Sri Lanka Retail Forum 2023 highlights strategies for navigating economic crisis in retail sector

Thursday, 9 March 2023 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Sri Lanka Retailers’ Association (SLRA), the apex body of organised retail in Sri Lanka, recently concluded the annual Sri Lanka Retail Forum under the theme ‘Redefining Retail: Future Proofing the Forward Journey’. 

The Forum was opened by SLRA President Murali Prakash who addressed the importance of navigating the challenges faced by the retail industry and the imperative need to foster constructive dialogue by multiple experts from varying fields in the retails sector, on leveraging emerging trends, technology and navigating the prevailing economic crisis. 

McKinsey & Company in Sri Lanka Managing Partner Ganaka Herath who was the Guest Speaker at the Forum, spoke extensively about macro-economic trends, impacts of the various economic shocks on the industry and what the future could hold for retail sector. 

As the retail sector is one of the most impacted by the prevailing crisis, the Forum was designed and implemented to facilitate urgent dialogue on leveraging all plausible courses through current turbulent economic conditions. 

It also explored global macro trends and how they can be best utilised in a national context and saw multiple discussions on sustainable operations to help ensure industry stability and growth. 

The first session of the Forum was a panel discussion under the theme of ‘Delivering Value in Inflationary Times’, which explored strategies such as pricing and managing consumer behaviour against a backdrop of the significant surge in living costs. 

The panel consisted of McKinsey & Company India Partner Karthik Hebsur, Breakthrough Business Intelligence Founder/Executive Director Dilini Jayasuriya, Celcius Luxury Bedding and Affiliated Companies Founder/Managing Director Kamal Dole, and SPAR Sri Lanka Chief Executive Officer Kumar de Silva. 

The session was moderated by Dankotuwa Porcelain PLC Chief Executive Officer Channa Gunawardana. 

The second session of the Forum was a discussion under the theme ‘Leveraging Tech for Retail Excellence’ which looked at how the national retail industry and global trends such as technology and applications can help influence and improve marketing, talent, and service delivery. 

The session was opened by Foreign Guest Speaker Daraz Group Chief Commercial Officer Lu Yao who discussed the many facets of Daraz, and how the company leverages technology within its operations. 

The panel which followed consisted of nVentures Managing Partner Chalinda Abeykoon, DHL Global Forwarding Sri Lanka Chief Operating Officer Ahamed Ur Rahaman and Celeste Daily Chief Executive Officer Janik Jayasuriya. The session was moderated by ADA Sri Lanka Regional Head - South Asia Sanjini Munawara.

The third component of the Forum was a rapid-fire session with panellists from various sectors of the retail industry who shared experiences and insights garnered during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed. 

The panel included Envoy London & Hameedia Group Managing Director Fouzul Hameed, Healthguard Pharmacy Chief Executive Officer Infiyaz M. Ali, John Keells Holdings PLC President- Retail Charitha Subasinghe, Lion Brewery (Ceylon) PLC Chief Executive Officer Rajiv Meewakkala and Singer Sri Lanka PLC Director - Marketing Shanil Perera. 

The fourth and final session of the Forum was a chat with a panel of experts, on the future of retail in Sri Lanka and delved into insightful topics and helped create a possible roadmap for the future and sustainability of the Sri Lankan retail industry. 

The panel consisted of Daraz Sri Lanka Managing Director Rakhil Fernando, National Development Bank PLC Director/Chief Executive Officer Dimantha Seneviratne, VISA Inc. Country Manager (Sri Lanka and Maldives) Avanthi Colombage, Spa Ceylon Co-Founder Shalin Balasuriya, and Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Director, Sales and Commercial Shamal Gunawardene. The session was moderated by SLRA President Murali Prakash. 

The Forum ended with an address by Federation of Asia Pacific Retail Association (FAPRA) Chairman Roy Nicholas Mandey and a thank you note by SLRA Assistant Secretary and Abans PLC Director Operations Dinesh Perera who was the Project Chair for the Forum. 

The event was truly insightful and addressed a plethora of challenges faced by the industry in the current national context, and opened many possible avenues, to help grow and sustain the local retail industry in the future. 

The Sri Lanka Retailers Forum 2023 also consisted of multiple sponsors and event partners, including John Keells Holdins PLC as Platinum Sponsor, and Abans PLC as Gold Sponsor. Bronze Sponsors included Damro, DSI, Healthguard Pharmacy, Singer Sri Lanka, Unilever, Union Assurance PLC, and Online Shopping Partner Daraz. 

Event Partners included The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Bata, Celcius, Dankotuwa, Hameedia, Nestle Lanka, SPAR Supermarkets, and Insight Partner Breakthrough Intelligence. Digital Banners were provided by Perera & Sons and Ceylon Biscuits.