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Aqua Dynamics named among Best Workplaces in Asia for 2021



Aqua Dynamics, one of the world’s most versatile action sports leader with a global market share of an average of 25% in the leisure sports sector, was recently recognized among Best Workplaces in Asia for 2021 under the Large Category list, exhibiting the high-trust workplace culture that encourages and inspires its people in Sri Lanka.

This was based on a survey carried out among over 3.3 million employees from across 16 countries, regarded as one of the largest surveys assessing a 360-degree employees experience in the region. The company was also among the 40 Best Workplaces in Sri Lanka for the year.

Frank Ulmer – Managing Director, Aqua Dynamics commenting on this achievement said ‘We are incredibly proud to be recognized about the unique culture that we continuously strive to foster among our employees and within every aspect of our business. It is a philosophy that we live and breathe ever since we began our operations over 32 years ago.

‘We embrace learning and knowledge-sharing in everything we do and have some of the best training and practices in both the industry and region. Wellbeing, inclusivity, and equity are well embedded in all our approach. This enables every employee to be heard, recognized, and feeling cared for, said Lalindra Fernando who started off as a Management Trainee at Aqua Dynamics since its inception to now being the General Manager.

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WEBXPAY partners Australian government to empower Sri Lankan MSMEs with digital payments



Leading online payment gateway, WEBXPAY announced a milestone partnership with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to significantly expand access to digital payments for Sri Lankan Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

The DFAT Partnership for Recovery is part of a series aimed at promoting regional economic recovery. Leveraging WEBXPAY’s ground-breaking payment gateway and integrated e-commerce solutions, the initiative aims to empower MSMEs across the island to plug in and benefit from Sri Lanka’s burgeoning digital ecosystem, with a special emphasis on gender and social inclusion.

“We are pleased to partner with WEBXPAY, to aid small and medium sized businesses in Sri Lanka, including women led enterprises, to have access to a safe and convenient way to accept card and mobile payments from domestic and international consumers.

“In addition to strengthening their financial and digital literacy skills, this partnership will also support MSMEs to continue to trade through the pandemic by taking their businesses online. It will also help them be more competitive in the digital economy in future. By supporting MSMEs to formally register, develop their online presence and plan promotions they can better sustain their business operations and be resilient to economic shocks,” Australian Deputy High Commissioner for Sri Lanka Amanda Jewell said.

By supporting small business to accept cashless payments and take their enterprises online, WEBXPAY and DFAT aim to support a rapid revitalisation of Sri Lanka’s rural economies that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will help to increase MSMEs’ incomes by reaching existing and new customers – and even export their products – all whilst strengthening their financial and digital literacy.

Throughout the programme, WEBXPAY will provide support the MSMEs to formally register, develop their online business and plan promotions to sustain the business. As a result, MSMEs will be able to track online sales, generate payment links, and maintain a database of their customers on the platform.

“The MSME sector touches the lives of every Sri Lankan. These enterprises are what keep the grassroots of our economy alive, but over the past year, most have faced a period of extreme difficulty. We are therefore grateful to the Australian Government and its people for not simply extending a much needed helping hand, but also doing so in a manner that could potentially lead to a new era of sustainable, grassroots-led economic growth,” WEBXPAY CEO & Founder Omar Sahib said.

Sahib noted that while traditional business models suffered, Sri Lankan e-commerce and online businesses have flourished during the pandemic. However, these opportunities have largely been confined to Colombo, the Western Province and a few other urban centers. Given their lack of experience and expertise with these new modes of business, rural MSMEs have usually been cut off from the ability to monetise on the surging demand for online services.

Sri Lanka’s MSME’s account for more than 90% of the total establishments in the country, in addition to being the source of 45% of all employment and accounting for 52% of GDP. However, the majority of these MSMEs are informal businesses. As a result, they tend to be reliant on daily cash-based sales and often lack planning and management skills. During the pandemic, this has led to an unprecedented disruption in daily operations.

Over the duration of the programme, WEBXPAY will also be carefully monitoring and researching the impact of these initiatives with a particular focus on its effectiveness in improving standards of living for rural communities, while also creating tangible positive benefits at a macroeconomic scale. In addition to creating new job opportunities and helping to eradicate unemployment in rural Sri Lanka, the programme will also measure its impact in terms of supporting financially independent female entrepreneurs. Additionally, the programme’s digital-first approach is also expected to help reduce carbon-emissions while promoting vibrant grassroots economic growth.

