Tags: ,

Rohantha Athukorala: Tourism new ideas, new concepts and dreams- Sri Lanka must take the chance

Posted on 14 October 2015 by admin


Dr. Rohantha Athukorala at the OPA head quarters addressing the gathering
One of Sri Lanka's top professionals Dr Rohantha Athukorala addressing the Young Professionals Association( OPA) on the topic " Sri Lanka Towards a $100 billion economy" pinioned " Tourism gives a country an opportunity to come out with new ideas, new concepts and dreams which no other discipline can give back to a country. Sri Lanka has got that chance now! It's all about what we do together as coalition governments, coalition public sector boards to make Sri Lanka a $100 billion economy he said.

What is required is for the tourism industry policy makers and private sector to rally closer than ever before and behind their respective tourism brand marketing entities said Chairman Athukorala. Tourism must be a major catalyst for change, for the society as a whole and for this to happen we must invest on people and research. We must develop strategic partnerships linking the Tourism industry with top academia both in Sri Lanka and globally so that Sri Lanka become part of the Global value chain( GVC'c) he said.

Tourism must bring a fresh perspective and access to new ideas, concepts, and dreams" let's make this happen together like what we did the Guinness Book of record attempts where three institutions came together- Sri Lanka Tourism, Sri Lanka Tea Board and Sri Lankan Airlines. The launch of the global on line video completion partnering google, the one million tree stories project partnering Rotary that was launched by Miss World Rolene Strauss, the 500 pod blue whales that live 30 km from Kalpitiya endorsed global specialist Andrew Stutton, Sri Lanka Tourism partnering the Dalada Maligama to create awareness on the 1067th Esela Perahera at the largest tourism fair in the east "Japan Tourism Expo 2015 in Tokoyo", Sri Lanka Tourism together with National Gem and Jewellery Association to auction a " blue sapphire" at the largest tourism fair in Scandinavia " TUR international travel fair 2015 to name a few he voiced.

 Athukorala went on to say that "Growth of the tourism industry offers us a chance to take a step forward and to overcome our differences and capitalize on our diversity to connect Sri Lanka into the global value chain. This is our unique DNA . Let's Make this the best year for Sri Lanka tourism he voiced given that we are focussing on the $ 3 billion tourism receipts for 2015 with $250 + per day so end stacking the numbers he said.

"Let's make the tourism industry the the pillar of our economy, demands that our country and its people work in total partnership with the SME sector that is accounting for 49% of the tourism receipts" he said. It's important that the tourism industry to be together and making the policy makers become market driven."If we seize this chance for growth, then tourism can become a major tool for good and for our future prosperity that will account for 22-24% of GDP like many other developed tourism businesses.

We must keep tourism visible as an industry that brings economic stability, provides employment, and keeps the world connected which is why we launched the global online video competition where a ideal dream vacation branded " 365 day holiday". Meaning twenty lucky winners will get a twenty day holiday with a media link to make the vacation memorable. After all 77% of the travellers make decisions with on line data and hence this competition becomes unique said Athukorala.

As at end August Sri Lanka tourism has recorded a 16.8% growth with 1.1 million visitors coming into the country.


Comments Off on Rohantha Athukorala: Tourism new ideas, new concepts and dreams- Sri Lanka must take the chance

Tags: ,

Sri Lanka Tourism Chief says, “Need is to attract $250 per day tourists”!

Posted on 05 August 2015 by admin

“The travel and tourism industry is going through radical change and unless we adjust we will perish. The formal sector being flat on growth in Q1 whilst tourist receipts up 14% are indications of the reform required on Policy and private sector business model"

– July arrivals growth at 31.2%
– Total arrivals crossing the 1 million mark at a 16.8% by end July 2015.

Whist Sri Lanka Tourism industry can be proud of the end July performance of 2015 at end July visitor arrivals up 16.8%, crossing the 1 million visitor arrival mark with July recording a 31.2% the Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Dr. Rohantha Athukorala voiced that " Sri Lanka must stop chasing visitor arrival numbers but focus on attracting the $250 per day guests into the country if we are to make the industry financially viable" at the SKAL EGM which he was the key note speaker hosted by Galadari Hotel. He went on to mention that revenue growth being flat in the formal sector was worrying given that central bank confirms the tourism receipts at a 14% growth.

