Global investors that established offices in Colombo took part in the discussion on establishing presence in Sri Lanka noting that reconciliation would boost chances for investors in the country. Calzedonia, a specialised shop in hosiery and swimwear for women, men and children believes that the withdrawal of the GSP+ concessions was a big drawback. However, its Chairman Dr. Sandro Veronesi believes that in the climate of reconciliation there would be opportunities for improving relations between Sri Lanka and the EU.
The company was seeking to locate opportunities for investment in Asia when it selected Sri Lanka in 1998 and found it easy to exchange and transfer experience and knowledge with the people. Sri Lanka was mainly used to manufacture the basic/fashion corsetry, swimwear, briefs and t-shirts with their other factories located in Italy and Eastern Europe. Later the company expanded to Badalgama in 2002, Polgahawela in 2005, Bingiriya in 2008 and this March in Vavuniya.
"Sri Lanka is a significant ingredient to our company and so to give back we decided to start a factory in the north," he explained. Without any complicated bureaucracy and support from the BOI in an English speaking environment and favourable regulations for foreign investors, the company benefited from these. However, Dr. Veronesi pointed out that textile and fabric suppliers were still at a primitive stage and noted that the internal market was small.
London Stock Exchange Technology Services General Manager Mark Harries said that having established office with the acquisition of MilleniumIT proved to be beneficial since the LSE was now trading on systems developed from scratch in Sri Lanka. But he pointed out that interestingly the brain drain that existed during the conflict years is still continuing. Mr. Harries said the infrastructure needs to improve as they faced problems pertaining to transportation and pointed out that since their main operations were in Europe they found this to be a cause for concern. Currently they employ 650 in Colombo that are highly qualified and experienced in the IT sector.
HSBC Holdings PLC Global Head of Business Services Ian Ogilvie addressing the symposium said their reason to be in Colombo was mainly due to the high literacy rate and English speaking capability; infrastructure; the strong support from the government and tax concessions; and support from the SLASSCOM as a centre to air issues by BPO service providers. HSBC set up their global BPO office in 2004 adopting best practices that supports 173 processes in over 20 markets worldwide carrying out functions of HSBC Securities Services, Trade, Banking Operations and Global Publishing Services. With seven manufacturing sites in Sri Lanka, Strategic Initiatives Camoplasst Solideal Inc Vice President Marc Guay also of Loadstar said they commenced operations by teaming up with the Jinasena Group. With the challenges of access to natural rubber was a key reason for positioning in Sri Lanka. Mr. Guay observed that workforce was open minded and talented and as a company had the access to the South Asian market as well.