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The CEO Magazine Sri Lanka - July 2020 Flipbook PDF

The CEO Magazine Sri Lanka - July 2020




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22 Cover Photo Credits : Jonathans’ Studio

LEVERAGE 40 NEWS Catch up on invest ideas and advice

44 HASHRA WEERAWARDENE The Life and Times of an Insurance Professional

50 COVER STORY - JONATHAN ALLES Enabling a Sustainable ‘New Normal’ in Banking


LEADER 20 NEWS A round-up of inspiring news from around the globe

22 SANITH DE SILVA WIJERATHNE The Standard-bearer for Corporate Sustainability

28 DILRUKSHI KURUKULASURIYA Consistent Ambition and Continous Re-invention









NEWS The latest and greatest global innovation announcements


NUWAN WIDYAPATHIGE Final Destination: E-Commerce


Leisure 76 NEWS Enjoy some timeout with these great ways to indulge yourself

80 SHABIR SUBIAN Groomed to Lead






80 106

90 LAVISH 86 NEWS Enjoy some timeout with these great ways to indulge yourself

90 DUSTY ALAHAKOON Transformative Leader and Mentor

96 CHRISTINA ALPHONSUS Beauty and the Pandemic


Last word


It’s an extraordinary time we’re living in right now! The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down and we’re not entirely sure how long it will take for individuals, businesses, governments and entire countries to recover from its impact. There have been millions of job losses, businesses forced to close their doors – some temporarily, some perhaps for good – and industries on the brink of destruction. It’s certainly a confronting time. How are you dealing with the stress and uncertainty of it all? Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else. “There is a light at the end of this tunnel and we will get there... together.” That brings our cover star this month, Mr. Jonathan Alles, the Managing Director/CEO of Hatton National Bank shares valuable insights and lessons on Enabling a Sustainable ‘New Normal’ in Banking. Touching base on vital aspects such as Macroeconomic Pressure, Global Factors, Crisis Response, Health and Hygiene as a Critical Business Imperative, Digitalization, Customer Centricity, Shifts in the Established Order and Navigating the New Normal, the veteran banker brings to light the significant shift in the Sri Lankan Banking industry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes, which need to take place if the industry is to survive in a sustainable manner in the post-pandemic era. Have an inspired month.

Shobiya Clinton Publisher


Published By



Contributing Institutions HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW



Art Director





Business Development CHETHANIE UDESHIKA


FOR SALES AND MARKETING CONTACT +94 776 699 947 All copy appearing on CEO MAGAZINE SRI LANKA is copyright. Re-production in whole or part is not permitted. All the opinions expressed are held solely by the contributors and are not endorsed by CEO MEDIA PVT LTD unless otherwise indicated.




Lawmakers had requested that he testify as part of their antitrust investigation into the big tech companies. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, is willing to testify before a House antitrust investigation into the market power of major tech companies alongside other chief executives, a lawyer for Amazon wrote to lawmakers on Sunday.



eader news

SRI LANKAN WOMAN CREATES HISTORY IN GLOBAL MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING PROFESSION Sri Lankan management accounting professional – Melanie Janine Kanaka, was elected as the first Sri Lankan woman Global Vice President of The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) by over a resounding 88% of its global members voting at the 101st Annual General Meeting held on 3 June, acknowledging her 30 year service to the CIMA fraternity worldwide. In CIMA’s 100 year history, Melanie is the first lady outside of the UK, elected to this global position, to be part of the leadership team in a fraternity of over 650,000 members and students, living in 179 countries and territories. Being the first resident Sri Lankan to hold this prestigious office, she brings to bear glory to this island nation.

MUKESH AMBANI JOINS JEFF BEZOS, BILL GATES, MARK ZUCKERBERG IN THE TOP 10 BILLIONAIRES’ CLUB Mukesh Ambani gained $5.3 billion as Reliance Industries’ stock increased after it became net debt-free. Ambani is now the ninth richest person in the world. Reliance Industries Chairman and MD Mukesh Ambani, who’s Asia’s richest person, has entered the world’s top 10 billionaires’ club for the first time. Ambani’s wealth rose $5.3 billion to reach $64.6 billion (or Rs 4.9 lakh crore) on Sunday, according to Forbes Real-Time Billionaire list. Ambani ranks ninth on the list, marginally ahead of Google Co-founder Larry Page, whose fortune is worth $64.5 billion. Following RIL’s Rs 1.69 lakh crore fundraise (through funding in Jio Platforms and a rights issue) in the last two months, its stock has increased 6.5 percent. The petroleum-to-telecom conglomerate is presently valued at $88 billion, and is net debt-free.

TRUMP SIGNS ORDER TO SUSPEND H-1B, L-1 VISAS TILL DECEMBER H-1B, H-4, L-1 and other temporary work permits now stand suspended till Dec 31. US President Donald Trump suspended H-1B, L and other temporary work permits, which he said is aimed at protecting local workers who are facing unemployment due to the spread of coronavirus. The decision was blasted by the US tech industry, which said it would hurt innovation and delay the recovery of the US economy. “We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” Trump in a statement The suspension will be effective till December 31.

UTILIZE RELIEFS GIVEN BY CENTRAL BANK TO STRENGTHEN ECONOMY: PRESIDENT TELLS STATE BANKS President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasized that it is the responsibility of state banks to utilize the reliefs provided by the Central Bank to strengthen the economy and the people, affected by COVID 19 pandemic. The global economies have been hit hard by coronavirus. As such all types of businesses including agriculture, small and medium enterprises should be directly assisted and uplifted to overcome the prevailing crisis, President added.

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THE STANDARD-BEARER for Corporate Sustainability




A RECIPIENT OF THE PRESTIGIOUS GLOBAL CSR LEADERSHIP AWARD AND A MEMBER OF THE GLOBAL CLIMATE LEADERSHIP CORPS, SANITH DE SILVA WIJEYERATNE, THE DIRECTOR/CEO OF THE CARBON CONSULTING COMPANY DESCRIBES HIS CAREER AS A SERIES OF SIGNIFICANT PIVOTAL MOMENTS. “The first such moment was when I decided to leave a potentially very lucrative career as a corporate lawyer (I’m a qualified Attorney-at-Law) to take my first steps in the field of Marketing Communications. I spent the next 12 years in this discipline, working and learning in 2 international advertising agency networks before becoming a part of the group that co-founded WORDS, our very own boutique agency. Within its first year, the agency was recognized as one of the country’s top 5 agencies, winning 2 out of just 16 awards at the 2010 Effie Awards. After that the agency went on to set a new bar by winning the first ever GOLD Effie Award in the country. The next big such moment was when I was given an opportunity to take charge of and lead a newly formed environmental sustainability focused social enterprise called The Carbon Consulting Company. Not knowing anything about the technical and scientific sides of things, it took a great deal of introspection and faith to leave a well-established career path to begin a completely new journey. It was a challenge, but it was also something that resonated with me personally. My family spends a lot of time enjoying wildlife and nature, and this was an opportunity to do something positive to try to protect and preserve the environment as a whole. So, with a lot of encouragement and support from my wife, I took this crazy step. The next big moment came when having spent a few months with the new company, I began to realize that the entire business plan and approach envisioned by the founders had to be changed drastically if the company was to survive. Using my background in strategic planning, marketing communications and branding, I completely re-worked the company strategy and put it to the Board who backed me unreservedly. And that has brought us to where we are today - to being one of South Asia’s most recognized sustainability consulting bodies.”

With regards to environmental conservation, Sanith is a firm believer in the fact that everyone can make a difference in their own way. “The thing is to have someone who understands such matters to explain what you can do practically and without having a major impact on your life. I also believe that the burden of these decisions weighs more heavily on people with more resources and more decision-making power, especially within large organizations.” As Sri Lanka’s only, and one of South Asia’s leading providers of Integrated Sustainability Solutions, the Carbon Consulting Company offers services such as Sustainability Strategy Development, Carbon and Water Footprinting, Carbon Asset Management, Bio Diversity Assessment and Life Cycle Analysis. Speaking of the company’s mission and its execution, Sanith explained, “We are essentially what is described as a Social Enterprise. We are not a charity that accepts donations. We are a professional consulting firm, but our mission is not about increasing our shareholder value or company profitability. We identify ourselves as a ‘profit for a purpose’ company. Our mission is to encourage private sector entities to understand and track the environmental impacts of their business operations, to bring metrics on their performance into their decision-making process, and to first mitigate their impacts and then compensate for unavoidable impacts through internationally recognized methodologies. Today, I am proud to say that we have been privileged to work with over 100 clients in diverse sectors in many parts of the globe.”

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LEADER | The Standard-bearer for Corporate Sustainability

When asked about his most significant contribution to the Carbon Consulting Company, Sanith replied, “I think with any CEO, your key role is to provide strategic direction and an overall vision for the company, while then being able to articulate that vision in smaller operation goals and day to day tasks. In our company there was the added challenge of bringing in business disciplines into a social enterprise environment where instead of “selling” services or products to potential clients we had to create a unique long term engagement with our clients to work hand in hand to reduce their environmental impact and to leverage their sustainability efforts to create business value to the organization. I am so proud that many of the major clients we engaged with have been with us for a period spanning several years, and that’s not usually found in the traditional “consulting” space where many clients retain consultants only for individual assignments. The relationships and partnerships I have been able to establish during our early years, have served us well, and I continue to play this frontline role with many of our larger clients. Also, perhaps being able to utilize the experience I had gained in Strategic Planning, Branding and Client Servicing to create and enhance CCC’s service offering and to help customers realize the business value arising from the services we offer made a big difference to our company’s success.” “Many of our clients have achieved internationally significant landmarks in their sustainability journey. We are proud to have enabled the creation of the World’s First CarbonNeutral® Tea Company (Eswaren Brothers Exports), Asia’s First CarbonNeutral® Apparel Factory (The Hirdaramani Group’s Mihila Factory) and the World’s First WaterNeutral® Apparel Factory (Linea Aqua) just to name some of them. We have also worked with clients who have go to extraordinary lengths to manage their impacts. Recently the STAR Garments Group, owned by the US-based KOMAR, became CarbonNeutral® certified for its entire portfolio of 14 factories. The Hirdaramani Group achieved the status of Net Zero Emissions from Energy across their entire group of 19 factories. We have worked with Peoples Bank and the Bank of Ceylon to map their carbon emissions across their networks of 700 plus and 600 plus branches respectively. We are also working with several international companies, primarily from Europe, to measure the carbon emissions of their individual products across their supply chains spanning many countries. We are also happy to have launched the first certified PlasticNeutral® product recently, and we think that plastic pollution will be something that companies need to seriously address in the short-term future”, said Sanith of the Carbon Consulting Company’s most prominent projects currently underway.

22 | CEO Magazine Sri Lanka

Voicing his expert opinion on the 3 greatest threats to Corporate Sustainability in Sri Lanka and how these threats may be mitigated, the CEO stated, “The first and foremost is Corporate Greed and the profit motive. As long as companies are run with a purely profit motive, they will continue to use “creating shareholder value” as an excuse for not committing any significant resources towards sustainability. Combine this with very short term thinking on the part of the company management and you have an institutional lack of action of any sort. Many companies like to talk about People, Planet and Profit, but they do not give each the same level of importance. So, it’s only Profit that really matters and the other 2 become minor mentions in their reporting frameworks. The second is “Green Washing”. This is a concept is when a company or organization spends more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on minimizing their environmental impact. We continually see companies who do some very minimal activity, but then try to project themselves as being global benchmarks of sustainability. A lot of very significant companies do this, but since nobody holds them accountable, they are able to just continue doing it. The third would be the lack of legislative or any other punishment or enforcement for companies that do not adhere to the principles of environmental sustainability. If a company cheats on its taxation both Financial Directors and CEOs will face penalties. But blatantly misrepresenting your company’s carbon emissions carries no negative implications on anybody. Hence, nobody takes it seriously enough; something we at CCC are working hard to change.” On the topic of technology’s role in aiding the advancement of Environmental Sustainability, Sanith commented, “In many aspects the improvement in technology is creating a new normal for us all. Improvements in renewable energy technology have reduced its cost drastically, so that in many countries it is the cheapest form of new energy. Couple that with the increasing development in battery storage systems and suddenly the prospect of powering the globe completely with clean energy is no longer a pipe dream. So, the technology is either currently available or is in development in many instances, but the real threat is that human selfishness and shortsightedness will prevent these technologies from being implemented.” “We are also seeing technology come to the aid of the environment in some unusual ways such as using drones to drop seeds in hard to reach areas, and to map forests. Our company is currently partnering an effort in the Omani dessert to plant trees using a technology called a Waterboxx, where you plant a sapling in the middle of a reusable plastic box, which has enough water to sustain the tree for several months, giving it a fantastic opportunity for survival. The initial tests are hugely encouraging and we are looking forward to expanding the project soon”, he added.