SKAL was founded in 1932 in Paris by travel managers and the idea of international goodwill and friendship grew and, in 1934, the “Association Internationale des Skål Clubs” was formed with Florimond Volckaert as its first President, who is considered the “Father of Skål”. Today, the organization has earned it self the reputation to be the 'Voice of the Tourism Industry" and in Sri Lanka attracts the best names of the sector making it a key stakeholder in the industry under the leadership of Dushy Perera.

Dr Athukorala's logic of targeting the minimum threshold traveller of $250 was that given the high cost of construction and labour in Sri Lanka, unless we have a hotel property that can attract a $250 it will not be financial viable. If not the owner will have to wait for asset enhancement alone which is not a strong business model that can be marketed for a potential investor he commented. Whilst we can do all the focussed B2B marketing on a private-public partnership for us to attract a $250 tourist Sri Lanka needs a strong brand building communication campaign targeting UK/Europe traveller who nets in a 22% of the net proceeds whilst though the Asian travellers account for a higher footfall due to India and China the revenue to the country is only 13% which clearly justifies the argument for the core markers to be Europe. The sad story is that for the last 3 years we have neglected the western markets by pumping in a colossal Rs.860 million to China alone which needs to be balanced if we are to name the industry financially attractive said Dr Athukorala who also has experience of serving the 12 billion dollar export development board and the Sri Lanka tea board for the last five years that gives him an insight to the cross sectoral policy issues the country needs to address.

The reason for the informal sector booming was the online travel agencies driving growth explained the Chairman. A typical dot com has over a 4000 entities in the list whist at SLTDA we have around 1200 registered which explains the gap on the number on arrivals. We don't have to go far even in the formal sector on line booking was just 4-5% around four years back and today it has shot to as high as forty percent which means the business model has to change. The industry is going through radical change and now the industry has to align. We cannot change the game, we have to now do reforms on policy and as a business model voiced Athukorala.

Whilst commending the SKAL members for the strong private- public sector partnership on the below the line marketing strategies he urged the industry to focus to strategically positioning the country with brand equity developing initiatives and be vocal in an appropriate manner post the 17th August so that policy makers give priority to this issue and the radical changes that are required in the industry he said. The good news us that the top 8 global advertising agencies has expressed their interest in the Global Tourism tender pitch. We must now get things firmed up for a quick launch globally said Athukorala.

Courtesy: Etn Global Travel Industry News

Comments Off on Sri Lanka Tourism Chief says, “Need is to attract $250 per day tourists”!

Tags: ,

SRI LANKA: Tourism promotion gets US$ 100m

Posted on 09 March 2015 by admin

Five institutions join to pitch Lanka’s publicity drive:Shirajiv Sirimane reporting from GermanySaturday, Berlin: For the first time a mammoth budget in excess of US$ 100 million will be allocated for 2015 Sri Lanka's tourism promotions, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala said. Speaking at the well coordinated and professionally managed Sri Lanka press conference for the international media at the ITB, he said that for the first time five institutions, Sri Lanka Tourism, the Tea Board, the Gem and Jewellery Authority, SriLankan Airlines and the Export Development Board will jointly promote Sri Lanka as a destination. This clearly underlines the importance the government had given the industry and also proved that the CESS contribution made by the private sector is being used for destination promotions.

He said that this in turn will also help to promote tourism investments to the country and to attract US$ 3 billion or more foreign direct investments to Sri Lanka by 2016. The current room capacity of 16,000 with the ongoing projects will pass the 45, 000 mark by 2016. Currenttly there are 16,000 rooms in the country while there are over 10,000 or more in the informal sector. Tourism will also help to almost double the present employment in the trade to 500,000 by the end of 2016 where 2.5 million arrivals are targetted. Spending of tourists too have increased and the figure which was at US$ 103 in 2012 had passed the US$ 150 figure in 2013 and it is expected to near the US$ 200 mark by 2016.

ITB BERLIN – The World's leading travel trade show – March 4-8. 2015.

Tourism and Sports Minister Navin Dissanayake said that today professionals have being appointed to run the industry and this would bring positive results. We ar ealso keen to promote Tourism in the North but would do it only after consulation with stake holders in the area. Meanwhile curtains fell on the five day ITB Berlin with a record 10,096 exhibitors from 186 countries, more than two-thirds of whom were from abroad, were represented in 26 display halls which were fully booked cementing its position as the world's leading travel trade show. Over 23,000 visitors (2014: 22,000) attended the ITB Berlin Convention, another new record.

