Exploring post Covid-19 global opportunities | Sunday Observer

Exploring post Covid-19 global opportunities

Respected British tennis legend Jo Durie once said, “If you can defend-attack and take the initiative, then you become a more dangerous player.” The quote is very applicable for Sri Lanka’s post covid-19 business efforts.

We have successfully defended the pandemic and already initiated a counter attack by opening the country. All the necessary initiatives were taken by the President and the Government to face the challenges ahead pertaining to health and economic issues. The Government, under a solid leadership along with the unconditional backing of the entire state machinery, has so far managed the episode far better than most of the countries.    

Covid-19 is seems to be here to stay for long and affect the world deeper than probably we are prepared to accept. With the current staggering confirmed cases and deaths around the world, the outbreak seems to have gone a long way beyond the initial expectations.We have not yet seen a hero with a vaccine or medicine to save the day. The Coronavirus has become the most discussed topic in the world today dominating every print, electronic and social media. Global media barely speaks about anything else other than the virus, no matter how important it is.  Many things are being said about the losses, business failures, mass scale economic shocks, social friction and many more on the subject.  

In this backdrop, regardless of individual economic philosophy, continuous collaboration between individuals, the public, the private sector and the private sector must be encouraged and nurtured to come out as winners. As of now, domestic micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) suffer due to lack of revenue resulting in the inability to pay wages and also unable to find even day-to-day running expenses. 

The most affected are micro level businesses where operations are conducted with daily earnings. Now that panic shopping is over, even sales of essentials are also declining, making matters worse.

Therefore, the initiatives taken by the Government have to be put into action before the situation worsens for these affected business entities.  It is good to see that despite the setbacks, Sri Lankan entrepreneurs are coming out to seek the post pandemic opportunities available. The only drawback is that while large scale operators are active, the small and medium sector does not seem to be displaying much enthusiasm.

Reluctant

In this context, the Government has to engage and draw them out with a proper back-up campaign.

My discussions with a few of them revealed that they are reluctant to come out as the banks are still not adequately supporting them for finances. They say that the banks are asking them for too much paperwork even to consider a loan under the SME scheme.      

We have to look at the new business opportunities available for the business fraternity, SME sector in particular, which makes the larger contribution to the economy, both in money and in providing employment. 

It is a certainty that the current crisis will change long-term social interactions,  gatherings, and any other social involvements. Soon after the curfew was relaxed, we witnessed the public trying to adjust to the new normal. With time, this behaviour will require different products and services so far as business operations are concerned. New markets will emerge and new methods of marketing strategies will develop over time. Smart entrepreneurs understand this new consumer behaviour and adjust their products or services to meet future demands. They will grab the opportunity and adopt hands-on tactics to present their products.  

In the global arena, new markets will open for many products and services. Therefore, this may be the opportunity for Sri Lankan companies to capture and capitalise on with new innovations, possibly with lower prices. Sri Lanka has a reputation for quality in export products whether it is tea, rubber, coconut, apparel, spices or any other export product. We also have maintained high standards in information technology related services with many reputed international companies operating in the country.  

Foreign currency reserves are crucial at this point in time more than ever before. Countries are taking steps to curtail the outflow of their own money. However, the vast majority of the nations, except for a few, are compelled to import some products. This is common to Sri Lanka as well. The authorities have taken a long hard look and started devising plans to capitalise on this golden opportunity for our Export sector.  Sri Lanka is certain to find markets for Sri Lanka’s key export products such as apparel, tea, rubber, coconut, spices, gems, fruits and vegetables and so forth.

Value addition

However, the fact remains that Sri Lanka exports many of these categories in bulk form. It is time to focus on segregation and value addition as the point of difference with the competing countries. Even though the Sri Lanka export products contain high quality by itself, currently most of the medium level exporters concentrate on quantity more than the quality. This approach will have to be changed soon to take on the international competition.  However, some of the major players already have identified the market conditions, especially in sectors such as apparel and tea, and entered into value addition.

Taking the urgency and the dire need of foreign reserves into consideration, the Government has engaged itself in promoting as much as value added products.

The President must be commended in this regard for his clear instructions to the task force on economic revival to support the export trade. He has prudently appointed elite business leaders with hands-on experience to the task force, covering almost all related key areas.

The practice thus far by consecutive Governments was to appoint political henchmen as favours to these important committees. It is the first time the country witnesses such a competent, credible and pertinent panel managing important economic activities. 

The business fraternity expects the task force to devise business friendly regulations, cut down red tape menace as much as possible and provide supporting mechanisms to encourage the industry. Already many large, small and medium sized entrepreneurs have expressed their willingness to join the effort by developing existing business whilst others to start new ventures in export trade. 

The calamity presents an extraordinary and unprecedented opportunity to Sri Lanka in terms of international business.

 The private sector understands this and is willing to get ahead. If this opportunity is taken positively by the Government agencies and act efficiently and effectively to promote the country’s export products and services, it will take a comparatively short period to succeed. The crisis offers an opportunity to both corporate and SMEs to reposition their products and services relevant to new consumer demands. 

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