Economic upturn and cricketing lessons
Last Saturday when I was watching the World Cup final my mind went
back to the last championship way back in 2007 when some of us were
grouped together in the lawn of Airport Garden hotel watching the finals
between Sri Lanka and Australia staged in Barbados.
We were just into the eighth over and Sanath Jayasuiya was batting
when the night sky lit up with fire all around Katunayake. I remember
running into the hotel corridor and then made it to the vehicle in the
park to pull out from the hotel and so were all my friends following
suit but there was firing all over just above us and we were yelled back
into the hotel compound by the security guards.
But the scenario was so different this time and in fact the setting
was unique in my view as the the country was free from terrorism and
game of cricket was uniting the country be it if one of us is a Muslim,
Tamil, Sinhalese, ex LTTE cadre, government official or a private sector
executive we all wanted only one thing victory for Sri Lanka and we were
celebrating freedom at the best.
Even though we lost the finals we as a nation became united in the
last six weeks and that was something that no one can take away. In my
view, it’s a bigger victory for Sri Lanka than actually lifting the
World Cup at cricket.
I drove around the city on April 2 and be it in the plush bars in the
five star hotels or in every Singer outlet in a town, Sri Lankans were
on their feet shouting for a victory and to me it was not about cricket
but celebrating freedom.
However, it must be mentioned that it is very sad that Sri Lanka did
not take advantage of this great opportunity and market to the world
that we as a nation was celebrating peace and we welcomed the world to
On the other hand we saw how well India orchestrated this event to
re-build the lost pride of the people of India that has been dogged in
the recent past by alleged corruption scandals from the Commonwealth
Games to the Air bus deal and then the 2G scam. The celebrations are yet
continuing even as at Sunday night right across India which is led by
Sonia Gandhi and Amithab Bachchan that gives us the power of brand
Whie many were focusing on the game of cricket, my pick last week was
the report by the Census and Statistics Department on the economy of Sri
Lanka in 2010. The country had achieved a 8.6 percent GDP growth in the
last quarter of 2010 and ended the year at 8.1 percent tell a
performance that every Sri Lankan can be proud of.
The hotel and restaurant segment had grown by 41 percent in Q4, which
is reflective of the private sector performance reports of the hotel
sector of Sri Lanka. Which means that the macro data mirrors the private
sector performance. This means that fundamentals of the country’s growth
agenda is surely but slowly settling in. The transport sector has grown
by 11.9 percent which once again demonstrates the upturn in logistics of
the country given the overall drive on business and trade.
It is fair to state that Sri Lanka is definitely on a growth
trajectory to reach a nine percent GDP growth.
Hence the challenge is how each of us can latch on to this cycle of
growth so that we can achieve inclusive growth rather than a lop sided
performance like today, when the western province carves out almost 53
percent share of GDP which is not very healthy.
In the backdrop of this strong economic performance, January 2011
exports have unleashed to a commanding 74 percent growth which
demonstrates the resiliency of the Sri Lankan exporter who has adjusted
to remain competitive even though there has been a fall out of GSP+ and
GSP to the EU and US which account for almost sixty percent of export
Apparel and earnings have grown by 21.9 percent to $ 385 million with
cutting edge innovation and marketing initiatives whilst the overall
industrial sector performance in January has continued to grow which
means that overall business strength is positive and is not only the
apparel sector that doing well.
Rubber sector has grown by 18.7 percent with solid tyres and tyres
and tubes leading this growth but we need to watch the implications are
post the Japanese Tsunami that has impacted the out put vehicles from
Japan. Agricultural products have continued to perform with a 28.9
percent growth agenda which means that Sri Lanka for sure within the
$9.5 billion dollar export earnings mark for 2011.
But a worrying indicator is that Sri Lanka’s share of global exports
has declined to 0.6 percent from the 0.8 percent which is alarming. This
means that we as a nation is falling behind the global trend of exports.
Oneway out to arrest this situation is by focusing on the South Asian
apitite for consumption where Sri Lanka just accounts for just 4 percent
of the overall export performance.
Another key issue is the probable impact of the La Nina phenomenon on
the agricultural economy of the North East and well as the tea industry.
The reason why I am highlighting this sector is because food security
can be a burning issue not only globally but in Sri Lanka and we need to
address this as a nation.
The one million economic units branded as ‘Divi Negauma’ can support
this cause but a more fully fledged agricultural sector drive can
benefit Sri Lanka provided new technology can be introduced is my view.
Aparently the FDI performance in 2010 is one of the biggest issues
the country is up against given the FDI performance of neighbouring
countries like Cambodia and Vietnam are on high gear.
The only solution being that on the attribute of ‘Doing Business’ in
Sri Lanka we have improve our performance from the current rank of 105
to be within the targeted top 50 countries of the world.
For this to be achieved a careful orchestration of these variables
will have to be done as a matter of urgency. So far Sri Lanka is
struggling on this front sadly.
