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Niranjan Canagey

Digital gadgets, boon to IT industry

By Kshanika Argent

EPSI Computers (Pvt.) Ltd was founded in 1992. Since then the company has rapidly grown in the Sri Lankan IT industry bringing the latest array of advanced information technology equipment to the market. With over 15 Years of experience in the industry and with a turnover exceeding over Rs.2 billion, EPSI is placed in becoming the market leader in the industry.

The Sunday Leader recently speaks to EPSI Computers CEO Niranjan Canagey about the company and plans for the future.

Question (Q):Tell us how EPSI Computers started out?

Answer (A): It all started as a hobby. At the age of 15, myself and my brother were both passionate in information technology and started buying and selling computer parts within a small network of friends in order to afford to buy the "coolest" hardware products, that was the beginning of Epsi Computers, since then the company rapidly expanded, getting distributorship for world renowned products and winning several distinguished awards both locally and internationally.

Q: What are your thoughts on the IT industry in Sri Lanka?

A: Although the overall IT industry has suffered a set back in recent times with a marginal growth, whilst the SAARC countries are averaging an annual growth of around 20% year on year, we see day by day Sri Lankans are becoming more and more tech. savvy, this was a direct result of the reduction of tariffs on computers and recent penetration of high bandwidth internet. However, the IT literacy rate is less than 5% of the population, hence there is still so much foundation work yet to be done to further increase mass IT penetration.

Q: What market trends do you see taking off in today's industry?

A: Currently there is a trend towards users in search for more and more digital gadgets in order to make their lifestyle a more efficient one. This has lead to an increase in demand of gadgets such as Pocket PCs and MP3 Players. Unfortunately most gadgets and digital products such as digital cameras, MP3 Players and multimedia solutions carry a significantly high tariff structure making it difficult or near impossible for mass penetration. Today gadgets are a significant component in making a person digital, which directly results in improving his or her lifestyle and efficiency, therefore it is important to see gadgets and other digital products as part of the digital revolution instead of looking at it as a mere luxury item.

In time to come, the average age of IT users will keep reducing and users will start their hands on experience on IT at an early age. IT manufacturers are constantly challenged to develop and innovate products that cater to this young audience.

Q: Do you think that Sri Lanka has the potential in becoming an IT hub?

A: Sri Lanka has all the ingredients in becoming an IT hub, unfortunately the opportunity was not exploited at the right time. However in order to truly become an IT hub, several factors needs to be taken into consideration, such as more infrastructure development on low cost high speed data bandwidths, adequate office space available in close radius to the city, complete duty waiver on IT Products, more venture capitalists, measures to increase overall IT literacy, increase in scale of IT graduates and marketing Sri Lanka as an IT hub.

Q: Is there greater need for the private IT sector to work closer with the public sector?

A: There is already in place a certain amount of private IT sector involvement with the public sector, however I feel this is still not adequate and must empower the private IT sector to take a more active and an aggressive role.

Q: How important is the Sri Lankan market for large multinational brands? How do your principals view this market?

A: The primary objective of most multinational brands today is to have market leadership in any market irrespective of the size of the market, say, that if we are to extract more resources and commitment by these multinational brands towards investment in Sri Lanka, then for sure, the size of our market comes into question, nevertheless most multinational brands yet have faith in our market in becoming a potential one, even if not now, in time to come.

Q:  How is EPSI coping with competition?

A: EPSI's continued focus on 'Innovation & Technology' has placed us well in the market and this focus stems from its brand promise to its customers. It boasts of its commitment to providing Sri Lankans with state-of-the-art innovations in technological products. We have grown to become one of Sri Lanka's leading IT companies and has received several awards in the region and are well on our way to achieving our target of Rs. 3 billion this year.  


CB accepts only 1.4%, 0.6% of T.bill bids

CENTRAL Bank's (CB's) decision to re-issue only 1.4% and 0.6% of the offers received for maturing Treasury (T) bills of 182 day and 364 day tenures at Wednesday's primary T. bill auction was termed as ridiculous by market players.

This was in contrast to 33.4% and 16.6% of bids accepted (from the total amount of bids received) from the market for these two tenures at the January 16 auction, the auction held prior to Wednesday's.

"The market as a whole was asking for higher rates than that which the CB was prepared to pay, that's the reason for the low re-issue on Wednesday," they said.

The CB accepted bids worth only Rs. 52 million and Rs. 32 million from the market for these tenures, from the total amounts of bids worth Rs. 3,755 million and Rs. 5,659 million respectively received for these parcels.

In contrast, the CB accepted Rs. 1.32 billion and Rs. 1.103 billion worth of bids received for T. bills of 182 day and 364 day tenures, out of a total of Rs. 3.905 billion and Rs. 6.65 billion worth of bids received for these lots at the January 16 auction.

 As a result of CB's action, the weighted average yield rates (WAYRs) of 182 day and 364 day maturing T bills at Wednesday's auction remained unchanged at 19.29% and 19.45% respectively, vis-ŕ-vis the rates fetched at the previous week's  auction.

 Sources said that some market players bidded for higher yields of 19.75% for three months (91 day) and six months (182 day) T. bills respectively, and 19.95% for T. bills of one year (364 days) maturity at this auction. Those were 50 basis points (bp), 46 bp and 50 bp higher than the WAYRs of 19.25%, 19.29% and 19.45% respectively, fetched for these three tenures on Wednesday. Those higher offers were rejected by the CB.

However, the CB accepted bids at 19.50% received from the market for T. bills of  91 day tenure, which was 25 bp higher than its WAYR of 19.25%.