The Standard-bearer for Corporate Sustainability | LEADER

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LEADER | The Standard-bearer for Corporate Sustainability

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The Standard-bearer for Corporate Sustainability | LEADER

Expressing his views on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on environmental preservation and the resulting changes, Sanith opined that - “In today’s post COVID world digitalization is the new norm. One of the few positives that have come out of the virus is that it has forced companies (and countries) to do things that environmentalists have been advocating for many years. From the inception of CCC we have been encouraging our clients to move from physical meetings and reduce corporate travel in favor of online/virtual meetings. While some tried to implement some of this advice, many Senior Managers were simply not willing to take these steps, arguing stubbornly that such virtual meetings would not take the place of physical meetings. But today, after 2 months of complete lockdown, people have come to adopt virtual meetings and gatherings without too much effort. Companies have now realized that spending on travel in many instances was unwarranted. Added to that, the companies are now being compelled to allow employees to work from home, the technology for which has been available for many years now. The impact of these examples alone is resulting in a significant reduction in global carbon emissions. Technology is fueling a more flexible and dynamic working environment, and large office spaces, frequent travel and long commutes are going to be reduced significantly enabling the reduction in global emissions resulting from those activities. Tomorrow’s consumer will spend more time online shopping than going to supermarkets, will be used to streaming the latest movies without going to a cinema and will be more discerning consumers.” “Unfortunately, the COVID virus has resulted in many companies completely discarding their sustainability efforts altogether. Existing projects have been scrapped, budgets reallocated and in some cases, personnel are being laid off. Some companies have even stopped payment for projects underway or even completed, on the grounds that the virus has impacted their business performance. But once the world comes to grip with this “new normal” I think COVID can be a catalyst for a whole new way of thinking and operating for companies.

Flexible work hours and work from home will now be a given, and not just fancy concepts adopted only by tech companies. This will result in smaller offices, lower overheads and reduced commuting, which will help the environment. The virus has also caused a complete disruption in the global tourism industry, which used to account for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This disruption now allows for the industry to start from scratch, but in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. In Sri Lanka for example, we should ask the question - do we really need 2 million low cost tourists and backpackers coming to our country at cut rate prices or now with the constraints of COVID, should we only target a fewer number of middle and higher income tourists who will spend more, and also have more sustainable holidays in our country? Under normal circumstances such a discussion would not be tolerated. But with COVID it is now forced onto the table. If countries and companies use this forced opportunity to re-tool and re-position themselves to be more sustainable, the planet will benefit as a whole”, responded Sanith, when questioned about the new Corporate Sustainability tactics that will come into play post-COVID. Being no stranger to the stage and spotlight, Sanith is a distinguished international speaker having spoken at renowned events such as the Future of Water & Humanity Conference in Muscat, Oman in 2019, the Pitch Hub of Asia Pacific Climate Week in Singapore in 2018, the World Conference on Environment – 2017 in New Delhi, and the Export Forum on Climate Change Response in Seoul in 2016. “At a recent discussion someone told me - “The difference between a TED Speaker and a TEDx Speaker is that one spends 10 years of their life perfecting and crafting an idea or technology while the other spends a few hours putting together a PowerPoint presentation”. While this may not be exactly accurate, it does serve as a good analogy. Some of the younger generation get caught up in the glamour and the social media opportunities arising out of making a public speech that they forget that the fundamental reason behind making such a speech is to share some unique knowledge and a perspective that others may not have. My advice is to really spend the time and effort that it takes to become someone worth listening to before aspiring to make the big speeches”, imparted Sanith to aspiring public speakers.

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Consistent Ambition and Continuous Reinvention | LEADER

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LEADER | Consistent Ambition and Continuous Reinvention

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Consistent Ambition and Continuous Reinvention | LEADER

Dilrukshi began her career as a junior counsel and soon discovered that she was better suited in the corporate sector than in Hulftsdorp. She joined the corporate sector as a Legal Officer, but was not easily satisfied and soon began looking out for further opportunities. “I took on a job as a Manager for Human Resources and Legal. This is where I found my calling. I realised my passion for Human Resources Development and pursued my career in this line. My ambition to be in a leadership position led me to work my way up to becoming the General Manager - Human Resources at Diesel & Motor Engineering PLC a mere 8 years after beginning my career.” Today, Dilrukshi serves as the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Diesel & Motor Engineering PLC.

Speaking of the 3 major skills that have helped her reach her current position, Dilrukshi said, Leadership skills are very rare among those who hold such positions. I’ve very often seen them using only their power to solve problems and failing miserably, because they do not have what it takes to exercise their power. I’ve observed very successful leaders as well as incapable people holding powerful positions and using merely their authority without good judgement to solve problems. Thus, I’ve observed and learnt from both kinds of leaders and today, I’ve learnt to quickly process large amounts of information in my mind and see the total picture, which helps in making quick decisions. Being analytical helps me make a good situational decision based on a minimum amount of information if required. I am also good with people and coaching them to achieve their full potential. So, analytical skills, decision making and coaching are 3 skills that I’ve acquired over the years, and have helped me become the professional I am today.”

“A great HR professional is always bottom line focused hence, business savvy, numerically and legally sound, very diplomatic and high in integrity,in addition to the high technical HR knowledge they possess” stated Dilrukshi, expressing her opinion on the makings of a great HR professional.

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LEADER | Consistent Ambition and Continuous Reinvention

On the topic of the role of HR in promoting gender diversity in the office and the benefits of gender diversity in the workplace, Dilrukshi explained, “HR is primarily responsible for the quality of the workforce of an organization. It’s proven that a diverse workforce is much more effective and productive than a workforce of the same gender. With such a proven business case, it is imperative for us to eliminate the unconscious biases of people that can affect workplace decisions. It is the HR department’s primary responsibility to create a culture where men and women, respect and trust each other and accept the value that each brings to the table. As much as gender diversity brings in different perspectives to decision-making, it will also help to serve a diverse customer base, and attract and retain talented women, and thus aid in boosting the development and competitiveness of the organization.”

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“Transparent communication is essential in building trust between people and the organization. Once trust is built, the alignment of both parties is paramount for mutual benefit. As such, a culture built on transparent communication, trust and alignment will benefit any employer and employee”, replied the CHRO, when questioned about the characteristics of an ideal workplace in which both the employer and employee can thrive. Describing how the HR profession has developed over the years, Dilrukshi explained, “Technology, workforce behaviour and economy has forced HR to change dramatically from an administrator to a strategic contributor and finally to a lead strategist today. With the COVID – 19 situation we faced more complicated situations, HR professionals had to invent instant solutions for employee issues as well as for business continuity. This balancing act was quite demanding and challenging, and it is something we never dreamt of, which has changed the definition of workplace, worker, remuneration, benefits and many other things. I believe we must evolve to a totally different stage where HR practices will have to be re- invented. As an industry HR has a very high potential in Sri Lanka and we have very smart HR professionals who are innovative and capable of facing any situation.”

Consistent Ambition and Continuous Reinvention Cover Story | LEGEND LEADER

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You’re bright. You have good ideas, insights, and the ambition to take on more. But you aren’t getting the opportunities you want, and your manager has not been helpful. How do you get noticed by senior leadership without going over your boss’s head?

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How to Get Noticed by your Boss’s Boss | LEADER

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LEADER | How to Get Noticed by your Boss’s Boss

To help me answer this question, I reached out to two of my most successful clients: Dave MacKeen, CEO of Eliassen Group, a strategic consulting and talent solutions provider with 21 offices across the United States, and Chuck Cohen, Managing Director of Benco Dental, the largest privately owned dental distributor in the U.S. Chuck and Dave have decades of leadership experience during which they’ve been on the lookout for “future stars” or “high potentials.” These employees are often identified as hard workers with the drive to make a difference — not only in the company’s success but also in the success of those around them. They go above and beyond their job titles and get noticed because they demonstrate potential to do great work on a more advanced level. After putting our collective heads together, Chuck, Dave, and I landed on ten steps you can take to be recognized by senior leadership as one of them. If followed, these actions can help you grow and move toward greater opportunities — without coming off as a braggart or upsetting your direct manager. Demonstrate your commitment to your growth and to the company. One way to show how serious you are is to invest time outside of the office in learning skills that will help you grow and contribute to the company. This could mean taking courses that support the work you are doing, or reading texts in the areas you want to master. For example, if you want to get better at developing strategy, ask your boss (and boss’s boss) if they can recommend any books. Another way to show commitment to growth is to tell your boss that you’re interested in taking on special projects, ones that will both help the company reach its goals and provide you with an opportunity to stretch yourself. Focus on the team’s success, rather than your own. While the voice of ambition may be telling you to focus on your own success, senior leadership notices those who work collaboratively and support others. They recognize that the greatest opportunity for success lies in a team working well together. “It’s easy to notice someone who gives their time and advice to help make others successful,” says Dave, “whether they be their direct reports or peers. Someone who makes those around them better is invaluable.” 34 | CEO Magazine Sri Lanka

How to Get Noticed by your Boss’s Boss | LEADER

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LEADER | How to Get Noticed by your Boss’s Boss

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How to Get Noticed by your Boss’s Boss | LEADER

Know your numbers and take ownership of your work. Whatever part of the business you own, small or large, you have to know it inside out, and be ready to discuss the performance metrics and business analytics that matter most (revenue, profit and loss, etc.). You want to have a good idea of where you stand within the larger organization, especially in moments when all eyes are on you — such as presentations, meetings, or project reports. When you are able to prove the value of your contributions, you are able to prove the value of your worth as an employee and team member. Think of it as an opportunity to show senior leaders why they should be paying attention to you. Remember, though, this also means taking full responsibility for your failures. Adopt a “no excuses” mentality. Doing so shows a level of self-awareness that is inherent to great leadership. Do what you say you will and do it well. Once you commit to something, commit to doing it well. When opportunities arise, execs are looking for someone with a good track record of getting the job done and bringing in positive results. This means your name needs to be associated with good work. Those who can take on small projects and hit a home run are more likely to be asked to take on bigger projects later.

Continually train yourself to think strategically. Being a strategic thinker is imperative to moving forward into roles with more responsibility. The best leaders know how to balance working “on” the business (strategy) with working “in” the business (day-to-day operations). When working “on” the business, they must be able to look beyond their to-do lists and think strategically about which opportunities will help the organization reach its larger goals. To do this, you have to be able to see the big picture, and keep it in mind when making decisions. This is a skill that doesn’t always come naturally. “If you want to get good at strategic thinking,” says Chuck, “you have to practice. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised. The more you work on it, the better you’ll get.” Challenge old ways and find new solutions. Do you see a different approach to a problem your company is facing? Maybe a creative way to meet a new challenge? If your organization is forward-thinking, all ideas should be welcome, particularly if you present them with humility and an appreciation for past efforts. The next time you have an innovative solution to a difficult problem, share it openly to show what you have to contribute. “I notice people who challenge the current process and communicate the possibilities of a different solution,” says Dave. “In our organization, people rally around them. We give these people more responsibilities. They don’t have to ask.”

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LEADER | How To Get Noticed by your Boss’s Boss

Consistently improve your communication skills. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you do need to be thoughtful during your interactions with others. Whether you are giving a presentation, working on a group project, or having a difficult conversation with your boss, it’s important to know your audience and prepare how you will communicate with them in advance. Every person and situation will ask something different of you — so be adaptable and know how to adjust. You may want to project more confidence during a presentation, for example, but be more humble when working with peers. You may want to approach your boss with curiosity in some scenarios, but in others, approach them with data to support your point. It’s always a good idea, however, to follow up with others and make sure you clearly understand their expectations.

