Facebook has successfully completed the first two phases of the ‘Digital Saubhagya’ program in Sri Lanka. It was implemented in collaboration with the Government of Sri Lanka, civil society organisations, and various trade bodies to help small businesses recover and transform.
Small businesses are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy, accounting for more than 75% of all enterprises. These businesses were heavily impacted during the pandemic and many have moved online to continue their business growth.
The ‘#DigitalSaubhagya’ program commenced in March, prior to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year season in the country. More than 1,500 small and medium businesses from 15 districts received training on how to open business pages to engage with customers. Online sessions were conducted in both Sinhala and Tamil to raise awareness about the best social media practices for business. An informative story was published in newspapers to empower small businesses with guidance on how to build effective online presence.
A Facebook Live event was organised to showcase local entrepreneurs and highlight how they are adapting to the pandemic and transforming their businesses digitally. Influencer and activist, Stephanie Siriwardhana moderated the conversation with the founders of ZigZag and Saaraketha Organics, two leading local entrepreneurs. Mustafa Kassim, founder and CEO of Roar Digital, Facebook’s reseller partner, also shared his insights.
Jordi Fornies, Director of Emerging Markets at Facebook, APAC participated and discussed Facebook’s initiatives to inform and empower local entrepreneurs. He said, “Facebook is committed to provide ongoing training to support small businesses in Sri Lanka. Through our Digital Saubhagya campaign, we have tried to build awareness at the grassroots level. We have partnered with local organisations to bring more micro and rural entrepreneurs online so they can also benefit from digital tools, especially during these difficult times.”
The program also developed case studies on how small and medium businesses are using digital platforms effectively. It highlights the importance of digital reach in the new operating environment that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. These case studies include the journeys of Selyn and Olai, which are engaging with communities in different regions of the country.
A webinar was hosted and moderated by Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, with the support of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), which included panellists from Facebook, ICTA, and Selyn. It was also attended by State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Development, Business Development and Underutilised State Resources Development Shehan Semasinghe. The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka was represented by its Chief Digital Economy Officer Anura De Alwis. The panel discussed the role of digital platforms and the importance of supporting small businesses so they can survive and thrive despite the pandemic.
Facebook also engaged a local digital developer to create an AR effect for Facebook and Instagram so people can celebrate Avurudu in the safety of their homes.
#DigitalSaubhagya will re-commence for its phase 3 and continue to support small businesses in Sri Lanka through 2021.