Comments Off on SRI LANKA: Tourism promotion gets US$ 100m


Sri Lanka Tourism to support global nation brand building with Bloomberg

Posted on 13 February 2015 by admin

Sri Lanka Tourism is on the process of firming up a two million dollar one-year campaign to pep up the Sri Lanka brand worth 61 billion dollars with the respected media channel Bloomberg, said Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala.

Bloomberg covers over 40 countries and touches 300 million households globally with eight million digital links. Initially the arrangement will be with a six-month contract where the content will be 20% nation brand building material.

“The will be on driving the brand values of Sri Lanka Tourism among the top end global decision makers. We want the world to know the ‘positive transformation’ taking place in the country in the area of exports, investments, sports and the people element which will have a trickle down impact to tourism industry in the future,” said Athukorala.

He stated that the first six-month contract will include free thinking editorial content, TV advertising and documentary exposure on the current tourism products and creating awareness of new tourism products. This will support the 47 travel and trade fairs that the private sector will participate in all over the world and highlight news extracts for global travellers. The initiative will be supported by many activities linking tourism stakeholders, he said.

“Sri Lanka needs a coherent above-the-line digital media campaign covering exports and FDI and not only tourism so that the whole country can benefit on value chain development and the synergy impacts will ultimately benefit the stakeholders of the tourism industry, which has potential to be 24% of GDP of a country. We from the Ministry of Tourism under the leadership of Minister Navin Dissanayake are extremely pleased to champion this task for Sri Lanka and the real benefit will be seen in the near future when the key initiatives planned by Sri Lanka Tourism actually unfold,” added Athukorala.
‘The export community, including the top IT and BPO industry, reaching one billion dollars, Sri Lanka becoming a sought-after apparel ethical sourcing destination and Ceylon Tea being termed the first works ethical tea producer by the Kyoto Protocol are key success stories that can be linked to the Sri Lanka tourism industry.”

The 80% exposure on Bloomberg on Sri Lanka Tourism will be backed with focused activity like film marketing of tourism and with the key tourism and travel shows Sri Lanka participates in such as ITB, the 200-odd media and trade facilitation visits will together spruce up ‘Brand Sri Lanka,’ he noted.

“We must attract top quality tourists in the 2.5 million tourists target. The next challenge is to set up a steering committee on nation brand building together with different stakeholders, which includes the Central Bank, said Athukorala. “The good news is that the new Central Bank Governor has been a regular specialist featured on Bloomberg, hence the work has already begun”.

Bloomberg has met top economists and policymakers of the country in the last week.
“On the tourism front, the Bloomberg campaign will be linked to current strategy agreed with the trade and will be supported on media that will visit Sri Lanka to feature the current tourism products and new products we intend creating awareness about whilst also building the brand values of Sri Lanka Tourism.”

“The new direction is commendable and this best practice has worked for many for other countries,” said Parry Ravindranathan of Group Media Bloomberg.

Courtesy: DailyFT, Sri Lanka.

Comments Off on Sri Lanka Tourism to support global nation brand building with Bloomberg


Role of a school in Sri Lanka’s economy – Rohantha Athukorala

Posted on 12 February 2014 by admin

In the recent past we have been exposed to allegations and counter claims about a Rector of a leading private sector school, which was very unfortunate, given that this particular school has produced some of the most outstanding citizens for Sri Lanka.

In my view, the overall aura created is a loss for Sri Lanka given that the unemployment level in the country is at below 5% and we know that there is a culture fit issue of the graduates that come out of the traditional university system fitting into the private sector, which takes us to the role of the school in developing the talent for tomorrow.

The challenge

With the booming tourism industry launching almost 3,000 hotel rooms this year, the IT/BPO industry wanting to be a one billion dollar industry from the current $ 0.6 b, the tea industry driving to be a value-added product which can be a $ 2 b business for Sri Lanka not forgetting the Ceylon Cinnamon thrust to be another $ 1 b industry, the million dollar question is, where do we source the hands and feet to achieve these objectives of the private sector? In simple words, we need quality people and this task is in the hands of the school administrators; the logic being that attitude formation and basic skill development takes place at primary education level and lesser at the graduate level.

Basic skills and attitude

What I mean by basic skills are ability to get on with people and work in teams, sharing of an idea using words and pictures (basic communication skills), respecting authority but also having the skill to challenge an idea for effectiveness, being time conscious, being financially responsible for ‘association’ money, being clean in the way you dress, learning how to take defeat and disappointment and fight back to win.

