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Transforming tenacity & resilience into opportunity

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SLASA Ex-Co for 2022/23 Seated: Anil Wettewe (Past Chairman), Gopal K Iyer (Secretary General), Shweta Dhir (Vice Chairman), Wilhelm Elias (Chairman), Azmina Kareem (Vice Chairman), Gayan Galapitige (Secretary), Denver Jayasundara (Hon. Treasurer) Standing: Ex-Co Members Padmal Silva, Angie Dep, Yasmi Bari, Manjula Bahlendran

Powerful message at SLASA AGM aimed at rebuilding industry for 2025 target of USD 8 Bn Build on relationships, emphasize on service & adaptability, become preferred destination

The Sri Lanka Apparel Sourcing Association held its 25th Annual General Meeting recently under the aegis of the Charge d’Affaires of the EU Thorston Bargfrede for the post-business session. Wilhelm Elias was re-elected Chairman, while the Vice Chairmen elected were Shweta Dhir and Azmina Kareem, Treasurer Denver Jayasundara and Secretary Gayan Galapitige as office bearers for the year 2022/23. Gopal K Iyer was appointed Secretary General for the Association.One of the most powerful messages emerging from Chief Guest Bargfrede, Chairman Wilhelm Elias and the Vice Chairmen Azmina Kareem and Shweta Dhir, was that while the apparel industry had shown extraordinary tenacity and resilience through COVID and the economic crisis well evidenced by the good export results Sri Lanka was showcasing in 2022, there was a need to transform and that too with urgency.

Commending SLASA members for demonstrating the maturity of the industry and emerging stronger and more vibrant post the pandemic, Elias described the rapid transformation seen within the industry during the economic crisis as truly remarkable. “We adapted to new ways of doing business while also keeping the country’s needs a priority. There was no rule book to work on but business leaders demonstrated how the industry was flexible and quick to adapt while reaffirming Sri Lanka’s reputation of being a safe pair of hands.”

He added that in the next half of 2022, external forces are emerging, prompting a drop in numbers with galloping inflation west, customers being over-stocked and disposable income reducing. Elias said competitor countries will hard to keep business they gain from Sri Lanka even temporarily and hence, the industry must ensure that buyers are given good reason to move back to Sri Lanka. “In the larger picture, all apparel manufacturing countries are seeing an organic decline in business levels and we need to be conscious of reducing prices.”

Vice Chairman Azmina Kareem had similar sentiments, augmenting Elias’ message that the industry needs to focus on opportunity. “Firstly, it’s about service and adaptability,” she explained. “Customer expectations are moving beyond to an end to end service model and suppliers are being empowered to do more for brands which is the bigger expectation of the brands. The traditional buyer-supplier relationship is diminishing.” She also emphasized a rebranding for Sri Lanka as a trading destination, taking advantage of the short transit times and cost competitiveness

Vice Chairman Shweta Dhir detailed a three-pronged approach. “Fabric sourcing needs to be diversified; we must hedge our risks with a healthy mix of near shore and indigenous fabric sourcing, focusing on aesthetics together with innovation. And the conscious consumer is here to stay which, with Sri Lanka being far ahead in terms sustainability initiatives, we can be the first port of call for many labels who plan to become transparent and responsible. Thirdly, we must showcase our product strengths, creating showrooms with shipped products constantly re-quipped with newness and market intelligence to buyers – sufficient with just sketch, swatch and digital representations.”

To meet the industry target of USD 8 billion by 2025 and determined to rally the troops, Elias stressed the need for relationship building which will come under stress in the months to come. “We are not the most cost-effective country, but we must transform our renowned resilience and tenacity into opportunity by building on our strengths and re-thinking our strategy, keeping that foundation of relationship building strong.”

Contact Secretary General Gopal Iyer on +94 777 556028



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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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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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David Pieris Group imparts three-wheeler mechanic skills to 20 women in Jaffna

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Producing skilled female labour and encouraging active participation of women in the economy of the Nation, the David Pieris Group successfully concluded another mechanical training programme in Jaffna recently.

The women who completed the programme titled ‘Empowering Women Through Technical Training’ received a NVQ (National Vocational Qualifications) Level 01 certificate and comprehensive 02 tool kits at the awards ceremony held at the North Gate Hotel, Jaffna on the 09th November 2022. 20 women from the Northern Province including the Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts participated in this programme.

This programme, was initiated by the David Pieris Group in association with the Sri Lanka Women’s Bureau under the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment in 2017 and is the first and only mechanic based technical Programme exclusively targeting women.

Speaking at the ceremony Samantha Silva, Chief Marketing Officer, David Pieris Motor Company (Pvt.) Ltd said; “This initiative will provide the technical training required to attend to any type of repair related to three-wheelers with the ultimate goal of creating trained, certified women mechanics, especially in the Northern Province which has an increased percentage of women led families and communities post three decades of civil war.”

The candidates for the programme were selected in collaboration with the DPMC Dealer network in the Northern Province. Upon completing the theory segment of the technical training, the candidates had the opportunity of attending to practical repair work at DPMC service dealers in their respective areas in order to gain necessary and valuable hands- on experience. At the conclusion of the programme subject to a final assessment, they were certified as mechanics.

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