“It’s the person that demonstrates the values and ethics of the organization and lives the purpose, who will inspire people to follow them.” The best way to show your commitment to your company’s purpose and values is to talk about them. In meetings, give kudos to colleagues whose actions align with your organization’s values, and when discussing projects of your own, note how they reflect the company’s core purpose. In doing so you are saying to others, “I’m paying attention, and I’m noting when we do great work.”

Raise your hand. Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to show your skills and talents. While there is certainly a line to be walked here — you don’t want to push too hard, or repeatedly ask the same question — showing initiative is always a good thing. If you see an area where you believe you can be an Build relationships with people throughout the asset to the company and support strategic initiatives, ask to participate. Explain why you believe you can company. Don’t just stay within your “wing” of the make a valuable contribution, as well as what you will building. Look for opportunities to connect and collaborate with other key players in your organization. gain from the opportunity. Ultimately, your boss and boss’ boss want to put you in a spot where you can When you build connections, you expand your do the most. Sometimes you’ve got to identify where network of allies and increase your visibility and that is and ask for it. influence. “Great leaders don’t just wait to be asked, they put themselves in positions and situations where There is no short path to getting noticed. And even they’re more likely to be asked,” noted Chuck. When if you find one, you may not have what you need to you work collaboratively and cross-functionally, your do the job well if you get there prematurely. But if name will keep coming up for all the right reasons. you focus on these ten key areas with dedication, Live the values and purpose of the organization. patience, and the acceptance that growing a stellar Organizations use purpose and value statements career takes some time, you’ll keep moving in the right to communicate what is and isn’t expected of direction and be ready for what’s next when it comes employees. Values speak to what an organization seeks not only in its staff, but in its leaders as well. A strong leader knows the values, lives them, and encourages the upholding of the values in others. “A person doesn’t need to be the most vocal or work the most hours to be noticed,” says Dave.

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How To Get Noticed by your Boss’s Boss | LEADER

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CENTRAL BANK INCREASES FUNDING FOR BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY COVID-19 Central Bank has decided to provide funding to Licensed Commercial Banks (LCBs) at the concessionary rate of 1.00 percent against the pledge of a broad spectrum of collateral, on the condition that LCBs, in turn, will on-lend to domestic businesses at 4.00 percent. According to the Central Bank, this is in addition to the already disbursed Rs. 27.5 billion under the refinance scheme introduced on 27 March 2020. This new scheme along with the existing refinance Scheme will provide Rs. 150 billion in total to the businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Sri Lanka’s Gateway to the World

3DH TRADING (PVT) LTD. 3DH Trading (Pvt) Limited is a company involved in commodities trading in both import and export. The company imports Cement, Medical equipment & Accessories, Agricultural equipment and food items, while it exports Sea Food and Spices from Sri Lanka to the world. In a short period of time 3DH Trading has become one of the most trusted partners to global companies operating as their exclusive agent and distributor

3DH Trading (Pvt) Ltd.

No: 12, Siri Dhamma Mw, T: (+94) 114 327627 - (Ext:226), E: [email protected]

Colombo 10.


everage news “EXPORTERS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEW MARKET OPPORTUNITIES” NEW USAID SURVEY “Sri Lankan exporters are cautiously optimistic about business continuity amidst a global pandemic,” reveals the findings of a new business survey conducted by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A significant number of the firms surveyed had identified new business opportunities arising from needs relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, although they were deeply concerned about the impact on operations, cashflow, and productivity. They pressed for tax and financial relief, and digitization of government services – particularly at border agencies – in order to recover losses caused by the lengthy halt to business activity in the country. The survey, designed by the CCC’s Economic Intelligence Unit and USAID’s ‘Partnership for Accelerating Results in Trade, National Expenditure and Revenue (PARTNER)’ project, was conducted over two weeks starting on May 4, 2020, and received responses from a representative mix of large firms and SMEs (including firms owned or led by women) in 26 export segments. Responses came primarily from senior-level executives, providing key strategic insights on the trade and labor market impacts of COVID-19.

SRI LANKA’S CENTRAL BANK FURTHER REDUCES STATUTORY RESERVE RATIO The Monetary Board of the Central Bank has decided to reduce the Statutory Reserve Ratio (SRR) applicable on all rupee deposit liabilities of licensed commercial banks (LCBs) by 200 basis points to 2.00 percent, with effect from the reserve maintenance period that commenced on 16 June 2020. According to the Monetary Board, this reduction in the SRR injects around Rs. 115 billion of additional liquidity to the domestic money market, enabling the financial system to expedite credit flows to the economy, while reducing the cost of funds of LCBs.

CHALLENGES FOR COLOMBO PORT CITY AMIDST UNCERTAINTY & VOLATILITY OF CURRENT MARKETS PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Sri Lanka recently hosted a webinar on Colombo Port City and its potential impact on the Sri Lankan economy. The event speakers included Thulci Aluvihare, Head of Strategy and Business Development – CHEC Port City Colombo (the “Project Company”), Aruna Perera, Director – Corporate Finance & Valuation Consulting and Dr. Wignaraja Ganeshan, Executive Director – Lakshman Kadiragamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI). The Port City SEZ was launched in 2014 with the intention of being a world-class smart city in South Asia Sri Lanka. It’s particularly significant because it’s the single largest foreign investment in Sri Lanka’s history. Plans are underway to accelerate the timelines of the project and a committee of experts was appointed to study the project and its policy regime. Unfortunately, with the emergence of COVID-19 crisis, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has shifted its focus to look at the pandemic and the resulting economic impact.

UK TO START POST-BREXIT TRADE TALKS WITH JAPAN The UK and Japan are set to begin talks on Tuesday aimed at reaching agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal. The negotiations come as London and Tokyo work towards replacing the agreement Britain currently has with Japan through the European Union. Without a new deal by 1 January 2021 the two countries will default to World Trade Organization trading terms. That would mean tariffs and obstacles to commerce between the UK and its fourth-largest non-EU trading partner. After decades of sharing its trade policy with the European Union, Britain is now embarking on free trade negotiations with countries around the world.Last month the UK launched formal talks with the United States and is also hoping to reach a trade agreement with the EU by the end of this year.

The Life

& Times of an

Insurance Professional WORDS STEPHANIE NUGARA




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LEVERAGE | The Life & Times of an Insurance Professional

“During this time, I also studied Marketing at CIM (UK), and by the time I was in my final year of university, I had decided to apply for the law entrance exam and had been accepted into law college by the time I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Colombo. Soon thereafter, I joined Eagle Insurance (presently AIA) a multinational company at that time and was appointed as an Assistant Manager in the Life Insurance Division, during this time I qualified as a full member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and was conferred the title Chartered Marketer by CIM (UK). I was promoted to Manager a few years later, and upon qualifying as an Attorney at Law from the Sri Lanka Law College, left the corporate sector to study law full time.” The road ahead had its twists and bends, but Hashra adapted and succeeded in finding the silver lining behind the cloud that brought about the end of his career as a Lawyer. “After being called to the Bar in 2000, with almost 10 years of full-time study behind me, personal family commitments prevented me from practicing law full time. I joined NDB as a Banking Executive, however I received a call from my former General Manager at Eagle Insurance, inviting me to join a brand-new Sri Lankan insurance firm that was trying to penetrate the highly competitive insurance market. I could not resist his call, and decided to leave NDB and join Asian Alliance Insurance PLC as a Manager in the Life Division. At Asian Alliance, I was entrusted with performing several diversified tasks from time to time, some of them being; Life Sales, Regional Management for Business Development, Training and Development, Marketing, Human Resources, Administration, Legal and Compliance, etc. Within a span of 10 years, I rose steadily through the ranks and ultimately resigned as the Deputy General Manager – Corporate Operations. In 2014, I joined Janashakthi Insurance PLC as the General Manager - Life Sales and Operations. During this period, I completed studying for my technical insurance qualifications from the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII - UK) and my Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Colombo, and by the time I joined Janashakthi Insurance I was a fully qualified Chartered Insurer.”

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Expressing his opinion of Insurance as a career industry, Hashra explained, “The Insurance industry is a great place to start and develop a career. The Insurance industry offers an enormous amount of opportunities to someone who likes to work with people, analyze numbers, be challenged, work in a fast-paced environment, utilize the latest technologies to improve skills, do something new each day, and make a difference. Today, everyone is looking for nine-hour jobs, but some exceptional people like to boost their career in other ways. They like to face challenges and win.” According to the respected Insurer, “The industry growth is on an upsurge. The opportunities are increasing day by day for people with strong people skills and selling skills. In the insurance field, the opportunities can be endless, especially for those looking to climb the ladder of success. Even agents with minimal experience can start off by achieving financial success with unlimited earning potential. There is a small number of barriers when it comes to entering the Insurance industry. A college degree is not often preferred, though it is a definite advantage, when it comes to working for many insurance firms in a managerial capacity. Additionally, prior experience is not required, unlike other jobs within the same pay range. The Insurance industry is growing. In fact, according to reports, the number of insurance sales vacancies are expected to grow up to 9% by 2024. This is because insurance is used everywhere. People are always going to need it, and there are always going to be risks. It provides jobs, supports disaster recovery, and benefits businesses, workers and communities. While many jobs have the underlying fear of advanced technology taking over, a computer can’t provide the type of personalized interaction or help that is required from an insurance professional. Insurance is a profitable industry, so there is a good salary to be had. There is also security in insurance, and it is unique in the fact that it can offer exceptional benefits to both the employees and agents in the industry.”

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LEVERAGE | The Life & Times of an Insurance Professional

Describing his role in the IASL, the former Chairman of the MSF stated, “The Insurance Association of Sri Lanka consists of all the insurance companies in Sri Lanka and was formed as an association of member companies to further the interest of both the Non-Life and Life Insurance industries. The Marketing and Sales Forum (MSF), a vital sub-committee of the IASL, as the name implies looks into matters pertaining to the sale and marketing of insurance products in the country. Equally important is the role that the MSF plays in growing the insurance market in the country, by educating the general public on the importance of insurance. In this regard, the MSF carries out various activities conducted collectively with the collaboration of all industry players. During my tenure as the Chairman of the MSF, I was able to achieve two very significant milestones for the industry; firstly working with the Insurance Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka to have the Government of Sri Lanka declare the 1st of September as National Insurance Day, and secondly, working with the Postal Department to have a commemorative stamp and 1st day cover issued to coincide with the National Insurance Day. The MSF launched a National Life Insurance Sales Competition to create healthy competition amongst life insurance agents and to provide a national level platform for the recognition of insurance advisors during this period as well. Also, I have held the positions of Chairman of the Legal Advisory Forum of the IASL and committee member of the HR subcommittee, prior to being appointed Chairman of the MSF.” On the topic of the rising pressures in the current operating environment and the manner in which these will reflect on the Insurance industry, Hashra said, “The Life Insurance industry has still not carved out their own identity in the savings category. It tries to compete as a substitute to a long tenor fixed deposit. Hence, the industry is battling it out with banks for the same pie. In a society where healthcare is free of charge

Hashra lists the 3 common characteristics of a successful insurance advisor as, • “Strong people skills and selling skills. You need to handle objection and rejection from potential customers, but never lose your positive attitude •

Be bold, face challenges and win. You must have the need to do something new each day, and make a difference in the lives of others

A need for unlimited earning. Have dreams and goals in life, and the drive to achieve them.”

