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Lanka not ready yet for CEPA - Rohantha Athukorala



Rohantha Athukorala

Sri Lanka’s knowledge economy is not developed, therefore we are not yet ready for the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), said Rohantha Athukorala. He was addressing a seminar organised concurrent to the ProFood Propack exhibition in Colombo last week.

He said that our country has developed very little as our companies have not linked with universities to develop the research capabilities and benefit from each other.

An exceptional example of a company linking with a university is Dialog and the University of Moratuwa.

Dialog within 10 years has developed to be the best brand and it has been achieved through innovation. He said as at end March most well-known brands have recorded growth in their sales which shows that Sri Lankan companies are resilient but the hard fact is that the low end of the customers are moving out of the brand. In the milk powder market, the percentage of people moving out is 20%. The people who were using toothpaste are moving to tooth powder.

Therefore, the challenge faced by the food sector is to identify the consumer and cater to their needs. The country must have nation branding and the diaspora must be used to drive business.

Sri Lanka exports fine porcelain items all over the world and even in Hollywood the food is served on Dankotuwa porcelain ware.

Sri Lanka exports processed food to India and it is factual that there are non - tariff barriers but the food sector clearly needs to look at India and also explore avenues of investing in the East as CIC and Hayleys have already done it, as there is much potential in these areas.

Sri Lanka may be totally underdeveloped but we are the cleanest country and Sri Lanka is the only country that produces ozone friendly tea which is ethically made. The country should capitalise on these factors and showcase and position the country on a firm footing internationally.

As regards advertising, he said that the advertising budget is Rs 24 bln and 700 advertisements are seen by consumers daily.

Therefore, if you want your product to succeed-understand the customer first and develop long term relationships.

In addition always have a clear and consistent message, a clear promise, get a young team behind the brand, understand ground reality and have a 100% honest brand.

Athukorala said that when good times are there launch new brands and increase sales as it won’t last long.

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