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New SLIM President Suranjith Swaris discusses future of SLIM


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Suranjith Swaris

 

The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) recently welcomed a new president, Bellose Lanka Ltd., Bluetown Real Estate and Ogabo Global Perfumery Business and Marketing Consultant and Care Belle Director International Suranjith Swaris. Following his appointment Swaris was kind enough to spare some time from his busy schedule to discuss his journey with SLIM and his plans for the institute’s future.

 

Q: Can you give us a brief description of your years as a member of SLIM?

I joined the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing in 2002, when I was looking to begin a career in Sales and Marketing. The Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing at SLIM served as my introduction to the field. After my graduation, I joined SLIM as a member of the executive committee. During my tenure at SLIM, I also did my MBA from Buckinghamshire New University and obtained the Certified Professional Marketer (CPM – Asia) status from the Asia Marketing Federation through SLIM. 

I served the institute until 2010, and was engaged in many projects by SLIM, including SLIM Deals – an added benefit for members, the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards and the SLIM Nielsen People’s Awards where I served as Project Chairman, and the Effies where I was a member of the organising committee. I climbed the proverbial ladder and became Treasurer in 2009/2010. 

After a brief step back, following an invitation from the SLIM executive committee in 2012, I re-joined SLIM as a member of the executive committee and continued to contribute to the marketing fraternity by leading national projects such as SLIM Gamata Marketing and SLIM NASCO as the Project Chairman. 

Subsequently I was appointed as assistant secretary, secretary and vice president in succession, and eventually I received the honour of becoming the president of SLIM this year. I have the privilege of being the longest-serving executive committee member of SLIM, having been a member of the institute for a total of 12 years, a true SLIM Product. 

I also contribute to the nation by representing SLIM in Government bodies such as the Export Development Board, by heading a number of technical committees. I was a member of the evaluation committee of the EDB’s Market Development Assistant (MDA) scheme. 

I was also a Think Tank member of the ‘Brand Sri Lanka’ project in association with SLIM, and the Universities of Kelaniya and Sri Jayewardenepura, and was a steering committee member of ‘Development of Brand Proposition for Sri Lankan Spices’.  

I am currently serving as a member of the evaluation committee of the EDB for the ‘Erambuma Credit Scheme’, an implementation by the National Budget Proposal 2018, which provides financial support for Business Start-ups. 

 

Q: How does it feel to be appointed the president of the national body of marketing in the country?

 It gives me great pride to be the president of such a renowned and well-respected institution, which contributes to the development of Sri Lankan economy through marketing. I’m especially happy to be the president who leads SLIM into its golden jubilee year as the 41st President of SLIM. 

Today, SLIM is a large and prestigious institution, our vision is to lead the nation’s effort towards the economic prosperity and our mission is to make marketing as the driving force that enhances business and the national value. So being the head of the ‘alevikaranaye maha gedara’, as SLIM is known in Sinhala, brings me great pride, since I too am a product of SLIM. 

 

Q: What is your opinion on the current situation of SLIM?

 I’m very pleased with the progress of SLIM over the past 49 years. Thanks to the past Presidents, EXCO members, members, staff, stakeholders and all those who have and continue to work hard with dedication and passion to bring SLIM to the leading position it enjoys in the industry today. All those who contribute their time and energy to SLIM, do so voluntarily and wholeheartedly. Looking to the future, I can foresee a bright future for SLIM and the marketing fraternity of the country. 

 

Q: What are your plans for the curriculum of the institute?

 SLIM is built upon five pillars – Membership, Education, Events, Trainings and Corporate Solutions. We are driving the institute with a five-year plan in order to constantly accelerate our contribution to the marketing fraternity in Sri Lanka. My Executive Committee, the CEO/ED, the staff and I continue to follow what we have set forth in our plan with a few revisions. 

For example, in the case of membership, we continue to provide professional environment for our members by executing evening forums, international speakers, panel discussions, conferences, seminars, workshop etc. As a new initiative, we started to publish two digital monthly newsletters called ‘SLIM Digest’ and ‘Asian Marketer’ to increase the visibility of SLIM operations to our members and as a means of value addition to their professional career by creating a platform of network with Asia.  