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and the life expectancy is 80+, the Insurance industry has the potential for growth in these health-related markets. Even though the potential for a great career is there, due to a poor reputation among millennials, as a dynamic industry it fails to attract the top tier to its fold. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about its own issues to the Life Insurance industry, some of which are positive and others negative. A significant reduction in claims was brought on by the current situation, especially where it’s medical and hospitalization related, even though it’s generally the other way round. A high number of healthcare claims were experienced during March and April. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical claims recorded significant reductions during the first half of 2020. As the WFH initiative continues, it is likely that cost savings will continue for the rest of the year. However, the gradual increase in claims due to the easing of lock-down measures is possible. A second COVID-19 wave will reduce the renewal collection of the insurance policies and the gross written premium (GWP) might reduce further than envisaged.” “As a responsible Insurer, Janashakthi came forward to cover all its policyholders with protection for COVID-19 related medical expenses and benefits. In this process, Janashakthi honors any life claim with regard to COVID-19 for its existing and new policyholders. Other than that, the customers will be covered for medical expenses related to COVID-19 related medication in government approved medical facilities. In order to communicate better and ease the claim process for any customer faced with an emergency, Janashakthi strengthened its call center operations and adopted a simplified claim process. These were extensively communicated to the customers via television and social media platforms. Further, in providing convenience to its policyholders for premium payments, Janashakthi enhanced its online payment options by tying up with banks, e-commerce and digital payment platforms. Further in line with the country’s situation and the difficulties faced by the customers, a grace period of 3 months was put into place for the payment of premiums. Utilizing its extensive branch network, Janashakthi reached out to its valued customers using technology and our ground staff, in order to create awareness regarding preventive measures in terms of safeguarding themselves against the COVID–19 threat. As a socially responsible insurer, Janashakthi distributed essential food items to selected customers in areas, which were heavily affected during these times”, responded Hashra, when asked about the steps taken by Janashakthi Insurance to aid those of its customers who have been affected by COVID-19.

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Enabling a Sustainable

‘New Normal’

in Banking





He is also the immediate past Chairman/Director of the Lanka Financial Services Bureau Ltd, Lanka Ventures PLC and LVL Energy Fund. He is the Vice Chairman of the Banking, Financial &Insurance Services Group of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, and a member of the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors. In November 2018, Jonathan was appointed as the Chairman of Asian Bankers Association 2018-2020. Added to all of the aforementioned, he holds the position of immediate past Chairman of Sri Lanka Banks’ Association (Guarantee) Ltd and Financial Ombudsman Sri Lanka (Guarantee) Limited. Since taking the reins at HNB, Sri Lanka’s largest and most respected private sector retail bank, Jonathan has spearheaded a remarkable transformation across the entire scope of its operations with a strong focus on leveraging technology to create new paradigms in banking. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, customer demand for seamless, integrated digital banking products and services. Sharing lessons from HNB’s experience, he shared his vision for a sustainable ‘new normal’ in banking.

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Mounting Macroeconomic Pressure As a result of the COVID pandemic, at present, the World Bank projects the Sri Lankan economy to contract between 0.5 - 3% in 2020. This sluggish environment, which was already in a weakened position in 2019, is likely to add further strain on the banking sector. “While the Government of Sri Lanka is making commendable efforts to revive economic activity, business expansion is likely to be very limited as most companies will require higher working capital support. Ongoing relief measures – moratoriums as well as the possible use of customers’ savings for working capital needs – will also pose liquidity constraints on the sector. There could be a surge in non-performing loans as some customers may fail to revive their businesses within the expected time frame. The fee income of the sector will also be affected to a large extent due to restrictions on imports, lack of demand for export goods, lower worker remittances and the removal of certain fees as part of relief measures,” Jonathan said.

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Sri Lanka’s Resurgence Hinges On Global Factors Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic is reported to have claimed the lives of nearly 400,000. With efforts to flatten the curve in Sri Lanka having shown preliminary success, the island has joined many other nations in tentatively reopening their economies. “The loss of life in Sri Lanka and across the world has been tragic, and we are extremely grateful for the quick and decisive action taken by the Sri Lankan Government, public health and defense authorities in order to contain the spread of the virus. The most pressing need now is to continue easing the lockdown in the same systematic and phased manner so that more sections of the economy can gradually resume operations. As much as possible we all have to work together to ensure a swift, but safe return to normalcy so that further disruptions to daily life are minimized. People need to be able to continue to work, learn, and interact if our society is to function. However, to be sustainable, we have to guard against a second wave of infections,” he explained. With almost one-third of the world’s population entering into lockdown, the global economy has already experienced sharp contractions with many fearing a prolonged economic recession. Some of the world’s largest and most developed economies are among those hardest hit by the pandemic. In many instances, this creates concerns for some of the country’s key exports. The apparel sector, which accounts for nearly 45% of the exports of Sri Lanka, initially suffered a supply shortage with China being locked down. Europe and the United States, meanwhile, account for the majority of the demand. With COVID-19 spreading at a rapid rate in these parts of the world, the apparel sector is certain to suffer a significant blow until these economies recover. Tourism and hospitality is another sector dependent on international conditions, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Since March, the sector has come to a complete and unprecedented halt, and now faces an extremely uncertain future.

“Given that Tourism and related industries account for an estimated 5% of Sri Lanka’s total labour force and is capable of generating US$ 3.5 billion, it is imperative that every possible measure be taken to support its recovery. At present, the industry is on track to resume operations on a national scale from August 2020. However, this will depend to a large extent on how rapidly international travel restrictions are lifted, how comfortable people are to travel overseas and the impact on the disposable income of travelers due to COVID-19. In the interim, the sector must turn its focus to implementing all Government guidelines, in order to prepare for such a re- opening.”

Responding To The Crisis Proactively Economic growth in Sri Lanka has been sluggish over the last couple of years. Many industries, especially the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, have suffered heavily. With the lockdown halting almost all activity in the country, business entities as well as self-employed individuals have lost their sources of income. In light of this, the Government introduced a relief package to individuals and sectors of the economy hardest hit by the pandemic. This relief included capital and interest moratorium of up to six months, among other measures. “These packages served to provide critical assistance at the outset, but the success of these measures are temporary by definition. In order to reinforce their mitigating effect, businesses must not waste any more time in carefully analyzing the entirety of their business model and product or service offering. The market that lies ahead will be even more competitive as those worst impacted struggle to capture a diminishing pool of customers able and willing to spend. While this means challenges, it also creates invaluable opportunities to capture market share for those that are quick to adapt. Hence, for those organisations that are able, it is vital that they carefully strategise how to make the best use of these extra funds and plan not only for the current crisis, but also for the recovery that comes after.”

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LEVERAGE | Cover Story

Health And Hygiene Will Be A Critical Business Imperative “Naturally the foremost consideration is health, hygiene and safety, and there are a lot of small adjustments that all Sri Lankans must learn to incorporate into daily life as a result. In addressing the crisis, ensuring the health and safety of our staff and customers has been HNB’s utmost priority. We proactively set up a special committee to assist our staff as early as January 2020. In mid-March, when the pandemic hit our country and curfew was imposed, we continued to operate in curfew and noncurfew areas with skeleton staff, who were provided with all necessary health and safety items in line with the measures prescribed by the health authorities. The rest of the critical staff have been provided with secure facilities to work from home,” Jonathan explained.

Progress Through Digitalization In addition to consolidating Work From Home protocols and systems for its team, HNB also embarked on a strategy of learning, development and upskilling via online platforms. “Our employee engagement and development strategy was one of the most notable opportunities to emerge out of the lockdown period. While remote learning and video conferencing was already incorporated into the day-to-day at HNB prior to the pandemic, it was at a lower intensity. With the institution of the lockdown, we saw our team heavily rely on these platforms with great success. These are strategies, which we believe will hold the key to greater success in our industry, but also across every facet of life. This ability to connect with each other from anywhere in order to collaborate on work, or engage in skills development will be among the most impactful trends to emerge from the lockdown,” Jonathan stated.

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The Forefront Of Customer Centricity He further noted that customer service was another aspect of banking, which will be irreversibly altered as a result of the pandemic. “While there was a healthy and growing demand for digital banking and cashless transactions, we recorded a significant increase in customer utilization following the institution of lockdown protocols. For customers, this meant increased usage of debit and credit cards as gateways to e- commerce, as well as greater willingness to migrate to platforms like HNB Solo – our QR-based digital wallet. As a result, HNB was quick to bolster support for merchants looking to establish an e-commerce presence so that they can more effectively compete in a post-COVID landscape.” According to Jonathan, one of the most critical limiting factors for digital banking in Sri Lanka in the past was a reluctance among some customer segments to migrate to digital platforms and a preference for ‘business-as-usual’. “While in general Sri Lankans were getting increasingly familiar with digital banking, the pandemic has radically enhanced the willingness of customers to engage in cashless transactions remotely. For those that made the switch, it is unlikely that they will go back. Hence, our priority on digital banking services is to continue optimizing our offerings so that they are more reliable and easy-to-use than ever before.” “Meanwhile, we are also working with our enterprise and corporate customers to improve their ability to process cashless transactions using our mobile Pointof-Sales, IPG and QR platforms, while also providing them with the tools to market themselves online through AppiGo. Business will always go where customers demand and in a post-COVID economy, this direction is decidedly digital. Naturally, there have been teething problems, but overall, I believe that the potential of e- commerce in Sri Lanka has entered a new paradigm,” Jonathan said.

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Consequently, while HNB has maintained its strong emphasis on customer-centricity both with regards to in-person service excellence for clients that visited HNB Customer Service Centers, and remotely through HNB Connect – the Bank’s 24/7 omnichannel customer service center. Additionally, HNB also utilized its strong customer service capabilities to engage directly with customers, reaching out proactively to individual customers in order to understand their requirements and provide necessary support during the prolonged lockdown. The Bank also set up partnerships to facilitate doorstep delivery of essential items, and cash withdrawals, in addition to deploying mobile self-service machines country- wide during curfew periods so that customers in need of physical cash were also able to meet their needs.

Major Shifts In Established Order To Follow The Pandemic Current global developments and the strategies developed in response – at national and enterprise level - will undoubtedly be felt for generations to come. However, Jonathan believes that the need for decisive action over the short-term is crucial to avoid even greater economic challenges over the mediumlong term. “In the coming months we anticipate a period of unprecedented global uncertainty as all nations struggle to revive their economies. We are seeing an undeniable shift in the global social, economic and political orders. The short term will be fraught with severe disruptions; we can already see these tensions boiling over in the United States and other major economies today. Hence moving forward, we need to rigorously seek out new opportunities arising in the market and potential regional partnerships,” Jonathan noted. In that context, he added that the banking sector would serve an integral role in helping to identify and facilitate local enterprises capable of leveraging on emerging opportunities.

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Navigating The New Normal “As our industry cautiously attempts to navigate this new paradigm, we must also take this moment to stringently re-evaluate our own operations in order to understand what is sustainable for our organizations. The banking sector would have to focus intensely on improving operational efficiency while protecting margins and keeping a tight control on non-performing loans, while also providing customers with as much support as possible in order to ensure that their businesses remain sustainable throughout the crisis. It is equally important that our product portfolio and service delivery are effective in providing meaningful value to our customers, particularly for entrepreneurs and those in the SME, and microfinance sectors. Similarly, all of these customer segments must also exercise their due diligence in order to understand the trends shaping their businesses over the last five years, and how those trends could change in a post-COVID landscape.” In this regard, Jonathan stated that “Such businesses must carefully consider how investments into noncurrent assets such as vehicles and property could have been weighed against re-investments into their businesses to build equity, thereby enhancing sustainability and resilience of their enterprises. Such practices would be imperative in ensuring the long-term survival of companies that are overleveraged today.”

He added that “Enhancing financial literacy and building capacity in areas such as basic accounting and simple automation are important for the sustainable development of the SME and microfinance sectors. These segments also need to be supported with supply chains which will enable them to pursue opportunities in export markets – a factor which will be critical in increasing Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange revenue.” As SMEs work towards these milestones, Jonathan noted that the banking sector would need to be supportive – and supported in turn – to ensure that SMEs and entrepreneurs are able to pursue long-term funding for critical investments while continuing support for working capital. “Given their potential to spark a grassroot economic revival, this is an important area that the authorities should focus on. We at HNB, as always, would continue to support these vital segments of the market and partner the resurgence of our nation,” Jonathan concluded.

