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We have a responsibility to help address insurance protection gap in Sri Lanka : SLIC Chairman



‘Sri Lankans have a high dependency on their relations and friends when it comes to an emergency or calamity’

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Eng. Vijitha Herath, the Chairman of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) says that the need for greater collaboration in the insurance sector to bridge the prevailing insurance protection gap in Sri Lanka is being felt stronger than ever before.

“We need to come out with standard products for micro enterprises, small industries and life insurance policy holders so that coverage across the board improves. It will help industries and individuals immensely in the event they suffer losses. If standard products work well, then in the aftermath of natural calamities like floods, cyclones, droughts etc., it will be much easier for the government to handle the situation because the insurance companies will be able to compensate for the losses. In fact, we were the first insurer to pay Tsunami related insurance claims,” Herath says.

“If we can design life insurance products to attract a large portion of earning members of each household to buy life insurance at an affordable premium, that will help ensure a secure future for their families,” he observes.

“We can’t prevent the unexpected from happening and we all know that insurance is meant to safeguard us, at least financially. But today it can be difficult to determine what insurance policy people really need,” he says.

“At the 60th Anniversary of SLIC, we will be revisiting our array of Life and General Insurance solutions for all walks of life. SLIC protects millions of lives and property of Sri Lankans being the largest and the strongest insurer in Sri Lanka. We take care of 0.5 million life insurance policies, 5.7 million General Insurance policies. Our Life Fund is Rs. 134 billion with an asset base of Rs. 235 billion. SLIC’s continuous declaration of bonuses for life insurance policyholders was 8.6 billion in 2021. Our monthly claim settlements is about Rs. 1.5 billion per month,” he notes.

Further speaking he says,”Sri Lanka is yet to achieve an environment fully-conducive for insurance. Taking out an Insurance policy is not on the top of the priority list because Sri Lankans have a high dependency on their relations and friends when it comes to an emergency or calamity, therefore the insurance penetration is low in the country. The insurance penetration was 1.39% to GDP as at 2020. However, post-pandemic we can see a positive growth in the insurance sector with more people getting conscious about their health and protection. The consumer habits are changing and purchasing patterns are also changing. People are moving to digital based solutions as never before.”

“During the height of the pandemic, our utmost priority was the safety of our customers and our staff members including our sales force. We had to adapt our business operations to overcome the challenges at a staggering speed. Pre-Covid-19, insurance used to be a more people oriented business built on relationships between the customer, insurance advisor and the insurance company. But in the pandemic scenario, we had to use alternative ways to reach our customers and provide more access points to customers. We had to make sure that our customers received uninterrupted insurance service. More importantly, we provided grace periods for our customers to settle their premiums, understanding the economic difficulties during the time.”

“SLIC was established in 1962 by late prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and late minister of commerce T.B.Illangaratne. In the 1980’s SLIC shifted to the present head quarters and that was about the time the industry opened up to allow competition.”

“We have 190+ branches and customer service locations across Sri Lanka. SLIC was awarded as the Most Loved Insurance Brand and Most Valuable Insurance Brand by Brand Finance for the 4th consecutive time. We are the only insurer to have been awarded AAA(lka) and AA(lka) for the long term financial stability.”

“As a state institution, SLIC has played a critical role in economic development. The company has been part of many economic and social changes in Sri Lanka. SLIC has been the insurance partner for many national development projects in Sri Lanka. Those include; Southern Express Way, Katunayake Express Way, Hambanthota Port, Mahaweli Development Project, Sooriyawewa Sports Complex, Mattala International Airport, Colombo South Container Terminal and Colombo Port City Development Project. We contribute our profits to the Treasury.”

“We were recognised as the Most loved Insurance Brand and Most Valuable Insurance Brand by Brand Finance for the past 4 years and we have been recognised as a “Great Place to work in Sri Lanka”.

Talking about fierce competition in the field, he says,” We have local as well as international players in the market. They bring different insights on local and global scale. The competition is intense in the market as every player is attempting to capture a sizeable share in the huge untapped potential in the market. Our key to keeping pace with the competition is to identify the current insurance needs of the people. We will be catering to their specific insurance needs by bringing innovative insurance solutions to fit with their specific needs and wants. We continue to embrace technology to stay abreast with the competition.”

“We built a number of technology and digital features to enhance customer experience. They include; SLIC Mobile App for customers, SLIC Customer Portal for customers and Fastrack claim Settlement for Motor Insurance Claims. We also developed an array of digital payment channels for customers to pay insurance premiums. Motor E-Doc system settles an average of 600 million motor claims per month.”

