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Unlocking the potential of MSMEs vital for post-Covid 19 recovery

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By K.D.D.B.Vimanga

Sole proprietorships account for 63.1% of all businesses in the country,1 and account for 27.1% of national employment.2 Their contribution to the Sri Lankan economy is significant, and subsequent lockdowns due the pandemic have had an adverse impact on these small businesses. At present, we are unable to map out as to how many small businesses would be completely put out of business, but given that the department of labour has estimated (from a survey of 2,764 establishments) that 52.15% or 764 of firms, employing under 1 to 15 employees have closed down,3 it is likely that small businesses have also been hit hard.

However successive Sri Lankan governments have failed to strategize on the potential of these enterprises to Sri Lanka’s economic development. Emerging markets such as Vietnam have been able to capitalise on the potential of these businesses to accelerate economic growth4. Any hope of inclusive economic growth for Sri Lanka’s post covid recovery can only then be achieved if we utilize this sector, unlock their potential and empower them to grow, compete and thrive. While there is a lot of work to be done in terms of policy reform in this area, there are a few low hanging fruits, namely rehauling the business registration process, and bridging the digital divide.

In the form of a multi-part series, the Advocata Institute in partnership with LIRNEasia will provide an in depth analysis of these two vital policy tools to empower Sri Lanka’s small businesses.

Sri Lanka’s business ecosystem

According to the listing operation of Economic Census conducted in 2013/ 2014 the number of SMEs in Sri Lanka most of which are categorized as sole ownerships accounts for 1,019,681 of which 71,126 are small enterprises and 10,405 are medium scale enterprises.5 This number only represents enterprises that have registered under the above criteria. However according to the same survey there are 3 million people who engage in a similar SME related industry, trade or services. 45% of the micro enterprises and 10% of small enterprises remain unregistered. Overall, 42% of business establishments remain unregistered while 25% of these establishments are run by women entrepreneurs. In other words, informality is still high.

According to a survey done by LIRNEasia 40% of SMEs reported using the internet or social media for business; much of this use was limited to information seeking, rather than transactional use. Those who used the internet for business thought that access to the inteenet is either important or very important, while those who did not use the internet remained unconvinced of its benefits: most said there was ‘no need’ to use the internet. Few SMEs were capable of taking any form of card payment at the time of survey, and the majority of SMEs did not use mobile money services. This research points to a serious digital divide restricting the potential of Sri Lanka’s small businesses. This would be tackled comprehensively during next week’s Op-Ed outlining the serious implications of the digital divide.

 

K.D.D.B.Vimanga is Policy and Advocacy Executive at the Advocata Institute. He can be contacted at kdvimanga@advocata.org.



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Business

DFCC Bank facilitates the continued growth of Sri Lankan SMEs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

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The unprecedented surfacing of the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting scar on the global population and economy. With no precise warning on the horizon, businesses everywhere were thrown into the deep end, and survival seemed uncertain during the peak of the pandemic. In Sri Lanka, a nation where SMEs form the integral backbone of the economy, the ill effects have been taking a heavy toll on businesses both fiscally and mentally.

However, we as Sri Lankans are resilient at our core, and with the integral support of frontline workers, officials, and essential services such as our banking partners, we set forth on a journey to assess, adapt and survive. One such story about perseverance through a valuable relationship comes from K.S.K. Menan of Star Food Store (Pvt) Ltd, and his trusted banking partner, DFCC Bank.

Emerging from humble beginnings, Menan’s story is one that inspires patriotism, and reaffirms the importance of giving back to your motherland. As a self-made entrepreneur, Menan was successfully engaged with the departmental store industry in the United Kingdom, when one day, he decided to leave everything there and come back to his home, Sri Lanka. He was on a mission to give back to the country that had given him so much, and that led to the birth of ‘Star Food Store’ in Kokkuvil, a supermarket equipped with all the necessary household essentials. DFCC Bank had been by his side throughout the entire journey until the opening of his outlet, and even more when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“When Imoved back to Sri Lanka in 2016, the very first account I opened was with DFCC Bank, and with their support, I was able to open the first‘Star Food Store’ in November 2019. However, when COVID-19 struck, everything came to halt. When restrictions were relaxed, I faced multiple problems with bringing things back to how they were. DFCC Bank stepped in and gave me overdraft facilities, helped clear my cheques, and provided additional funds at a low interest rate”.

