By Rashika Fazali
IFS, a Swedish based innovation company and a product solutions provider, celebrated 15 years of existence in Sri Lanka recently.
At a press conference held at Hilton Colombo, IFS AB and World Operations Chief Executive Officer and President Alistair Sorbie said, “As a global enterprise solutions provider with a reputation for agile solutions, innovation and a pioneering spirit, we stepped into Sri Lanka 15 years ago looking for bright people with big ideas and we found them to be splendid over here.”
Sorbie speaking about the way IFS does business said “We have an open and flexible approach to businesses. Our products are innovative and cutting edge moving with the times.”
IFS Sri Lanka Managing Director and IFS South Asia Vice President Jayantha De Silva mentioned that they were the first foreign company to come to Sri Lanka despite the disturbances and the war back in 1997. “We are also the No.1 EPR solutions provider,” stated De Silva.
He further mentioned that currently they have around 83 companies using IFS solutions. IFS Africa, South Asia and Middle East Managing Director Ian Fleming also mentioned that IFS works with companies such as Singer locally and globally.
Since its inception in 1997, IFS Sri Lanka has expanded by two offices with 750 professionals presently from the inaugural, 25 professionals. However, 16 professionals out of the 26 are still attached to IFS Sri Lanka with another 130 professionals having worked for the company for over 10 years.
Furthermore, De Silva explained that 15 years ago, the IT industry was quite different to what it is today. “The industry was very small at that time in Sri Lanka. Back in 1996-1997, it was a US$ 30 million industry. And today it has become a US$ 400 million industry,” asserted De Silva.
Speaking on why IFS opened a branch in Sri Lanka, he stated: “If you go into any industry, the biggest challenge is finding raw materials the brains, the intellectual property of the company which we have here in Sri Lanka.”
Also pointing out the reasons IFS R&D Sri Lanka Vice President Ranil Rajapakshe said, “We have been successful here because of the good talent pool in Sri Lanka and also because of the commitment and support from overseas.”
IFS Consulting and Support Director Steve Boreham also added, “There is a tremendous educations system in Sri Lanka. The county has a vision to lift itself on the world stage.” Fleming also added, “We use Sri Lankan resources because the expertise lies here.”
Enquiring about IFS, De Silva stated, “Being a very large company, ethics play a huge part. We value ethics. As a company rule, we never recruit, people from another company instead we hire from universities.”
Moreover, the IT/BPO sector is targeting to become a US$ one billion industry by 2015, the largest foreign exchanger in the country by 2015 and is also targeting to have 100,000 IT professionals in Sri Lanka for which De Silva mentioned that the goal looks unclear. He said, “We have plans to help the country. But we lack two things here the capacity to deliver one billion in a couple of years and marketing of Sri Lanka. 30 years ago we were not the country to come into. But today we are relatively a safe country.”
He further added that 20 foreign companies have come into Sri Lanka because of IFS companies such as Microsoft.
De Silva also stated that currently, there are around 60,000 IT related professionals in Sri Lanka, over 300 IT companies, and exports of US$ four million. “We are also the fifth largest export earner of foreign exchange in Sri Lanka,” said De Silva.
Rajapashe explained that IFS as a company also understands the importance of giving back to the society. “We teach three courses in the faculty of science at the University of Colombo. We also give scholarships to students where they can work and study. It is a win-win situation for both the student and IFS.” He added, “Next year we are set to give 20 scholarships to 20 students for four years of their university life.”
He further revealed that IFS also trains ICT teachers as they need more practical hands-on training. “We’ve had three workshops with over 300 teachers training with us.”