Home / Entrepreneurship/ Global Entrepreneurship Summit – India 2017: Lessons for Sri Lanka

Global Entrepreneurship Summit – India 2017: Lessons for Sri Lanka

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 6 December 2017 00:00

By Lahiru Pathmalal

An impressive 1,500 investors and entrepreneurs from across the world attended the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) that took place in Hyderabad, India from 28 to 30 November. The event was organised by both the US and Indian governments. I was lucky and privileged to have been picked to travel with six other Sri Lankans to attend this year’s event.

This was the eighth such summit to be held. This year’s GES highlighted the theme ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’, and will focus on supporting women entrepreneurs and fostering economic growth globally. Ivanka Trump from the United States delegation and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Government of India headlined the event.

Here are some of the key themes discussed and some lessons that Sri Lanka could learn:

Utilising and empowering women, who do so much 

for our economy

Women’s participation in the economic sphere was a key element of discussion during the Summit. Prime Minister Modi mentioned in his opening remarks that more than 50% of the attendees are women. While Sri Lanka’s economy depends on the blood, sweat and tears of women; employed as migrant workers, and in the tea and garment industries, their presence in leadership roles in the corporate world is beyond lacking. Sri Lanka has dropped from 100 in 2016 to 109 in 2017 on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. More will have to be done in order to make sure that women are empowered, to break in to the boys club of the corporate world.

We should be doing this not out of any obligation but because it’s the right thing to do, both for our nation& bottom lines. Most of our neighbours have now understood this, and are putting together the best possible teams of both women and men to win at the work place, and if we as a nation do not take the right steps in this direction we will surely loose out in this fast paced, innovative world.

Trade liberalisation

India is doing a great deal to open up their economy. The theme for India has been for some time, ‘Start-Up India’ which means it understands at a policy level the true value of competition and building global brands.

In Lanka some large businesses cower behind protectionist trade restrictions so they do not have to face more competition. The Government has taken some steps in this direction to liberalise the economy, but more has to be done. This will lead to the consumers of Sri Lanka having much more choice, and eventually Sri Lankan businesses being more competitive. Increase in competitiveness will also lead to companies that are globally competitive and pertinent, not just addressing the local market.

Technology adaptation

Sri Lanka adopts technology at a snail’s space. What was made apparent to me at GES was how quickly we will get left behind if a business does not think in terms of technology and innovate. I believe that most businesses in the island are uncompetitive, and have carried out ‘business as usual’ for the last few decades   (there are of course notable expectations). The price of these practices has meant the consumer paying a much larger price at the cashier, and us having an ever shrinking export basket. Laws in terms of import restrictions have largely protected these business interests by using high tariffs. The answer is to understand and adopt technology to make systems better, and more efficient, to work towards becoming internationally and nationally competitive.

Fin-tech industry

India is doing a great deal of work to go digital. Like Sri Lanka, in India most transactions are done using cash and this has a large cost. It costs the country in terms of the black economy and corruption that it enables.

Furthermore, using cash is very expensive (indirect costs such as printing, storage, distribution, etc.) and using cash also takes a lot of time. Regulators need to do more to deregulate the financial industry. Only then will banks will face enough competition from fin-tech startups to force them to innovate, digitising the economy in the process. We have to also start exploring how blockchain technology can increase efficiencies in the financial sector.


We have to shed our insecurities and compete in global markets by building innovative Sri Lankan companies. We have done this in the past and there is no reason why we can’t multiply the few successes we already have. We should also look at India as a big opportunity, all too often we see India as a threat and this is not the correct way to view things. It’s a huge market that Lankans should take advantage of, by both importing products and exporting. It also has a great advantage in terms of human capital, which we should look in to exploiting. 

I firmly believe that by embracing technology, change and opening up we can build a very strong economy that will show promise for the next generations to come.

(The writer is the Co-Founder and CEO of Takas.lk. The views shared on this piece are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisation.)


Share This Article


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Taking sides – on the side of the law

Monday, 19 November 2018

I am under criticism for “taking sides” in the ongoing dispute between the UNF and UPFA. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has accused me thus: “Yesterday a commissioner from the Elections Commission went to the Supreme Court saying that the P

Hang the House! It’s OUR country, future, etc.

Monday, 19 November 2018

I have rarely if ever empathised with the Sri Lanka Police Department. But when I saw those hapless cops ducking chilli bombs in Parliament, my heart went out to those whom I had previously seen as simply being PC Plods or Mr Goons. Sorry to say that

The only way out

Monday, 19 November 2018

Leaving aside the legalities, politicalities, constitutionalities and the complexities of the current imbroglio in which the nation is grounded (temporarily), the underlying issues in the constitutional crisis can be reduced to one single question: a

Man-made constitutional crisis: Personal vendettas should not be allowed to destroy the country

Monday, 19 November 2018

President is simply one presiding over an entity of people It all came to surface as the culmination of a personal vendetta between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The country at large knew of it when the Pre

Columnists More