Today, Menan has been able to open a second Star Food Store outlet at Achchuveli in August 2020, and a third at Idaikkadu in February 2021. He states that expansion is the last thing most businesses consider during this turbulent time, however, the X factor that has allowed him to do this is his banking partner.

“The confidence an entrepreneur gains with the right banking partner is immeasurable, and I have been able to find that with DFCC Bank. They have always gone out of the way to ensure my venture’s continuity, from sending someone from the branch immediately if there is an issue with the card machine during business hours, or even understanding that loose change is important for a supermarket and sending bags of coins from the Colombo branch for business use. I now have plans of constructing a state-of-the-art shopping complex in Jaffna, and look forward to working with DFCC on this project”.

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Covid-19 third wave fears dampen stock market

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

The CSE witnessed a steep decline following worries over the possible outbreak of a  Covid 19 third wave in the country and the continuation of selling pressure for certain stocks in the market, stock market analysts said.

CSE investors worried over 52 new cases being detected in two retail stores at Pamunuwa and at a state bank in Colombo at the end of the April holidays. Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry warned of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, market analysts said.

  Consequently, the All Share Price Index declined by 2.9 percent and S and P SL20 dropped by three percent. Major companies sought after by investors negatively contributed to both indices during the day. According to  market analysts,  these companies  were:  LOLC (27 negative points),  Expolanka (19 negative points), Vallibel One (12 negative points), Hayleys (11 negative points) and JKH (10 negative points).

All Share Price Index went down by 198.39 points and S and P SL20 down by 93.89 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3.7 billion with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Ceylon Cold Stores (CIS), which crossed 60000 shares to the tune of Rs. 35.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 594. 

In the retail market, five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were: Browns Investments Rs. 717.6 million (114 million shares traded), Expolanka Rs. 480 million (9.8 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs. 392 million (five million shares traded), Dipped Products Rs. 389 million (6.9 million shares traded) and LOLC Rs. 193 million (587,000 shares traded). During the day 197 million share volumes changed hands in 31305 transactions.  

Sri Lanka rupee quoted firmer around 192/194 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Tuesday, while bond yields slightly eased, dealers said. Sri Lanka rupee last closed at 194/198 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Monday. The Central Banks Telegraph Transfer rates stand at 187.93/191.97 levels below the spot rates on Monday.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has come under pressure amid money printing and low-interest rates, despite the worst import controls since the 1970s, observers said.

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SAT launches F5 portfolio to deliver secure digital experiences

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(At left) : Edgar Dias, Regional Vice President of Channels and Partnerships, Asia Pacific, F5. (At right) : Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

South Asian Technologies (Pvt) Ltd, announces its appointment to be a distributor for F5 within Sri Lanka and Maldives to deliver secure digital experience to enterprises.

The cutting-edge technology is a portal for delivering applications and data with greater agility, security, availability, performance, and scalability.

F5’s portfolio of automation, security, performance, and insight capabilities empowers customers to create, secure, and operate adaptive applications that reduce costs, improve operations, and better protect users.

“With the increasing necessity for digitalisation in the workspace, now more than ever, organisations need proven solutions to help secure their businesses. Adding F5 to our existing portfolio gives South Asian Technologies, a more omniscient opportunity to equip our partners and customers with best-in-class application security and delivery solutions. As F5 enables adaptive applications, the SAT team is ecstatic at the prospect of securing our clientele with robust security offerings that have a proven history with Fortune 500 companies across the globe,” said Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

Every company today is in the digital experience business. In the wake of COVID-19, customer expectations are higher than ever, as the experiences garnered are the primary way that people interact and transact with just about every organisation at present.

F5 helps organisations deliver and secure the premium digital facilities that customers demand by enabling adaptive applications which, like living organisms, will naturally adapt based on their environment – growing, shrinking, defending, and healing themselves.

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