10th September 2000

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  • Social factor to be on balance sheet
  • Knitted fabric at Seethawaka
  • Mayor rescues strawberries
  • European Chamber promotes Lux-Asia 2000
  • Economic uncertainty looms over polls outcome
  • Mason Mixtures-Snowcem (India) tie-up
  • first-ever charge-free hotlines from DHL
  • New from Celltel
  • CIMA tackles directors' responsibilities
  • SAGT marks first year anniversary
  • Sri Lanka firm unveils new business card with more than a message
  • CEB to construct transmission line
  • Millennium Motor Show 2000
  • SriLankan Airlines introduces psychometric testing
  • HNB leads tier one capital strength
  • New SAARC Women Entrepreneur Council
  • Three Coins Beer lead new trend

    Social factor to be on balance sheet

    Marketing Technologies International (MTI) is dedicating resources to link charitable donors with recipients through a social responsibility project.

    The company also intends developing the concept of a "social responsibility score" to be incorporated in companies' balance sheets, Managing Director Middle East and South Asia, Hilmy Cader said.

    MTI will work towards developing a definition for social responsibility and study the means of incorporating it in the balance sheet.

    The company recently had a brain storming session with professionals from various fields with many representing the corporate sector.

    MIT officials perceive a gap between the work carried out by Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the needs of recipients who include the under privileged, handicapped, disabled and abused. Cader believes some NGOs are narrowly focussed and interaction between NGOs is limited. The cost of channelling funds from the original donor to the final recipient is also high. MTI intends using marketing and communication tools more effectively to tap potential donors.

    MTI's guiding principle is to empower people knowledge and contribute to effective project management, company officials said. Its donation will consist of professional skill and knowledge sharing. Marketing Technologies International is a firm of marketing consultants registered in the UK with offices in Colombo and Bahrain.

    Knitted fabric at Seethawaka

    Signalling a major move in backward integration, Textured Jersey Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd is investing US $ 30 mn in a fabric plant in the Seethawaka Zone. Construction of the factory which includes a finishing and dyeing plant, a knitting plant with modern lab facilities, started in June and commercial operations will commence mid next year, sources said.

    The plant, which will occupy a twenty-acre land in Avissawella, is billed to be the largest project in the zone. The factory is highly automated and employment of about 300 people has been projected.

    The plant will manufacture weft knitted fabrics for the local and foreign market. TJL is targeting leading buyers in the international market including Victoria's Secret, Desmonds and Courtaulds.

    Investors in this state of the art factory include MAS holdings, MAST Industries of USA, Textured Jersey of UK and Phoenix Ventures Ltd.

    At present 85 percent of fabric is imported by garment manufacturers. This investment in advanced technology is a major move in backward integration, industry analysts said. It will reduce lead times in addition to saving foreign exchange. Competitiveness will also improve as the Multifibre Agreement takes effect in 2005.

    Mayor rescues strawberries

    Nuwara Eliya's mayor Bandula Seneviratne has stepped into rescue the Jupiter Corporation strawberry project which was given marching orders by the Urban Development Authority (UDA). The Japanese funded project is presently located at the Nuwara Eliya race course- a site demarcated by the UDA for a sports complex.

    The mayor has written to the UDA requesting alternative accommodation to be provided for the project at the Sita Eliya farm in Nuwara Eliya.

    The UDA previously offered the Jupiter Corporation land at the Ambewala farm and paid no heed to the fact that it was unsuitable for strawberry cultivation on a commercial scale. Excessive wind and rain, low temperature and the terrain made this venue unacceptable.

    The Jupiter Corporation of Japan which established the Jupiter Company in Sri Lanka in 1992 had packed its bags to leave the country's shores when a chance courtesy call on Nuwara Eliya's mayor paid off.

    Far from bidding good bye to the Board of Investment approved project which employed a hundred people and produced three tons of strawberries a month, the mayor was quick to suggest alternative accommodation.

    But an uphill task awaits the project's management, as there has been no replanting due to the UDA directive to leave. Most of its employees have also left for new jobs after efforts were made to wind down operations.

    The Strawberry project is a Rs. 35 mn non-profit project whose initial investors include the Japanese International Co-operation Agency (JICA).

