Sri Lanka’s optimized fashion logistics may be its most compelling post-COVID value proposition
By Sean Van Dort, Chairman Logistics Sub Committee – Joint Apparel Association Forum
In shipping and logistics, persistence pays. After 2 years of increasing congestion and unprecedented increases in freight rates, there are finally signs that the situation is improving. The majority of Asia’s largest ports are finally showing signs of congestion easing, just ahead of the holiday season.
These improvements couldn’t have come at a better time given that maritime freight rates had been on an upward trend since the second half of 2020. As at September 2021, rates had increased by a stunning 292% Year-on-Year (YoY)1 .
While the consensus is that freight rates would not normalize till at least the end of 2022, they also appear unlikely to increase much further at present, given that two of the world’s top container lines have recently pledged to freeze their spot rates and put off any further increases in spot freight rates for containerized cargo. Barring any further unforeseen disruptions, and supported by similar measures from other carriers we could see further improvements in freight rates much earlier than what was initially projected.
Naturally, these developments have major positive implications for Sri Lankan exporters broadly, and apparel manufacturers, and their buyers in particular, as input costs begin to normalize and bottom-line pressure eases across the board.
Unprecedented challenges met with unsurpassed agility
Prior to COVID, Sri Lanka was one of South Asia’s most connected nations – both in terms of shipping and air travel. Given Sri Lanka’s ideal geographic location, and booming tourism industry at that time. This meant on average, Sri Lanka had on average 200 ships on a monthly basis, and a further 78 flights and freighter operations moving in and out of the country on a weekly basis.
At the peak of the pandemic and lockdowns while the port experienced berthing congestion the total passenger aircraft reduced to zero, and eventually 1 ship and then none at all. While those numbers have since improved, in the interim, it was up to the Sri Lankan logistics industry to keep the country’s exporters afloat, by ensuring that Sri Lanka’s manufactured goods made their way to buyers despite every challenge that arose.
The apparel sector – which accounts for close to 40% of Sri Lanka’s exports, had to take the lead in innovating solutions to the crisis. For the first time, air freight was leveraged above maritime routes in order to import the majority of raw materials, and to even export orders that would have been delayed if we waited for the shipping crisis to resolve.
With Sri Lanka entering its most intense lockdown phase, and airports closing, the industry immediately pivoted to partnerships with specialist freighters until passenger and cargo aircraft could resume. With the situation having improved significantly since then, Sri Lanka’s logistics sector has had its mettle tested, and we have proved our ability to meet unprecedented challenges with outstanding agility. Our success in the face of such immense difficulties is no accident either.
Especially for apparel logistics: time is money
Sri Lanka’s trusted reputation as a leading global powerhouse in apparel is the result of multiple factors – our dedication to quality, our investments in our people, and in technology. But the business of apparel is not just delivering quality, it’s delivering on time.
Everyone understands that fashion and apparel are notoriously fast-paced businesses. With apparel accounting for the vast majority of Sri Lanka’s exports, this has meant that Sri Lankan apparel and logistics firms had to collaborate in order to match international requirements. Hence apparel has played a major role in elevating Sri Lanka into its current position among the most agile supply chains in Asia.
Given Sri Lanka’s ideal location, the island attracts feeder vessels from across the region, meaning that Colombo is often the last port of call in Asia before vessels embark to Western ports. Additionally, most of Sri Lankan Apparel’s buyers tend to have forward contracts already in place with major shipping lines, which means that wherever possible, vessels are legally obligated to call Colombo. While providing immediate benefits to the apparel sector, this also creates opportunities for other Sri Lankan exporters as well.
Given that relative to commodities, apparel adds less weight to ships, it is often the final item to be loaded as cargo, meaning that it can also be unloaded faster. Such minor advantages add up to immense time saving at scale. The same is also true for other Sri Lankan exports.
Internally, Sri Lanka’s logistical capabilities are unmatched, and the industry can confidently guarantee that cargo can be moved from any point in the country and transported into an international port and be ready for loading within 24 hours.
Women led LPO services firm Velox Partners enters new office space in Colombo
Velox Partners, a tech-based legal process outsourcing (LPO) firm, expanded its presence into Colombo to augment its existing law firm. Velox commenced operations in January 2020 prior to the onset of the pandemic. Today, it has expanded its services across numerous verticals Commercial law, Litigation, Conveyancing and Company Secretarial Services, with Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) Services being the core. It is geared as a fully-fledged legal service provider servicing clients across United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Velox is female-led with over 90% being women comprising versatile and experienced lawyers. Their expertise bridges multiple disciplines of law with a local and global clientele. The two powerhouses leading the firm are its founding partners Lihini Fernando and Dakshika Perera whose collective experience spans over three decades.