“Our CSR initiatives include; Subapathum National Scholarship Scheme. The programme has rewarded young high-achievers who excelled in the Grade 5 Scholarship, GCE Ordinary Level and GCE Advanced Level examinations every year. We have awarded more than 1,200 students since 2014 granting scholarships worth of more than Rs. 50 million. SLIC’s Pasal Piriyath Surakimu annual CSR initiative helps develop and enhance the physical environment of underprivileged schools across Sri Lanka. We have supported these schools to develop their infrastructure and refurbish their premises and property. Since 2005, SLIC has refurbished more than 3300 such schools.”

“Our Call to Donate campaign aims to raise awareness about cancer among Sri Lankans. The campaign objective is to raise and donate urgently required funds, equipment and infrastructure for Apeksha Cancer Hospital in Maharagama. SLIC has donated a CPAP machine, essential medicine and prosthetic limbs to the Apeksha Cancer Hospital. The most recent donation was Rs. 5 million raised through over 480,000 missed calls, funding that will be used to build an isolation room for the hospital’s Paediatric Ward,”

“SLI’s Ira Handa Pavathina Thuru initiative is a national effort to preserve Sri Lanka’s rich and famous cultural heritage. It provides sponsorships and personal accident covers for major peraharas in Sri Lanka.”

“SLIC’s future plans include expanding the branch network, introducing new insurance solutions to cover all affinity groups in Sri Lanka, expedite the digital integration of services and processes, enhancing the user experience for customers, establishing sustainable business processes and above all, giving back to the community to serve them better,” SLIC chairman notes.


Private Tutoring Amidst Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Issues Faced by Students



By Usha Perera

Sri Lanka’s education sector, still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, now faces acute challenges due to the current political and economic crises. The sudden imposition of curfews and the lack of transportation have resulted in school closures and students being deprived of structured and systematic in-school education. In Sri Lanka, closing schools for just one day causes a loss of 25 million learning hours and 1.4 million teaching hours. Alongside this, private tutoring has gained greater importance. This blog discusses the issues faced mainly by Ordinary Level (O/L) and Advanced Level (A/L) students in attending tuition classes based on an IPS study. The study findings are derived from a sample of about 340 students, and 16 teachers and tutors across Sri Lanka.

Affordability of Private Tuition Classes

The surge in the cost of living with wages failing to keep pace with inflation and loss of income generation channels have been unbearable for parents of school-going children. The IPS study found that students who belonged to family income levels below LKR 30,000 spend approximately LKR 3,000-Rs. 7,000 per month while students whose family income was above LKR 200,000 spend approximately LKR 18,000- LKR 20,000 per month on private tuition depending on the grade of the student. This scenario is illustrated in Figure 1.

Further, most O/L and A/L level students spend more than LKR 2,000 per month on data packages for both school and tuition online classes, while most students who spend more than LKR 2,000 per month are concentrated among the higher family income categories. If LKR 2,000 is spent on monthly data packages, it would approximately account for 1% of whose family income is above LKR 200,000, and more than 7% of whose family income is below LKR 30,000. All this highlights the perceived importance of private education, especially among O/L and A/L grades, and the financial burden it imposes on a family’s household income.

These affordability concerns were partly offset by the introduction of free online classes during the pandemic, which has provided considerable relief for financially vulnerable students according to students interviewed for the IPS study. Affordability concerns were further allayed by reduced class fees by some tutors. The fees reductions were made accounting for the structural changes of administrative and operating costs of an online setting applicable based on the scale and intensity of operations of tutors. Financial issues faced by the families experiencing household income losses during the pandemic were also considered in fees reduction.

Accessibility to Online Classes

Online platforms were the sole medium for conducting classes during the pandemic while it becomes an option in the current context considering the social unrest, curfews and travel constraints due to fuel shortages. However, many students faced accessibility issues in joining online classes. The issues faced were poor signal coverage, high data costs, lack of necessary devices, and affordability concerns in the context of lost household income during the pandemic. Most of the students who belonged to a family income level above LKR 200,000 used a laptop/tablet while most of the students who belonged to a family income level of below LKR 30,000 relied on a smartphone. Smartphones were found to be less user friendly for academic use. In addition to the above issues, the ongoing power outages also present impediments to online education.The accessibility issues are mainly experienced by students from families with comparatively lower income levels, and those who had to rely on a smartphone for academic purposes. This implies a close positive relationship between household income and the quality of the education received; financial strength being the primary determinant of accessibility.

Figure 1: Monthly Tuition Expenditure by Monthly Household Income
Source: Institute of PolicyStudies of Sri Lanka, 2021.

However, these accessibility issues were partly offset by the divergent opportunities experienced by students, especially in the context of online platforms. These prospects included the ability to join online classes conducted in distant locations that would otherwise have been restricted due to travel constraints and increased time available due to school closures. As a result, they increased the duration of tuition classes using the saved travel time.

