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Sri Lanka needs marketing strategies for coconut

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‘Value addition and creativity’ is one of my favorite topics which I discuss with MBA students at University of Moratuwa in the module of IT and E-Business. In my usual preparations for the session I suddenly observed a really interesting comparison. 

I just typed ‘Sri Lanka coconut’ on Google and observed the picture shown on this page. Here you can see people on the top of the tree and just a bunch of coconuts and king coconuts! At the same time I typed ‘Thailand coconut’ and searched on Google. Refer the screenshot shown on this page.

If you see the comparison there is something missing which we need to explore with an open mind. You may have a lot of reasons. It might be because of lack of focus on integrated marketing communication IMC (with digital marketing), international marketing strategies, web presence, Search Engine Optimisation, the problem of value addition (we can see some coconut products with value addition in Sri Lanka also) and many more can be explained. 

Anyway, I had a really fruitful discussion with my students on this by focusing on the future landscape of Sri Lankan exports and other products (with services) in terms of digital marketing, value additions and creativity. As we know coconut is one of the major plantation crops in Sri Lanka which accounts for approximately 12% of all agricultural produce in the country. Sri Lanka is one of the leading countries in coconut production. We are in the fifth place on the global map with 2,520,095 tons. See the statistics of countries by coconut production in the chart reproduced here.

Thailand is only in ninth place with 815,406 tons of production, but we can see they have done more investment for research and development and for value addition. We need to study the best practices. As we know Sri Lankan coconut is considered the best in the world and Sri Lanka holds the global No. 1 spot for exports of brown fibre. Even in terms of nutrition the Sri Lankan king coconut is rated high in the world. But we need better strategies. The coconut is only one example which I have taken but there are many more you can see with a similar pattern which needs to be investigated.

In marketing, we are talking about ‘product concept. We assume that since we have a quality product there is no need to market and the customer will come and buy the product. But it is only a producer oriented concept and we need to be customer oriented. Sri Lankans need to have policy planning for digital marketing for our products, for which I believe we need more collaborations and practical research from universities, professional bodies and higher education institutes.  Even at the end of the same lecture in Moratuwa, I suggested to students to see what they can do (as social responsibility) to have a proper web presence and Search Engine Optimisation for ‘Sri Lanka coconut’. This is something called “belonging” we should inculcate among our students, which is really important for a nation to prosper.

(The writer is a Professor in Management Studies, Open University of Sri Lanka and currently serving as Visiting Professor at Canadore College, North Bay, Canada. You can reach him via nalinabeysekera@gmail.com)

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