These are some of the most important attributes that I look for when having to hire a youngster as a management trainee to an organisation of today rather than outstanding academic qualifications. In fact, these skills separate the performers in today’s organisations from the non-performers. Which ones again focuses on the need for strong basic training at the school end. As my mentor Rev. Fr. Joe Wickramasinghe advised me on the day he appointed me as Head Prefect at school, ‘great leaders walk the talk’.

To my mind, Fr. Joe walked the talk on strong values and making sure that our education was well-rounded. I guess it’s these same skills that get polished in the corporate world and the most outstanding personalities that emerge tend to be exceptionally strong on these basic skills that stemmed from schools.

Not trophies but play well One of the most respected school administrators in the system currently is Rev. Fr. Travis Gabriel, who is Rector at St. Peter’s. Once he invited me to be the Chief Guest at the Prefects’ Day. I asked him what he wanted me to share as the keynote when I addressed the gathering. His words were very clear: “We do not need trophies; we must learn to play well and respect competition.”

Based on this basic grain, the school has produced one of the best performances in the recent past not only in the sports arena but also in the area of education. I guess everything points to the leader’s ethos of what is right and what is wrong. I wish Rev. Fr. Joe Wickramasinghe was alive to see how his training has produced another great Rector for the institution that he built.

I wish Sri Lanka can pick up some these lessons given the ruthless competition that exists at club level and at national level. The reason why China is becoming a super power nation is because of the training that has happened at the school end. Sri Lanka needs to learn a lesson from China on this front.

Problem solving

The latest research on the role of a school is not only just teaching educational content but moving to unearthing the skill of problem solving and solution seeking. This happens mainly not in the classroom but at being involved in societies, be it the Commerce Society, Sinhala Literary Society or the Drama Association. If a child gets trained in these areas, overtime they can grow to becoming a prefect and thereafter a student leader.

This continues at the work place thereafter and the link to the Sri Lankan economy takes form. Once again this points to the strong leadership that must govern a school in Sri Lanka, which fosters training to be good citizens and not just brilliant academics who excel at the Ordinary Level or Advanced Level examinations.

First job

I have seen how people sail through interviews and get into organisations but have not learned the basic social skills that have stunted their growth. They continue going stag for company functions when the people who get ahead have the ability of making sure a partner comes along to key company events. This is where being involved in organisations like Interact and taking part in prefect days of other schools becomes very important.

Doing sports where girls and boys train together becomes important. It’s strange but in today’s Sri Lankan environment it’s only the employee that gets invited company socials and hence once needs to have the skill of mixing around and making the evening enjoyable. This life-skill I see only in the schools in the city given that schools outside Colombo are mixed schools – an interesting dimension that has gone unnoticed.

Early interaction

Another interesting pick up from the likes of Rev Fr. Travis Gabriel was that he personally drives career interactions between the current students and private sector. From the discussions I have had, his ethos is that early interactions with people who have got traction in the private sector tend to form behaviour due to imitation.

This helps push high order learning on the areas of psycho-social, psycho-emotional and more importantly ethical behaviour, which is an interesting point that sure made a lot of sense. I guess this pickup can be extended to the private sector so that when it comes to succession planning, these similar techniques can be followed especially in the coach and mentor roles that are very popular in today’s business world.


An interesting dimension is that Rev. Fr. Travis has the habit of recognising performance not only at formal events like assembly or prize-givings but also at informal setting like walking along the corridors he had this tendency to comment on outstanding performance, be it academically or at sports.

His logic was that if one can instil self worth in a youngster, then it builds self respect and this entails one to stay away from the social evils of alcohol, smoking and now the new menace of drugs. It’s an interesting perspective; given that we been an island nation, the overall attitude to life is easygoing and laidback which are characteristics of a country that is surrounded by water. This is based on research done by Sri Jayewardenepura University.

Breaking this cycle and moving the country to a somewhat aggressive and performance-based value must take place at the school end, which is where the concept of reward becomes important at early life and this must be extended at graduate level so that the behaviour can become permanent.

Given that I have had the opportunity of working in India, the difference between Sri Lanka and India is the aggressive nature of the Indians and the drive to get ahead. I guess Sri Lanka will have to move to this domain if we are to be a top 30 country globally. We have no option given the challenges in the global market place.