    European Chamber promotes Lux-Asia 2000

    On 6th and 7th November, Lux-Asia 2000 will bring together more than 400 European and Asian small and medium sized enterprises, to discuss business partnerships, joint ventures, strategic alliances and other forms of business collaboration. Lux- Asia 2000 will be held in Luxembourg says a Chamber release.

    Lux- asia 2000 is an international event organised by the Chamber of Commerce of the Grand Duchy of Luxenbourgh in cooperation with selected Chambers of Commerce and Industry from Germany, France and Belgium. The Asian Companies will be from China, Hong Kong, Macao, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea.

    One of the main features of Lux-Asia 2000 is that it is geared specifically towards Asia. All European companies participating at this event are doing so because they are interested in conducting business with Asian companies.

    This event is an European Commission initiative to promote business cooperation between small and medium sized enterprises from the European union and Asia under its Asia-Invest programme. The following sectors will be represented at Lux-Asia 2000: IT/electronics/telecommunications/film, Construction/ construction materials, food/beverage, Biotechnology/medical/pharmaceutical and Machinery/metal processing.

    The European Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (ECCSL) has been appointed the National Counsellor for the event and will be leading a business delegation..

    A shuttle service from nominated hotels to the venue and return will be provided by the organisers, ECCSL will arrange for translators from english to any of the European languages to facilitate your one to one meeetings, On request ECCSL will co-ordinate your travel and accomodation, obtaining group discounts, ECCSL will forward a detailed brochure upon request.

    Economic uncertainty looms over polls outcome

    By Feizal Samath

    The economy is unlikely to see any drastic change in the event of the UNP winning next month's parliamentary election, other than the impact following a possible end to the ethnic conflict, analysts and economists said.

    "The stock and financial markets view the UNP as a better manager of the economy than the PA. So in that sense a win would be a boost to the economy and business confidence," one analyst noted.

    But the initial weeks - in the event of a UNP win - could create some uncertainty as the new government braces for a showdown with President Chandrika Kumaratunga. That could create instability in the business environment and slightly deter foreign investors.

    "Though some people say the constitution clearly demarcates the roles of the president, parliament and the government, it is not so. Two parties in power is bound to create confusion and instability - at least for an interim period," an economist said.

    Other analysts were quick to point out that the PA has done some positive tinkering of the economy in recent weeks to portray a more business-friendly approach. "The appointments of Ronnie De Mel to a key economic portfolio and Ken Balendra to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are business-friendly approaches," one analyst, who believes the continuation of the PA government would bring some policy changes into the economy for the better.

    "I believe the PA would correct their earlier mistakes and step up implementation, which has been their main failure," he said. Indeed most economists fault the PA for poor implementation of its policies. 'There is no purpose of the right policies if they are failing in implementation," said one analyst.

    An overall economic viewpoint however is that a prospective UNP government - after the initial stages of confusion with a PA president in the saddle - would do much better than the PA.

    Economists pointed out that the PA hasn't been able to build any industrial clusters that show dynamic growth and rival the performance of garments, tourism and Middle East employment in the economy. "In the last six years no major industry has got off the ground.

    We have come to depend on garments, tourism and foreign employment all of which blossomed during UNP rule," an analyst noted.

    Privatisation took off well under the PA government but slowed down and was caught in a web of alleged corrupt deals and other malpra-cticies.

    Economists say for industry to boom, the financial services sector should grow and for that to happen banks and insurances companies must be privatized.

    In terms of economic growth this year, the country is doing well with a growth rate of 6.8 percent (gross domestic product) in the first half of this year compared to 3 percent in the first half of 1999.

    But analysts note that second half growth wouldn't be that dynamic as it would have to be compared with a high base in second half 1999. Growth in first half 1999 was lower due to a depressed exports scenario. "It's difficult to maintain first half momentum in the second half," an analyst said.

    Most analysts expect an annual growth rate of 5.4 to 5.5 percent this year against the Central Bank's expectation of 5.5 to 6 percent this year.