Further, in respect of T. bills of 91 day tenure, the CB on Wednesday accepted 19.2% (Rs. 2,151 million) of the total amount of bids received (Rs. 11,227 million) for this parcel. In the January 16 auction, the CB accepted 53.9% (Rs. 7.327 billion) of the total amount of bids received (Rs. 13.59 billion) for this lot.

Wednesday's T. bill auction was for the re-issue of Rs. 9.5 billion worth of maturing T. bills of which Rs. 2,235 million (23.5%) was accepted from the market and the rest retired.

However, other market sources said that CB's acceptance of some of the lowest amounts seen in recent times, especially in regard to tenures of 182 days and 364 days, was a sign that they want the market to come down on their rates.

The CB is infusing market liquidity by buying dollars and correspondingly releasing an equivalent amount of rupees to the market, they said. (See separate story found on page 21). Hence, new money coming into the system, thereby fuelling inflationary and corresponding interest rate pressure in the market is diminishing.

 This will compel the market to come down on their rates in future offerings, they said.

The CB has given a signal that they are not accepting high interest rate bids from the market, the sources said.


War buffets bourse

THE Colombo bourse, in the two out of four market days last week, recorded turnovers of under Rs. 100 million, due to operating in a market unfriendly environment, sources said.

The market recorded turnovers of Rs. 67.3 million and Rs. 65.6 million on Monday and Friday due to having had to operate in a high interest rate environment, compounded by security concerns and poor corporate earnings, they said.


CB's $ buying fuels liquidity

OVERNIGHT call money market rates, the rates at which banks lend to each other for a day came down by around 50 basis points (bp) to close the week at 15%  (over Thursday) due to the market becoming liquid, market sources said.

This liquidity has been fuelled by the Central Bank (CB) buying dollars from the market and infusing rupees in return, the sources said. CB is expected to have had bought around US$ 100 million from the market in the week ended Friday, thereby infusing an equivalent amount of rupees (Rs. 10 billion) to the market, thus enhancing market liquidity, they said.

The market was surplus by around Rs. four billion on Thursday, they said.

Call money rates went to a high of 25% on Monday and Wednesday (Tuesday was a holiday), before starting to come down, the sources added.

Meanwhile, the US dollar at spot trading closed the week at Rs. 107.95, up five Sri Lanka cents, due to demand creeping in, they said. However, the sources expected the rupee to square this loss when  the market open for trading tomorrow and to close the day at Rs. 107.90.

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) withdrawing from the market because of the availability of a US$ 700 million Iranian credit line to buy its crude oil is having a salutary effect on the rupee, they said.

Daily market turnover was in the region of US$ 20-30 million, of which figure the CPC used to contribute to around $ 7-8 million when they were active in the market, the sources further said. But the CPC volumes are now missing from the market, they said.


"Death knell"for Millers

MILLERS PLC has informed the Colombo Stock Exchange that it would cease to exist as a company from Thursday  and that its shareholders as at trading on Wednesday, would, upon the amalgamation with Ceylon Theatres Ltd., (CTL) be allotted shares in CTL, in terms of the amalgamation proposal.

This amalgamation will be effective from Thursday.


Stock market announcements

LANKA Walltiles Ltd., has declared an interim dividend net of taxes of Rs. 1.70 a share.

Excluding dividend (XD)date is February 8 and payment date February 21.

Lanka Tiles Ltd., has declared an interim dividend of Rs. 1.50 a share. XD date is January 30 and payment date: February 12.

Balangoda Plantations Ltd., has declared an interim dividend of 75 cents per share. XD date is February 1 and payment date February 14.

Asiri Hospitals Ltd., has declared a rights issue in the proportion of "1 for 4" at an issue price of Rs. 52 a share. The quantity offered is 17,785,261 shares. Excluding rights date is February 25, 2008; EGM and provisional allotment on February 22, splitting: March 17, renunciation: March 26, dispatch of provisional letter of allotment: February 29 and trading starts on March 7, 2008.

Union Chemicals Lanka Ltd., has announced a first interim dividend of Rs. 3.50 a share for the financial year 2007. XD date was January 25 and payment date February 7.


Pilots can go up to 65

PRESIDENT George Bush signed into law the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act which allows both pilots on a domestic flight to be up to age 65.

For international flights, at least one pilot must be under age 60, consistent with a 2006 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standard. Pilots past age 60 are required to pass medical tests twice a year.

Effective immediately, the law is not retroactive; airlines can opt to rehire pilots who are under age 65. Congressional fast track action averted a lengthy federal rulemaking process, said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which last January announced it would raise the retirement age for commercial pilots to 65. The mandatory federal rulemaking process would have taken 18 months to two years. (Washington Aviation Summary)


Travel course

The Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL), held the awards ceremony of its 2-month Travel & Tourism Certificate course recently.

The course was conducted by Louis Preston School of Travel & Tourism (LPSTT) Studies Director Peter Hooper. Classes were held twice weekly and covered a lecture module designed by LPSTT.


CPIC,  Int'l campus par excellence

CENTRAL Park International Campus (CPIC) is the benchmark for world-class educational standards on par with leading universities worldwide.

The campus is different from others as it offers students much more than a mere educational experience that leads to an academic qualification. CPIC offers its students a holistic approach to a one of a kind educational experience that not only enables you to achieve your career goals, but also moulds creativity and innovativeness, whilst encouraging you to push your limits and become not only an employable individual but also a valuable citizen that will be of benefit to society.

This state-of-the-art campus is set in idyllic surroundings at Royal Gardens, Nawala, Rajagiriya offering students a safe, eco-friendly and conducive learning environment. Set in a homely atmosphere, the campus is the ideal place for study, providing students all the modern day learning facilities plus a relaxing and calm surroundings.