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DHANANATH FERNANDO IS THE CURRENT CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER AND A FOUNDING MEMBER OF ADVOCATA, AN ECONOMIC POLICY THINK TANK IN SRI LANKA. HE WAS THE WINNER OF THE ‘ASIAN THINK TANK SHARK TANK COMPETITION – 2018’ IN JAKARTA, AND A FINALIST AT THE ‘THINK TANK SHARK TANK GLOBAL COMPETITION’ IN NEW YORK IN 2019. DHANANATH HAS SERVED AS A SPEAKER AT SEVERAL NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL FORUMS, INCLUDING THE WALTER-SCHEEL-COLLOQUIUM FOR THE UNITED NATIONS ‘SUSTAINABILITY DEVELOPMENT GOALS 2030’ IN BONN, GERMANY IN 2015. HE IS ALSO A REGULAR SPEAKER AT THE ASIA LIBERTY FORUM SINCE 2015 AND OFTEN PROVIDES COMMENTARY ON ECONOMIC ISSUES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION. Having earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Bio Sciences and Bio Chemistry at the University of Colombo, Dhananath is an alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Programme by the State Department of the United States of America, as well as of the ATLAS Think Tank Leadership Academy in Washington, DC. Prior to founding the Advocata Institute, Dhananath was employed as an Associate Research Director at Breakthrough Business Intelligence, a leading market research agency in Sri Lanka. From 2009 – 2012 he was the Executive for Training and Development at MAS Holdings’ Sleekline Strategic Business Unit, one of the leading apparel manufacturers in Sri Lanka and Asia. According to Dhananath, the Advocata Institute was created due to the fact that its founding members believe in a lawful, free and harmonious society. “Sri Lankans should have equal opportunities to succeed through hard work and free exchange regardless of ethnicity, cast creed or religion. The founding members - Murtaza Jafferjee, Ajith Fernando, Ravi Ratnasabapathy, Deane Jayamanne, Riyad Riffai and Asantha Sirimanne and I set up Advocata in 2016 to

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promote sound policy ideas for a freer Sri Lanka.” “Advocata’s success is entirely a team effort and I have been just a part of that incredible team. The founding members, Board of Directors and the senior team, Dr. Rajapatirana, Aneetha, Anuki, Subashini, Lauren, Erandi, Thiloka, Sumhiya and our interns (who are with us and who were with us) are the real heroes behind the work we do”, he added. Dhananath describes his philosophy in relation to overcoming challenges as such - “My thoughts on overcoming hurdles resonate with a famous quote by Confucius. “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” There is a sequence of actions that need to be followed with consistency and discipline. Addressing challenges is an ‘evolutionary’ process rather than a ‘revolutionary’ process. I believe that taking a step back and assessing the smallest details to move a mountain should be the first step to overcome challenges.”

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Economy Laid Bare | LEVERAGE

With Sri Lanka’s economic status currently in decline, Dhananath expressed his view of the impact of the government’s actions on the country’s economy in the time of COVID-19. “The government did a commendable job in containing the spread of the virus, which itself made a positive mark on our economy. The economic consequences would have been far worse if the spread of COVID-19 was uncontrollable. I have mixed thoughts about the current economic management. The government’s attempts to negotiate bilateral loans with neighboring countries like India and China, is a step in the right direction to overcome foreign exchange challenges. Commencing a negotiation with the International Monetary Fund is another positive decision. I hope the government eases import controls in the near future. The government’s reasoning behind import controls and import substitution as a short-term measure to overcome macroeconomic challenges and foreign currency shortages is understandable. However, continued import controls in the long-term will negatively impact our exports. Exports and imports are on either side of the same coin. About 80% of our total imports are investment and intermediate (57% intermediate goods and 23% investment goods) goods, which are used as inputs for exports and consumable goods. In other words, most of the commodities that add value to our exports are imported. Consumption imports account for just 20%, which include essentials like pharmaceuticals. Quantitative easing or money printing, is another area that requires close attention from the Central Bank and the government. As markets begin to open up, there is a higher chance to distort the prices of commodities and services in the market via quantitative easing and ballooning the budget deficit. Imposing price controls on essentials items was a decision taken by the government with intentions to provide food items for the most vulnerable people in the society for a reasonable price. However, this backfired at the initial stage as it created a shortage of commodities in the market as a result of price controls. The government’s removal of price controls on tin fish, face masks and dhal is a step in the right direction. Overall, the coming months will be challenging for all countries and Sri Lanka is no exception.” Questioned about his predictions in the event that Sri Lanka goes into recession, Dhananath replied, “Sri Lanka will most likely go through a recession. However, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka has predicted a 1% economic growth. According to IMF predictions, the entire global economy will contract by -3% in 2020 and grow by 5.8% in 2021 given that no serious global shocks take place. The IMF predicts a - 0.5% contraction in the Sri Lankan economy. As a result, we will experience high levels of unemployment and salary cuts, which subsequently impacts purchasing power. Asset prices are likely to plummet, decreasing overall wealth and standard of living. The global recession in 2008/9 resulted in the loss of about 90,000 Sri Lankan jobs and this number could be larger for COVID-19 economic impact as the entire world is affected. On the bright side, the ‘new normal’ will create many new opportunities. Post COVID-19, consumer behaviors will change and opportunities will be created and some may lose the market. The best example is the increase in the usage of electronic and IT services. Many schools in Colombo are currently conducting classes virtually. At

the same time, basic products like personal protective equipment and sanitation products have experienced significant growth. For example, the entertainment and event-management industries, however, have been negatively affected. The gravity of the impact depends on companies’ adaptability to the ‘new normal’. However, due to low income and changes in consumer behavior, a drop in aggregate demand is inevitable.” On the topic of the industries most affected by COVID-19 and the impact of it upon the national economy, Dhananath stated, “The tourism industry has experienced a significant impact due to travel restrictions across the world. Additionally, spending on a ‘holiday’ is not an essential, and thereby many travelers will cut their travel expenses down. The countries from which high-end tourists visit Sri Lanka are terribly affected by COVID-19 too. In 2018, we earned approximately USD 4 Billion, which is about 4% of our GDP. His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa has proposed a plan to increase this to USD 10 Billion. As the impact of COVID-19 is relatively low in Sri Lanka, we can try our best to attract tourists by taking precautionary measures and marketing Sri Lanka as a safe destination however, it will take time for tourism to ‘get back to normal’ or adjust to the ‘new normal’. The apparel sector is suffering from a sizable economic hit. The total apparel exports are worth approximately USD 5.4 Billion. They are challenged from both the demand side and the supply side. In terms of demand, most of our export destinations are severely impacted, which has shifted their priorities and decreased imports. The recent turn of events in the U.S. would make this impact even harsher as about 37% of our apparel products are exported to the U.S. In terms of supply in China, most imports and supply chains were disrupted and are currently recovering slowly. Thirdly, the daily wage earners and the entire informal sector are terribly hit, which is out of the limelight. About 60% of our employment is in the informal sector and most of these businesses are unregistered. For example, shops and garages on street corners, and organizations, which employ a small number of people on a contract basis are negatively impacted. Many of them do not have access to formal finance channels as they are unregistered. Loan sharks who finance at a 10% monthly interest rate (120% annual rate) are their main source of financing. They are now in deep waters, unable to settle their debts due to decreased revenue. Most of these organizations in the informal sector depend on secondary industries such as apparel and tourism. Therefore, the poorest in the society who have only labor as the only tradable service to earn an income will experience significant issues with the knockdown effect of COVID-19.” “Currency depreciation is a technical area where many economists provide different insights. It is important to have a sound understanding of the reason behind currency depreciation. Countries like Hong Kong have a system called the Currency Board. When you have a currency board in place you can only create money up to the level of reserves of that country. The money in the entire financial system is supported by a combination of other stable currencies such as the U.S. Dollar, Sterling Pound and gold reserves. This is also known as the hard peg, which means that the

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LEVERAGE | Economy Laid Bare

currency of a country is pegged strongly to a stable currency. Sri Lanka has a soft peg, which means it is not strongly supported by stable or hard currency reserves, and the Central Bank can intervene in the money supply without adequate reserves. The Central Bank usually intervenes with money supply when the government has a budget deficit. Sri Lanka in general, has a budget deficit of about LKR 1 trillion (1000 Billion). When a country has a soft peg system, their currency value will be dependent on the relative inflation of the currencies that have pegged the Sri Lankan rupee. When a currency depreciates, the prices of the imports increase. The main import in Sri Lanka is fossil fuels, which is connected to almost all sectors of the economy including utilities like electricity. The cost of pharmaceuticals and food items will rise and have an overall impact on our cost of living. A higher cost of living adds more pressure on companies to increase salaries, which results in expensive labor. As a result, overall costs rise significantly. On the other hand, exports will be encouraged. Exporters will benefit as they earn more in LKR value due to currency depreciation”, responded the expert when asked about the impact of the deprecation of the Sri Lankan rupee and the means by which industries can face and overcome this challenge. Speaking of how the country’s economy can be developed post-COVID, Dhananath explained, “Sri Lanka’s economic fundamentals have not been in the right shape for decades, which is why we cannot observe continuous momentum. For example, we have not performed well in terms of Doing Business Index and Economic Freedom of the World Index. Via COVID- 19, we have a much-needed opportunity to correct our fundamentals in order to increase the competitiveness of our economy. As the first step, we need to simplify unnecessary regulations. The President made it clear in his Independence Day speech that our growth has been hindered due to overregulation. Easing our regulations is an easy step. For example, registering a proprietorship or partnership requires so many documents that take weeks to obtain, while in many other countries it can be done online in a few minutes. Easing regulation impacts the micro scale businessman as well the large-scale multi million investor. The second step is joining a global production network and value chain. Many centuries ago, manufacturing a basic tradable good was meant to be an exercise where thousands of small components of the product were manufactured in the same country or the same factory. Now the world has moved that each factory manufactures a tiny little component of a very complicated product in large scale and assembles it in another place. This has become a common phenomenon from manufacturing an aeroplane to manufacturing a running shoe. Except our traditional export products such as tea, coconut and rubber, the other main industries, which contribute to exports are the industries that caught this wave very early. Sri Lanka is already manufacturing for global brands like Victoria Secrets, Adidas, Nike, Mercedes Benz. Similarly, we now have to connect to a few more industries such as electronics and food concentrates, processed food, etc. In order to do that, we need to attract one good investor in the production sector so there is a higher chance that other production giants will follow with confidence. That is the strategy Vietnam achieved many years ago. Sri Lanka need not follow the same path, but as a strategy

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it’s widely agreed that we need to manufacture products, which are compatible at a global scale. To compete on a global scale, the quality has to be exceptional and the cost has to be competitive and reformation is required. I believe we have a great opportunity to get the most awaited reforms done, which should not be missed.” Deeply passionate about aiding people in need, social responsibility plays a vital role in Dhananath’s life. Over the years he has contributed in various ways by volunteering his time and services to many worthy causes. “Volunteering at CandleAid is my main social contribution. CandleAid is a government approved humanitarian organization. One project out of the many I coordinated at CandleAid was “English and Personality Development for Undergraduates” in Sri Lanka. We train students with the necessary tools to learn and improve their English conduct. Many trained undergraduates identified the lack of English knowledge as the main hindrance in their entrance into the job market. Personality development and professional development was considered second, and we encapsulated a 3-day residential programme with a stellar faculty including Dr. Suranga Nanayakkara from University of Auckland and Deepal Sooriyarachchi for mentorship. Another CandleAid project I consider most precious was training students to swim for their safety. In Sri Lanka, about 755 lives are lost via drowning. Except for a few national, private and international schools, swimming pools are not accessible to 98% of Sri Lankan schools. In this programme, students who do not have access to a swimming pool and students who are visually and audibly impaired, were trained by an instructor and their progress has been monitored over 12 weeks. I am a main organizer and curator of the AK Lit Fest or ‘Annasi and Kadalagotu’ Literature Festival. The AK Lit Fest is a tri-lingual literature festival dedicated to local literati. The original concept was by Capt. Elmo Jayawardena and I have been a part of it since its inception, and its curator for the last 3 years. The AK Lit fest celebrated its 5th anniversary last year and we have been a platform for literati such as Timraan Keerithi, a daily laborer poet who won the prestigious State Literature Award. Some of the most colorful memories of the AK Lit Fest were, when at the very first AK Lit Fest, Chammi Rajapatirana, an autistic individual, launched a book titled ‘Traveler’s Tales’, which was later shortlisted for the prestigious Gratiaen Award, also when, during a short story competition at the AK Lit Fest a 99-year-old Sri Lankan (Uncle Siri) contested and joined the stage to read a story he wrote to his grand-daughter, which is a reminiscence of the AK Lit Fest and the social service that I truly and humbly care about.” Dhananath is also an enthusiastic mountain climber and trekker. The Everest Base Camp in Nepal at 5600 meters above sea level, the Numburchuli trek in Nepal at 6900m above sea level, walking 190km and the Chardar Trek, a frozen river at the IndianTibetan border, which he crossed walking 105 km in minus 40 Celsius (one of the wildest treks based on a ranking by CNN) are few of his trekking and climbing highlights.

