elaborated that this feat was achieved by our own efforts [the government] and that we did it our way and on our own. The business community must take that lesson to heart. Whatever the adversities that confront you [the business community] in the world, you can overcome it.

In his speech, Dr. Kohona challenged the business community that since the LTTE have been shattered the war on terrorism has been won and now the next frontier is to bring peace. “Your challenge is to revive the economy now that the war is over.”
At the conference, on the subject of marketing itself, distinguished Emeritus Professor Michael J Baker speculated “As in many other areas of management I think we can learn a lot by Analogy/similarity if we look at other subjects and other disciplines and we see what insights and ideas they have to offer us. We can use them as an analogy for the problems we face in the context in which we work”.

“Adaptation is critical for survival” said the Professor of Marketing, Michael J Baker going on a Darwinian line of thinking. “On the notion of struggle for existence. There is only a finite availability of resources and therefore there is competition between organisms, species, for access to those resources. And in that struggle only the fittest will survive. The fittest tend to be those organisations, individuals and species which are best able to cope with environmental change and adapt to it” declared the Professor.


IMSL raises awareness on Global Citizenship and Management

By Abeeth Sarathchandra
The Institute of Management of Sri Lanka (IMSL), in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Management and the Management Club, held The 12th National Management Conference (NMC) at the Galle Face Hotel on the May 19. The main concept behind NMC 2009 was ‘Global Citizenship and Management: Capacity Development in Challenging Times’.

“A global citizen should have a sense of identity that is inclusive of the diversity that represents their society. He should be able to relate positively and work with diverse people in any location; have means of accessing information and knowledge, and be in touch with new ideas and thoughts in their respective fields of work,” said NMC Chairperson, Dr Wijaya Jayatilake for 2009, when The Nation Economist contacted him. “They should also be able to adhere to, and respect universal human values such as justice and equality, and also be aware of and adhere to the global standards of performance and professionalism,” he added.
Wijaya also commented on the key areas that the students of IMSL needed to improve on, “They should have a global and regional sense of commitment, be willing to learn and strive for professional excellence, master effective communication skills in all relevant languages and also be able to take up risks and challenges,” he said.

The NMC this year had two main segments, with the first session being the opening and setting the tone and the second, discourse. The opening session set the tone by highlighting the challenges that the private sector faces in playing its vital role as a leader in the development of the country

Some well renowned names in the field such as Dr. Wijaya Jayatilake, Ajith Samarawickrema, Anver Dole, Prof. Uma Coomaraswamy, Dr. Bhadra Aarachchige, Sunil Dissanayake, Dinesh Weerakkody, Prof. Kapila Gunesekara, Lakshman Gunasekara and Shanthi Satchithanandam addressed the conference.