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Eravur Fabric Park could transform sustainable textile manufacture in Sri Lanka



Since the first announcement in June 2020, expectations have been high on the potential of the Eravur Fabric Processing Park to catalyze a new era for Sri Lankan textile and apparel manufacture.

Supported through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka, working in close collaboration with the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), the apex body of the apparel industry in Sri Lanka, the vision for Eravur is beginning to take shape.

Of the allocated approx 300 acres of land, fifty have been allocated for the Park’s maiden investment of US$ 35 million to establish a state-of-the-art fabric mill. Negotiations are also underway with two international companies to infuse mega investments for the remainder. The Park is estimated to attract a cumulative investment of US$ 300 million. The zone is also seeking further investments towards Dyeing, Washing, Knitting, Weaving, and other associated and ancillary activities.

Cabinet approval for the Zone’s classification under the Strategic Development Projects Act was also secured, enabling the extension of tax and other relief and incentives to investors.

Rapid progress towards vertical integration

“We would like to see the first company commence commercial operations in the next 6 months to 1 year,” stated BOI Chairman Sanjaya Mohottala. “We have been very aggressive on timelines because of the clear consensus on the nationally significant value that the Park can generate. At present, all land has been demarcated, and water and electricity supply are being finalized. In excess of half the commercial land has been allocated or reserved, and we are seeing great demand. There is clear recognition locally and internationally as to the immediate potential. If necessary, we are able to expand the zone even further.”

Leveraged in support of Sri Lanka’s highly developed apparel manufacturing sector, which has steadily benchmarked itself on global standards for ethical, sustainable production and high levels of technical and technological expertise, Eravur’s promoters also see the project as an opportunity for Sri Lankan-made apparel to take global leadership on sustainability in its most holistic sense.

Mohottala explained further that the most immediate benefit from the Park’s establishment will be in the cost advantages and enhanced economies of scale gained through capacity expansion and vertical integration of domestic supply chains.

Currently, Sri Lanka has approximately 300 apparel manufacturing facilities across the country. By contrast, it has only 7 textile and raw material factories capable of producing fabric for export, and for conversion into garments for export. At its peak, Sri Lanka imported over 250,000 MT of fabric both for export-oriented apparel manufacturing and for local consumption in 2019, at a cost of US $ 2.2 billion.

In the context of unprecedented disruptions across global supply chains in particular and persistent commodity and currency volatility, increased availability of high quality raw materials will enable an immediate and drastic reduction in raw material costs, while also conserving foreign currency.

Increased domestic production of textiles also translates to a higher percentage of domestic value. If that threshold increases from its current 52% to 65%, it qualifies for a larger proportion of Sri Lankan exports for zero-duty benefits under GSP Plus1.

The culmination of a pioneering national journey in sustainability

The economic argument in favour of investing in Eravur is bolstered by its potential to also be the most sustainable venture of its kind in the entire Asian region, with local stakeholders having already committed to establishing extensive renewable energy facilities, water recycling facilities, science-based targets, and circular business models.

At a macro-level, increased local production capacity will contribute significantly to all these targets by reducing the end-to-end length of Sri Lanka’s apparel supply chains. This in turn enables tighter backward integration and lower carbon emissions.

Taking a cue from the Sri Lankan textile and apparel’s industry’s outstanding achievements on environmental sustainability to date, the Zone is being designed from the ground-up to facilitate and incentivize sustainability in every facet of its operations. In terms of fabric processing, the main focus is on wastewater treatment.

Mohottala continues: “Sri Lanka’s environmental standards for industries are quite stringent, especially compared with regional competitors. A key feature of the Zone will be its central wastewater treatment facility with a sea outfall, which will require a high standard of treatment. Fortunately, we already have strong expertise available locally, with many of Sri Lanka’s textile producers having established facilities on par with global best practices on wastewater treatment. We have used this to our advantage by calling in the local industry’s technical experts and drawing on their pioneering experiences to optimize wastewater treatment protocols at Eravur.”

Adding that this will be one of many positive attributes all stakeholders downstream of the textiles produced at the Zone can lay claim to, Mohottala says, “With the greater localization of production, we also gain improved oversight and control over environmental standards within the Zone. This also enables greater transparency, traceability, and accountability across the supply chain, which in turn will confer preferable competitive advantages to Sri Lankan apparel exporters. In addition, this will empower brands and retailers to make clear and credible claims to genuine sustainable sourcing.”