Students are presented with a host of recreational facilities which include a student recreation centre, boating, bird watching, yoga, a fully equipped gymnasium, lake front cafeteria, pool table and floodlit tennis court. The campus also offers an extensive fully-fledged library, career guidance, counselling, student education loans and much more.

The Sunday Leader met up with CPIC Studies Director Dr. Egerton Senanayake to find our more about the campus.

Senanayake is  responsible for academic matters pertaining to CPIC.

 His expertise as an educationist with nearly two decades of foreign exposure as a researcher and lecturer together with the extensive experience he has gained locally as the former Faculty of Management Studies Dean at Sabaragamuwa University, ideally positions him to provide the best in the way of education for CPIC.

"The main concept of the education system that we follow is different to those of other educational institutes. CPIC provides the necessary infrastructure and campus environment required for a proper education. Education is a much more broader concept to that of merely receiving and academic qualification.

 We are living in a global environment and therefore require not only relevant academic skills, but the much needed soft skills and the personality to be accepted in today's working environment.

The main reason that most organizations suffer is due to the lack of creative and innovative individuals with the potential to move these organizations forward. This is what we at CPIC bring out in our students with our teaching methods. We create individuals that will be tomorrow's leaders who will bring about the much-needed change that will drive the country forward in a progressive manner," says Senanayake.

He emphasized the importance of building close interaction with students and lecturers. CPIC features a highly qualified faculty with exposure to some of the top ranking universities and colleges across the globe. The campus offers students Business as well as Information

Technology  (IT) qualifications leading to Business Administration and Batchelor of Science Degrees awarded by leading universities in the UK as well as Australia. Students are also offered an International Foundation Programme, which is an eight-month full-time programme that prepares O' Level qualified students direct entry into the degree programmes.

CPIC students are encouraged to build one on one relationship with their lecturers within the classrooms during face-to-face lectures as well as outside the classroom were a student's interactive personality and other skills are further enhanced. Students at CPIC are therefore not only offered IT and business skills, but are also presented with the necessary character building skills that will make a difference in their professional as well as personal lives.

These skills are further enhanced with the introduction of classroom activities and case studies that are presented to students.

"Due to the prevailing education system our students are not made to think independently and therefore are not driven to be intuitive or creative. Students have gotten accustomed to only reproducing what they have learnt during a classroom lecture.  Therefore youth have to be provided correct opportunities and correct environment through professional lecturers and a sound education system in order to continue to learn, to work, to develop a helpful lifestyle, to begin a family and to become a good citizen that will contribute towards society.

These are the transitions that youth should undergo during their life's journey. All this and more can be achieved through a good education and this is what we at CPIC guarantee all our students.

CPIC not only nurtures and grooms excellent academics through exceptional world class education, but also creates valuable citizens that have the ability to face life's challenges and become individuals that will work towards the development of the country," concluded Senanayake.


Natural medicinal supplements

Sri Lanka's first terrestrial digital television (TDT) broadcast went on air on Wednesday  with the start of Dialog Television's (DTV's) pilot launch of DVB-T based TDT covering Colombo City.

State channels Rupavahini, eye/Nethra and ITN join private broadcasters Derana, swaranavahini and The Buddhist on this the country's first terrestrial digital broadcast. The broadcast also carries 3 foreign channels to complete the channel line up.

The DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial) broadcast standard enables digital broadcast over standard VHF/UHF TV spectrum (airwaves),

enabling viewers to access the digital broadcast using  standard (analogue) TVs and VHF/UHF antennae with the addition of a DVB-T access device (adaptor or set top box).

 DT, currently Sri Lanka's leading digital satellite TV operator sets out its commitment to be a premier digital broadcast network provider with the expansion of its satellite based (DVB-S) infrastructure to now incorporate DVB-T and DVB-H broadcast capabilities.

Some of the benefits that DVB-T offers to the consumer are DVD quality

video, electronic programme guides and selection, multi-lingual audio  capability, multi-lingual sub-titling capability and enhanced audio  technology such as Dolby Digital, 5.1.

"The Government encourages the introduction of modern and efficient technologies, I'm happy that the broadcast industry has taken this bold step towards digitalizing TV broadcasting in Sri Lanka.

Digital platforms will deliver multiple benefits, efficient use of scarce frequency resources, more channels with wider coverage and a  range of other benefits to the viewing public," said Mass Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa soon after launching the pilot broadcast.

The broadcast would be also available on vehicle mounted devices and via DVB-H technology (a variant of the DVB-T standard for handhelds) on advanced GSM/3G handsets.

DVB-T/H standards are currently seeing rapid adoption across the world with strong adoption trends in Western Europe.

The pilot broadcast carried out by DT carries 9 TV channels on a single UHF frequency demonstrating at the outset a 9 fold enhancement in frequency utilisation.

The pilot broadcast will be initially 'tested' using selected viewers forming a representative set across the broadcast coverage area.

"We are a service provider to the media and broadcast industry," said DTV CEO Nushad Perera.

 "We are committed to establish and operate world class digital broadcast infrastructure and also to provide excellent customer service to Sri Lankan consumers, our platforms will carry quality content of  local and international broadcasters to Sri Lankan homes and also vehicles and handsets via our portfolio of satellite and terrestrial broadcast technologies."


DTV coverage for analogue TVs

Sri Lanka's first terrestrial digital television (TDT) broadcast went on air on Wednesday  with the start of Dialog Television's (DTV's) pilot launch of DVB-T based TDT covering Colombo City.

State channels Rupavahini, eye/Nethra and ITN join private broadcasters Derana, swaranavahini and The Buddhist on this the country's first terrestrial digital broadcast. The broadcast also carries 3 foreign channels to complete the channel line up.

The DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial) broadcast standard enables digital broadcast over standard VHF/UHF TV spectrum (airwaves),

enabling viewers to access the digital broadcast using  standard (analogue) TVs and VHF/UHF antennae with the addition of a DVB-T access device (adaptor or set top box).

 DT, currently Sri Lanka's leading digital satellite TV operator sets out its commitment to be a premier digital broadcast network provider with the expansion of its satellite based (DVB-S) infrastructure to now incorporate DVB-T and DVB-H broadcast capabilities.

Some of the benefits that DVB-T offers to the consumer are DVD quality

video, electronic programme guides and selection, multi-lingual audio  capability, multi-lingual sub-titling capability and enhanced audio  technology such as Dolby Digital, 5.1.

"The Government encourages the introduction of modern and efficient technologies, I'm happy that the broadcast industry has taken this bold step towards digitalizing TV broadcasting in Sri Lanka.

Digital platforms will deliver multiple benefits, efficient use of scarce frequency resources, more channels with wider coverage and a  range of other benefits to the viewing public," said Mass Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa soon after launching the pilot broadcast.

The broadcast would be also available on vehicle mounted devices and via DVB-H technology (a variant of the DVB-T standard for handhelds) on advanced GSM/3G handsets.

DVB-T/H standards are currently seeing rapid adoption across the world with strong adoption trends in Western Europe.

The pilot broadcast carried out by DT carries 9 TV channels on a single UHF frequency demonstrating at the outset a 9 fold enhancement in frequency utilisation.

The pilot broadcast will be initially 'tested' using selected viewers forming a representative set across the broadcast coverage area.

"We are a service provider to the media and broadcast industry," said DTV CEO Nushad Perera.

 "We are committed to establish and operate world class digital broadcast infrastructure and also to provide excellent customer service to Sri Lankan consumers, our platforms will carry quality content of  local and international broadcasters to Sri Lankan homes and also vehicles and handsets via our portfolio of satellite and terrestrial broadcast technologies."

The efficiencies delivered by digital broadcast technology are also set to facilitate the expansion of TV (channel) availability to all regions of Sri Lanka, where economic viability constrained the expansion of incumbent analogue infrastructure.Dialog Telekom PLC Group Chief Executive Dr Hans Wijayasuriya said: "I'm confident that the broadcast industry will capitalize on technology advancement in order to deliver a superior and more widely available television experience to Sri Lankan consumers."


JKH's profits up 91%

JOHN Keells PLC (JKH) in the third quarter (Q) ended December 31, 2007; saw revenue in the Q under review increase by 37% year on year (YoY) to Rs. 11.1 billion.

Profit in the period under review increased by 91% to Rs. 1.5 bn.

Group revenue in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 increased by 23% to Rs. 23.7 bn., YoY; while profits increased by 57% to Rs. 3.4 bn.

Ellaidhoo and Dhonveli resorts in the Maldives were fully refurbished and relaunched as Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo and Chaaya Island Dhonveli during the peak winter season.


FS, problem solver

FENG Shui (FS) Consultant Neesha Rajwanie is now in Sri Lanka to offer consultations on improving business while increasing creativity, gaining fame and respect, making better relationships and creating harmonious working environments.

FS or the art of luck management is a system that enhances the quality of lifestyle. It brings about a balance that attracts "good" energy around people and thus has a positive impact on careers, relationships, health and wealth aspects where the secret lies in the orientation, layout and alignment within the particular property.


Banking on Teak

THE Informatics Group has taken 1,000 acres of agriculture land at Dehiattakandiya on a 50 year lease from the government and is growing valuable timber crop such as Teak and Mahogany, as well as paddy, cashew (500 acres), coconut (200 acres) and fruits.

The farmland is operated on drip irrigation, Group Chairman Gamini Wickramasinghe told reporters on Thursday. He expects to start harvesting the Teak soon.

The Group originally began investing in Dehiattakandiya in the 1980s, first taking 50 acres for Cavendish plantation, where the crop was imported from Israel.

But that venture was not successful, said Wickramasinghe, who is banking on his Teak plantation, to make his investments in the agriculture sector, hitherto running at a loss, to make it do a turnaround.

The Informatics Group, whose turnover is nearly Rs. three billion, has as its prime cash cow, the HP agency, where it vendors computer hardware to local companies. That is followed by its software solutions company, with its ICT education arm in third place, he said.

The company also plans to venture into business process outsourcing.

Informatics, which is the local agent for Nixdorf, Germany, has installed 550 of the 700 ATM machines seen in the country.


Int'l appointment

AGN West Asia Africa (AGN WAA) has appointed AbeyRatna & Co. Chartered Accountants Partner Damian Sunil AbeyRatna to the AGN WAA Ltd., Board at its AGM held in Bahrain recently.

AGN International which has its headquarters in the UK is an association of accounting firms.  They are represented in about 80 countries and has over 500 offices worldwide.

The other directors are:- Dr. Khalid Maniar (MAK & Associates - UAE),  Davis Kallukaran  (MAK Ghazali-Oman),  Jawad Al Rasrumani (Al Mezan Bureau-Bahrain),  Suhas Deshpande (Kirtane & Pandit-India),  Tawfiq Al Swallem (Al-Swallem Consulting Group-Saudi Arabia),  Hussain Al Qurtas (Middle East Auditing - Kuwait),  Sola Oyetayo (Sola Oyetayo & Co-Nigeria) and Ms. Hanadi Yassin (ASAS-Syria).


Rienzie at TMC

THE Management Club (TMC) is planning a series of evening presentations this year for their members and guests on different topics in diverse fields.

