Crowds thronged the first ‘Divi Neguma’ exhibition in Mannar. The eighth ‘Divi Neguma’ show in the series and the first ever ‘Divi Neguma’ to be held in the region, it also highlighted strong private sector participation and pulled the highest Tamil speaking crowds in any ‘Divi Neguma’ show to be held in the Northern Province, especially considering the overall low population in the region.
Interestingly, it also showed unprecedented interest of many exhibition goers – who usually go after white collar occupations – towards small scale entrepreneurship and self-employment.
“The second ‘Divi Neguma’ to be held in the Northern Province exceeded our initial expectations. There were more than 6,000 Tamil speaking populace visiting the show during its two day duration and benefiting from it. A strong private sector presence was very visible,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen.
Minister Bathiudeen announced this after the conclusion of the two-day ‘Divi Neguma’ on 22 January. The ‘Divi Neguma’ series of exhibitions are promoted under the guidance of the Ministry of Economic Development and implemented under five line ministries, including the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Ministry of Economic Development.
The Export Development Board (EDB) and National Entrepreneurs Development Authority (NEDA) of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce contribute significantly to the programme according to the vested subject areas.
The Mannar ‘Divi Neguma’ featured no less than 14 government institutions as exhibitors while also featuring 40 private sector firms. The Mannar exhibition focused on the empowerment of rural household economy. Among the sectors on show are agro sector (especially machinery, seeding and replanting), leather and footwear manufacturing, food processing, SME marketing and networking capacity enhancement, and new technology infusion to the rural production units.
Initials estimates showed on the spot sales exceeding Rs. 500,000.00, with mounting future purchase orders (to be confirmed) for agro machinery such as tractors and harvesters.
Onesh Trading, one of the first Private agriculture companies to be incorporated in Sri Lanka, and was a leading participant at the show, reported that almost all its vegetable and flower seed stocks were sold out promptly. The Seminars on Local and International Business opportunities, organised by National Enterprise Development Agency (NEDA) under the Industry and Commerce Ministry, saw capacity crowds of SME businesspersons attending the seminars with many inquiries following.
The show clearly projected unprecedented interest of ‘Divi Neguma’ exhibition goers- who usually go after white collar occupations- towards small scale entrepreneurship and self- employment. NEDA reports more than 4,500 Expression of Interests (EOI) forms being submitted for new business start-up inquiries in the SME sector, bulk of them being focused on the agro sector and small enterprise start-ups/cottage sector, such as palmyrah production, food processing, school writing books production, handlooms and even brick making.
“This show was aimed at giving an opportunity to start off the industry base, specially the cottage sector, in the Mannar region. New employment opportunities were also an expectation. We are starting to see encouraging results,” said Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce Tilak Collure. Times and Fergasam Group, the first BoI manufacturer to enter Mannar, reported that strong interest with regard to joining its upcoming apparel manufacturing facility in Mannar was seen by ascertaining the applicant numbers registered during the exhibition and several new applicants for its Colombo factories also registered.
“Private sector came in on very strong, in comparison to previous ‘Divi Neguma’ shows,” said Secretary, Ministry of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprises V. Sivagnanasothy. “The gamut of products and processes almost woke up the entrepreneurial culture in the region,” Sivagnanasothy added.