Coming from a sports background, my view is that Sri Lanka performed
extremely well at World Cup 2011. It’s just that India was a better
side. Now it’s a matter of picking up the lessons and focusing on the
2015 championship. Let me highlight some of them and link them to a
ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat said that the accuracy of decision making had
improved in WC 2011 due to use of technology. I guess the pick to us is
the increased use of the PC and mobile phone in our daily lives. Current
research reveals that only 30 percent of the featured are on average
used by a modern day business executive.
If we can increase our productivity by just 5 percent as a nation the
aggregate can be considerable.
2) 28 years
If we examine the Indian victory it has taken the country 28 years to
bring the WC back to the country. Sri Lanka’s attempt was to bring it in
14 years. Meaning half that duration. For this to happen a strategic
development of the game must happen as district level so that talent can
be identified. If we analyse the age of the Sri Lankan cricket team it
is the oldest in the tournament 2011. I guess this needs to be changed
in the next four years. This same ethos hold ground in business. Young
blood has to be introduced.
3) Next captain
If we really examine Team India we can see that Tendulkar held the
team together but it was Yuaraj that had won man of the match four times
in the tournament.
Meaning that a new leader has been identified and nurtured to take
over India after, Dhoni. Even at the final once the two stalwarts were
out it was the youngsters that guided India to victory. This once again
highlights the importance of having youngsters in the corporate
Pepsi Cola took a calculated risk and bought media right across the
WC 2011 to announce the ‘Change the Game’ campaign. It worked as from
the semi final onwards the ratings improved to 20+ and media was 350%
more expensive as
India was into the last four and then in the finals. Latest research
reveal that sixty percent of the homes watch the match at 10.22 pm when
Dhoni lifted the cup. Life is all about calculated risks I guess.
5) A wild card
After the victory when Dhoni was interviewed a comment made was that
he had to prove that his decision to bring in Sreesanth into the final
had to be justified. I guess as a leader you must be courageous to
pickup a wild card which are some times shunned by the rest of the team
6) Take opportunity
While India and Pakistan has been waging war for ages, internally the
fight on poverty and home soil terrorism was at its peak in both
countries. The two leaders used the opportunity for public diplomacy
even though the public was strongly against the ‘Cricketing Diplomacy’
that was planned.
The leadership pursued the bold strategy and the result was that
brand India and Pakistan was a top of the mind brand mentioned across
all news bulletins of the world. Even though Pakistan was not ready
India used the WC 2011 to build the flagging global imagery that has
been highlighted for corruption in the recent past. I guess Sri Lanka
needs to take a que from such brand building decisions.
What next for SL
Lets accept it. Sri Lanka lost a golden opportunity to market to the
world the new economic order that is setting into the country. The
lesson is that we must not let this happen again for Brand Sri Lanka
given that we are poised to be the tiger cup economy of Asia. The
challenge is to make strategise the next steps.
1) Sector specific brand strategies
Given that we have re-created the lost pride of a nation with our
team coming into the finals, we must now roll out some strong media in
key markets sectorally.
Ceylon Tea brand campaign is set to roll out globally with some very
focused work done by the industry on a successful private-public
We must launch a IT and BPO similar campaign which in fact is one of
the most organized sectors in my view with very strong private sector
engagement with key state officials.
Ceylon Cinnamon brand strategy is shaping up too and some seed
capital must be infused. Apparel industry image building campaign is
already working out well.
2) SL Premier league
The stage is set for Sri Lanka to launch an IPL version on home soil.
What’s unique is that Pakistanis can also be part of the tournament. But
the key is that every facets of the IPL agenda must be mirrored and
bettered so that we ensure that the Sri Lankan version brings in the
vibrancy to Brand Sri Lanka.
This should include the after parties, the use of viral media across
the world and getting Brand Finance to value the championships. IPL is
today worth a $4.2 billion with each team valued at 40 to 45 million
dollars. We must develop a similar model.
3) Export Bazzar
For the first time Sri Lanka will get exposed to almost all export
products that we market to the world from April 8 onwards at Green Path.
Whilst viewing will be interesting I would strongly recommend that
new middle men can be created to find new markets just like the Oriflame
or the Triumph model of network marketing.
4) New business model
It’s time that Sri Lanka develops a new business model for corporate
Sri Lanka by venturing out to sports.
The Ambani’s did the same with Mumbai Indians and so did many other
corporate in Sri Lanka. Sports is one of the most thriving business
globally and I feel Sri Lanka is now ready for this wave.
5) Competitive ranking
Starting business is a key challenge that needs to be addressed by
improving the competitive rankings.
There is an internal plan that from the current 105 rank we can
achieve No 65 without taking any hit on the revenue model of the
country. But this needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency so that
we can attract the FDI’s into the country.
6) Why not Mannar
Just like brand Hambantota I can see that there is a lot of potential
for Mannar to be developed on a pure demand model. Be it the Industrial
zone or the access to India via the new ferry service the growth
potential is very strong. The challenge is focused investment.
Though Sri Lanka lost at cricket, we as a nation became very united
in the last eight weeks and that’s the biggest victory for the country.