An end-to-end opportunity

Another significant advantage for Eravur is that it is purpose-built with the most advanced environmentally friendly technology available. This will also promote efficiency in energy and water consumption, as well as additional infrastructure for recycling and recovery of water used in production, for which the BOI aims to provide investors with additional incentives.

Notably, Eravur also enjoys a high level of solar irradiance and consistent high-wind conditions, making any manufacturing facility established in the area, ideally suited for solar and potentially, wind turbine power generation.

“Augmentation of the Zone’s energy requirements with plentiful renewable energy will enable cost savings on the energy-intensive aspects of wastewater recycling. Given the consistent annual reduction in the cost of solar and wind energy, the conditions at Eravur are another unique attraction for investment into the Zone, and potentially enables the entire supply chain to utilize global incentivizes around responsible and sustainable production,” Mohottala said.

In addition to the wastewater treatment protocols, the Zone will also include a sludge treatment facility, with further trials already underway for responsible disposal. These include tests using micro-algae to breakdown sludge, as well as utilizing sludge to fuel furnaces and as bricks with a bio-mat mask.

The final and potentially most vital contribution which the Eravur Fabric Processing Zone is the empowering impact it will have on the lives of Sri Lankans in Batticaloa. At present, the district has an estimated population of 621,887, of which, an estimated 60,912 individuals are below the poverty line. As at 2019 – prior to the pandemic – unemployment in the region stood at 6.4%

“With the development of the Zone, we will be able to create thousands of stable, well-paying direct and in-direct jobs. This could prove to be one of the most transformative developments to take place in the Eastern Province in recent history,” Mohottala concluded.

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‘The insurance industry continues to drive the message of safety and optimism’



The Insurance Association of Sri Lanka has been working overtime to ensure the smooth operation of the insurance industry with the objective of spreading awareness and inculcating knowledge on the importance of insurance. Similar to multiple other industries, in global and local contexts, the insurance industry has experienced its share of fluctuations with the onset of the pandemic and displayed its resilience to the resultant challenges.

Dinesh Yogaratnam, the Chairman of the Marketing and Sales Forum (MSF) of the Insurance Association of Sri Lanka (IASL), shared his perspectives on the marketing of insurance during these tumultuous times. He expounded on the ways in which the MSF of the IASL adapted to overcome the hurdles of the circumstances that arose during 2021, while promoting insurance penetration.

“The Insurance Association of Sri Lanka (IASL) is the industry body comprised of all the Life and General Insurance companies that operate in the market. The Marketing and Sales Forum (MSF) is a subcommittee thereof and as the name implies, addresses matters pertaining to the sales and marketing of insurance products and services. Further, the MSF also carries out various initiatives to increase insurance penetration in the country via education and knowledge-sharing. One of the major efforts of the MSF this year is to help the public better appreciate what insurance is. In addition, helping them understand how, when, and why they should purchase a policy, so that they may provide themselves, their loved ones, their assets, as well as their enterprises with the financial protection required, are key objectives.

“The MSF has resorted to using mainly digital and print media for its insurance promotion activities. Employing a two-pronged approach, whereby, the MSF under the IASL banner is carrying various pieces of communications on social media channels and is working with the country’s print houses and their digital arms to disseminate information and educate the public, the individual companies too have been encouraged to promote their products and services, as well as to carry knowledge building pieces of communication on their own platforms. Through this, we are witnessing a heightened level of activity and dialogue across social media channels.”

Giving further insight into the current insurance marketing landscape prevalent in the country, Dinesh Yogaratnam stated, “The insurance industry has grown in 2021 by approximately 14% in terms of Gross Written Premium as of the end of the 1st quarter; while long term insurance has seen significant growth, general insurance has contacted very marginally. As an industry, we are confident that the growth trajectory we have witnessed in the first half will continue to the end of the year.

“With the pandemic impeding movement, insurers had to very quickly realign themselves to front the customer both for new business acquisition as well as for premium collection, equipping themselves with various digital assets and recalibrating their sales teams to embrace a new hybrid model of interacting with and engaging the customer. From a servicing perspective; industry players have infused many digital interventions as part of their customer touchpoint strategy so that customers are able to seamlessly interact with them and obtain whatever services they require, regarding their policies. On the customer’s side, the pandemic has made people appreciate the need for a meaningful health insurance plan and they have also begun to appreciate the need for long-term insurance. The Sri Lankan insurance industry has always stood by society not only during times of normalcy but more so during times of widespread calamity and dire need. In this respect, the industry has come forward to pay COVID-related claims, irrespective of the fact that pandemics are excluded as part of insurance contracts.”

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