Economy Laid Bare | LEVERAGE

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TWITTER HIDES ‘ABUSIVE’ TWEET BY US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP TARGETING PROTESTORS Twitter on Tuesday hid a tweet from President Donald Trump in which he threatened to use “serious force” against protestors in the US capital, saying it broke rules over abusive content. The move appeared to be the first by Twitter against the president for an “abusive” tweet. In a growing dispute, the platform has

recently labeled other Trump tweets as misleading and violating its standards on promoting violence. “There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, DC, as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!” Trump tweeted.


ive-tech news

FACEBOOK BANS ‘LOOT-TO-ORDER’ ANTIQUITIES TRADE Facebook has banned users trading in historical artefacts on the site. It follows a campaign by academic researchers and an investigation by BBC News, exposing how items looted from Iraq and Syria were sold on Facebook. One expert welcomed the move but said for anything to change, Facebook should invest in “teams of experts to identify and remove networks rather than playing whack-a-mole with individual posts”. Facebook says all trade in ancient artefacts is banned on its platforms.

DIDI CHUXING: APPLE-BACKED FIRM AIMS FOR ONE MILLION ROBOTAXIS Chuxing says it plans to operate more than a million self-driving vehicles by 2030. The robotaxis are to be deployed in places where ride-hailing drivers are less available, according to Meng Xing, Didi’s chief operating officer. Mr Meng was speaking at an online conference hosted by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper. One analyst suggested it was a very ambitious aim. “I’ll be surprised if we see a million by 2030,” a spokesman for market research firm Canalys said. “I hope that happens but there’s a lot to take place in meantime.” He pointed out that it was a strange time to make such a commitment, given the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2016, US tech giant Apple ploughed $1bn (£800m) into Didi in an unusually large and public investment.

MIXER: MICROSOFT ABANDONS GAMING APP IN FACEBOOK DEAL Microsoft has decided to close its Mixer livestreaming service and is partnering with Facebook Gaming instead. Mixer made headlines last year when it signed a reportedly multi-million dollar exclusivity deal with Ninja, a big star on rival platform Twitch. But despite the investment, Microsoft says the platform will close in one month’s time. Ninja and other major gamers will no longer be tied to exclusivity deals. Ninja had been signed to Mixer for less than a year. From 22 July, Mixer’s website and app will redirect users to Facebook Gaming. As part of the deal, Microsoft will work to bring its xCloud gamesstreaming service to Facebook.

JAPANESE SUPERCOMPUTER, CROWNED WORLD’S FASTEST, IS FIGHTING CORONAVIRUS The newly crowned world’s fastest supercomputer is being deployed in the fight against the coronavirus. Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer claimed the top spot on Monday, carrying out 2.8 times more calculations per second than an IBM machine in the US. The US machine, called Summit, came top of the bi-annual Top500 list the previous four times. Fugaku’s victory broke a long run of US-China dominance, returning Japan to the top for the first time in 11 years. Top500 ranks the world’s most powerful non-distributed computer systems. Fugaku has already been put to work on fighting the coronavirus, simulating how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions installed or in packed trains with the windows open. When it is fully operational next year, experts are hoping the machine will also be able to help narrow down the search for effective treatments for the virus.

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NUWAN WIDYAPATHIGE, THE CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER – E-COMMERCE AT SOFTLOGIC RETAIL HOLDINGS PLC, BEGAN HIS CAREER JOURNEY AS A MANAGEMENT TRAINEE – SALES AT E-W INFORMATION SYSTEMS, WHICH HAS THE HONOR OF BEING THE FIRST IBM BUSINESS PARTNER IN SRI LANKA. “After two years in Sales, covering both B2B and B2C, I was given the opportunity to run the Corporate Communications function of the company, which was formed based on a proposal given by me. Later, I joined Unilever Sri Lanka as an Assistant Brand Manager and rose through the ranks to become a Senior Brand Manager. I spent nearly 6 years with the company, managing some of its flagship brands such as Lux and Ponds. I joined the Softlogic Group in 2014, as the Head of Marketing of their Insurance arm, back when it was called Asian Alliance. During my tenure, we rebranded the company as Softlogic Life and carried out some effective marketing initiatives, which resulted in the brand becoming one of the top 50 most valuable brands in the country. I was later appointed as the Sector Head of Marketing of the Financial Services sector of the group where I overlooked the marketing of Softlogic Life, Softlogic Finance and Softlogic Stockbrokers. Since 2019, I’ve been in charge of the E-Commerce Business of the group.”

Speaking of what drew him to the world of Business, Nuwan explained, “From a very young age, I aspired to be a Marketer. My father who was a Banker, encouraged me to follow that path because he realized that I had the necessary skills that would help me to build a career in Marketing. So, I was reading about Marketing related topics well before my A/Ls and developed an interest in the profession. I’m inspired by creativity and that may have had an influence on my choice of profession as well.” When questioned about the most valuable lesson he has learned in his career, Nuwan replied, “There are plenty. But one key principle I have started following is that whilst we are chasing our ambitions, it’s important to enjoy the process. Too many people think career success is about the milestones. But for me, it’s about the journey too.”

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LIVE-TECH | Final Destination: E-Commerce

Commenting on the commonalities of E-Commerce in various industries, Nuwan said, “Having worked in three distinct E-Commerce categories Grocery (Glomark), Electronics (MySoftlogic) and Fashion (Odel), I can say that the fundamentals of E-Commerce such as having a good consumer journey with optimized user interfaces, proper logistic infrastructure and systems, and properly managed customer contact points are both necessary and common for any industry.”

reluctance to pay online using their plastics had made it very difficult to penetrate the market. But that changed overnight because of the pandemic. However, the sector was not prepared to handle the kind of volumes it received. These types of volumes were not expected to materialize at least for the next 3 years; hence, the infrastructure and resources were not geared to handle it. To make matters worse E-Commerce platforms have had to contend with staff shortages and other regulatory restrictions. The business world uses the word “VUCA”, a military On the topic of the impact of the COVID-19 acronym meaning volatile, uncertain, complex and pandemic on the E-commerce sector of Sri Lanka ambiguous to describe the nature of the challenging and how the sector has adapted to these changes, environment they operate in. This was the ultimate Nuwan stated, “During the pre COVID period, one VUCA environment for E-Commerce businesses of the biggest challenges for E-Commerce was the to operate in, especially during the first couple of typical consumer behavior of Sri Lankans. People in weeks of the pandemic. For example, there were this market generally like to physically examine the restrictions on delivery passes, the number of staff products before purchase. That behavior is ingrained who could work on a particular shop floor etc. Also, in them. They like to touch and feel things before all the systems and processes they had in place had they make a decision. This was enabled by the fact to be scraped and re-engineered to handle these new that Sri Lanka is a small geographical community. realities. Thus, it is not as big an issue compared to some of the other markets when it comes to commuting. On a typical Sunday you can travel to any part of your city under one hour and do your shopping without much hassle. That, coupled with the general

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Final Destination: E-Commerce | LIVE-TECH

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LIVE-TECH | Final Destination: E-Commerce

The pressure was immense because people were panicking and depending on the supplies from E-Commerce platforms, and showed no patience or empathy towards the challenges the businesses faced. Despite having invested substantially in E-Commerce platforms for over a year and with most of the systems in place, Softlogic still faced initial challenges in catering to the demands, so those who suddenly woke up and realized E-Commerce was no longer an option, but a business priority would have had it really tough.” Expressing his opinion on how the pandemic will affect the future of the E-Commerce sector of Sri Lanka, Nuwan disclosed, “According to the general consensus, post COVID we should be able to retain around 30% to 40% of customers on E-Commerce platforms, and with people now being more comfortable with paying with their credit cards, having experienced online shopping, it will be easier to convert more people to E-Commerce. People will still be concerned about the pandemic since we are not out of the woods yet. So generally, they will be reluctant to go to physical stores. In that sense, consumer behavior will be favorable towards the E-Commerce business. Businesses also will have realized the importance of E-Commerce as a channel, especially from the risk and business continuity perspective. COVID-19 will not be the last crisis to hit us. With the kind of issues we are seeing due to the damages to the environment and climate change, we are in for more frequent challenges such as this, which will limit mobility and physical interaction within a society. Natural evolution has always been towards E-Commerce, which we have seen in other developed markets, hence it will be important for businesses to place more focus and resources in developing it as a channel.”

“The crisis has given rise to a new set of entrepreneurs who are keen to make use of this opportunity to build new ventures. This will bring more and more people into the eco system not only as vendors, but as logistic providers, payment enablers, tech developers etc. So, COVID-19 has led to a faster growth of the E-Commerce sector.”

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Final Destination: E-Commerce | LIVE-TECH

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Emirates ready to serve travellers and welcome tourists to Dubai Emirates welcomes the latest air travel protocols that will facilitate international travel for UAE citizens, residents and tourists, and open Dubai to business and leisure visitors from 7 July, while putting in place careful measures to ensure the health and safety of travellers and communities. These protocols for travel into and out of Dubai airports were announced under the directives of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the follow-up of Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management headed by His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.


eisure news


Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has confirmed that seven more cricketers have returned positive tests for Covid-19, taking the total count to ten ahead of their England tour. On Monday, Shadab Khan, Haider Ali, and Haris Rauf had tested positive. The new names on the list are Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hasnain, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, and Imran Khan. In addition, the PCB announced one member from the player support personnel had also tested positive for the virus. According to the PCB CEO Wasim Khan, all seven players who tested positive are - like the three who returned positive tests yesterday - asymptomatic. Shoaib Malik, Waqar Younis and Cliffe Deacon have not yet been tested.

ICC TO PROBE ALUTHGAMAGE’S MATCHFIXING COMMENTS The International Cricket Council (ICC) has decided to step up and probe former Sri Lanka Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage’s comments of the 2011 World Cup final being fixed. Mahindananda Aluthgamage refused to provide any evidence and reveal the names of cricketers involved in the wrongful act. Kumar Sangakkara, who served as the captain during the clash and Mahela Jayawardene, who scored a classy century, reacted by calling his comments “Circus”. Former chief selector Arvinda de Silva also called for ICC and BCCI to look into the matter seriously.

SRI LANKA SHOULD ADOPT EXTREME TOURISM TARGETING, COVERING HIGH-END AND BACKPACKERS Sri Lanka’s tourism industry can adopt extreme targeting, covering not only the high-end but also the lower end backpackers, an industry professional said. “They are more prone to travel during this period. It is about targeting early adopters both consumers and logistics/market-wise,” Vickum Nawagamuwage Founder CEO of Santani Wellness Resort told a recent webinar. He also mentioned that there is an idea about attracting high spending tourists to revive tourism even though the country has less than 300 room nights that can sell over USD 400/500 per night.

OSCARS AND BAFTAS 2021 CEREMONIES POSTPONED The 2021 Oscars ceremony was moved to April from February on Monday due to the havoc caused in the movie industry by the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony for film’s highest honors will take place on April 25, 2021, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement. It had originally been scheduled for Feb. 28. The coronavirus epidemic shut down movie theaters worldwide in mid-March and brought production of films to a halt.