    The Colombo bourse closed on Friday marginally down by 3.8 points, or 1.0 percent to 500.7 from the previous Friday's close of 496.9. Turnover on Friday rose to 77.5 million rupees from 34.5 million rupees on Thursday.

    Nearly four million shares of the Ceylinco Groups Blue Diamonds company was traded on Friday at an unchanged price of 5.25 rupees, a day after a large stock of Seylan Bank - another Ceylinco entity - was sold in the market raising Readywear Industries' stake in the bank to 15 percent from 10 percent earlier.

    Heavy trading in Asian Hotels also took place during the week due to strategic buying, brokers said.

    Mason Mixtures-Snowcem (India) tie-up

    Masons Mixtures Ltd will be introducing a low priced Cement based Exterior paint mainly targeted at the low end market. Masons Mixtures Ltd signed an agreement with Snowcem India Ltd, which enjoys the largest market share in India for exterior paints.

    This particular brand will be manufactured in Sri Lanka by Snowcem Sri Lanka Ltd which is a equity partnership of Snowcem India Ltd.

    Executive Director of Snowcem India , Mr Anil Kale told the Sunday Times Business that their choice was based on the strength of the distribution channel. Masons Mixtures Ltd today has the largest distribution chain in Sri Lanka amounting to 3000 outlets throughout the country. " This new product will extend our current brand range. We do have a premium acrylic based exterior paint which is used by the high end market. With this new cement based product we hope to penetrate the mass market", said Mr. Siri Fernando, Managing Director Masons Mixtures.

    Snowcem Sri Lanka Ltd is also looking into the possibility of exporting the new paint to Bangladesh, Burma and Maldives. "Our Indian counterpart providing us with the technological know-how and quality control systems, we hope to enter the market in three months time", said Managing Director of Snowcem Sri Lanka Mr. Gihan Coorey.

    first-ever charge-free hotlines from DHL

    DHL launched Sri Lanka's first-ever charge-free hotline facility recently, the first such charge-free facility offered in Sri Lanka. Now customers can dial charge free numbers 304304 (SLT) or 075 545346 (Lanka Bell) which gives them instant access to DHL customer service and DHL centres in strategic locations a news release said.

    The centralised telephone system will enhance and standardise DHL's customer service for all customer inquiries, providing speed of access and a personalised service that attends to customer needs instantly. DHL operates from centres in Kandy, Kurunegala, Biyagama, Ja-Ela and Mount Lavinia.

    The company's head office is located at Glennie Street, Colombo 2. Three new express centres are also in the pipeline, which will bring DHL closer to their customers in three major cities in Sri Lanka.

    "We have changed the way people do business in Sri Lanka and we will continue to invest in and invent, speedier methods of carrying goods across international borders," said Chandana Perera, Country Manager DHL Sri Lanka.

    DHL Sri Lanka has introduced several other unique features with the aim of increasing customer satisfaction. DHL is offering a 24-hour customer service every day of the year, for shipment inquiries.

    In addition, the Customer Relations Desk and the Key Accounts Desk, each has a dedicated agent to handle the area of operation. All complaints, verbal or documented are responded to within one hour of receipt of the complaint and monitored by senior management. "Complaints are converted to business opportunities. Each time a customer complains, it gives us the opportunity to further explore and create a unique service," explains Chandana Perera.

    DHL also has its own bonded warehouse, the only such facility in South Asia under an Air Express company.

    The bonded facility and the gateway occupy 10,000 sq. ft in Tudella, Ja Ela and has dedicated on-site customs representation 24 hours of the day. Plans are also on the boards to have an apparel storage centre to provide storage and courier facilities to the garment industry.

    DHL has also set-up an Express Logistics Centre for Compaq, where DHL services the appointed agents of Compaq International in Sri Lanka with the growth of repair and return business.

    Since the introduction of the ELC, the service response time has come down from a previous 72 hours to 30 minutes, where previously the defective part had to be sent to Singapore for verification and to dispatch a replacement took a minimum of 72 hours.

    The concept is to service our customers customer, " said Chandana Perera. Efficiency and speed are the maxims that DHL lives by. DHL realises that time is of essence and that a delay could mean the loss of business, or even, of life.

