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Marketers call for Sri Lanka nation branding efforts to be made on a unified theme

Thilanka Abeywardena- President SLIM presenting the token of appreciation to the Speaker of the event, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Governor, Central bank of Sri Lanka
  • CB Governor Cabraal calls marketers to join hands with the government for trade, tourism and investment promotion
Left to Right-Prof. Neelika Malvige, Professor and Head of the Department, Immunology and Molecular Medicine University of Sri Jayawardanapura, Member of WHO Technical Advisory Group on the COVID 19 Technology Access  Pool, Dr. Ravi Fernando,Chairman/ CEO, Global Strategic Corporate Sustainability, Board Member, LOLC Holdings PLC  and Aitken Spence Plantation Management PLC, Devindre Senaratne, Managing Director ,JourneyScapes( Pvt) Ltd, Past President-SLAITO, Pasan wanigasekara , Director General, Board of Investment, Sujeewa Mudalige, Managing Partner, PWC Sri Lanka , Moderator, Shiran Fernando, Chief Economist, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

Sri Lankan marketers, while coming forward to support nation branding (one of the most daring challenges in global market entry) have also been asked to effect such promotional branding on a unified theme, instead of the piecemeal messaging style that is being practiced in global markets at present.

The leaders and members of Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), the apex body for Sri Lankan marketers, took a positive view of the government’s call made on 17 November for marketers ‘to come forward to globally position Brand Sri Lanka’ but also suggested a coherent approach to be adopted in it, across all three verticals of the country’s wealth generation-tourism, investment and international trade.

Marketers’ were forthcoming on the national invitation issued during an address made by the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal at the “Future Ready Economy Budget 2022” Panel Discussion organized by SLIM on 17 November. During the event, Governor Nivard Cabraal praised SLIM’s contribution to the country thus far while calling on Sri Lankan marketers to come forward to join government’s efforts to promote and position the country in the global arena. SLIM’s panel discussion of 17 November focused on the impact of the Budget 2022 on various aspects of Sri Lanka’s economy.

Addressing the session, Governor Cabraal said: “We need clarity to bring stability to the nation. No one realizes the importance of stability until they lose it. For this we have taken several steps during the last few weeks. You will see the effects of these changes in the coming weeks. New infrastructures such as the Colombo Port City and Hambanthota Port have huge economic potentials. You as the marketing community, have a great role to play here. Every facet of these potentials should be reflected in all minds across the world. We are targeting USD 150 billion GDP in the coming years. This will not be impossible if we set out the parameters. As marketers I saw you transform businesses and people but if you (as marketers) can transform the country, that shall be a great victory. Sri Lanka needs to package globally in a way that attracts international investments. This is achieved through such mechanisms as campaigns and roadshows. It is important for marketers and the government to work together to bring new investments to Sri Lanka.”

The reputed panel of speakers at the session consisted of Dr Ravi A. Fernando (Board Member, LOLC Holdings PLC, Aitken Spence Plantation Managements), Prof. Neelika Malavige, Head of Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine of the Sri Jayawardenepura University, Sujeewa Mudalige (Managing Partner, PWC Sri Lanka), Devindre Senaratne (Managing Director, JourneyScapes (Pvt) Ltd), Pasan Wanigasekara (DG-Board of Investment) and moderated by Shiran Fernando (Chief Economist-Ceylon Chamber of Commerce). The Panel Discussion on Budget 2022 that followed was broadcast live over SLIM’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/slimonline.

Ms. Thilanka Abeywardena, President, SLIM addressing the session said: “SLIM has been the National Body for Marketing in Sri Lanka for the past 51 years. SLIM supports the core objective of a Future Ready Sri Lanka. Through Future Ready Sri Lanka SLIM aims at encouraging entrepreneurship, innovation, skills, and knowledge-based industries for economic recovery in the new normal. Its overall focus on upskilling and education is expected to result in the knowledge based economy. SLIM has been contributing to the country’s development over the past five decades. The Pandemic changed how we live our lives and the way we run businesses changed. The future is about knowledge based and innovation driven industries. SLIM’s Future Ready Sri Lanka role is not one of a ‘plug and play’ but one that involves, in addition to upskilling, changing people’s mindsets to be able to face the future in the new normal. Today we wish to present SLIM’s Report titled “Implications of Budget 2022 on Marketers (Budget Proposals – November 2021)”. SLIM works with entrepreneurs of all sizes and shapes and is present widely in our business sector.”

During the session SLIM President Ms Abeywardena also handed over a copy of the Report “Implications of Budget 2022 on Marketers (Budget Proposals – November 2021)” prepared by SLIM Research Bureau to Deepal Abeysekera CEO, People’s Insurance PLC. The special report focuses on three aspects- Potential for new brands and products to emerge locally, opportunities in the digital and technology sphere and availability of creative resources. The report says: “In light of the new opportunities and challenges faced in a shifting business landscape, we cannot emphasize enough on the importance of collaboration. Marketers, as well as other professionals, cannot be expected to work in silos. To unlock the opportunities presented and to successfully navigate challenges faced, it is essential that we work together with experts and specialists in different fields.”

During the Panel Discussion that followed, experts stressed the importance of positioning Brand Sri Lanka globally with a singular promotional theme rather than piecemeal messaging which is seen at present. Panelist Prof. Neelika Malavige, addressing how to bridge the existing structural gaps towards making Sri Lanka a science and technology hub, emphasized the need for a mindset change. “Sri Lankans usually don’t think science based grants can be a forex revenue earner but it can be done since we have the scientific expertise and capacities. Still the red tape needs to be eliminated. COVID’s presence is turning to be similar to the spread of Dengue and we may have to face COVID in a similar way.” Panelist Sujeewa Mudalige said that it is not an easy time to ‘present a budget.’ “The budget did not change existing tax rates nor tax laws which is a positive. Other steps such as re-skilling the workforce, the maritime hub, e-government and improving land usage are other positive aspects of Budget 2022.” Panelist Dr Ravi A. Fernando said that climate change would be a debilitating issue that Sri Lanka and many other nations would have to face in the new normal. “When planning economic development projects, climate emergency led destructions should be taken into account-if not it is an ignorance of reality. Climate emergency led destructions to economies should be factored into every budget with allocation for disaster management. A science based leadership is important for the country’s development. As for Sri Lanka’s geographical location, the country should focus on using this for value added exports” he added.  Panelist Sujeewa Mudalige said that for Sri Lanka’s future, the Port City can be a game changer. “Across employment, value addition to GDP, FDI, Balance of Payments and government revenue, it can contribute well. If we get the Port City right, the opportunities could be unbelievable. We need holding companies and large anchor investors based from Sri Lanka, rather than from other regional hubs” he said. Panelist Devindre Senaratne, highlighting tourism’s prospects for Sri Lanka’s future said: “At the moment Sri Lanka Tourism needs a survival strategy. We need to promote the country, changing its perception abroad. According to the World Tourism Organisation, we could return to 80% of our usual earnings by 2024.”

It was highlighted that during Brand Sri Lanka promotion, a coherent theme may be woven across all three main verticals of the country’s wealth generation -tourism, investment and international trade – in a unified theme, without each of them portraying different messages.

About SLIM:

The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) is the apex body for Sri Lankan Marketers, which was founded in 1970 and subsequently incorporated by an act of Parliament in 1980, recognizing it as the National Body for Marketing and a ‘not-for-profit’ organization. SLIM has been mandated to uplift the Marketing profession in Sri Lanka, professionals from numerous industries in an honorary capacity.

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