The first in this series, titled "An evening with a Banker.... The way forward" will be held on Thursday  at Galle Face Hotel (GFH). The guest speaker will be Hatton National Bank Chairman Rienzie Wijetilleke. Reservations are now open at the TMC desk at l GFH.


ACInformatics to list telecoms solutions co.

INFORMATICS plans to float a company for their software operations in the telecoms sector and list it in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), its Group Chairman Gamini Wickramasinghe told The  Sunday Leader.

He however said that it won't happen immediately,"may be in a year's time, in my capacity as the Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, precludes me from listing one of my companies in the CSE," Wickramasinghe said.

The Informatics Group's software sector is its second largest cash cow of this nearly Rs. three billion turnover company, Wickramas inghe told reporters on Thursday, to celebrate the Group's Silver anniversary.

Called Informatics International Ltd. (IIL), it has three business subsectors-telecoms, insurance and border control (software solutions in regard to passports).

Billings solutions to the telecoms subsector of IIL encompasses mid size telecoms companies operating in 13 countries, including Tigo (Celltel)-where the latter has been IIL's customer since its inception in 1989.

IIL is a multi-million dollar company, said its General Manager J. Austen K. Mascranghe.

He said that the company which is based in Kotahena, makes 80% of its turnover from exports, and the balance from local sales. It employs a total of 225 IT professionals and experienced a 25% growth in business year on year, last year.

Another of its clients is Maldives Telecom which has a subscriber base of between 20-30,000 and is jointly owned by the Maldivian government and Cable & Wireless, UK.In the insurance sector, it services four local insurance companies, including Ceylinco Insurance's "VIP" product package, plus Cooperative Insurance and two insurance companies operating in Fiji and in Mauritius.Another company that has contracted IIL was "a major switch company in North America that supplies switching solutions to a telecoms company," he told reporters.


IFS to invest Rs. 1 bn.

IFS represents the single largest foreign direct investment in the software industry in Sri Lanka and it is estimated that in excess of Rs. 1 billion will be invested in research & development (R&D) during 2008. Since IFS AB opened the R&D centre in Sri Lanka in 1997, it has grown to become one of the biggest software companies in Sri Lanka and a significant part of IFS' global operations.

 Today the R&D centre in Colombo employs over 600 software professionals, working with the development, support and sales of  business solution, IFS Applications.

IFS Group Senior Vice President Thomas Petersson who visited Sri Lanka recently said: "The R&D centre in Colombo is by far the largest contributor to the development and support of IFS Applications. We are impressed by the high quality of the software produced by the Sri Lanka R & D centre and the competitiveness of our products in the international market bears testament to the success of our Sri Lanka operation."

IFS in Sri Lanka Managing Director Jonas Bridgwater said, "IFS is a good example of the benefits a knowledge based economy brings to Sri Lanka. The success of a company such as ours does not depend on natural resources. Instead our success is dependent on the talent, commitment and dedication of our staff. The main success factor for IFS in Sri Lanka has been our ability to attract and retain software professionals of a very high standard."

Software Engineering Director Sajith Peiris said, "Over the last 10 years we have recruited over 900 IT professionals in Sri Lanka and more than 80% of them have been fresh graduates. Some of them now live and work for our offices in countries such as USA, UK, Australia, Canada and South Africa. We have also provided industrial placement training for more than 250 university undergraduates. Together with private universities we have run a number of scholarship Programmes.

 In the programme we have selected A-level students and funded their studies towards a degree while doing internship at IFS. Through this effort over 90 students have completed, or are in the process of completing, their degrees."


AAI's "Life" team in Beijing

ASIAN Alliance Insurance's Life Sales Force who achieved over & above the performance targets in their 1st Quarter (Q) Competition-2007 were awarded with an all expenses paid seven day tour to Beijing recently.

Twenty three members of the life sales force including AGM-Sales & Distribution Sandamal Hettiarachchi & Kurunegala Zonal Manager Nishantha Bandara were among the lucky winners.

The performance by the Life Team in 1st Q 2007 in all aspects of Life business were above the benchmarks vis-a-vis new business production & growth, customer service & retention and average policy value. This has propelled the team to the fifth position in the industry in new business market share within a period of less than 6 years amongst 14 competitive insurance companies.

It is a result of a well-planned team effort achieved through dedication, commitment and professionalism. 


LB's deposit portfolio up 50%

LB Finance's deposit base crossed the Rs. 6 billion mark at end 2007, recording a phenomenal over 50% growth. The overwhelming surge in deposits-the ultimate parameter of a finance company, is evidence of the Company's record breaking run, highlighting the confidence it enjoys across Sri Lanka.The Company's deposit base of Rs.4bn., as at December 30, 2006 is reported to have increased to Rs. 6.3 bn., as at December 31, 2007. Its resounding success and continuing confidence among investors is attributed to its competitive interest rates and excellence in service. 

"Our client base includes over 10,000  depositors, and we are committed to rewarding the trust and confidence that they have in us, and continuously value-add to our product portfolio to ensure an exceptional service," says a company spokesman.

 "The strength of our staff; a team of handpicked industry veterans, has also contributed in helping us maintain and augment superiority in fixed deposits," he said.

In its quest to provide Sri Lankans flexible and quick financial products through its islandwide branch network, the Company opened branches in Kalutara , Horana Anuradhapura Gampaha and Ambalangoda last year. With over 36 years of experience in the financial sphere, LB Finance offers a range of services such as deposit acceptance, leasing, hire purchase, mortgage loans and other credit facilities.

 The Company's real estate development and related services and pawn broking continue to leave blazing trails in the industry.


