Brand owners should work together, says Cargills Chief

Saturday, 23 August 2014 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Senuri De Silva Brand owners in retail and organised trade as well as those in manufacture or import of goods need to join together to develop the industry further, a top industry expert said.   Delivering the keynote speech at the CIM Forum last Friday, Cargills Ceylon PLC Deputy Chairman and CEO Ranjith Page spoke of the many contributions the retail industry has made to national development. “Sri Lanka is in a new place. It’s a new country and there are many challenges which we have to take on as brand owners and as retailers. We have to contribute towards the development.” “We have to make the sacrifices. The pressure on us to improve the bottom line has increased tremendously but we can’t stop investing just because that pressure has increased. We have to create new opportunities to change and create a different environment for people across all parts of Sri Lanka,” he said. Speaking at the forum titled ‘Igniting the Magic in Retail,’ he asserted: “This is a challenge. Brand owners in retail and organised trade and brand owners in the manufacture or import of goods should join together for a common goal.” He pointed out that the retail industry has an important task of creating new job opportunities for Sri Lanka’s youth. Given the large gap between the number of children who sit for O/Ls and A/Ls and those who gain university entrance, opportunities provided by the retail industry empowers the youth who may not have any alternatives. “It has taken a long time for us to get here and from now on we have to develop this trade and create more employment opportunities for youth who cannot go to university locally or abroad, or those who don’t want to sit for CIM, CIMA or Chartered. We need to create more retailers and give them the necessary skills training and development.” He pointed out that a large number of individuals have benefited tremendously because of the opportunities that were created by the retail industry, adding that there is already a lot being done and it needs to be built upon. “There are a large number of people who get opportunities to work in organised retail. They are people who are unable to do A/Ls or unable to go to university. About 500,000 children sit for the O/Ls and about 250,000 do their A/Ls. Out of that, only about 30,000 go to university. The remainder follow CIM, Chartered, CIMA and such professional qualifications and quite a few of them engage in retail. We are also helping the youth by giving them an opportunity to acquire professional or semi professional jobs. What would they do if there was no organised retail?” The VAT regime which is an important source of revenue for the Government and the landscape changes that benefit regional development are also other contributions the retail industry has been able to make to overall national development, he noted. “When VAT was introduced two years ago, some of us thought it was the end of organised retail but the Revenue Department found an indirect way to collect more revenue through organised retail. Furthermore, organised retail changes the landscape of towns beyond Colombo and beyond the Western Province. Wherever you go today you will find chain stores.” Stating that the retail industry needs to be developed further, he added that understanding the customer’s needs and catering to them would tremendously help organisations accomplish this goal. “Marketing is all about understanding the consumer and making what the consumer wants available, not making what you want available for the consumer,” he said. “We must understand customers across the country and how we can engage and please them. You need to communicate with the consumers. The power has shifted and that’s going to be a tremendous challenge for brand owners.” “Organised retail is here to stay. It’s not as some of us thought many years ago, that it was only for the Colombo people. You cannot make a business just serving a few people. That’s change,” Page added.