    Among the precious cargo the company picks up and delivers are blood samples, essential medicines, tender documents and samples for garment factories, tea samples and important documents such as Bills of Lading. "It is our responsibility to identify and respond to the needs of the community and the growth of our economy as a whole.

    For example, a delay in delivering an approval sample in the apparel industry or the tea industry could result in a delay or even loss of an order, which will have an impact on Sri Lanka's economy.

    In order to keep up the momentum, all Customer Service agents at DHL are empowered to take decisions in the best interests of the customer, in line with company policies. DHL won the Service Excellence Award for three consecutive years, among 11 contending countries in South Asia and Indo -China, which include Pakistan,

    New from Celltel

    Celltel Lanka Limited announced new incoming tariff rates for all CellCARD users.

    The new tariff rates, effective during off-peak hours (8 pm to 8 am) allow CellCARD users to receive calls of an unlimited duration for rates as low as low as Rs. 2 per call, a news release said.

    The rates applicable for incoming off peak calls for all CellCARD users are based on the denominatons of the CellCARD used. For example, an incoming off-peak call on a Rs. 1000 CellCARD will cost Rs. 2 for an unlimited duration while a similar call on a card of Rs. 750 will cost Rs. 4 unlimited and on a Rs. 450 card Rs. 5 unlimited.

    These are the lowest incoming off peak rates offered to subscribers on pre-paid systems by any Cellular operator in Sri Lanka, Celltel's Commercial Director Aniljit Singh said, in the press release.

    "This offer will be most useful for customers who have unavoidable long calls to receive, especially international calls," Mr Singh said, pointing out that a CellCARD user may now receive over 400 incoming calls of unlimited duration during off-peak hours on a Rs. 1000 card.

    Celltel also started offering up to one-minute free airtime on all incoming calls on the CellCARD system. A CellCARD user may now receive one-minute free incoming on a Rs 1000 CellCARD, 30 seconds free incoming on a Rs. 750 card and 15 seconds free incoming on a Rs. 450 card.

    CIMA tackles directors' responsibilities

    What, exactly, are a directors' responsibilities? This question, believed to be of great relevance to Sri Lanka's rapidly evolving corporate sector, will be the focus of a two-day residential seminar for directors and CEOs, at a southern resort hotel later this month. Aimed at Chairmen, Directors and Chief Executive Officers, the seminar is organized by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) in association with the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

    A top international business consultant and academic, Ojvind Norberg, Chairman of Directors' Council International AB, will be the key resource person for the seminar, a news release says. He will be supported by Sunil Wijesinha, Managing Director, Merchant Bank, who will make a special presentation on "Corporate governance and directors' responsibilities in Sri Lankan companies."

    The Swedish Ambassador in Sri Lanka Borje Mattsson and the Vice President of the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors Ranjit Fernando will be the Guests of Honour. Among the subjects to be covered by Mr. Norberg are: the main tasks of the Board; how to recruit the right Board members; how to develop productive Board work; the Chairman's role, the cooperation between owners, Board and management; the Board as the strategic business generator; business strategy development for the Board; profitability steering process and secure handling of risk bearing capital. The seminar, scheduled for the weekend of September 22-24 will provide the kick-off to a series of activities marking Global Business Management Week in Sri Lanka. CIMA President Richard Ebell said the seminar is intended to create greater awareness of Board skills and good practice indicators, with a view to building effective and successful Director Boards within corporate entities.

    "The seminar can accommodate up to 40 participants, and reservations will be made on a first come, first served basis. Transport would be provided to all participants, with special video presentations as they travel, and arrangements have been made to accommodate their spouses and children at the hotel, the release added.

    SAGT marks first year anniversary

    South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) marks its first anniversary in September 2000.

    SAGT's task was to redevelop and re-equip the container facilities at the Colombo Port's Queen Elizabeth Quay with the objective of providing modern, efficient container terminal facilities benchmarked to international standards. The completion of the total project is envisaged by March 2003, and has been segmented into three construction phases, each involving the redevelopment of a berth an SAGT press release stated.

    The first phase of this "state-of-the-art" facility is to be completed in the immediate future, equipped with three "Super" post panamax quay cranes and 9 RTG's.