Hence we see the importance of the role of a school for Sri Lanka’s economy. After all around 400,000 make it to the Ordinary Level examination and then 200,000 get ahead for the Advanced Level. Around 40,000 move to post graduate studies in the Government and private sector, which is incidentally just 10% of the Ordinary Level students. Around 6,000 get an MBA, which is below 1% of Sri Lanka. This explains the role of a school in today’s economy.

Courtesy: Daily FT

[The author, Rohantha Athukorala was the Head Prefect, Peterite Gold winner and Peterite honours recipient. Twice the Marketing Achiever award winner in Sri Lanka, Business Achiever and Global Leadership awardee in his multinational business career. Currently works for the United Nations (UNOPS) as the Head of National Portfolio Development – Sri Lanka and Maldives and an independent Board Director on many public and private sector organisations in Sri Lanka. Rohantha is an alumnus of Harvard University (Boston).]

Comments Off on Role of a school in Sri Lanka’s economy – Rohantha Athukorala


‘Marketing a political candidate’ – Rohantha Athukorala

Posted on 28 January 2014 by admin

Courtesy: Rohantha Athukorala – Daily FT January 28, 2014


The weekend media was highlighting the changing dynamics of the local political arena with many actresses coming into the fray for the upcoming local election. To be honest, personally I feel it’s an interesting dimension purely from a marketing perspective given that the discipline of marketing is all about giving the consumer reasons to buy a brand. In the game of political marketing too this same process comes into play, with the voters being given a strong reason why they need to vote for a particular candidate rather than the other. So in absolute ruthlessness of the marketing ethos I find the new products that have entered the political arena will increase awareness on the part of the voter and drive a high involvement decision making process. My father who hails from the tea industry of Sri Lanka believes marketing a political candidate to high office like a washing powder or milk powder is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process of a country. This is an interesting argument from an ethical perspective. Let me throw more light on to this argument. Marketing politicians

Let me begin by visiting what the discipline of marketing means. In simple words it means identifying what a customer wants and thereafter developing a solution to meet this requirement better than competitors but in a socially responsible manner. In the case of politics, the customer is the voter whilst the solution provider is the politician. A typical voter in a local government election is a “household’ that consist of a mother, father and children. Hence, if one analyses the customer wants, they can be listed as timely collection of garbage, road maintenance, security around the neighbourhood, adequate street lighting, sewerage and supply of basic utilities, not forgetting access to supermarkets, polas and banks, to name a few. The candidate who can effectively communicate how these needs can be addressed better with their overall solution will garner the support to be voted in at a election, which incidentally is what the marketing ethos advocates. I would even go on to take the high ground that ‘marketing’ helps introduce democracy into a country as at the end of the day it supports the decision making process of a voter. Marketing right?

The logic for the saying that it is marketing that brings in democracy to a system is for two reasons. The first being that the product/service that is offered by a candidate must communicated effectively in a manner so that the consumer is better informed on who best fits their requirement. However, a point to note is that when communicating, this option must be available to every other competitor too with equal media time so that the ‘share of voice’ is same and the only competitive advantage is the message offered. This can vary if one has to self finance one’s campaign, which means that the candidate with higher financial muscle can garner a stronger share of voice. This ethos will hold ground when it comes to the below-the-line activity too, like staging meetings at neighbourhoods as well as hoardings. The second perspective is that once a consumer (in this case a voter) makes a decision and selects a product (the chosen candidate), he or she must deliver the promises made at the time of campaigning. “Marketing a political candidate ensures voters makes decision with better information.

However, the debate is when it is not done in socially responsible manner” If these two perspectives are understood, then marketing becomes the modus of ensuring democracy is maintained. This means marketing a political candidate for high office is not an indignity to the democratic process of a country and in fact facilitates the decision making process of a voter. Why marketing is wrong Where marketing comes in for criticism is when marketing a candidate it is done not in a socially-acceptable manner. This includes blocking of media, below-the-line rivalry at meetings, voters not being allowed to vote, unlawful voting, etc., to name a few, which happens in many parts of Sri Lanka, just like in any other developing country. But a point to note is that this is not confined to political marketing but happens across many consumer brands too, of which I have firsthand experience. This is an interesting parallel that many are not aware of. For instance, when a malted milk was being launched once in Sri Lanka, the competitor bought up the key media belts on radio to block the new brand that was being launched, poached the competitor’s key employees, broke down the displays at the retail end and pasted over the point of same material whilst engaging in guerrilla tactics of promotions to undermine the competitor brand. Some even go to the extent of stalking the route plan of a sales representative’s itinerary so that at the retail end you block retail space, which to my mind is somewhat similar to the marketing that is practiced during an election. The second point where marketing as a discipline draws flak is when used in politics, a candidate fails to deliver on the promise made after being elected. For instance, the collection of garbage daily, street lights not working and even after complaining no action being taken to correct same to name a few when it comes to a local government election.