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Groomed to Lead





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LEISURE | Groomed to Lead

Describing his career journey, Shabier explained, “After completing my education at S. Thomas’ College - Mount Lavinia, I pursued my higher education at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing. I also hold a professional qualification from CIM. I worked at a digital advertising company in a managerial position for a couple of years before returning to Sri Lanka to join the family business on a formal scale on the 1st of January 2013 (right in time to participate at the company’s annual staff sports day, which is held every year on the 1st of January). Even during my time in Australia, I was involved with many isolated projects for Fashion Bug. Something that really caught my attention was the mobile app, which my cousin Aqeill Subian, who is also involved with Fashion Bug at present, and I developed for Fashion Bug along with a tech team. It was the first mobile app within the Fashion Retail landscape in Sri Lanka. As of today, it’s been 7+ years since I became fully involved in the functioning of Fashion Bug. It has definitely had its ups and downs, but nevertheless no business can run without challenges.” Reminiscing upon the 3 most significant achievements by Fashion Bug during his tenure as CEO, Shabier listed “Establishing the Sisu Dirimaga Foundation – Previously we conducted all CSR projects on an adhoc basis. One thing I always wanted to do during my tenure was to give back to society in a meaningful way. Today’s students are the future of society and as a corporate, we want to be a part of uplifting our society. Sisu Dirimaga Foundation focuses on school infrastructure and education related projects looking at the development of future generations. We have 2 signature programs that are conducted by this foundation - the career guidance program and the annual Roo Siththam art competition. Following its successful launch, the Sisu Dirimaga Foundation has conducted career guidance programs for over 25000 students from over 30 schools in the island, which is a significant achievement considering our target of 100,000

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students. The art competition is organized at a national level and is one of the few competitions endorsed by the Ministry of Education. The competition attracts over 50000 entries every year and is much anticipated by students every year. The expansion of our reach through e-commerce. We launched our brand-new website through which we offer a range of over 2000+ SKU’s of fashionable products to choose from the comfort of one’s fingertips. We offer convenience payment options such as cash on delivery and card payments. We are also one of the few retailers accepting exchanges at any Fashion Bug store for any products purchased online. And the launch of Fashion Bug Matara has been a significant achievement to date, as we have now managed to offer unparalleled fashion to the southern coastlines of Sri Lanka. With the recent refurbishment and expansion of shopping space, it is one the biggest outlets within our network.” “Being compassionate and empathetic are traits I believe a leader should possess, especially during a time of crisis. Understanding what your employees, customers and stakeholders are going through is essential in difficult times as it plays a vital role in the overall success of the business, as it will help one make well-balanced decisions. Effective crisis communication is another vital aspect during a crisis. For example, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fashion Bug had step by step instructions communicated to our staff and customers in terms of safety policies and precautions, which were publicized digitally as well as at our outlets. It’s important to keep your staff, stakeholders and customers up to date on the activities of the company during a crisis. Demonstrating control is also essential as there will be many ideas, suggestions and opinions flowing in. by maintaining a systemized approach, demonstrating control and assuming tasks effectively, you will be able to make the right decisions at the right time and ensure that they are put into action”, commented Shabier on the topic of the necessary traits of a leader in a time of crisis. Speaking of what makes Fashion Bug one of the Top 25 of Sri Lanka’s Great Places To Work and what goes into leading such an organization, Shabier stated, “One of our main pillars is our staff who are

Groomed to Lead | LEISURE

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LEISURE | Groomed to Lead

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Groomed to Lead | LEISURE

as important as our customers, as they form the roots of every company. We give a significant amount of thought and attention to building an efficient, cohesive and compatible team for every aspect of the business, making it a priority at the recruitment stage as well, considering the fact that the workplace is the location where most of us spend most of our time during any given day. We always try to inculcate a culture that includes diversity and inclusivity. We offer an open and transparent communication network with our open-door policy to build trust at all levels. As a family-based business, we also extend a sense of family to the totality of the enterprise. Therefore, each staff member of Fashion Bug is made to feel at home in a fun atmosphere. Structured programs for employee development are conducted, which encourages all team members to progress in their professional and skill categories. Those with professional affiliations are required to continuously upgrade their skills in order to maintain their memberships in professional bodies. We, at Fashion Bug, also support employees in developing their areas of expertise. They are encouraged to take part in internal and external development programs that will foster their careers. Looking at all the recognition we have gained in this area including being named ‘One of the Best Workplaces in Asia – 2020’ is definitely a highlight.” Questioned as to how Fashion Bug ensures an equal and inclusive work culture for employees from all backgrounds and walks of life, the CEO replied, “As an equal opportunity employment provider, the organization is gender balanced as well as ethnically and culturally diverse. Fashion Bug is where diversity is regarded as an asset. We can proudly say that our staff members come from all religious and ethnic backgrounds, in all levels of operation.” Detailing how Fashion Bug faced up to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Shabier spoke highly of the company’s adaptiveness and dedication to the safety of its staff and customers. “The security of our customers and our staff were 2 key areas, which we had to focus on overnight, apart from running the day to day operations. Ensuring that our outlets were safe for our customers was our highest priority in terms of offering a peaceful and safe shopping experience. We took preventive measures throughout our value chain and all the way to the outlets, ensuring that every part of the process was secure. That being said, all

of our staff’s temperatures are checked regularly before they enter the store, all key touch points are disinfected regularly and all clothes are steam ironed regularly. We have also temporarily suspended product exchanges in a bid to prevent any transmission while complying with all government regulations with regards to COVID-19 Our second challenge was the whole online shopping dilemma. We had initiated online shopping during the early stages of 2019 and enjoyed a successful year around. However, like all online operators we too, faced a sudden shift in the scale and volume of orders over a very short period of time, and based on observations during the lockdown, we planned for it well in advance to scale up to cater to the demands, which were brought upon by COVID-19. We initially did have issues, but we were able to adapt to the demand and meet our customers’ requirements at a rapid speed. Overnight our operations shifted from offline to online, which was new to most of our team. However, we overcame this challenge thanks to the early implementation of e-commerce. Once business resumed, we initiated a program called ‘Reserve & Pickup’, offering consumers the ease of shopping by just calling the outlet where we had a dedicated person to take down our customers’ requests and orders, pack it and keep it ready for our customers to simply pay and check out. Thus, reducing the time spent in store. This has been very successful and we are continuing to offer this moving forward. From day one, we were looking at all options to ensure that our customers are safe at all times while offering our products and services.” “The new normal is a context that will continue for at least another 6 months depending on the future curve of the COVID tested patients, which eventually impacts consumer confidence. What we see is that more consumers are shifting and adapting towards the online trend within Colombo. The outstation areas will gradually return to normal, resuming activities much like it has been in the past. Businesses will have to reach out and push their products and services towards consumers more”, noted Shabier, expressing his opinion on what the “new normal” would be like for the Retail Fashion industry of Sri Lanka.

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Brown-Forman Corporation, American maker of Jack Daniel’s whisky, said it will be tougher to recover from several emerging markets including India as basic staples will take precedence over discretionary products in the near future. “Parts of Asia and India don’t have the social safety net that you are seeing in the US and most of Western Europe. And so, those markets, when they go into shutdown, people don’t have money for luxuries at all. And they are really going to the base of goods and trying to survive,” Brown-Forman Corporation CEO Lawson Whiting said in an earnings call.


avish news

ZARA OWNER INDITEX TO CLOSE UP TO 1,200 FASHION STORES AROUND THE WORLD The owner of Zara is to close between 1,000 and 1,200 retail stores across the globe, outlining a plan to “reinforce all of its brands’ e-commerce capabilities”. Inditex, a Spanish multinational fashion group, operates more than 7,000 stores worldwide, owning brands including Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull and Bear and Oysho.

JLR DRIVES IN LIMITED EDITION RANGE ROVER TO MARK 50 YEARS OF ICONIC SUV The model will be available in both standard and long-wheelbase body designs with customers able to choose from four exterior colours Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) on Wednesday launched a limited edition of its SUV Range Rover to commemorate 50 years of the iconic model. The Range Rover has defined the market since June 17, 1970, and, five decades on, it has evolved to become a family of desirable and capable luxury vehicles, JLR said in a statement.

MICHAEL KORS SAYS “GOODBYE FOR NOW” TO NEW YORK FASHION WEEK It will be some time until we see Michael Kors take one of his signature victory laps around the runway. The designer announced today that he has opted out of New York Fashion Week, scheduled this year for the week of September 14, in favor of a spring 2021 presentation in the mid-October to midNovember time frame. “I have for a long time thought that the fashion calendar needs to change,” Kors said in a statement.



& Mentor





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Transformative Leader and Mentor | LAVISH

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LAVISH | Transformative Leader and Mentor

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Transformative Leader and Mentor | LAVISH

“Having started my MBA, I moved to FMCG, because I realized that I liked FMCG more than industrial marketing. I spent a very short time at Delmege as a Marketing Manager. My career really got a boost when I joined Ceylon Tobacco Company as a Research Manager. I was with Ceylon Tobacco for six years. From research, I moved to brand management, and then became Head of Brands at Ceylon Tobacco. Ceylon Tobacco is an excellent company; it is like a university in the way they invest in people and capability development. But, the downside for me was that it was a monopoly, because the kind of learning that you can get from a competitive angle is limited. This caused a restlessness in me to explore a more challenging role in a competitive environment. I took up an opportunity to join Coca Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd during a very difficult time for the company, which was struggling with a low market share. I joined as Head of Marketing, and I spent four and a half years at Coca Cola. It was an exciting time during which we transformed the company and its culture, and did a lot of work in terms of promoting the brand. This is where I found my thirst for challenges and transformation, and my drive towards creating real tangible change, and transforming people and brands. I have never looked back since then.” Commenting on his current role, Dusty said, “Thereafter, I got an opportunity to join Heineken, which at that time was called Asia Pacific Brewery, as Managing Director - a post I have held for the past ten years. My journey at Heineken has been the greatest challenge and the best gift that I have received in my life. Throughout the past ten years, we have transformed the entire company from being a small local entity to a true multinational organization, investing in our supply chain, people and our brands, and making it an aspirational brand and company in Sri Lanka. Heineken is known in Sri Lanka for its youthful, vibrant and global outlook, and a company that makes you ‘Go-Places’ in your career.” Dusty has another facet to his life, which is his passion for teaching and mentoring. Dusty explained, “In the 99-2000 period, I wanted to give lecturing a try. I was a very bad public speaker. I had many inhibitions. So, I thought of developing myself in that area and I felt that the best way to do it was to lecture. I began lecturing for marketing and a few other subjects. I did such a bad job at my first lecture that half of the class walked out after the break! It was a real eye opener for me, but I refused to give up. I prepared myself, worked at it and became really good at it. I started to like lecturing and connecting with students. Today, I have been lecturing for over 20 years.

In 2007, I moved into lecturing at the Post Graduate Level and established NEXT Campus with a group of friends, and I’m the Chairman today. I really enjoy lecturing subjects like Strategy, Research and Leadership. These topics are very close to my heart and the passion flows when I stand in front of a class of students. It’s all about how we can change peoples’ lives. How we can train them to become better thinkers and leaders, and bring the best out of them. At most times, I work all seven days, and I don’t mind giving up my weekends to ensure that I contribute towards forming the next generation of thinkers and business leaders in the country. I feel there is a responsibility among all of us to ‘give back’ or ‘pay it forward’ and contribute to society.” He went on to say that “Today, the norm is multiple master’s degrees and development programs where we need to up-skill and re-skill ourselves every now and then, to be ahead of the curve in this digital decade. At NEXT Campus, our primary objective has been to be a differentiator in master’s education offering our students the opportunity to keep abreast with the changing times. I feel that our choice to be that differentiator has changed the landscape of the education industry in Sri Lanka.” When asked about how to be relevant in ever-changing times and plans, Dusty said, “I am a firm believer in continuous learning and in 2017, I decided that I needed to reskill and upskill myself. So, I registered myself for another Master’s Degree program in Coaching & Consulting for Change, at INSEAD in Singapore. It was a huge investment in terms of time and money. But I was happy to do so as it was at INSEAD, which is the highest ranked business school in the world. I travelled to the Singapore campus every two months within a span of two years to participate in the program. I’m proud to have been the first Sri Lankan to be admitted to the program and obtain the qualification. My experience at INSEAD was something that I had not experienced before, after many years I was a student, and was privileged to have learnt and exchanged ideas with my professors and classmates who were thought leaders in the areas of leadership, change and coaching. My passion is to get into the coaching of CEOs and consulting to management teams on how strategy, mindsets and change can be managed in the future. I feel that Sri Lanka, as a middleincome developing country, has huge potential to grow and be a formidable force in the region. What is needed is good leadership and strategy amongst our business leaders and the agility to embrace change.”

