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Uber looking to roll out bus seat booking facility in Sri Lanka

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Shiva Shailendran, Director

By Sanath Nanayakkare

Uber which is a platform that opens up the world to new transportation possibilities through its ride-hailing app is looking to enable Sri Lankan commuters to book a bus seat using the Uber app, Shiva Shailendran, Director Operations, Uber India and South Asia told The Island Financial Review.

“The expectation is to open a completely new addressable segment for Uber, so that we can serve the common man in a holistic way,” he said.

“We launched the first of its kind partnership in India recently where we are working with the Indian government’s Transportation Department to enable citizens to book rides from public transportation. We are piloting it in Delhi and will expand it to other cities in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prabhjeet Singh, President, Uber India and South Asia told The Hindu recently that the project which is at pilot stage in Delhi would be made available by the end of the year with the rollout across multiple cities planned for 2023.

According to Uber India, the pilot is operating in the Delhi-Gurugram route with Gurugram Municipal Authority for public transport users, some corporates for employee transportation and some fleet owners, wherein a commuter could book directly.

Prabhjeet Singh said that the experiment with high-capacity vehicles had started recently and the entire technology was being developed in India.

“We are trying to address the main concerns of bus commuters which is confidence in getting a seat, ETA (estimated time of arrival) projection, tracking and even the comfort of travelling in an air-conditioned vehicle. We also discovered the technology that can help in dynamic routing based on supply and demand rather than a bus running on a fixed route. We took the elements of pre-booking, dynamic routing, tracking experience and brought it together for high-capacity vehicles. The eventual game is to be able to take it to multiple cities and serve a much larger segment of the population. I want to serve the next 100 million consumers. This will take us three to five years to be able to keep scaling and take to the length and breadth of India,” Singh said.

Shiva Shailendran told The Island Financial review that Uber is looking to offer a similar service here in Sri Lanka too. “We will continue to work with the Sri Lankan regulators to determine what would be the right time to launch this product, “he said.



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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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