For education – we currently have 14 products but we need to move further onto the online platform. In the current context the traditional classroom may not be favourable with Millennials and Gen Z. Thus, we are trying to include online programs and courses for students who would prefer to learn in an environment more convenient and preferable to them than typical classrooms, as our main focus.  We have already developed an online portal for students to register themselves and gain memberships. 

There are also plans in motion to add another MBA, BSC and MSC to the portfolio of products in an effort to present the students who join SLIM with more opportunities to attain higher levels in their careers.

We have recently introduced the Certificate in Entrepreneurial Marketing (CEM) to support start-ups and SMEs by helping them improve the application marketing knowledge to develop their businesses. 

At the moment SLIM’s corporate solutions are predominant in the Colombo region and its vicinity. We plan to expand our reach to the North and East as well, since we see a lot of potential in those regions. We are also trying to introduce consultation services as well as an online training portal with modules for students to follow as well as to introduce the Corporate Management Development Program (CMDP) and study centres, which SLIM intends to franchise all across the island. Our goal is to continue to make marketing a way of life across the entire country. 

When it comes to events, our key events are well-known throughout the country. We want to take these events to the region. We are currently looking for ways to get regional players interested in our events. 

 

Q: What additions do you plan to make to the annual agenda of SLIM events?

 All SLIM events are home-grown events, except the Effies. As of the previous year, we are working to take the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards out to the region. We are working to introduce international Effie judges to the event as well as to support the local Effie winners to take part in the international event with more collaboration with Effie International. Last year we introduced SLIM Brand Week to the agenda of the SLIM Brand Excellence program, to add a knowledge sharing element to the process. 

Plans are to make it an event of its own in the future. We are focusing on developing the SMEs sector towards brand management as well as developing export branding by having more workshops island-wide with the support of the Chambers and the EDB. Based on its objective of developing Sales as a profession, we have introduced the SLIM NASCO Gold Club to better develop those who win Gold at the NASCO Awards.

The SLIM Nielsen Peoples’ Awards, saw an increase in the sample size last year, and will continue this year as well. We’ve also reintroduced Gamata Marketing after a three-year lapse, and the project is currently being implemented in Matara for selected women entrepreneurs who are attached to the fishery industry with the collaboration of the University of Ruhuna and INDECOS.  

Marketing Roks is a program that is aimed at school students, with the goal of introducing the concept of Marketing to them at an early stage in a fun way. We also recently introduced the SLIM Digis in order to celebrate Sri Lanka’s best digital marketing work, innovation and talent, as well as recognising the region’s growing influence in the global digital industry.

 

Q: Do you have a ‘theme’ for the year?

 The theme this year is ‘Year of Transformation’. The reason is because at the 49 years of age SLIM can be considered as rather ‘old’, thus in order to keep up with the times and trends of the years to come, SLIM needs a ‘transformation’. SLIM is in the process of construction of a new SLIM home, the biggest project in SLIM history. 

Looking back over the years it is obvious that the world has changed immensely in comparison to how things were when SLIM first came into existence. We especially want to transform the mindset of the organisation, in keeping with the global changes. By implementing ‘transformation’ at SLIM, we hope to transform the entire marketing fraternity of the country. 

In this regard we have taken many initiatives. When it comes to the staff, we intend to put a new process in place, which focuses on digital platforms, continue the performance driven culture and introduce new methods of empowerment for our staff. We plan to appoint a committee to reform our constitution of SLIM and revamp the SLIM corporate brand. Our current plan is to launch the reforms and revamp on our 50th anniversary.  

We recently made an open invitation to the entire marketing fraternity in order to increase the number of volunteers and contributors, who can be a part of the various teams, committees etc. Through this initiative we have received a very positive response. 

Our staff is our greatest asset. We continue to motivate and develop them to reach greater heights. Last year we organised an ‘idea challenge’ for our staff where we invited the members of our staff to present creative ideas on how to develop SLIM further. We are currently working on one of these ideas, which is to introduce D-SLIM – a digital face of SLIM. We hope such moves will sustain SLIM for the next 50 years. 

 

Q: Any other views? 

 Today Sri Lanka is facing many challenges. Our country is currently in a state of uncertainty. I think the marketer has a pivotal role to play because they are the driving force due to the fact that they have an insight into the minds of the customers and are communication specialists. As the President of SLIM, I request the marketers of Sri Lanka to develop the position of the country and spread the message of positivity by any means available. 


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