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‘Resilience, creativity and talent will make Sri Lankan apparel thrive globally’

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Interview with Sharad Amalean

Sri Lanka’s apparel sector contributes 6% to the country’s GDP and accounts for almost half of all merchandise exports. The sector provides direct employment to 350,000 workers and an additional 700,000 Sri Lankans receive livelihood opportunities as part of the larger supply chain. Sharad Amalean, Chairman of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), talks about JAAF’s vision for Sri Lanka’s apparel industry, the sector’s resilience through the global pandemic and Sri Lanka’s potential for becoming a global hub for innovation in apparel manufacturing and design. Excerpts from an interview:

Q: How is the global fashion and apparel industry evolving? Where does Sri Lanka fit in?

A: It’s easy to think of apparel as a commodity product, but take a look at the industry and global marketplace, and it will be evident how wrong that view can be. There is so much design, innovation and creativity that is visible throughout the industry. All this innovation goes into products that are constantly being reimagined and reinvented. There is very little doubt that the industry will reach the level of US$2.2 trillion by 2025, as many experts have predicted.

China and India have emerged as major marketplaces and as competitors, so the competitive landscape has widened. True, the pie has become larger, but the effort needed to increase the size of each slice for each brand has also increased significantly. Brands have initiated several strategic moves, such as acquiring other brands and entering into regional partnerships with like-minded organisations to develop supply chain strength across the globe. Bilateral and regional trade agreements between nations have also contributed to the growth of the industry globally.

As rapid as these changes have been, they also provide countries like Sri Lanka significant opportunities. If we are willing to pursue them and evolve into a solutions provider instead of just manufacturers, we will be able to thrive and grow along with the global industry.

Q: How has the pandemic shaped the apparel industry? How are manufacturers and brands recovering from the setbacks of COVID-19?

A: The pandemic taught us many lessons, both as individuals and as an industry. While we have seen consumers prioritising value and durability over fast fashion, they have also increased their attention on ethical manufacturing, sustainability and inclusivity.

With sharp price points and constant pursuit of cost efficiencies, the apparel industry is faced with competing priorities. The pandemic has brought these aspects even more sharply into focus; brands and companies have increased their vigilance on the social, environmental, governance and ethical aspects of manufacturing. What this means is that only those that take a holistic view of their production and eco-system will thrive while those with scant respect for ethics, the environment and social responsibility will not find favour with customers.

Having built a reputation of being a sustainable and ethical manufacturing destination, Sri Lanka is well placed to thrive in this evolutionary phase. Although in the past our contribution to these external aspects has impacted Sri Lanka’s cost-competitiveness, we now see buyers support and partner with our efforts. These have enabled them to provide complete supply chain transparency to their end consumers.

Even in a post-pandemic landscape, these focus areas will continue to be scrutinised; it is and will be the way forward for the industry.

Q: Sri Lanka’s apparel industry has mapped out a vision for 2030. What does this vision entail, and is Sri Lanka on track to achieve it?

A: During the pandemic, there was a growing sense of doubt creeping in as to whether we could maintain our momentum as we approach 2030. Despite the challenges we faced, the industry showed tremendous resilience. The fact that we managed to achieve revenue levels of 2019 despite the dip in 2020 is a testament to that fact. If this growth continues, we will be on track to achieve our revenue target of $8 billion by 2025.

Our vision for 2030, however, is much more complex and aspirational, going well beyond just revenue growth. Whilst several of our partner organisations are making strides towards this vision, there is still much to be done in order bring the plan to fruition. As an industry we need to capitalise on opportunities such as the Port City, which could be a springboard not just for our Vision 2030 but for Sri Lanka as a whole. The project has been laid out as an opportunity for global partnerships; we need to intensify our efforts to convince global customers and brands to set up in Sri Lanka. This will enhance Sri Lanka’s image and aid the industry in providing complete solutions, reducing the turnaround time between concept and product development significantly.

Several partner organisations are moving swiftly towards creating a solutions hub, by providing customers with service offerings beyond what is currently provided. Take logistics: despite current challenges, organisations are offering customers flexibility and effective and multiple distribution solutions, even serving the end consumer in some cases. Given the positive response from customers, we are confident that we are well on our way towards realising this part of our Vision 2030.

