“Today – especially with COVID-19 – the supplier is as important as our customer,” stated the Chief Process Officer of the Asiri Group of Hospitals Indresh Fernando in a recent episode of Talking Business on LMDtv.

She asserted that fostering strong relationships with suppliers will ensure uninterrupted supply and prevent shortages in the market.

Fernando mentioned that suppliers enable businesses to leverage cost saving opportunities. “We encourage our suppliers to seek alternative products or brands used by medical teams and obtain them at better prices,” she said, adding that research and approvals from medical professionals are part of this process.

“The product comes in at a much better value proposition than what we had so it improves our margins, and drives and creates value in the organisation,” she noted.

Fernando believes that effective inventory management and reduction in stockholding costs, wastage and cash flow improvements are other associated benefits that arise from healthy supplier relationships.

Moving onto business process management (BPM), Fernando iterated that it requires continuous improvement and resistance from human capital is one of its greatest challenges. She added that training enables employees to understand that this will not threaten their jobs.

“That kind of fearlessness and positive attitude only comes from skills training,” she remarked, urging that process management and human resources (HR) skills development work in tandem, together with a structured plan and teamwork.

Fernando noted that offshoring business operations have become a trend in the last 10-15 years while Sri Lanka is now one of the countries that offers outsourcing services among nations such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and others for several functions – including HR, finance, analytics, economics and research.

“BPM IT contributed to 12 percent of export services in the country,” she revealed, adding that Sri Lanka has a long way to go if it is to become globally competitive in this sphere. To this end, she believes that a national policy, training and branding the nation as a BPM IT destination is imperative.

In addition, Fernando shed light on the top trends in customer segments and money matters.

She explained that “for gen Z, everything is about digital – be it a service, solution or how you work,” and added that convenience, work-life balance, remote working and working smart vs working hard are some of the components this generation values.

According to her, this generation will be a large part of the workforce in the next few years, and companies should continue with digital transformation to retain and attract them. Meanwhile, she also believes that collaborations with fintech companies, AI and robotics, as well as rethinking the concept of money, are bound to come into play in the future.

She rounded up her thoughts on these global trends by stating that “all of these have to go hand in hand with human capital and skills development because otherwise, somewhere down the line you will find that this will not work.”

As someone who is passionate about gender equality in the workplace, Fernando remarked: “We have been talking about this for the last 100-odd years and we’ll probably talk about it for another 100 years but it’s great that these discussions are taking place.”

She believes that leadership to support women in the workforce; the right parental wisdom to encourage children to balance academics and extracurricular activities such as sports – so that they will learn how to balance several commitments early on; and eliminating the link that exists between a role and gender are some of the ways to make progress in this regard.

Concluding her views, she stated that “equal opportunity and pay are vital. We shouldn’t strive to merely have the right balance on the board of senior management but offer opportunities based on who deserves it most.”