    The different aspects of the current redevelopment programme include reclamation, steel piling, reinforced concrete decking, new pavements, reefer stacking areas and electrical infrastructure. The second and third berths will be completed after 30 and 42 months respectively.

    SAGT is well on course to achieving this target through an effective mix of international and local management expertise.

    By employing innovative management techniques, rapid vessel handling and transport interfaces have been supported by sophisticated computer information systems.

    In less than four months from its take-over date, it recorded 79% growth rate at the quay.

    In April and May 2000 - two record-breaking months in the history of the QEQ berths 4, 5 & 6 at the Colombo Port - the highest TEU figures of 25,634 and 28,002 were registered respectively, a 60% and 106% increase over April and May 1999.

    In just twelve months, productivity levels have doubled and SAGT has handled 261,787 TEUs at an average of 21,815 a month - a 40, 682 TEU increase over the same period last year. Upon completion of the project, the QEQ will have a capacity of one million TEUs, placing it on par with the world's most advanced container terminals.

    In keeping with the government policy of establishing the Colombo Port as the regional hub port in South Asia, a concession agreement was signed in September 1999.

    Sri Lanka firm unveils new business card with more than a message

    A Sri Lankan company has introduced a new gizmo that could help local executives make an impressive first impression. The palm-sized e-business card will carry any message that the executive wishes to convey, including a full length company profile, in the form of a cutting edge multi-media presentation.

    The almost credit card-like e-card is identical to the ubiquitous business card that executives carry in their wallets and exchange with one another at meetings, except that the latest innovation doubles up as a CD ROM.

    The e-card introduced here by e-Business Card Pvt. Ltd., fits in the pocket or wallet just like any paper or plastic visiting card, except it can carry a hefty 50 mega bytes of information, or roughly the equivalent of 1,500 A-4 size documents.

    The concept is simple. The card is actually a CD ROM reduced in size to resemble an ordinary card so that it can be carried around and stored easily. It can be placed in a CD ROM drive of any desk top or note book computer and is programmed to auto run a multi-media presentation.

    "The advantages are limitless," says Nalaka Kularatne, the CEO of e-Business Card Private Limited. "Businessmen and executives can show not only their names, designations and company addresses on the business cards, but also the company profiles, annual reports, products and services."

    Kularatne says initially it will be the CEOs and top management who will shed their paper business cards and go for the new gizmo, but the concept opens a highly-targeted advertising window of opportunity, especially for Sri Lankan companies exposed to ties with firms overseas.

    "Yes, for the moment it looks like a hi-tech gizmo that an executive would like to show off, but it could become a necessity in this age of globalisation," Kularatne said. "As technology expands, even the current attractive prices are bound to reduce further."

    e-Business Card Pvt. Ltd., is in collaboration with one of Australia's multi-media giants, Computer Land Australia Pty Ltd., and Microimage Pvt. Ltd., a leading software company in Sri Lanka.

    Harsha Purasinghe, the CEO of Microimage Pvt. Ltd., said the e-Business Card is the advanced solution to the fast changing and paperless global market place where interactive and animated presentations have overtaken the print media.

    "A Basic usage of e-Business Card is to represent and to reflect a very exclusive image of your company," Purasinghe said. "At the same time, it enables you to present your interactive multi-media presentations which can be viewed by your business clients."

    The content of the e-Business Card will depend on the needs of the customer. The contents are customized based on the information provided. e-Business Card CEO Kularatne said their strength was the un-compromising adherence to quality standards in developing the content that goes into the cards.

    Agrees Purasinghe of Microimage: "Our focus is to continue to be on par with international software standards in bringing innovative solutions for Sri Lankan business."

    The responses from the local businessmen have been promising and the company has already secured multi-media projects for Sri Lankan companies.

    "The rock bottom prices have been one influential factor for Sri Lankan businessmen to reckon this as an effective marketing tool," says Kularatne.

    The joint venture between these two local companies with the global presence of Computer Land Australia Pty Ltd., has secured 10 major multi-media projects for these cards in Australia.

    The company has posted information on the e-cards at e-Business Card is registered at the National Intellectual Property Office in Sri Lanka.

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