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Airtel and NIMH launch Sri Lanka’s first mental health chatline

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Sri Lanka now has its own text-based helpline for those facing emotional and mental distress. Airtel Lanka together, with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), launched the text-based platform 1926, a dedicated helpline to encourage an open culture around mental health.

The service is free for Airtel customers and is also accessible for users of other mobile networks. In times of need, a user only has to send a simple text message to 1926, and this will be responded immediately by a mental health specialist from NIMH.

The chat line went live on October 10 in commemoration of World Mental Health Day 2020, connecting users to professional counsellors who are available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil languages. The 1926 text-based helpline by Airtel hopes to encourage more young people to reach out to professionals, particularly when they are experiencing times of crisis and may require guidance in mitigating their mental health concerns in a safe and anonymous environment.

Connecting to the launch over Airtel Blue Jeans, CEO and Managing Director, Ashish Chandra said, “Digital technologies are transforming learning, socializing and communication among youth. Our brand is heavily engaged with young Sri Lankans and we are very much aware that they prefer to use digital platforms to engage and find solutions. At Airtel, we are always looking at ways to create meaningful connections for our customers by blending technology with human needs and this is one such initiative.”

Dr. Pushpa Ranasinghe, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, NIMH said, “With the introduction of the 1926 voice-based hotline in 2018, there has been a gradual increase in the number of people, proactively seeking help to cope with anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental health concerns and directing them to the closest help center.”

She further added, “Mobile phones and text messaging, in particular, have rapidly become the preferred communication tool among the youth, creating a culture connected to its phones. As healthcare professionals, our dependency on technology is now important than ever before. And as a result of its advancements, we can find improved ways of being accessible to those who need help. We are thankful to Airtel for helping us evolve 1926 from a voice to a text-based helpline.”

The event concluded with a panel discussion on addressing mental health for all through greater investments and access.

The session moderated by mental health advocate Shanuki De Alwis featured Dr. Pushpa Ranasinghe, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, National Institute of Mental Health, Nivendra Uduman, Psychologist and Kanishka Ranaweera, Head of HR, Airtel Lanka.

The NIMH established the ‘1926’ phone hotline in 2018 as part of a concerted effort to address legitimate concerns around the growing public health issues, to provide those in mental or emotional distress to seek assistance.

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Union Assurance empowers its policyholders by introducing free COVID-19 life coverage

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Union Assurance PLC being one of the largest insurance solution providers in Sri Lanka has further established their commitment towards the nation by staying true to its promise, ‘Your Life, Our Strength’. In turbulent times such as COVID-19, the company has taken initiative to persevere and adapt by responding to customers’ needs irrespective of the unanticipated circumstances presented.

The free COVID-19 cover has been reinstated to support both existing and new policyholders to ensure additional protection during these uncertain times. The cover provides a free death cover up to a maximum of LKR 1 million per policyholder. This free cover is valid for a period of one month commencing from 02nd November 2020 to 01st December 2020.
Union Assurance was also recognized as one of the first life insurance companies to offer hospital cash benefits for quarantine treatments since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. The company therefore assures all its valued policyholders this initiative would be continued in which hospitalization per day claims directly resulting from COVID-19 will be considered from 20th October to 31st December 2020.

Amidst grave adversity Union Assurance strives to provide its unwavering commitment in offering the best in class protection coverages to its policyholders while ensuring that their families are financially empowered to face any challenge and uncertainty.

Jude Gomes, Chief Executive Officer of Union Assurance stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health, economic and social crisis and has affected people from all walks of life. We offer this timely protection cover free of charge to provide our policyholders the added peace of mind that the future of their families will be secured during these uncertain times. The specialty of this cover is that it is not just limited to our existing policyholders but is also offered to new customers and thereby giving Sri Lankans access to secure the future of their families.”

To obtain more information about this free COIVD 19 cover, call the Union Assurance 24-hour hotline on 1330, email: info@unionassurance.com; or chat with the company on www.unionassurance.com
Union Assurance is the oldest private life insurer in Sri Lanka, and is a member of the John Keells Group, Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerate. Union Assurance completes over three decades of success in the industry with a market capitalization of Rs. 18 Bn, a Life Fund of Rs. 38 Bn and a Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 434% as at August 2020. Set to empower the Sri Lankan Dream, Union Assurance offers Life Insurance solutions that cover education, health, protection, retirement, and investment needs of Sri Lankans. With 76 branches and an over 3000-strong workforce, Union Assurance continues to invest in people, products, and processes to remain agile and responsive to emerging changes in the Life Insurance industry.

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Ideal Industries acquires home grown e- commerce major Takas.lk

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Ideal Group, headed by visionary entrepreneur Nalin Welgama, in keeping with his ethos of growth through innovation, made a move pertinent with the “new normal” by acquiring one of the pioneers in the Sri Lankan e commerce industry, Takas.lk.