"Disruption" lesson gives TAL impetus

TBWA\TAL clients recently experienced a mind-expanding presentation made by TBWA\Asia Pac. Vice President Ian Thubron on "Disruption and Media Arts."

 The twin themes are what differentiates the global ad agency network from other worldwide giants and has earned the group honour and prestige.

  TBWA Worldwide has been named the most awarded and most creatively recognized agency in the world.  TBWA\TAL was celebrating the first anniversary of becoming a part of the TBWA network.  With the new partnership, the agency team has been able to strengthen its relationship with clients through improved  work practices and be exposed to emerging international trends while honing creative skills.

Thubron was able to start discussions with the agency's key clients to hold need-based 'Disruption' workshops so that they could experience the exponential change the concept can offer-which is to evolve solutions disruptively rather than conventionally.

Clients were also able to get an astonishing insight into 'Media Arts' that has changed the way consumers in today's high-tech environment respond to brands and how they can be successfully reached and engaged. 

Thubron spent two days with TBWA\TAL team in bringing them up to date on the group's priorities in its quest to become a top ten global leader, not just in advertising, which they have successfully achieved, but among all industries in the world.  At the end of the session he presented TBWA\TAL's Managing Director Renuka Marshall with a giant replica of the global group's 'disruption' mnemonic to mark the first anniversary of the partnership.


PMP at S'pore Informatics

MORE and More corporate or organizational leaders with an eye on professionalism and productivity are seeing the value the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) Project Management Professional (PMP) certification for their project management practitioners.

They know that board base of PMP-certified practitioners give their companies a competitive edge by having true professionalism in project management.

If you are already one of the top practitioners on your field, now make it official by earning the prestigious PMP certification credential granted by the PMI. The PMI certification programme department maintains ISO 9001 certification in quality management systems underscoring its commitment to excellence for a credential that is globally recognized and valued by project management practitioners and their employers, a press release said.

PMI's certification examination development is state of art and is based on global standards in certification examination development. PMP exam questions are developed by individuals around the world who already hove the credential. These factors set PMP apart from other certification programmes and they contribute to the global transferability of this credential to industries.

The letters "PMP" following your name communicate a solid project management foundation that can be readily applied in the workplace. Thousands of project  professionals have found that the PMP credential makes a significant difference to current and potential employers. Join this elite group and enhance your career today!

The aim of the latest project management training programme to be conducted in Sri Lanka is to offer the necessary training for you obtain the PMP certification.

Informatics Education Ltd., Singapore, worldwide, has forged a strategic alliance with PMI, USA to offer highest quality  project management training through their professional certification training division, Professional and Skills Development Centre (PSD).

Next project management course in Sri Lanka would be conducted at Singapore Informatics' Professional Development Centre-the only registered education provider with PMI, USA, from January 31-February 2 and Feb. 7-8, 2008 by Dr. Mrs. Madhu Fernando, management consultant and PMI Certified Professional (PMP). She will be supported by Ajith Ranasinghe (PMP) and Anura Kuragama representative of PMI Local Chapter and Suresh Kumar (PMP).

PMP looks great after your name..and even better for your employer!  


HSBC expands rewards scheme

ONCE again HSBC promises to delight credit cardholders with the re-launch of its popular Rewards programme in January 2008. The Instant HSBC Rewards programme allows all HSBC credit cardholders the "unmatched" benefit of redeeming rewards points earned instantly, at selected rewards partner outlets from  March 1, 2008 onwards.

Customers can earn up to 1 point for every Rs. 100 spent, while HSBC Premier customers will earn 3 points for every Rs. 100 spent. The unique instant rewards programme offers customers the flexibility to check rewards points earned and make instant redemptions at over 200 HSBC rewards partner outlets. It also allows customers to select from a choice of over 100,000 products and services. A minimum requirement of 500 points will need to be maintained by all credit cardholders in order to redeem instants rewards.

Cards & Consumer Assets Head Nilantha Bastian said, "We have devised the instant Rewards programme based on consumer spending trends and insights. Through this we have identified the places customers most often shop using HSBC credit cards and hence for more convenience and choice we have added new rewards partner outlets this year. In the Last rewards programme our customers enjoyed over Rs. 65 million worth of rewards. This year we hope that customers will use their credit card, earn more rewards points and encash them for greater benefits."

Credit Cards Marketing Manager Ms. Dishani Yatawara said, "We have introduced a number of new merchants to offer more choices and privileges to our customers, rewarding their loyalty to HSBC. The newest merchants to partner us include all Cargills supermarkets, Aitken Spence Hotels, Sri Lankan Holidays, George Steuart Travels, KFC, Softlogic and Mango Tree." She added, "HSBC Premier credit cardholders will have the advantage of redeeming their points towards one of the five major charities in Sri Lanka namely, SOS Children's Village, Association for Lighting a candle (AFLAC), Cancer Society, Helpage Sri Lanka and St. Joseph's Deaf school."

In addition registered customers wilth a minimum of 2,000 mileage rewards points and 1,000 normal rewards points can redeem their air miles on Kris Flyer, Asia Miles or Q (Qatar) Miles. Cardholders are entitled to earn 1 Air Mile for every Rs. 100 spent.