Talent is another area we are paying considerable attention to: the development of a strong talent pool that could be deployed globally and will continue to support the Sri Lankan apparel industry. There already is considerable demand for Sri Lankan talent globally, owing to their expertise. We have suffered a ‘brain drain’ because our international competitors offer better prospects. We intend to give our employees opportunities to work at our global partner organisations. That will support their aspirations, and also help the industry retain its talent for the country as we traverse the road to 2030.

Q: Can Sri Lanka build on its innovations and specialisation within the apparel sector?

A: Whether it’s a product or process, our industry has contributed to and with innovation. There are a significant number of Sri Lankan innovations that have been commercialised globally. Examples include impact protection gear to enhance performance and protect athletes in high impact sports, virtual photoshoots using 3D avatars, virtual design technology that has cut costs and improved delivery time as well as medical and infection control apparel.

It is imperative that we foster a culture of invention and innovation in the industry, but also be creative and prudent in maximising the potential of our ideas. Considering the effort and scale that we put into commercialising products, and the constraints in market access, we need to pick our best options and partners to ensure maximum benefit to Sri Lanka. It is this thinking that we need to foster in order to make the best use of our talent and ideas and take them global.

When it comes to technology, larger players in the industry invest significantly to upgrade frequently. Smaller organisations have financial and scale constraints. This is where we need to show our customers the capabilities they can back and support, to develop our technology and systems.

In all of these areas, it is essential that we engage with global partners positively; that will be vital to help us gain access to new markets and scale up.

Sharad Amalean is the Chairman of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) and is a co-founder and Board Member of MAS Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. Having previously served as the CEO of MAS Holdings, Sharad has now transitioned to a new phase of his corporate journey overlooking strategic investments and diversification activities of the organization. He is also instrumental in supporting the organization to develop the next generation of leaders as the company journeys towards the future.



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Ceylinco Life now offers cash rewards to Family Savari winners

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Ceylinco Life has announced that going forward, it will reward winners of its popular ‘Family Savari’ promotion with cash prizes in a response to the mercurial economic situation in the country, ensuring that policyholders continue to receive the same values corresponding to the prizes they win.

Now in its 15th year, the Family Savari promotion has since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic been rewarding winners with gold instead of overseas holidays and local excursions. However, due to the foreign exchange issues in the country, the company said it hopes to provide the full value of the prizes through cash rewards.

“In the current context, we believe that our Family Savari winners would appreciate receiving the full value of their prizes in cash,” Samitha Hemachandra, Ceylinco Life’s General Manager – Marketing said. “Now, each first prize winner at the bi-monthly draws will receive Rs 1 million in cash, while another 75 winners will receive cash prizes totaling Rs 3 million.”

In all, more than 1,000 policyholders will be rewarded when ‘Family Savari 15’ concludes in August 2022, with a prize bag worth over Rs 30 million. This includes supermarket shopping vouchers with a cumulative value of Rs 6 million as consolation prizes.

To be eligible to win prizes at the six bi-monthly draws, all Ceylinco Life customers have to do is to continue their existing policies with the Company or maintain a minimum account balance in their retirement plans during the promotion period. Additional winning chances are given to customers who pay their premiums directly to the company and further chances are assigned corresponding to the time they have been Ceylinco Life customers.

Intended to stimulate interest in life insurance, encourage policyholders to keep their policies active, the ‘Family Savari’ programme has benefitted more than 26,600 people to date. Grand-prize winning families at previous Family Savari promotions have visited Australia, Italy, England, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and France, while other winners have toured China, Dubai, and Singapore.

Adjudged the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand in Sri Lanka’ in 2022 by Brand Finance, Sri Lanka’s Service Brand of the Year by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) in 2021 and the winner of the SLIM Kantar Peoples Award as the Most Popular Life Insurance Company in Sri Lanka for the 16th consecutive year, Ceylinco Life has been the country’s leading life insurer for more than half of the 34 years it has been in existence. Other accolades won in respect of 2021 include the ‘Most Popular Service Provider’ in Sri Lanka’s Life Insurance industry in 2021 by LMD, the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand’ in Sri Lanka by Brand Finance, one of the 10 Most Admired Companies in Sri Lanka by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (ICCSL) in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and one of the 10 Best Workplaces in Sri Lanka’s Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sector by Great Place to Work.

