Wednesday, 29 October 2014 00:00
The latest data reveals that Sri Lanka’s exports are booming at 14.7% as at end August 2014 with the apparel industry growing at a commanding 18.9%, tea at 12.3%, whilst the top two countries, USA and UK growing at 16.1% and 11.9% respectively. The Indian market growth of 8.3% is disappointing given that we have an FTA that has seen more than a decade of maturity.
The Fish Exports in 2014 is growing at 20.1% with EU accounting for $ 125 mFish exports at 20.1% growth
The fisheries sector, growing at 20.1% as at end August, is very interesting with the EU business poised to cross the $ 125 m mark. But a point to note is that the EU having issued an ultimatum on the sanctions to be imposed on Sri Lanka on the fish exports to EU was most disappointing. The logic being that, way back in November 2012, the EU issued a warning to Sri Lanka, stating that we must comply with the fishing standards of the EU, which obviously has not been adhered to and hence we have come to an impasse. We must keep in mind that there is an extent to which Sri Lanka’s export business can be resilient, especially when it comes to livelihood activity. 4300 multiday trawlers, each carrying around 4-5 income earners from typical households has given us an issue to manage. A typical fisher family are also on the poverty belt and the slightest shock can push this segment of people beyond the threshold which can have severe ramifications in a typical election year.
EU export growth at 16%
I can remember the words of the former EU Ambassador Julius Wilson who explained that the EU covers the work of over 27 countries on the premise of providing prosperity and stability to its 500 million citizens. He went on to say that the EU wants Sri Lankan products and we have the capability and capacity to provide it with the demand growing by almost 12-15% every year in the basket of goods that we sell to the EU. All we need to do is to satisfy the specific global conventions so that the people of Sri Lanka can benefit from the trade that exists between the two countries.
The overall performance in the EU as at end August 2014, is at a strong 16.5% with apparel commanding 62% of the business and growing at a staggering 23.6% while the pneumatic tyre segment is growing at 17%, frozen fish at 9.8%, tea packets at 17% and tea in bulk at 32% which is an indication of the strong trade relations that the EU and Sri Lanka have fostered even with all the issues we have politically.
100 on 7,200 products
However, a point to note is that Sri Lanka’s utilisation of the benefits is confined to just over a 100 products from the 7,200 opportunities that the EU offers us and yet gives Sri Lanka an export revenue of $ 3 billion plus. This indicates the business growth opportunities that exist and hence the need to secure this market as a priority for the country.
Case in point – USA
An interesting thought was shared by an eminent global CEO on how a country has strong trade relationships but difficult relationships based on other factors, as was the case in Estonia. He explained that when a group of college students in Estonia were asked which country they hate the most, the answer in chorus was the United States of America and when asked why, it was due to the US foreign policy. When asked where they would go during the summer vacation, surprisingly, the answer was yet again the US, which means that people can hate a country for one reason but also love a country for another, which is very similar to the situation that exists between Sri Lanka and the EU. We might have many issues politically but on trade and finance we have very strong bonds. Let me capture the key points of the Estonian global brand push.
Estonia – positively transforming
In the period from 2001-2012, a campaign was launched by Estonia called Positively Transforming, to tell the world that Estonia was a country that underwent transition in all spheres of its life and thus entered the world and European community, from which it had been isolated for years. The key objectives of this campaign were to increase the number of tourists, foreign investments and to create a favourable acceptance of the Estonian export products in the world.
The first step was to gather opinions and ideas through interviews with residents and foreigners on what Estonia’s greatest strengths and best qualities were. From this information, they decided what perspective of themselves they would try to communicate to the rest of the world. The core qualities it came up with were Estonia’s rapid change and growth, rich history, vast, pristine natural landscape, and the hopeful, positive attitude of its residents. In order to manage the branding Estonia project in a more holistic and strategic manner, Estonian authorities created a new organisation called “Enterprise Estonia”. The creation of “Enterprise Estonia” helped to coordinate and oversee all nations’ branding-related activities by a single point. Estonia utilised art and aesthetics in crafting the visual symbol of their new brand.
“Welcome to Estonia” was the phrase chosen for Estonia’s campaign logo. With a strategic design and typeface, this logo has become widespread throughout the country, accepted by Estonia’s national airline, businesses, tourism industry, and shipping docks. The branding imagery and narratives were transmitted through an array of media – photographic styles, colour palette and graphics as well as promoted through various communication channels including short video documentaries, outdoor display campaigns and press events. But a key point to remember was that behaviour communicated to the world from the political activities was along the theme of positively transforming. A point emphasised by nation brand building experts like Simon Anholt, who commented recently that if a country doesn’t like its image – and most countries don’t – then the only way to change that image is through the things the country does, not by the things it says, was that Estonia lived the promise.
Estonia – positively surprising
In 2008, Enterprise Estonia redeveloped its Estonian marketing campaign by breathing new life into the seven-year-old “Positively Transforming” concept. The main objective of the new marketing concept, “Positively Surprising”, is to position Estonia as an excellent place for visiting (tourism), business (investments, export), studying, working and living. To reach the above four categories, The Brand Estonia campaign used two main approaches – external communication and internal communication.
External Communication Strategy: Brand Mark – Welcome to Estonia. The external communication strategy is divided into three sub-strategies based on the main interest for coming to Estonia; Tourism – “An old country in a shiny package”, under this, Estonia promoted four types of holiday packages such as city holiday, cultural holiday, wellness holiday and nature holiday; Business – “It is easy to do complex business transactions”; Living Environment – “An exciting outlook on ordinary life”. Under this, the different options available were for living, learning and working.
Internal Communication Strategy: “I love Estonia” is the other side of the “Welcome to Estonia” medal. While “Welcome to Estonia” is an invitation directed to foreign countries, “I Love Estonia” encourages its own citizens in creating this new brand. The rationale behind the campaign is to reinforce the Estonians’ pride in their country, foster domestic tourism, and to strengthen the link among the people overall, as well as between the people and the country. Manifestations and demonstrations of Estonia’s nation branding are very diverse and numerous. They include dozens of brochures, presentations and videos, several websites with immense amounts of information and more.
Brand Estonia increased in value by 24.6% in the “2014 Brand Finance – Nation Brands 100”, outperforming every other nation brand in the European Union. Estonia was the third fastest growing nation brand of the 100 surveyed.
Hence we see how perceptions toward a country can be changed after which behaviour can be changed. The key issue for Sri Lanka is to act as a global citizen so that trade and finance will not get affected.
(The author is an Independent Board Director in many key organisations in Sri Lanka in the private and public sector and is the Country Director for the US-based investment company Turner Investments. The thoughts are strictly his personal views and are not linked to any organisation he works for.)