Compiled by Lourdes Abeyeratne


Haresh de Soysa sheds light on a specialist sector with growth potential

Q: What are the prospects for the global elevator sector in the post-lockdown era?

A: The hurdles to business growth brought on by COVID-19 in 2020 will not stop one of the great megatrends – urbanisation! By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion and nearly 70 percent (the current figure is estimated to be about 55%) will live in urban areas.

Cities will play a key role in the many areas needed to sustain an increasingly populated planet and the only way they can grow is up.

With the economic downturn and work from home (WFH) movement, there is industry concern about commercial elevator demand reducing.

The WFH trend is negative for our sector but physical distancing could be an offset if elevator capacity is reduced. This will mean more elevators in new projects. Furthermore, it would lead to an increase in trips in existing buildings.

JPMorgan Chase analyst Stephen Tusa recently described elevators as “the aircraft engine of a building, a technical mission critical piece of equipment for which failure is not an option.” Despite this temporary slowdown, we are observing a gradual return to normalcy.

Q: Could you elaborate on innovations in the vertical transportation segment that we can expect going forward?

A: In the smart cities of tomorrow, the future is vertical; elevators will be rich with intelligence. Digitalisation is entering the vertical transportation sector and it will be visible to end users in the near future.

A few innovations are to be expected. Among them is the internet of elevators and escalators (IoEE).

Remote monitoring will automate operations and maintenance through IoT platforms. Inbuilt sensors will continuously collect, analyse and transmit valuable information, which is vital to detecting errors. AI will enable the identification of potential breakdowns and send alerts in advance of likely malfunctions, thereby increasing uptime.

Another innovation is digital media services – elevator owners will be able to monetise mobility spaces in entirely new ways. The elevator door will be transformed into a digital marketing space, directly displaying information, advertising and announcements on each floor.

Moreover, the traditional mirror will transform into a double functionality multimedia entertainment hotspot, displaying content with virtual 3D effects. During timed breaks in content, the mirror function will be reactivated. This unexpected entertainment will grab the attention of passengers.

Contactless operations will come into play in the near future. Destination control systems with smartphone based identity verification will replace the need to physically touch buttons. Users will also be able to send special authorisation codes through text messages to grant access to visitors.

These QR codes would be scanned before entry to grant access, transforming the physical experience of travelling in an elevator into a digital process.

Q: What are the challenges faced by the sector here in Sri Lanka?

A: Developing and retaining local technical talent is our single biggest challenge – our best talent is working overseas.

Furthermore, in Sri Lanka, we lack an elevator code. Most countries have a code of practice or basic standard that governs the installation of elevators, ensuring basic safety mechanisms for all customers.

Without such a standard, anybody can assemble and install an elevator in a building,  bypassing any form of safety equipment that would normally be mandatory.

Q: How does the sector access unique insights into Sri Lanka’s property development – and what are the growth areas you see in the years ahead?

A: Elevator specifications must be finalised at the onset of any new building project. Therefore, we are able to observe future market trends at the planning stage.

Over the last few years, we’ve supplied and catered to many such trends – the apartment boom, islandwide hotel development drive and high-rise building sector are noteworthy examples.

Presently, we’re observing three growth areas in the planning stages. This includes government infrastructure projects since the change of administration last year. Additionally, there is clearly a demand for lower to medium end residential apartments priced below Rs. 20 million in Colombo’s suburbs.

Finally, high end quality conscious clientele are seeking home elevators with top-notch interiors. An increasing number of elevators are also being installed in homes for mobility reasons – i.e. older citizens are unable to climb stairs and access upper floors.

The interviewee is a Director of  Trade Promoters Limited