Having invested heavily in developing capacity in the Sri Lankan automotive sector, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Ideal Group of Companies, Nalin Welgama, is determined that a Sri Lankan built and operated company be in the forefront of e-commerce in Sri Lanka. “The Ideal Group has and always will be driven by innovation, hence our foray into the digital space with Takas.lk is both timely and appropriate, said Welgama. “We promise to strengthen Takas.lk, making it the most valuable e commerce company in Sri Lanka. The collaborative synergies of the Ideal Group of Company’s island wide touch points will further enable us to provide an unmatched service, hitherto not experienced”.

Takas.lk commenced operations in 2012 and since then has grown to be a household name in Sri Lanka. Indeed, Takas was the first company to introduce cash on delivery (COD), and enable the tokenization of credit cards. Since inception Takas has taken great pride in being a Sri Lankan company that has served Sri Lankans both here and abroad, adding value and giving satisfaction. Furthermore, the technology stack-which Takas operates on has been built completely in-house, and to date has enabled e-commerce businesses in Sri Lanka as well as overseas markets .

Speaking at the launch which was limited to a few stakeholders due to the Covid situation, Founder and Executive Chairman, Ideal Group of Companies, Nalin Welgama said “e commerce is the way of the future and is the new normal. e-commerce is here to stay, and even when the Covid situation eases, our life styles and methods of business have been irrevocably transformed. We will focus on expanding market share as more companies move their businesses online. What will be key from here onwards will be sustainability of demand from newly acquired merchants. The Covid 19 pandemic has accelerated the trend of online shopping and with it the gross merchandise volumes. Therefore we must capitalise on the prevailing strong e-commerce trends and provide many businesses a life line during these challenging macro economic conditions.”

As per statistics, Sri Lanka’s annual domestic e-commerce sales value including services is an estimated US$40-60 million. This is expected to grow to $400 million by 2022-23. “Currently, only 0.3% of Sri Lanka’s total annual retail sales ( $13 billion) are via e-commerce, thus the opportunity is huge”.

 

Takas.lk is known for its large manage-market place for electronics and under the new ownership will expand on this range of products.

Since it’s acquisition by the Ideal Group, Takas.lk has quickly expanded into the gift giving segment, daily essentials, and cakes/flowers. ” We will be working with Sri Lankan suppliers and empowering them, giving them the ability to function on a basis of ‘business as usual’ during these difficult times”. Takas’ new location on Rosmead place too is more convenient and better equipped to service their customers.

 

Subsequent to the acquisition, the existing Takas.lk management team including Lahiru Pathmalal will remain to guide the company through its transition and will work together with the Ideal team for a stipulated period in their current roles, ensuring a seamless transition. Commenting on the acquisition, Co founder Takas.lk, Lahiru Pathmalal said, “having been a part of Takas.lk from day one, I have a strong understanding of the key operations required for the success of Takas. I like to think I have a creative approach to the industry, and this combined with the wealth of resources the Ideal Group brings to play in the e-commerce game, makes me excited and motivated to help shape its future.”

Under it’s new mantle, Takas.lk has a vision of becoming ‘The’ one stop-shop for all consumer requirements and is committed to follow a service first philosophy!

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SLT Mobitel awarded prestigious ‘Project Management Excellence Award – 2020’ by PMI

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SLT Mobitel, achieved yet another significant milestone by bagging the most esteemed Project Excellence Award (PMI) 2020, by the Project Management Institute (PMI) for its Stage VIII Project themed “Project Rural MPowerment”.

Conceptualized to empower every Sri Lankan with digital inclusivity, the project facilitated rural areas by providing 4G technology across the country. Having embarked on the project in 2018 with two leading strategic partners, namely, Huawei and ZTE, the Mobitel team concluded the project 5 months ahead of its planned schedule. This multi-million-dollar endeavor involved establishing 5400+ base stations including over 3000 4G LTE nodes. As a result, people in and around the rural areas were provided with supreme connectivity and extended broadband coverage.

In 2019 alone, Mobitel made an investment of over USD 100 million in expanding its network and will invest another USD 25 million in 2020 to provide superior connectivity and broadband experience to every Sri Lankan. Having completed just before the COVID-19 outbreak, the project enabled school children to continue their education through e-Learning platforms and helped the corporate sector to adopt to the WFH concept with no interruptions. Further, the project not only enabled people in rural areas to connect with the world but also empowered the SME sector by facilitating them with broadband accessibility thus increasing their contribution to the national economy.

Commenting on the achievement, Lalith Seneviratne, Group CEO, Sri Lanka Telecom Group said “Being recognized internationally for a national level project by the Project Management Institute is a tremendous honor, and I would like to thank the Team Mobitel for their untiring commitment, dedication and loyalty to complete this project in record time. This high level of achievement has not only brought glory to Sri Lanka but has also shown that the skills and capabilities of local professionals to compete in the international market as well. I would like to thank our valued stakeholders, government officials and the PMI Sri Lanka Colombo Division, who went above and beyond duty extending their invaluable support in helping us to secure this coveted accolade”.

(SLT)

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