Sri Lanka successfully breaks into global souvenir market

Monday, 8 October 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Global souvenir firm Fakih’s reports prompt success for SL handicrafts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi; Vietnam is the next stop
  • “Well done!” says Rishad
  • Fakih’s Kandy pilot project the sole supply source; $ 3 m initial outlay


Dubai-based Fakih Group, the unique global player in the gifts and souvenir sector which is known for items with multinational cultural identities, has not only reported prompt success for Sri Lankan-made products in its key hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but is also pushing to Viet Nam.

“I am really happy! Our Group’s Sri Lankan-made supplies are selling out in our Dubai showroom and Abu Dhabi’s sprawling tourist club area fast. I am now preparing to send the first shipment of Sri Lankan supplies to Viet Nam this week,” said N.P. Fakih, the Managing Director of Dubai-based $ 300 m Fakih Group, speaking over the phone from his Dubai offices yesterday.

“We started our Sri Lanka production at village level and at cottage level with 180 households in the Kandy area with only recycled newspaper. Aside from this we now have handicrafts from different kinds of raw materials, such as wood, stone, seashells and cloth, and interior processing is taking place through more than 700 village families currently working on our cottage manufacturing units around Uda Peradeniya, which I am happy to report as really successful,” revealed Fakih, who constantly travels to different countries like Africa, China, Thailand, and Vietnam and who, as he spoke, was busy readying to leave for his next destination – Indonesia.

“Initially we will start with a few handicrafts with an investment of $ 3 m but later we want to expand. We do not want expensive raw material or money from Sri Lanka. We are now looking for land and skilled handicraft makers. Land is needed for our expansion,” revealed Fakih, who has bagged many awards from various governmental and non-governmental organisations for enlisting grassroots through his unique business-charity-exports business model.

Commenting on the profile of tourists picking up Sri Lankan handicrafts, Fakih revealed: “Sri Lankan handicrafts and souvenirs have received the attention of Middle Eastern and European Union tourists. Most sales are seen on functional items from Sri Lanka and not mere beauty items alone. Items such as decorated pencils and beautified hot pot tablemats are readily taken by EU and ME tourists. More importantly, these premium looking items have a low price tag since we keep a very low margin of only 18 per cent.”

On 2 July, Fakih, making a courtesy call on Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen in Colombo, revealed that his Group was looking for JVs in Sri Lanka, but not in terms of capital equity.

“We are looking for of skilled handicraft people. In fact, our approach is rural community engagement, which is our global practice, and as a result we are also known for CSR and charity. To this end we have already started a pilot project three years ago in Uda Peradeniya in Kandy with 30 families and with only $ 230,000, which has become successful. We are now keen to expand further,” he revealed.

Minister Bathiudeen lauded Fakih’s success on Sunday, saying: “I welcome the Group to enhance their presence further in Sri Lanka especially when at a time our tourism is booming, thanks to the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s vision. Fakih also expands our historically-strong handicraft tradition and rewards the households whose skills are second to none.”

Gakih Group employs 5,300 employees across 14 countries (a considerable number of them being women in households on a self-employment basis), to supply the growing demand volumes in their 28 international markets. The Group uses the kiosk vending model and in Dubai alone runs 28 kiosks.

Among the 5,300 employees are 3,655 handicraft creators exclusively working for the company in Asia. Among the countries supplying the more than 290,000 items strong Fakih Group multicultural gifts and souvenirs portfolio are UAE (467 items), Philippines (3,600 items), Thailand (22,467 items), Vietnam (11,359 items), Turkey (1,310 items), Morocco (12,290 items), Nepal (2,315 items), Cambodia (1,310 items), African collection (3,590 items), Indonesia (11,274 items), India (55,924 items), Egypt (1,936 items), Yemen (3,600 items), and China (160,128 items).

Sri Lanka is the latest country to join Fakih’s growing international portfolio.