Nestle's profits down 17%

Nestle Lanka Ltd., saw net profit in the 3Q ended September 30, 2007 decline by 16.9% to Rs. 280.5 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year. Net profit in the first 9 months of the year declined by 10.8% to Rs. 920.5 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

AMW's profits down 59%

AMW's 2Q net profit in the period ended September 30, 2007 declined by 59.3% to Rs. 79.7 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year. Net profit in the first 9 months of the year declined by 63.1% to Rs. 125.1 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

Equity One makes Rs. 4.3 mn., loss

Equity One Ltd., made a Rs. 4.3 mn., loss in the 2Q ended September 30, 2007 when compared with a  Rs. 5.3 mn., net profit made in the corresponding period the previous year. The company in the 1H of the year saw net profit decline by 82.6% to Rs. 2.7 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

Equity Two's profits up 145%

Equity Two Ltd., saw net profit in the 2Q ended September 30, 2007 increase by 144.7% to Rs. 0.9 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year. The company in the 1H of the year saw net profit increase by 64.5% to Rs. 1.9 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

Good Hope's profits up 492%

Good Hope Co., Ltd., saw net profit in the 2Q ended September 30, 2007 increase by 491.5% to Rs. 32.2 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year. The company in the 1H of the year saw net profit increase by 529% to Rs. 54.4 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

HNB's profits up 31%

HNB saw net profit in the 3Q ended September 30, 2007 increase by 31% to Rs. 760.85 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year. The Bank in the 1st. 9 months of the year saw net profit increase by 32.8% to Rs. 1,787.14 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

HPL's profits down 71%

Horana Plantations Ltd.'s 2Q net profit in the period ended September 30, 2007 was down 71.1% to Rs. 24.29 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year. The company's 1H net profit in the period under review declined by 65.7% to Rs. 16.61 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

Indo-Malay makes turnaround

Indo-Malay Estates Ltd. made a 2Q net profit of Rs. 19.9 mn., in the period ended September 30, 2007, when compared with a  Rs. 1.4 mn., loss in the corresponding period the previous year. The company in the 1H of the year made a Rs. 25 mn., net profit compared with a Rs. 3.9 mn., loss in the corresponding period the previous year.

Pegasus makes Rs. 9 mn., loss

Pegasus Hotel made a 2Q Rs. 9.28 mn., loss in the in the period ended September 30, 2007 when compared with a Rs. 2.85 mn.,  net profit made in the corresponding period the previous year. The hotel, in the 1H of the year increased its losses by 35.8% to Rs. 15.32 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

Selinsing's profit up 350%

Selingsing Co., Ltd.'s net profit increased by 350.4% to Rs. 42.3 mn.,  in the 2Q ended September 30, 2007 when compared with the corresponding period the previous year. The company's net profit, in the 1H of the year increased by 428.8% to Rs. 82.7 mn., when compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

Source: John Keells Stock Brokers


Chevron gives $ 30 mn.,

CHEVRON announced that  they  will give $30 million to The Global Fund (TGF) to fight AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.

This $30 million contribution will be invested over a three-year period and directed to Global Fund-supported programmes in Angola, Indonesia, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa and Thailand-countries where Chevron has significant operations, where TGF has an established track record, and where this investment can make the most far-reaching community impacts.

 'This contribution demonstrates our commitment to the role public-private partnerships can play in improving health around the world and distinguishes us as the first member of The Global Fund's new Corporate Champions programme.'

'TGF selected us as their inaugural corporate champion in large measure because of our commitment to communities where we operate. Like TGF, Chevron emphasizes the partnership model which is fundamental to our community engagement approach.'

TGF has been sponsoring partnership programmes around the world to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria since 2002. Worldwide they provide over 20% of all the international financing to fight AIDS and two-thirds of the financing to fight tuberculosis and malaria. During 2007, TGF gave $537 million to fight HIV/AIDS; $471 million to combat malaria; and $111 million to defeat tuberculosis.


Bras for  US consumer

IN a report entitled "Market Movers: Lessons from a Frontier of Innovation," IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and "SustainAbility," tell the stories of four emerging market companies that have pioneered new sustainable business strategies.

This report was launched on December 11, 2007.

Although companies from emerging markets are making their presence felt increasingly in the global business community, only a few are known for their environmental and social management. The report captures key moments in the companies' histories that determined their strategic directions and motivations. It shows that companies from emerging markets, even more than in developed countries, can lead the way in sustainable innovations, which act as strong market differentiators.

The report on MAS Holdings says:

"Ethical Manufacturing in a Nutshell

Despite a violent ethnic conflict and the removal of trade protections under the Multi Fibre arrangement (MFa), this Sri Lankan apparel manufacturer has thrived in recent years while championing women's empowerment.

In the mid-1980s, Mahesh Amalean was excited that his small textile business in Sri Lanka had won an order to manufacture dresses out of synthetic fabric for a subsidiary of Limited Brands, a huge American apparel company. Then a change in quota restrictions meant that he could not fulfil the order. Mahesh had to look around for something else to manufacture. He and his two younger brothers, Sharad and Ajay, had pooled all their savings a few years earlier and bought 40 sewing machines. They needed to keep them busy.

On a visit to MAST Industries' office in Sri Lanka, Mahesh spotted a Victoria's Secret catalogue on the desk of a senior executive that he was meeting. Victoria's Secret was (and still is) one of America's biggest retailers of fashion lingerie. Although lingerie was outside the quota system, Sri Lanka had no expertise in dealing with the fine needlework that such products require.

Nevertheless, Mahesh decided to try and manufacture it, and he and his brothers set out to see how it was done. They travelled to Hong Kong and China to gain a deeper understanding of the manufacturing process.

Mahesh also went to Ohio where he managed to persuade senior executives from Victoria's Secret that a couple of unknown Sri Lankan entrepreneurs could produce bras to the high standards that American consumers demand. With a vote of confidence from Victoria's Secret, the brothers' company, MAS Holdings, found itself with access to American customers and Sri Lankan workers. It was a potentially powerful combination.