Ceylinco Life has close to a million lives covered by active policies and provides innovative life insurance solutions which offer protection while de-risking the goals and ambitions of the Company’s policyholders.

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Fimco Estate bags Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka award

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Fimco Estate is honoured to have been awarded as winners for the Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka at the Asia Pacific Property Awards for the year 2022-23 powering up its capacity to serve more in the fast-growing apartment industry.

The award winners were announced on the 23rd of June, 2022, bringing glory to the apartment industry in Sri Lanka. It’s a tremendous victory for Fimco Estate (www.fimcoestate.com) to position itself as a highly recognised real estate marketing company. The Asia Pacific Property Awards are the largest, most prestigious, and widely recognised programme throughout the region. Established in 1994, the Asia Pacific Property Awards distinguish the best in the property industry, across five sectors as Development, Real Estate Agency, Architecture, Interior Design, and Hospitality. The Awards are in their 29th year and cover over 45 different residential and commercial categories. The Asia Pacific Property Awards are judged by an independent panel of over 80 industry experts. The judging panel is chaired by Lord Caithness, Lord Best, and Lord Waverley, members of the House of Lords in the UK Parliament.

By providing unmatched marketing services to apartment developers and owners, and facilitating the apartment buying process to be much more convenient for buyers, Fimco Estate has emerged as one of the market leaders in Sri Lanka.   Today, Fimco Estate has grown locally and globally as a reputed brand in the apartment industry through a range of services all under one roof.  Fimco Estate is exclusively working with prominent apartment developers as their marketing and sales partner. Talking about the achievement, Raj Kaleel, CEO and Founder of Fimco Estate said “market intelligence-based approach and building a state-of-the-art technology-driven process is the secret behind our success. “It is our privilege to have been recognised with the prestigious title as winners for Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka, bringing honour to our nation. This recognition is evidence of the hard work of our team, who tirelessly work to build trust among our stakeholders”. Fimco Estate has reached out beyond the local boundaries to bring in foreign exchange by encouraging investment in apartments from expatriate communities and foreign investors. Entering the UAE property market is yet another recent achievement for Fimco Estate. Fimco Estate hopes to achieve more milestones in the future and would continue to strive to exceed customer expectations and maintain our level of standard.

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Flash Digital Account teams up with online pharmacy Flash Health for convenient payment

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The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has announced that its Flash Digital Bank Account has been linked as a convenient mode of payment, to the revolutionary online pharmacy Flash Health App to facilitate flash-fast home delivery of medicines to users.

Under this collaboration, ComBank Flash Account holders who register their Flash debit card or account as a preferred payment option on the Flash Health App can enjoy discounts of up to 20% on online prescription fulfilment, product purchases on the wellness marketplace, home-visit lab tests and online doctor consultations featured on the digital healthcare platform.

Commercial Bank is the only bank that Flash Health has onboarded as a payment partner via a local product such as the ComBank Flash Digital Bank Account. Customers only have to register their Flash debit card on the health app once to continue ordering medication online without having to re-enter their card details.

Since the Flash Health mobile application enables customers to upload prescriptions and order medicine online, it can also be used by customers employed overseas, who are unable to physically assist their family members during a health crisis, to place online orders for the prescription medicines and have them delivered to the doorsteps of their loved ones.

Flash Health was recently upgraded with a ‘Move, Burn and Earn’ feature which aims to motivate and encourage users to stay healthy by walking more. The initiative allows the health app users to earn Flash credit points while walking and then redeem them against purchases on the app.

Similarly, ComBank Flash too is an innovative and comprehensive digital banking tool that provides financial services required to manage the lifestyle of a customer across aspects such as daily living and utility expenses, budgeting, saving, financing, eCommerce, environmental awareness, and investments. It was the winner of the award for the ‘Digital Banking Initiative of the Year’ in Sri Lanka at the 2021 Asian Banking and Finance (ABF) awards.

Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank, the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 11 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 268 branches and 940 automated machines in Sri Lanka. Commercial Bank is the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector and is a leader in digital innovation in the country’s Banking sector. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.

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