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Price-gouging, a double whammy to consumers

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By Claude Gunasekera

The prevalent Price Gouging of almost all the goods in the country has created a double whammy to the citizens of Sri Lanka despite their hardship with Covid-19 pandemic. Price gouging is illegal during a state of emergency in the laws of consumer protection. Some countries even without laws, issue executive orders to prohibit the action during times of emergency or during a pandemic.

Consumer prices hiked at a faster pace than never before. Except for very few locally produced food & household items and some pharmaceutical, all the other prices have increased. Despite the import restrictions, all items that are permitted to import are in unaffordable prices, including products that are locally manufactured with imported raw material. Even the 100% local produce have increased their prices due to the price increase of Petroleum, Gas and other production overheads add on to it keeping additional margins on the increased cost of living.

“30 percent of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) in a retail store is complete direct imported products and 35 percent of local products dependent on imported raw material and the rest of 35 percent only considered complete local produce. The Price Crisis is mainly with the first and second categories consisting most demanding essential goods, which is 65 percent of regular day to day consumer needs. Meanwhile prices are increased for at least another 20 percent of local produce in the complete local produce category. It is estimated that around 85 percent of consumer goods are increased in price” said Charitha Subasinghe, President- Retail at John Keells Holdings PLC, Head of Keells Super Retail Chain. He said Inflation is a biggest challenge globally and Sri Lanka has its own foreign exchange issues and import restrictions thus creating a spike of price and product shortages.

Glenfrey De Mel, Chairman Star Media Network, a graduate of the Colombo Law Faculty who is engaged in Human Rights claimed that “It is a democratic right of the masses to have a purchasing power over essential commodities while human life and the price of essentials are closely related. When prices of essentials become incompatible with the financial well-being of the people, there is no end to the agony of the poor and under privileged families”.

“The present government failed to take right decisions, at right time, to control the existing price gouging. The government failed to implement appropriate policies to balance the economy and control the cost of living of the masses. A few Big Traders dominate the entire imports of essential commodities and control the whole national market with unethical influence of the government. The government supports them for political gains without even considering the majority of their voters who elected them. Therefore, the government is solely accountable for this stern blunder” said Dinusha Sampath Liyanage, Chairman / Managing Director of Sampath Group of Companies, the holding entity of ‘Sampath Food City’ Supermarket Chain. He told ‘The Island’ that people’s elected government is responsible to provide necessary needs of the citizen especially the essential foods and services at an affordable price and create a balance between income and purchasing power while maintaining an acceptable inflation rate.

Liyanage further told ‘The Island’ that instead making allegations to the government or to the big trader, as an entrepreneur engaged in the retailing business, he could offer maximum possible discounts at all 20 outlets of the ‘Sampath Food City’ Supermarket chain at this crucial juncture as a concession to all walk in customers. He said profits are required for survival of a business, but profitability is not the prime aim at this moment since he realizes the anguish of the innocent consumer. Sampath Supermarket chain is the leading retail network in the Kalutara District with a large customer base over 250,000 patronizing their outlets. He said certain fruits and vegetables that are sold in his supermarkets are direct from his own farms and since there is no intermediary trade margins involved they could pass on that price benefit to the customer under the theme ‘Direct from Farm to the Consumer Hands’. “We are unique compared to other retail chains, since we offer discounts to all the products available in house. We offer 25% discount on fruits & vegetables and many other special discounts time to time on main essential goods such as rice, wheat flour, sugar, dhal, onion, potato, milk powder, biscuits etc.

A. B. Wijesinghe, Chairman ‘Lion Super’ retail chain, functioning 7 supermarkets in the outskirts of Kandy told ‘The Island’ “We pitch a different customer segment than the national supermarkets does. Our primary concern is the low and middle income ordinary consumer in the neighborhood simply the ‘villagers’ with a focused brotherhood relationship approach with a personalized service. He said they are catering to them with much understanding of their purchasing power and offer the best possible prices even less than the neighboring retail store. He also said the lowest price theory began not during this crisis period, but the core objective of setting up the original ‘Singhe’ retail chain was to offer the lowest price in the market. He continues to move on the same mission under the new brand of Lion Supermarkets.

“We operate 7 supermarkets in the outskirts of Kandy and launched a ‘Double Discount’ offer at all our outlets as a special concession to deprived customers during this hard time, offering extra discounts for many products through the support of our supply chain. We were able to negotiate additional discounts from most of the suppliers and offered the whole chunk direct to our customers. We are able to make our customers much satisfied and appreciated with this massive price decrease concept” said Indika Sampath, Head of Operations ‘Lions Super’.