Velox Partners saw Covid-19 restrictions and remote working as an opportunity to position the firm as a tech-based entity and launched its LPO arm. Providing back office legal services to law firms across continents was seen as a viable business model that is both functional and lucrative. Furthermore, the partners of Velox realized the potential of positioning Sri Lanka as a LPO Hub, where the LPO sector enables foreign remittance to the island nation to rebuild its economy. This also provided an opportunity particularly as LPO services can be offered remotely, without a physical office presence.
Velox has serviced clients in over 14 jurisdictions worldwide providing solutions on the ethos, ‘Beyond Legal’. Velox believes in combining business efficiency and tech enabled processes to differentiate itself from the conventional law firms.
Lawyers at Velox are solution providers guided by industry expertise. The team comprises professionals based in Australia, the United States of America, Singapore, and Sri Lanka which enables them to draw cross country perspectives in providing services. Velox is now poised to use their multiple years of experience across continents to provide smart legal solutions.
Estonian TV crew gets a taste of Sri Lanka for the first time
Sri Lanka Tourism, under its Scandinavian market promotions hosted a Media FAM with 4 Media personnel from Kanal2 TV from Estonia. The tour started off on February 28 and ended on March 8. The purpose of hosting this tour was to receive more high-end tourist arrivals from Estonia, as well as the other Scandinavian markets including Lithuania and Latvia.
Subsequently, this tour was hosted in collaboration with the Sri Lanka embassy in Sweden which contributed to make this tour a success. The FAM Tour covered all the main tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, including wild life, Ayurveda, Boutique hotels, and also cultural attractions.
All these attractions were filmed and the destination will be promoted on air via Kanal2 TV, through the TV show ‘’ Kaugele Siit’’ (far from here). The first episode of this programme is scheduled to be telecast for 45 minutes. This travel programme has 420,000 followers as their audience. Kanal2 TV was also the official Media partner for the Winter Olympics 2018, a Sri Lanka Tourism press release said.
The release adds: ‘The visitors were quite impressed with the 8-day tour which they had, enjoying every moment of their tour. They were equally mesmerized with the warm hospitality which they received from the Sri Lankans, which they are mostly renowned for. They enjoyed the traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, and the variety of dishes which they tasted. Nevertheless, they had the opportunity of exploring every attraction of the paradise island to convey the message to their fellow Estonians, that Sri Lanka is a unique travel destination which has everything in store for the enthusiastic traveler.
‘They also had a cooking demonstration by courtesy of Siddhalepa Ayurveda Resorts & Spas Wadduwa, and also a Yoga treat at the same venue. Visiting the Turtle Hatchery at Kosgoda , the Elephant orphanage at Pinnawala, going through a safari at Eco park was also another amazing experience which they had during their stay.’
The Academy of International Business signs Memorandum of Understanding with the University of the Pacific
Academy of International Business Sri Lanka (AIB) held its second graduation at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall with over fifty graduates successfully passing out. At the recent graduation, the business academy signed its MOU with the University of the Pacific.
The signing of the MOU is a major milestone for the business academy. The courses offered are DBA, MBA, and BBA top-up programs through AIB. Prof Liam, Rector – of the University of Pacific, expressed confidence that the program delivered by AIB will be very beneficial.
The event was graced by passed graduates, teachers, and lecturers, the ceremony was hosted by the chief guest and the regional director of ABE(UK) Dr Praveen Mahendran. “The ABE(UK) is one of the long-standing professional awarding bodies from the UK and AIB is proud to be associated with ABE and approved by the awarding body.
Hard work, competency and capability are the values that produce results, through the AIB and its programs these are achievable. Every student is encouraged to show their full potential”.
The distinguished guests were the Vice President of the BNI Pioneer Chapter, Dilan Fonseka. He emphasized, the importance of students gaining experience in entrepreneurial skills and business development by enrolling at BNI. AIB is a member of BNI, which creates multiple opportunities.
About the Academy of International Business: AIB is recognized for its management programs, digital marketing, marketing, and English language programs such as IELTS, and PTE. It’s widely popular among students in search of pursuing business and management courses.The Director of AIB Sri Lanka, Chrishankar Janathanan, expressed the institute’s commitment to providing the best quality education. It’s not only a center that is simply cornered to the education sector but also has focused its efforts on recruitment services and digital agency services.
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