Brandix CEO Ashroff Omar
Apparel and fabric giant Brandix’s CEO Ashraf Omar reiterated that Sri Lanka has immense potential in the lagging regions for investors to expand business operations.
Omar noted the country has many underdeveloped land areas that are untouched by investors which has greater profitability as the costs incurred are lower.
“There is a constant complaint that our country does not have resources. I believe that we have land, infrastructure, human capital and a number of highly underdeveloped areas in the country.”
“Most of the country is not in great shape but there lies the opportunity. If we move into those areas, like some of us have done, those areas are the ideal places to set up various different types of industries because the labour is available and the land is cheap and available in plenty because the density of population in those areas are quite scarce,” he added.
Omar also acknowledged current export values of the country are ‘embarrassing’ compared to other smaller countries in the region. “Sri Lanka has recorded $ 11 billion exports this year, which is an embarrassingly small amount. If you compare Sri Lanka to smaller countries like Singapore which exports $ 257 billion, Finland is at $ 78 billion and Malaysia has touched $ 258 billion. So what I believe is we should at least target $ 25 billion within the next five years. However the problem is just by announcing these numbers we won’t get there, we need to have investment on the ground and plan to achieve that.”
To overcome this he suggested that the Government should keep track and publish numbers monthly that go into the ground of the investment and the quantum of employment to be generated as per those projects.
“Through this I think at least 90% of what we plan can be achieved, otherwise it will only be a prayer. The apparel exporters association is keen to coincide with the Government’s efforts to achieve our monthly targets,” Omar commented.
Omar commended EDB efforts to boost SME’s in the country who are the potential exporters.
“In the recent past the EDB has arranged customer visits to technical shows to enhance the capabilities of the SME sector of Sri Lanka. They have refrained from funding large companies and fully focused on the SME’s and it has been very successful. I'm sure going forward the potential leaders of exporters in Sri Lanka will be those companies.”
However he noted that the Government should release funds to acquire efficient personnel to man new departments and attract expertise.
“I also urge the Government to fund the EDB and acquire talent where ever there are gaps. They could definitely do better in terms of industries which they are not used to like electronics. If the relevant ministry releases the funds, this is viable.”