Then, marketing of a political candidate to high office can be considered unethical and wrong. Regulator One way to correct this situation just like the insurance or the mobile phone industry of Sri Lanka is if a regulator can be asked to play a prominent role, so that major deviations can be corrected. This can include share of voice (SOV) issues and may be even the message content so that marketing unearths the true discipline that can be brought out to showcase democracy in a country. Some can say that it is a far-fetched idea in the case of political marketing but based on the best practices seen in other countries this can be achieved provided there is a political will in doing so. The challenge is making it happen in a political economy, especially in countries in the Asian and African regions. “ Many point out the irregularity of marketing a politician but many brands and companies resort to the same behaviour like breaking down displays at retail outlets, blocking media by forward purchasing at launches, poaching on competitor employees and using guerrilla promotional tactics” The problem that can arise in the absence of a regulator when it comes to political marketing is that the candidate who is less aggressive will not be able to carve out a clear positioning in the minds of the voter, which in turn will result in the competitor doing this for him/her, which can lead to confusion in the minds of a voter. This is something that many less aggressive politicians fail to understand. Politics vs brands A point that needs to be highlighted is that there are many clear cut differences when it comes to marketing a political candidate as against a brand of washing powder or breakfast cereal.

A political candidate has to a sense of urgency as only a four-to-six-week window is available. So either one achieves Top of the Mind (TOM) awareness and then carries through to be appointed at the election or you are kicked out. On the other hand the pace at which one needs to drive a brand will be at a slower pace as the time bar can be longer. This means that the ruthlessness of the tactics used in marketing a politician will be obviously different in velocity and breadth. Another key difference is that brands can be switched by consumers if they do not meet expectations overnight but in the case of political candidates, the switching time can be as long as six years, meaning the purchasing cycles are different. This further justifies the need for one to practice marketing so that it gives clarity on the decision that needs to be made at a polling booth. I guess this explains the competitiveness in which one plays the game in the political arena when it comes to an election. Conclusion Hence we see that ‘politics’ and ‘brands’ have a many aspects that are common whilst they have their own industry related peculiarities too. But end of the day the winner is the consumer and in this case the voter. We now have to wait and see if the promises made during campaigning will be delivered.

[The author Rohantha Athukorala is an award winning marketer/business personality, an alumnus of Harvard University (Boston) and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute Marketing (UK). The thoughts expressed are his own and not the views of the organisations he serves in Sri Lanka or overseas.]

Comments Off on ‘Marketing a political candidate’ – Rohantha Athukorala


“Easing of Iran sanctions to benefit Sri Lanka,” – Rohantha Athukorala

Posted on 22 January 2014 by admin

Courtesy: H.D.H Senewiratne – Daily News

The easing of US sanctions on Iran has created a major export opportunity for Sri Lanka, Board Director for private and public sector Rohantha Athukorala said. "Despite sanctions on Iran by the US government Sri Lanka was able to export goods worth more than US $ 146 million to Iran in the first nine months of 2013. But with the easing of US sanction we could increase exports to Iran mainly tea considerably," Athukorala said at the National Chamber of Exporters Annual General Meeting at Galadari Hotel. The Chairman elected for the year 2014-2016 was Colombo Dockyard CEO Magala Yapa and the chief guest was Ambassador of Japan Nobuhito Hobo.

Sri Lanka's exports to the Brazil Russia India and China (BRIC) countries after years of promotional and marketing efforts by the private and public sector is registered at 722 million dollars in the year 2013 ( January Sept), whilst the hype topic these days MINT – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey is at 230 million dollars which can be developed to a billion dollars in the years to come Rohantha Athukorala said. The government policy is that the private sector must drive business with the recurrent expenditure reduced to 14.1 percent of GDP as per the Central Bank Road map 2014, pivotal organizations like the National Chamber of Exporters(NCE) must take leadership with the partnering government agencies, he said. Athukorala said providing the policy support so that Sri Lanka can achieve the targeted export target of 16.2 billion dollars by 2016 as per the Central Bank. Exports to Iran is almost double the exports to China said Athukorala.

