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‘Sri Lanka’s IT export revenue can grow 10x by delivering business outcomes over mere technology’

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Yohan Ramasundara

As Sri Lanka’s long-standing IT export dominance continues to be tested through the emergence of similarly positioned but more cost-effective destinations, a dialogue has started on a much-needed shift in the IT sector’s export outlook, skills, and positioning.

Such concerns were raised by former Australian Computer Society President Yohan Ramasundara in a panel discussion at the Heritance Hotel – Negombo, convened informally during a recent visit to the island, where he highlighted sector issues and tech serving a business purpose as a potential value differentiator globally.

The Sri Lankan-born IT pioneer addressed an audience comprising a diverse group of tech leaders including the local arm of Beta Launch, a Melbourne-based product management and engineering consultancy where he is Co-Founder.

A highly respected IT and Governance professional whose counsel is sought internationally by bodies ranging from the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP – UNESCO) to WFEO – World Federation of Engineering Organizations, Yohan has also been instrumental in shaping Australia’s startup ecosystem having previously held the position of Chairman at both Startup Catalyst and River City Labs Accelerator.

Drawing on his extensive experience shaping the Australian tech industry, the discussion focused on Sri Lanka’s current IT export issues including growth constraints and the limiting nature of the IT sector’s value proposition globally.

‘Clients now expect digital products and projects to meet their expected business outcomes, regardless of industry, and where Sri Lankan talent falls short despite our proficient tech skills, is in grasping customer and business requirements properly to ensure the outcomes outlined for specific projects are delivered beyond mere tech delivery’, Yohan stated.

As a solution to the problem, the discipline of product management was put forth as offering a framework to match customer and business needs through tech, so it isn’t disconnected from business outcomes clients look to achieve. This would allow Sri Lanka to position itself as IT and product management consultancy specialists that can compete with other IT consultancy-focused nations, rather than with tech sellers in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

‘We must move away from positioning ourselves as selling software engineering and UX professionals to creating partnerships with clients that’ll enable them to achieve their outcomes, so that when a global client engages a Sri Lankan firm, they can hit their OKRs as well and not just get their tech done’, Yohan explained.

Drawing attention briefly to his own Melbourne and Sri Lanka based product management and engineering consultancy Beta Launch, Yohan spoke of how they’ve been relentlessly solving business problems for clients but noticed how many in Sri Lanka focus on the tech and the business separately and rarely together.

Yohan brought the panel discussion to a close stating, ‘I believe the Sri Lankan IT export sector can grow exponentially if our talent not only develops proficiency in their own technical domain, but acquires more knowledge about different business domains, so we can solve the world’s business problems through tech’.

Beta Launch conducts its product management workshops for enterprise and startup clients globally and has parallelly established knowledge transfer partnerships with Sri Lankan universities, to ensure the IT and product philosophy of serving business outcomes through tech can enable the sector’s pursuit of export growth.



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Tea industry targets USD 1.2 bn export turnover in 2023

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Sri Lanka will earn around USD 1.2 billion from tea exports for 2023 exporting around 260 million Kg, said Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, (SLTB) Niraj de Mel, last week.

SLTB is forecasting a modest growth for 2023 in comparison to the current year estimating an increased production of 290 million Kgs with export revenues expected to increase to USD 1.4 billion. Due to the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar, during the first half of the year and a shortage of tea, sales caught up and auction prices increased sharply from March 2022. Despite fuel shortages and logistic issues, the Regional Plantation Companies and smallholders have been able to continue the harvesting of green leaf throughout the year. When compared to 2020 and 2021 volumes, the Green Leaf price to smallholders has increased exponentially from July 2022 onwards.

“The tea smallholder who used to get around Rs. 90 per kg three years ago is now getting around Rs. 250 per kg and some estates have paid nearly Rs. 1,000 per kg. He said that though the glyphosate fertiliser ban is lifted planters should not use it heavily as a ‘global ban of glyphosate’ is imminent for the tea industry. Some countries like Taiwan already reject tea grown with the use of glyphosate.” He recalled that tea production reached an all time high with a record of 340 million Kgs in 2013. “After short increases during the period 2017 to 2019, tea production recorded a decrease in 2020, mainly due to the fallout from the pandemic and now we are taking several steps to increase production.”

The Tea board is offering a host of financial grants and loans to the tea growers, factories as well as for exporters. “These include subsidies for replanting, fertiliser for growers, special grants and loans for factories to upgrade their machinery and soft loans for exporters for packaging. These facilities exceed Rs. 4 billion per year.”

Tea Commissioner E. Edirisinghe said that they would also provide Rs. I million for tea factory expansion which comes as a grant. “In addition, we pay 3% of the capital when factories install solar,” he said.

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Harin urges for ‘breathing space’ to revive tourism

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Minister of Tourism and Lands Harin Fernando said on Saturday that persistent political agitations make his job of promoting Sri Lanka as a safe and convenient tourist destination extremely difficult.

“Now the country has restarted to function although not at a comfortable level to everyone. People undergo many economic difficulties due to high cost of living. These issues need to be addressed and resolved one by one. Creating troubles constantly in a highly political way won’t help the country to come out of the crisis. It will only prolong the crisis.

As Minister of Tourism, I have a hard time promoting tourism in Sri Lanka because it is no easy task to convince potential overseas visitors that the situation is back to normal. So, I appeal to these parties to allow at least six months for the country resuscitate whose breathing had stopped for some time,” he said.

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UTECH Technologies recognised at Sahasak Nimavum Innovation Awards

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UTECH Technologies (Pvt) Limited, Sri Lanka’s leading Industry 4.0 transformation solutions provider won the most prestigious innovation award, the DASIS award at the Sahasak Nimavum National Innovation Awards held recently. The DASIS Award is judged across all competing categories and only awarded to the innovation that shows novelty in technology and has been commercialized successfully. This award is judged by a learned panel of national and international judges including academia and industry experts. UTECH also won overall gold for best commercialized ICT innovation. UTECH has won many national and international awards, including the overall gold for “IoT technology of the year” at the Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA) in 2021.

UTECH’s Managing Director, Riyad Ismail said, “Having many Sri Lankan industrial conglomerates as our clients, we have started exporting our hardware and software solutions to world markets.”

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