In addition it was found all the modern trade retailers such as Lanka Sathosa, Cargills Food City, Keells Super, Laugfs Supermarkets, Arpico Super Centers, Glomark, Spar, Salinda Supermarkets, Hewage Supermarkets and many others are offering attractive discounts to their customers. Some may look at it as they do a business promotion but yet ultimately customers will benefit by their offers resulting in some what a concession at this crucial time.

“We service number of retail outlets in the country with a range of local consumer food products. We don’t produce or distribute a single imported product, but the sales turnover is dropped by 40 percent during the month of November. Products that were supplied in the previous months were still lying at retail shelves as never before. This clearly shows the inability of consumers to spend. We see the people are buying only the most important items to survive the day. Most people have reduced their usual consumption due the high cost of living. We are even struggling to operate our factories and it’s a question how we could continue to run the business and remunerate our factory workers and it’s time to retrench staff and cut down our overheads” said Jayantha Perera Chairman ‘Jayz Kitchen’ a leading manufacturing venture of spice food.



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DIMO CERTIFIED guarantees peace of mind for vehicle owners seeking a luxury upgrade

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DIMO, one of the leading conglomerates in Sri Lanka, is providing customers who are planning to buy pre-owned luxury vehicles, with speedy, hassle-free, trusted service, through its pre-owned vehicle sales arm ‘DIMO CERTIFIED’.

With the re-launch of DIMO CERTIFIED in 2019, the company has expanded its range of pre-owned vehicles beyond Mercedes-Benz & Jeep models by also offering hand-picked and well-maintained Luxury European vehicle brands registered within the past 10 years, under one roof.

With its 80 year history, DIMO offers unparalleled trust and reliability of expertise in the automotive industry where all vehicles come with a minimum of One Year warranty against unlimited mileage. All vehicles handpicked by DIMO CERTIFIED are guaranteed to have genuine mileage with precise servicing and maintenance since the day of import to the country. Vehicles that are bought from DIMO CERTIFIED are assured of a high resale value due to the comprehensive checks done at the time of purchase for resale and thereafter being refurbished to a standard ‘as Good as New’. In the event the new buyer is selling the vehicle at some point in the future, DIMO CERTIFIED also offers a guaranteed buy back facility.

Customers can avail themselves to attractive Personal Contract Plans with lowest interest rates from some of Sri Lanka’s leading financial institutions where they can drive away in their new Luxury European vehicle by making only a 30% down payment. In the event the buyer decides to upgrade to another vehicle prior to the end of the leasing period, DIMO will also step in to settle the balance payment immediately and extend the opportunity to trade-in for another vehicle of their choice.

The highly-reliable DIMO 24-hour Roadside Assistance provides customers ‘peace of mind’ wherever they travel in their vehicle as expert help during a rare breakdown is only a phone call away.

General Manager – DIMO CERTIFIED Pre-Owned Vehicles of DIMO, Tharanga Gunawardena stated, “We have been able to successfully elevate the pre-owned business to a whole new level through our DIMO CERTIFIED service. We have enhanced our services by adding several attractive features to set the benchmark for the automobile industry. Those who want to realize their aspiration of owning a Mercedes-Benz, Jeep or any other Luxury European vehicle need not look elsewhere.”

All the vehicles available at DIMO CERTIFIED along with special offers are displayed on the www.carsatdimo.lk website and provides a hassle-free way for prospective buyers to access all key details. Customers are assured of the best prices when purchasing their vehicle while special trade-in options are also available for regular customers. With highly-experienced technical professionals providing the best after-sales service, DIMO CERTIFIED customers can enjoy a hassle-free experience with their Luxury European vehicle. A dedicated WhatsApp number 0771449797 has been made available for customers to contact a Sales Consultant directly to enquire about any product or offer listed on the website.

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Chrissworld engages CDS for registrar services

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Central Depositary Systems (Pvt) Ltd (CDS), a fully owned subsidiary of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), has strengthened its client base for the provision of registrar services with the addition of Chrissworld PLC. The CDS will provide the listed company with a variety of services such as share ledger maintenance, virtual AGM’s and all types of corporate actions. The CDS plays a role in driving innovation and offering cost effective solutions with value additions.