Athukorala said the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China can spruce this number but once again this requires a strong private-public partnership as the current FTA with India is yet at around five hundred million dollars even after a decade of business. The formation of the Sri Lanka Institute of Exporters announced by the NCE was a clear strategy in the right direction but a strong relationship with established organizations like the Sri Lanka Export Development Board(EDB) was a must said Athukorala who is a former Chairman and current board member of the institution.

Comments Off on “Easing of Iran sanctions to benefit Sri Lanka,” – Rohantha Athukorala

Tags: , ,

Export Development Board of Sri Lanka gets new Board of Directors

Posted on 28 June 2013 by admin

The new Board of Directors was appointed to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board yesterday (27th). Here Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen (fourth from right) and Secretary Anura Siriwardena (third from right) with the new appointees: From left: Rohantha Athukorala, Dr. Chameera C. Yapa Abeywardene, Nawaz Rajabdeen, Bandula Egodage (Chairman), Dr. Yousuf Maraikkar (Executive Director) and Sharass M. Zuaib.

The Sri Lanka Export Development Board, usually known as EDB, is Sri Lanka’s apex organization for the promotion and development of exports and was established in 1979 under the Sri Lanka Export Development Act No. 40. EDB is the executive arm of the Export Development Council of Ministers, which is the policy-making body of the EDB. It is headed by H.E. the President of Sri Lanka.


To be the most sought after destination for global sourcing in identified product sectors.


To be the nation’s leading catalyst organization for the development and promotion of products and service for exports, to enhance global competitiveness, maximize export earnings and achieve national economic goals.














Comments Off on Export Development Board of Sri Lanka gets new Board of Directors


Sri Lanka Beats BRIC But…Economic Growth Slowing With Exports Dropping Again By 8% In 1st quarter

Posted on 19 May 2013 by admin

By Rohantha  Athukorala – Courtesy Sunday Leader

World Bank ratings of the Doing Business index of 2012 revealed that Sri Lanka has pegged up to number 81 ahead of the BRIC countries and South Asia. To be specific China is at 91, Russia 112, India 132 and Brazil trailing at 140. Hence, post-war the overall ratings picking on Sri Lanka on many fronts is commendable given that almost two thirds of the economy is the responsibility of the private sector. It certainly tells the world about the positives of the Peace Dividend, though many countries yet fail to believe the Sri Lankan growth agenda.

Key Challenges
Whilst the numbers look impressive there are many challenges that Sri Lanka is up against in 2013, the first being the increased electricity tariff. The argument by the professionals is that given that policy reforms are not taking off in the CEB, it has resulted in this increase. Whilst the argument can continue at many fora and the media, the impact to the SME sector due to the increasing cost base can have detrimental results to business and trade. Let’s not forget that that almost 80% of the economy is driven by the SME sector.

Another challenge that we are up against is the increasing wage bill. The tourism industry took a 30% increase whilst the tea sector has done the same which is adding pressure to the selling price of the product as already we have out priced our self in the global market place. This applies to both the tourism product and the tea industry. This can have severe ramifications both from supply and demand sides, in my view.

If I take the tea industry to explain the ramifications, according to the latest Central Bank report, the cost of production of a kilo of tea in Sri Lanka stood at Rs 391 in 2012. With the latest plantation worker wage increase the daily wage package of a plantation worker was increased by 20% from Rs 515 to Rs 620 which gives us an idea of the strain on the financial viability of the Industry.

What’s going well
Going back to the Doing Business Index and diving deep in to the numbers we see that on the attributes of ‘Starting a Business,’ Sri Lanka is well ahead of the rest of the 185 countries with a performance of 33. On the area of Getting Credit at number 70, protecting investors at 49 and trading across borders at a strong rank of 56. Whilst some can say that this performance is very strong, the fact of the matter is that these are not hard factors that drive a business. This is the challenge that we must address in 2013.


The hard aspects that need serious attention in the Doing Business Index on Sri Lanka are; registering property at a low rank of 143, Getting Credit 103, Paying Taxes at a questionable rank of 169 given that in the last two-years the overall national budget has been focused on the tax reforms whilst dealing with construction permits at 112. The logic of me stating that these are hard attributes is because each of the above needs structural changes to the working systems in the public sector. Hence, to move up the rank on the above will require serious effort and radical reforms. For instance on the attributes of protecting contracts ranked at 133 means that the support of the judiciary will be crucial.

If one goes deeper, the above attributes are the ones that will drive private sector FDIs and the slow performance on this front can be attributed to these hard facts that have not been addressed. This is the challenge we are up against this year.

