Q: What opportunities did your company seize to expand exports during the past year or so?
A: Our exports have grown – sometimes swiftly and sometimes slower – through transitions from the initial stage to where we are positioned today. And our strategic partner in the US has provided admirable support to the company in bringing cross border transactions to translate into a high volume of sales.
The ongoing trade uncertainties between the US – which is the highest consuming country globally – and the largest manufacturer China helped us reach record sales volumes. One of the key strategies adopted by the company was immunity building – i.e. as the core benefit of our product portfolio.
Q: The pandemic and other economic challenges have affected Sri Lanka’s export sector. How do you assess the current scenario?
A: The pandemic and its associated negative impacts brought opportunities in the form of increasing shifts to fulfil an increase in orders.
This demand required the company to urgently offer employment opportunities to more than 100 locals living in and around Bentota. This was a notable example to aspiring entrepreneurs to follow suit in finding creative solutions when faced with challenges.
However, the economic crisis and stress under which most sectors are operating in Sri Lanka, coupled with the slow global recovery, point to tough times ahead.
The escalation in fuel prices, high cost of freight, foreign currency deficit and ad hoc policy decisions for certain sectors will lead to broader issues ahead. This in turn will colour the horizon in a less favourable light, eventually leading to weaker demand across industries.
Q: What strategies and plans are needed to regain Sri Lanka’s export potential?
A: An economic recovery calls for intense and candid discussions among corporate and business leaders via their respective trade chambers under the aegis of the Ministry of Industries.
Considering the reputation of the chambers, it is imperative that the government and Central Bank of Sri Lanka heed their requests while implementing policy changes that potentially impact the private sector.
Sri Lanka needs the assistance of the international community in this hour of need if corrective measures are to be taken promptly; else it would be a case of too little too late.
Q: Is Sri Lanka’s prevailing export strategy acceptable given the realities in global markets?
A: Sri Lanka has several organisations and institutions working towards the nation’s economic wellbeing. These may take on several divergent paths but need to align with the strategic vision and mission of the country.
This can come under the ministry responsible for planning and implementation with monitoring mechanisms supported by an evaluation of key performance indicators.
Q: How important are innovation and product development for export oriented companies?
A: Innovative products are key to solving economic ills. Our company enjoys a pivotal position as it has a product portfolio catering to healthcare seekers, sports savvy and sedentary people, and those seeking immunity of the human body.
Immunity building, which is the core theme in the current health context, propels the body’s upper track and aligns posture while strengthening it. This is thought to be the key approach to the development of normal human body health. The respiratory system is maintained in order to ensure an oxygenated blood supply. This is our success story.
The company has an expanded portfolio of over 50 products catering to different end users. Technology is used increasingly in the field of physical education where sports science, exercise, physiotherapy, beauty culture and psychology are all related. Our product portfolio addresses movements relating to the whole body at each joint.
Therefore, the body efficiency gained by the use of the Texstretch product is an expression of energy that anyone can be proud of possessing.
Q: Should Sri Lanka look to set up further free trade agreements (FTAs), in your opinion?
A: In effect, FTAs have failed to achieve their cherished goals due to a lack of adherence or criticisms of such agreements. The desired preparation and awareness could perhaps be fruitful in the context of greater adoption.
It is timely and prudent to take note of the FTAs in force and benefits received, and why the country has failed to achieve the desired objectives.
The subject could be debated through the trade chambers, as has been done at different times in the past. It also appears that some FTAs carry a mostly unilateral stance instead of being bilateral in the true sense of the word. Growing criticism of FTAs in the past should be avoided, and politics kept out of the trade and commercial domain.
Q: Have adequate measures been taken to simplify the processes related to export activities?
A: Some constraints appear to remain, which make the process unproductive. Time delays at go-downs in the freight yard should be corrected as this causes immense burdens on exporters.
Internally, operations are devised strategically to undertake several processes placed under those skilled in the relevant areas so the value chain is appropriately addressed to reduce the time taken by the supply chain.
– Compiled by Yamini Sequeira