Way Forward

While private tutoring became a way of bridging the gaps in the education system during the crisis, learning losses for the most vulnerable groups have further widened with accessibility and affordability issues. Since these issues were mainly observed among O/L and A/L student groups, there is a higher risk that vulnerable student groups would be highly challenged during their most decisive years leading to higher education and career development. Thus, it is necessary to address the affordability issues, focusing more on the vulnerable student groups. Financial assistance could be provided in terms of a certain number of free hours of teaching for selected financially vulnerable students and allocating a selected proportion of students to be taught at a concessionary rate.

To address the accessibility issues, recording the lessons and distributing the notes on different platforms will help to a certain extent. Providing digital equipment and networks for selected tuition centres and schools could also be considered since the lack of facilities and resources was identified as major accessibility issue for distance education. These would require collaborative efforts among the government, tutors, parents, non-government organisations and any other well-wishers.

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Allianz Divitharana: A new take on Life and Health Insurance



The world’s number one insurance brand Allianz has announced the launch of its new Divitharana Insurance product, which provides comprehensive life and health insurance for policyholders and their loved ones, at an easily accessible and affordable price. The product, which has been designed for the mass market, a segment that is highly price sensitive, comes with a host of benefits and features, making it a truly comprehensive insurance product, that covers all of life’s important bases, protecting life’s most precious things.Tailored for the mass market, which includes farmers, fisherfolk, technicians, teachers, executives and other members of the general public, Divitharana Insurance provides life insurance at a flexible and economic price point, with the option for policyholders to settle the premium in monthly, quarterly, biannual or annual instalments, while also providing the convenience of increasing the cover provided during the policy period, without having to go for a new policy. These are particularly important features amidst the present economic challenges the nation is facing, as it allows everyone to have access to good and reliable insurance, regardless of their income level and style.

A key differentiator of Divitharana insurance is that each policyholder will be entitled to an individual investment account, on which an annual dividend will be declared and the proceeds credited to the policyholder’s account. On top of this, policyholders will also be entitled to an additional loyalty bonus of 20%, which will be added to the maturity value for continued on-time premium settlements. other than the life cover provided by Divitharana, policyholders can also opt to include additional covers such as Disability Benefit, Critical Illness and Hospitalisation cover, while also enjoying the flexibility of extending the insurance cover to include their spouse & children.

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SLT-MOBITEL doubling the cloud with country’s first-ever VMware Cloud Foundation deployment



Understanding the importance of breaking new ground to reap the benefits of Enterprise premium cloud services, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, has become the country’s first-ever service provider to enable VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) deployment in the island and importantly the first telco provider to have two clouds. Amidst the changing dynamics, the deployment milestones are supporting SLT-MOBITEL’s Cloud programme in accelerating digital transformation.SLT-MOBITEL Enterprise premium cloud was launched in 2018. Having a successful journey for over three years, the new mobilization now elevates and transforms the premium cloud through VMWare Cloud Foundation. Importantly, SLT-MOBITEL is the first local organisation to partner VMWare as a Business Continuity Certified Planner (BCCP) and initiate VMWare Cloud Foundation in Sri Lanka.

VMware Cloud Foundation is a suite of VMware products that provide building blocks necessary to implement an integrated software-defined data center platform. Its components combine to automate deployment and lifecycle management, helping to simplify IT operations and reduce administrative overheads for enterprises.With its Cloud Verified Status and as a VCF Enabled Partner, SLT-MOBITEL is now in the forefront as the only service provider in the country offering a range of new differentiated services such as automate infrastructure and application delivery with self service capabilities to help organizations plan, manage and scale their data center operations especially dramatically reduce provisioning times and cut operational costs.

The SLT-MOBITEL VMware VCF deployment ensures customers transition to the industry’s most advanced cloud platform with a complete set of software-defined services for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management to run enterprise apps in private or public environments.By doubling the cloud SLT-MOBITEL establishes customers have both production and disaster recovery sites with different scales, located at two different Data centres with required ROP and RTO. The Disaster recovery site can be deployed at any scale with respect to production sites according to the enterprise customer’s requirement. SLT-MOBITEL also provides migration as a service with the features from NSX –T.

Through VCF, SLT-MOBITEL is offering customers the benefit of real disaster recovering services, a Software-defined Data Center (SDDC) and monitoring services, latest networking enablers with NSX – T up-to-date versions of VMware software vSphere, vSAN and intelligent, advanced VMware capabilities including ESXI and VSAN and efficient and effective migration services. SLT-MOBITEL also provides IaaS services, Virtual Machines, and Virtual Data Centers along with a range of other support facilities such as Disaster avoidance with Stretch Cluster (RPO 5 minutes), Disaster Recovery as a Service, and Backup as a service.Above VCF deployment is directly done by Vmware Professional Service team to ensure the highest quality deployment .

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