Key Issue:

Whilst looking at the Doing Business index positively a point that must be noted is that, many key critical areas of performance are not taken into account in the index. They are aspects like governance, country’s proximity to large markets, macroeconomic conditions and transparency in government procurement. Hence, if one takes the above factors which are essentially the nation’s competitiveness, we can see that Sri Lanka is challenged crazy on these aspects.

The sad story is that we continue to take an aggressive stance even after the Geneva debacle, and this continues to amaze the right thinking Sri Lankan.

Next Steps

The question now is how practical is the target of making Sri Lanka a top 30 country? The actions are very clear and specific. The challenge is the timely delivery and consistency of performance in a political economy like Sri Lanka.


Whilst we can continue to focus on Sri Lanka’s performance in global indexes, we must also look beneath the surface and do the correction of the key strategies. Given the unfolding developments in the economic landscape of higher electricity tariff and increased wage rates given the projected slowing down of the economy this year and exports once again declining by almost 8% in the 1st quarter of 2013.

Whilst we justify the export revenue decline to the slowing down of the western economies, the fact of the matter is that we account for just 1-2% of global trade. Hence, technically the impact on Sri Lanka should be marginal. Whilst the impact can be on the basket of goods, we export the key point to note is that Sri Lanka must move away from just highlighting statistics to driving business and trade from a qualitative perspective.

The author is an award winning marketer and business personality who has a double degree in Marketing, MBA. He is an alumnus of Harvard University (Boston). The thoughts are his personal views.

Comments Off on Sri Lanka Beats BRIC But…Economic Growth Slowing With Exports Dropping Again By 8% In 1st quarter


Benchmark Bangladesh export strategy: Rohantha Athukorala

Posted on 04 March 2013 by admin


Bangladeshi exports surge to $24bn, overtaking SL’s $9.8bn

Sri Lankan exporters must benchmark the Bangladeshi exports growth model, says top professional Rohantha Athukorala at the Sri Lanka Pharmaceutical Industries Chamber conference recently at Taj Samudra Hotel. Athukorala, a respected Former Chairman of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB), now serving a Board Director of the EDB, explained that way back in the 1990’s the exports out of Bangladesh was trailing at just $1.7 bn when Sri Lanka’s exports registered a commanding $2.0 bn. But today, Bangladesh is registering a staggering export value of $24bn whilst Sri Lanka has fallen short with a $9.8billion performance at 2012 which has to be corrected with a private-public partnership in the Pharmaceutical industry, he said.

The logic for this recommendation was because in the Bangladeshi export strategy, Pharmaceuticals was a focus area together with the Apparel industry that is clocking in $19 billion as against Sri Lanka’s performance at $4.5 bn said Athukorala. Given that Sri Lanka has already earned the reputation as the Ethical Sourcing destination for Apparel backed by a strong proposition of Ozone friendly status by the Tea industry we have invest and unleash the power of Sri Lanka’s export potential. If not very soon we will see countries like Bangladesh capturing the markets that Sri Lanka operate. Let’s not forget that the world is moving very fast and if we do not continue to modernize and introduce policy reforms necessary be maintain export competitiveness, very soon even countries like Bangladesh will become a serious competitor like what is happening now, commented Athukorala.

Recent reports from chambers state that January 2013 exports have declined by 19% as against last year which is a worrying trend given that overall numbers declined by around seven percent in 2012 too. With the drastic cut in public expenditure in the US over the weekend there is a strong chance that the US economy can head the opposite way, given the fragility of the US economy is yet on the balance. Incidentally, the US happens to be the key market for Sri Lanka’s exports in the last decade which can have ramifications with this development.

But the speaker commended the private sector for holding ground in the last thirty years of war, which means that the challenges in 2013 can sure be met. But he emphasized that strong industry holistic working will be a must so that as a country we can be competitive than just one or two strong companies.

Courtesy: Rohantha Athukorala – The Island

Comments Off on Benchmark Bangladesh export strategy: Rohantha Athukorala

Advertise Here
Advertise Here



“What Matters To You, Matters To Us" .


In the world of online advertising, the success rate of creating brand awareness is 91%. Call 416-445-5390 or email timeslanka@rogers.com and let us offer you introductory rates and get you going! Our audience is primarily South Asians expat community and the Sri Lankan expat community globally.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other subscribers




“E-Mail timeslanka@rogers.com " .