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LAVISH | Transformative Leader and Mentor

Questioned specifically about the common principles of a successful strategic plan, Dusty responded, “I would like to approach this question from a more unique perspective in today’s context. I see it in two parts, which are interconnected to each other. The first, I would say is the strategy that we have, which forms a bigger part of the plan. I think many companies get the strategy part right, but they need to really look at what position they want to occupy and what type of place they want to be in mid to long term. If you can flesh it out so that the team and the entire company understands this strategy, then I would say it is a winning one, which delivers your greater ambition. The bigger problem is, strategy never comes ‘off the paper’ and translates into action, which leads to my second point. This is because the team does not believe in it and are not in the same frequency as the ones who created it! This is about mindsets. To some extent, we talk about culture in companies, but today mindsets are more important when it comes to implementing and executing a strategy. A company culture is merely a byproduct or manifestation of the mindsets within. Depending on the strategy and the context, you need to identify the type of mindsets the company needs to inculcate and display to execute the strategy, and to go out into the market and fight. In most cases, I see that the connection between these two parts is lost and most often we don’t find these mindsets coming out strong in a company with a supportive culture. This sabotages or delays the achievement of the plan.” Commenting on why mindsets are equally important for strategy execution, Dusty said,

“To start with, there are different mindsets among leaders and employees. In my opinion, a set of successful mindsets should be built on the concept of agility, which requires us to be agile when it comes to people, change, results, mental behaviors and self-awareness. This has been widely recognized as ‘the organizational X factor’ or as ‘learning agility’ by Korn Ferry consultants. As a person who is passionate about transforming brands, organizations and people, I feel that this agility is the decisive point that makes or breaks a company. Time to time, the mindsets needed to complement strategy should change, which means we need to let go and not stubbornly hold onto yesterday’s truth. We at Heineken believe that what was good yesterday is ok today and not good enough for tomorrow.”

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Speaking particularly on self-awareness, “This is the most difficult part for today’s leaders, to be able to see themselves from a distance and within and understand that there are blind spots, deep seated values and also unknown biases that drive our actions. This requires constant self-reflection and getting to know others at an authentic level. The deeper and authentic our connections are, the easier it is for us to have difficult and challenging conversations. This also helps us to embrace a common mindset which is needed to execute strategy,” Dusty added. Commenting on the impact of COVID-19 in the FMCG industry, Dusty said, “I would say that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, not only Heineken, but most companies across the world. Lifestyle products like beer, where people go out and enjoy, which we call ‘out of home consumption’ is heavily impacted. At the same time, people are at home and they consume more beverages and food. So, the demand has moved from ‘out of home’ to ‘in home’ consumption suddenly and parts of it could remain that way. And of course, there is an impact on disposable income, and that will have a cascading effect on FMCG products. In some cases, the trends that we would have seen five years away have become true today, triggering a digital transformation. But the idea is, how do you shape your strategy to live with this new balance? How will you come out with new offers and new ways of addressing these altered consumer needs? The buying patterns have especially changed, and companies need to address these new ways of purchasing and align their selling approach accordingly.” “To sum up, I think winning in the business world is all about agility and resilience. Because one thing is certain; be it the marketplace, consumer demands, socio political ethos of the country, everything is dynamic and changing. We are talking about the ‘new norm’ in the post COVID era. This phrase has become almost a cliché. In a competitive environment, every day presents a new norm for us. What is required of a business leader is a good vision, a strategy embedded in insights and a great mindset grounded on agility and resilience, in simple words, being relevant tomorrow!”

Transformative Leader and Mentor | LAVISH

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Beauty and the






On the status of the beauty industry prior to COVID-19, Christina commented, “Considering the uphill climb all industries had to face post the Easter attacks in 2019, if I had to give a snapshot of the beauty industry pre COVID-19, I would say that the industry was doing well over all for a couple of reasons - firstly, customers are increasingly more conscious about taking care of themselves and secondly, there is a vast amount of information out there on innovation in the industry, new brand offerings, customer reviews, research etc. Thus, our customers are extremely ‘tuned in’, articulate and aware of what is going on in the industry, and exactly where they fit into the cycle, in terms of what their specific needs are. This in turn, has required brands and service providers in Sri Lanka to keep pushing the envelope when it comes to marketing and catering to these developing needs. Over the years, there have been pioneers in the beauty industry in Sri Lanka who have opened doors in terms of offering more services that straddle the line between cosmetic and medical beauty practices. Therefore, enabling customers to have more access and choice when it comes to beauty practices and products that support personal preference, lifestyle and objectives.”

Describing the impact of COVID-19 (including the lockdown/curfew) upon the beauty industry, Christina stated, “Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic and the immediate shutdown of all salons and skin care centres - The initial impact on the industry was twofold. Customer Access – Due to the concern of spreading the virus through contact, there was a shutdown of all salons, spas and beauty care centres, which fall into the category of ‘nonessential goods and services.’ Having no access to our clients deeply impacted revenue for businesses across the country who in some cases were not able to sustain being closed for 2 months. During this quarantine, businesses needed to take closer look at how to manage costs better, support their employees and adhere to the protocols stipulated by the government for our safety in the long term. Longterm Availability – With the suspension of imports there was/ is a concern about the sustainability of businesses in the months to come. Again, businesses have had to take this time re-look at strategies, stock management and their approach to the market, post COVID-19.” According to Christina – “All in all, the changes across most industries have been tremendous. As businesses we have all had to take a deeper dive into understanding the factors that will determine whether a business survives the impact of this pandemic or not. CEO Magazine Sri Lanka | 97

LAVISH | Beauty and the Pandemic

All in all, the changes across most industries have been tremendous. As businesses we have all had to take a deeper dive into understanding the factors that will determine whether a business survives the impact of this pandemic or not.”

The first thing we have to understand was that customers are changing their mindset on the way they want to allocate their funds, based on revised salary structures, company restructuring, increased cost of living, etc. As a business and a luxury product/ service we have to ask ourselves ‘How can we remain relevant as a brand/ service provider, considering this shift in lifestyle?’ and ‘How are we as a business, going to address the main concern – Safety?’ As individuals and as businesses we have to evaluate expenditure, and understand what exactly we can do to reduce waste and utilize the resources available to us to their optimum capacity. As bouncing back to normal is going to be a slow and uphill task, it will be some time until businesses are able to get back to the kind of revenue they are used to and managing costs is going to play a pivotal role in the sustainability of businesses everywhere. I strongly believe that how we manage costs and safety from now till then, will determine whether our businesses will survive or not.

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Due to the nature of the beauty industry, human contact is an integral part of the work we do and a necessary one at that. Further to the information that’s out there so far on the nature of COVID-19, we are looking at spending at least the next 1 year living in a world that has to maintain a distance of 1 meter apart. As a business, I feel it is time to break down the processes and see how we can incorporate the necessary safety measures whilst giving our customers the best possible experience and results. It’s time to unlearn and relearn how we do things.” “I was asked the question on how I think the industry will recover post COVID-19, and my answer was very simple – if we don’t recover as individuals, a nation and a global community, we will never recover across any industry - and I say that solely because of the nature of the pandemic. The only way forward is slowly, one step at a time and by making safety and the containment of this virus the most important part of any plan we make for the future. The way to do that is to follow stipulated protocol without taking short cuts, staying educated on the subject and by keeping in mind that responsibly handling this situation will impact our lives on so many different levels. It’s important to remember that safety protocols are not light suggestions, they are the difference between life and death, and it’s important that we adhere to them whether we are in our homes, in the office or in any other public space”, responded the marketing expert, when asked how the beauty industry will recover post COVID-19.

Beauty and the Pandemic | LAVISH

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LAVISH | Beauty and the Pandemic

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Beauty and the Pandemic | LAVISH

Christina listed the safety precautions, which salons and other related places are required to adopt as such From the perspective of the beauty industry, so far, the protocol is as follows (in a nutshell) Customer • • • •

Wash/sanitize hands upon entrance to the location. Anyone with a temperature above 98.4 F or 37 C will not be allowed on to the premises. Maintain a distance of 1m apart. Remain in the vehicle till it’s time for the appointment.

Staff • • • • • •

Wear a mask/ eye shield while attending to customers. Wash hands before accepting a new customer. No sharing equipment. Bare minimum contact with the customer. Disinfect any items used on the clients. Ensure clean linen.

General • • • • • • • • • • •

Offer specific treatments only – Treatments that limit contact as much as possible. Ensure that the staff information is shared with the relevant department and that they do not show any symptoms of COVID-19 upon entering the premises. Limit the number of people in the salon/waiting area. Furniture to be rearranged to accommodate social distancing protocol. Remove magazines, service menus, etc. Countertops, doorknobs and furniture need to be sanitized every 3 hours. All services and safety measures taken by the establishment to be published inside and outside the same. Waste to be disposed of responsibly. Disinfectant solution to be available throughout the location. Mask availability. Inspection and approval by the MOH prior to opening.

On the topic of the steps taken by the Estheti Centre to ensure the well-being of its clients and staff, Christina stated, “Just as many salons / beauty centres across the country have worked towards creating a space that is safe for our loyal customers, the Estheti Centre too, is doing our part to ensure that our staff and clients alike are taken care of and in a safe environment. From following stipulated protocol to adding on precautions

of our own like disposable sheets, rosters to ensure that at any given point of time there is a limited staff on the premises, etc. We created an SOP for staff and clients alike to ensure that we are all operating in the safest possible space. As a business, our relationship with our clients is a key part of our success and we had to adjust to a situation where we had limited contact with them. ‘How were we going to offer them the same level of service with so many (much needed) restrictions?’ The 2 main aspects of our strategy were to breakdown the processes and restructure according to the new ‘normal’ and have open communication with our staff and clients alike. On the communication front, social media helped to keep our clients connected to us for any questions or concerns they had over the quarantine period. Our team worked hard to address what was going on around us and turn the existing conversations into more positive ones. The main idea was to keep our customers motivated during this uncertain time, which was a great learning opportunity for the team as well. When it came to Sothys as a brand, we had to start thinking outside the box on how to stay at the forefront of our customers mind as more than just a skin care brand, but a brand that was with them even in situations such as this. We had to find a way to communicate this to our customers and share whatever tools we had at our disposal to encourage a calm environment during the lockdown situation. We did this by sharing motivational ideas on how to spend the lockdown period, we shared home care routine tutorials, steps on how to do a ‘DIY’ facial, etc. The biggest challenge we faced was catering to hundreds of requests from clients asking about how to get their hands on the retail products - This proved to be a challenge to mobilize due to the curfew and other restrictions, however after much deliberation, this is something we are now able to offer our clients. In terms of facial treatments, due to restrictions (as at today) on performing facials, Sothys Paris has risen to the challenge and developed revised protocols to limit potential risks, and we are in the process of fine tuning the same to sharing the same with our salon partners so that all our partners are ready for action as soon as the restrictions are lifted.”

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“Last word Business will always go where customers demand and in a post-COVID economy, this direction is decidedly digital. J O NATH A N A L L E S

The destination is nothing without an equally satisfying journey. N UWA N W IDYAPATHI GE

The business landscape, workforce demographics and dynamics today are very different compared to any other time. Therefore, people will be one of the biggest issues to solve along with the sustainability of businesses. HR professionals have to re-think and innovate solutions, and focus on moving boldly into the future. DIL R U KSH I KU R U KU LA S U R I YA 102 | CEO Magazine Sri Lanka

The new normal of “successfulness” will be just the right combination of authenticity, generosity, integrity and the ability to make an impact by being of service to mankind.



I think winning in the business world is all about agility and resilience. Because one thing is certain; be it the marketplace, consumer demands, socio political ethos of the country, everything is dynamic and changing. D USTY A L A H A KOON



With every challenge comes a new opportunity, and COVID has given the world both. It has been able to hit ‘pause’ on the global economy, and to let people and companies re-evaluate their priorities and values. Many companies are now realizing they can do the same with less, and many people are now realizing that they can do more with less effort, while they are also realizing that they can make do with less. So, it is up to us individually, as companies and as countries to learn from this pandemic and come out on the other side leaner and cleaner to ensure a better and more sustainable future for us all.”


I know we are all anxiously waiting for things to get back to normal. But we need to be patient as staying safe and not becoming a part of the problems is our responsibility as businesses, family units and individuals.” CH R ISTIN A A L PH ON SUS

During Every Challenge An Opportunity Arises. Success Comes From Finding An Opportunity During Every Challenge. SH A BIE R SUBIA N

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