Speaking at the development, the CEO of the CSE, Mr. Rajeeva Bandaranaike, said, “We welcome Chrissworld PLC to the CDS portfolio. The CDS is uniquely positioned to offer value added Registrar services to listed entities in Sri Lanka, and the CDS is very confident that Chrissworld PLC will fully benefit from the services provided .”

Chairman of Chrissworld PLC, Mr. Christopher Perera stated, “We are very pleased to sign this agreement with the CDS as the registrar. The process of working with the CDS has been a rewarding experience for Chrissworld PLC, and going forward, we are confident that there will be excellent co-operation between the two companies and that the CDS will efficiently manage all our affairs. “

Chrissworld PLC was founded in 2013 and provides third-party logistics services specializing in warehousing, inventory management, distribution, and transportation. The company was listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange on May 18th, 2021, the first ever company to be listed on the Empower Board.

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Women in Management, IFC and Government of Australia recognise inspiring women from Sri Lanka and Maldives

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The ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 – hosted by Women in Management (WIM), in collaboration with Women in Work, a partnership between IFC and the government of Australia – recently honoured inspiring professional and career women in Sri Lanka and Maldives making a mark in their respective fields.

The 11th edition of the awards ceremony celebrated women representing a wide array of professions from industries including hospitality, banking and finance, logistics and supply chains, entrepreneurship, and media and law, among others, for excellence in either their chosen careers or for inspiring women in their community. The awards also lauded Sri Lankan corporates that have supported the growth and empowerment of women in the workplace.

Top awards were conferred to Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy (Inspirational Professional Woman of the Year), Prof. Nadira Karunaweera (Inspirational Woman of the Year), Aruni Goonetilleke (Trail Blazer), Randhula De Silva (Game Changer of the Year) and Dr. Vajira Chithrasena (Judges Award). The full list of awardees is listed below.

“The 2021 awards are a celebration of resilience, optimism, hard work and growth. As we step into a third year of a pandemic, this year’s winners remind us of the possibilities and opportunities that can exist in adversity,” said Dr. Sulochana Segera, Founder/Chairperson of Women in Management (WIM). “They also remind us of the extraordinary potential women in Sri Lanka and the Maldives are capable of, especially in challenging the status-quo for greater good. Women are often hesitant to take their spot in the limelight, but over the past decade, the Top50 Awards have created a platform helping them showcase their talents and achievements, and importantly to inspire others.”

With over 470 past award winners, the ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards aim to showcase the significant role women play as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders in contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country.

Marking IFC’s seventh consecutive year in co-hosting the event, Victor Antonypillai, Acting Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives said, that “To ensure a resilient recovery, the path should be gender inclusive – women should be at the heart of the path to recovery. We need to ‘build forward fairer’ for economies and societies to build back better.” Supported through the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, this year’s Top50 Awards aims to showcase the resilient leadership Sri Lankan women have shown, amid a pandemic.

Also, speaking at the event, David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives remarked that, “Over the years, the ‘Top50’ Awards have shown the power of women in business inspiring many others in leadership and in society more generally. The 2022 Awards are a tribute to the resilience of Sri Lankan women, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 were powered by Dialog, along with Gold Sponsors Salota International and Singer. Silver sponsors for the awards included Lanka IOC, Unilever, Vision Care and Aitken Spence. Maliban and Sampath Bank were also sponsors of the event, and the gifting Partner for the award ceremony was New Vivya.

Speaking of the award winners, Nadija Tambiah, Head of Legal, Secretarial and Corporate Social Responsibility at John Keells Holdings and Chair of 2021 Judging Panel, said that the “quality of the women who were nominated or who applied this year was impressive. We were forced not only to look at the accomplishments of these women in their chosen vocations but also what impact they have had in the industry and what they have done for women in their organisations.”

This year’s Judging Panel—chaired by Nadija Tambiah—included Jayanthi Dharmasena, Managing Director of Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd; Kishu Gomes, Group MD/CEO of Dreamron Group of Companies; Nisthar Cassim, Founding Editor and CEO of Daily FT; Rohantha Athukorala, CEO of Clootrack Sri Lanka/Maldives & Pakistan; Sandra De Zoysa, Group Chief Customer Officer at Dialog Axiata PLC; Sandya Salgado, Strategic Marketing Professional; Santosh Menon, CEO of KL.LK; Amanda Jewell, Acting Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka; and Sarah Twigg, Program Manager for Women in Work at IFC.

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