Some time later, MAS learnt that a 120-year-old German company called Triumph had the top technology for manufacturing lingerie and, two years after joining hands with Victoria's Secret, the Sri Lankan brothers struck lucky once again. Triumph had been looking to set up a plant in southern India, but the plan had just fallen through. The Amalean brothers appeared at an opportune moment and Triumph agreed to go into a joint venture with them. 'Sometimes things just fall into place,' says Mahesh.

At the time, however, western buyers were focused primarily on price. China was just opening up and the cost of garments was falling sharply in real terms in both America and Europe. Besides, Sri Lanka was not a buyer's natural first port of call. For one thing, wages there are higher than in other Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Moreover, the country has been embroiled in a civil conflict in the north and east, which has killed over 60,000 and left close to a million homeless since 1983.

Under such circumstances, it is surprising that the brothers stayed at home. But the Amaleans are of sturdy cloth. From all accounts, Mahesh in particular was driven by a vision that went beyond financial performance. 'He used the opportunity to create something much bigger than all of us,' says Deepthi De Silva, the group's human-resources director and a man who, prior to MAS, worked for 20 years in the UK. 'He created this feeling that we (and Sri Lanka) can be world class.'

At the time the company was being set up, good textile workers were hard to find in Sri Lanka's larger towns and cities. Moreover, the urban infrastructure could scarcely cope with a further big influx of labour-the government itself was trying to encourage the apparel industry to move to rural areas. So MAS decided to locate its plants in the countryside. 'We took the work to the workers, instead of the workers to the work,' says Mahesh Amalean.

Sustainability Performance

'Companies that attract the best people perform better-This is true regardless of where you are in the world'

From the beginning, MAS set out to be a good employer. In addition to maintaining basic workplace standards (eg. a limit on working hours and overtime, age limits, safe working conditions), MAS gives its workers-over 90% of whom are women-benefits including free transport and a decent breakfast to start their day, insists that managers eat in the same canteen as everyone else and provides onsite health care services.

To some extent they did it because, as Ajay Amalean, the youngest of the three brothers, puts it, 'it was the right thing to do. We had absolutely no idea that 20 years down the road, the things we were doing would be called CSR.'

But they did it also because it made business sense. 'Companies that attract the best people perform better-this is true regardless of where you are in the world,' says Sharmini Ratwatte, director of MAS Investments and a former board member. Forbes magazine recently described its 12-acre 'campus' near Chennai in southern India: 'Past the manicured lawns and the pleasant security guards is an air-conditioned spacious workplace,' the magazine wrote, where there is 'a day nursery and two nurses to watch over the well-being of employees and their children.' (Victoria's Secret, Forbes-July 2007)

Although the company's turnover is high by western standards, 'it is only one-quarter of the local industry average.' Many women leave to marry and then return once their children are at school. To persuade its workers to stay for longer, however, MAS asked them what they would most like it, as a company, to provide. One thing the workers suggested was education, in particular education in information technology and the English language, and the company is now providing both.

The whole programme has become formalised into something MAS calls 'Women Go Beyond,' which was launched in November 2003, and which its customers increasingly see as a benchmark for ethical sourcing practices in the industry. The focus is on promoting knowledge, awareness, leadership skills, attitudinal changes, and the ability to balance work and personal life. It gives workers the ability to take on more responsibility and make decisions on behalf of the company, and helps them communicate better with customers. Ultimately, it provides MAS with a deeper pool of talent from which to pick its future managers.

Each year, workers' achievements are celebrated through the 'Empowered Woman of the Year Awards ceremony.' Those who receive this award are seen as role models and, says Mahesh, 'Others are inspired by them.'

The programme has gained global recognition. In 2005, the programme was awarded the American Apparel and Footwear Association's Excellence in Social Responsibility Award for women's issues. In March 2006 one of the world's leading business schools (INSEAD) published a case study for its Advanced Management and MBA students entitled 'MAS: Strategic CSR in the Apparel Industry.' Significantly, the company's exemplary employment practices have led its customers to trust it in other areas. In 2006, Gap joined hands with MAS to launch a 'Gap Go Beyond' programme. In 2007 MAS was chosen by Marks & Spencer (M&S) to be part of the flagship British retailer's Plan A, a programme of sustainability that M&S' CEO Stuart Rose has said  'will shape everything about the way we do business.' MAS was one of only two companies in South-East Asia to be selected by the British retailer as a partner in developing an iconic green manufacturing plant. MAS believes it was chosen because sustainability (in all its forms) was perceived to be part of its culture.

At the same time, however, MAS has been able to differentiate itself from lower-cost producers by raising awareness with customers of its high labour standards and the 'Women Go Beyond' programme. So successful has MAS been that 'Women Go Beyond' has been supported by major customers like Gap and Victoria's Secret. MAS has also been engaging with the Sri Lankan government to encourage it to differentiate the country as a source of ethically produced apparel.

Managing in Sri Lanka

'We were born in a hostile environment and managed to grow at a rate of more than 20% in that environment,' Mahesh Amalean says. Sri Lanka's civil war began in 1983. Colombo's business district was bombed in 1996 and again in 1997. Export for apparel and tea account for 18% if Sri Lanka's economy and terrorists recently attempted to attack the Colombo port.

Despite the conflict, Sri Lanka has a comparative advantage in textiles and apparel due to its established industry, wages and productivity. 'We worked to make sure that our customers saw Sri Lanka as a compelling destination where lingerie is an expertise and that we had the skill base to support it,' says Mahesh. Having a strong track record of delivery has allowed MAS to continue to attract customers.

In the past, it expanded into other countries to take advantage of their quotas and to shift work among when production was disrupted.

Flexibility is essential, as customers charge a late penalty if delivery is delayed for more than 24hours. MAS' plan is vertical integration, manufacturing more of its own materials and opening design offices in Sri Lanka, the UK and USA."


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