The private sector creates business but poor government leadership.


Sri Lankan households have adapted well to the pandemic

When the pandemic struck and the lockdown took place in March 2020, many were unsure how to respond. But the Sri Lankans being resilient, in six days they got their act together and started production, then the logistics system kicked in. To be honest, I know of many companies, mainly in the export sector, that never stopped their operations and production continued throughout 2020 and 2021. It was a signal to the world, showing the power of Sri Lanka’s private sector to meet a consumer’s demands even during severe environmental disruption.

Agile leadership

In my opinion, this was the essence of strong leadership that has been demonstrated. As Unilever President Hajar Alafifi said during the APIIT MBA Diary presentation, “Strong brands are built during tough times”. She went on to say that what a brand says in the media needs to be implemented on the ground, only then does credibility and trust come into a brand – which is essentially what companies do. who have shown resilience have done so. Significant changes had to be made to the production process, such as having a two-shift system so that if one team contracts the COVID-19 virus, the other team takes up the challenge. Likewise, we have seen structural changes in the sales and logistics system that had to be made due to the supply chain disruptions that have occurred in Sri Lanka and around the world.

The private sector creates business

Sri Lanka has seen drastic behavioral changes during the first quarter of the lockdown. There was more settlement at home – urban and rural households alike – and obviously, because the family was confined to the house, household consumption was higher.

According to “Figure 1” from the Kantar household panel presented at a Ceylon Chamber of Commerce conference, it is very evident in Q2 2020 that volume growth has increased by 24% compared to the average growth of 5% and 8% over the last two quarters.

However, we saw that in the following quarters the volume growth fell to around 17-18% which meant that people were reverting to previous patterns of behavior, yet it was skewed at a higher end of the spectrum. consumption at pre-pandemic levels. Companies that have responded to changing consumer lifestyles have benefited from the upward trend. This resulted in in-depth consumer information coupled with very difficult working conditions as research companies had to conduct online surveys which was a difficult task. However, the total support service chain has also adapted.

The private sector pushes SL

Let’s face it, Sri Lankan businesses, be it food, beverage, personal care or consumer goods, have matured to respond to the disruptive consumer behaviors seen during the year. In fact, it’s fair to say that real management maturity has been seen in the private sector on how to motivate people even while working from home and dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19 within the business. . Overall consumption has increased by 30%. Even sustainable household businesses have experienced unprecedented growth, doubling their activity during the pandemic. This was attributed to the fact that the father spent more time at home and also got involved in the housework, resulting in a purely male upgrade in the overall kitchen infrastructure. From “Figure 2”, again from the presentation made by Kantar to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, we see that in a pandemic year, FMCG activities increased by 14% compared to the previous year (-3% decrease in volume) while Food and beverages increased by 15% against -4% the previous year. We are seeing a similar trend in the Personal Care and Home Care business segments, which tells us the resilient behavior of the private sector in relation to changing consumer needs.

Rotary supports the private sector

In this context, Rotary Sri Lanka conceptualized the “COVID-19 Control Environment” certification with the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) which has empowered companies. Today we see number one tea company Akbar Brothers, food giant Nestle, largest telecommunications company Dialog, 125 Keells Super supermarkets, blue chip Aitken Spence, agricultural expert CIC and main dairy company Fonterra, defend this concept internally. More than 400 entities have received certification and all credits at SLSI for the conduct of the project.

The recertification of entries that occurs in 2021 is an indication that the concept has helped companies make new normal behavior into the DNA of the organization. In my opinion, this was a classic example of a service organization supporting organizations to protect a human from a deadly virus in a country. In this context, the health sector started the vaccination program with the support of Rotary and subsequently, with the brilliant support of the public sector, saw 72% of people receive the first vaccination, 63% the second. vaccination and 14% booster.

The government fails

Against this background, we see how government leaders have utterly failed to support the private sector and Sri Lanka’s 21 million consumers. I guess the saying “absolute power absolutely corrupts” is a classic case study in the world where bad leadership has ruined the overall macro environment. The economy is in tatters with bad decisions – namely the illogical decision of organic fertilizer. The president single-handedly championed this cause on a global scale, although academics and senior public sector officials have advised the hierarchy on this strategy. Sri Lanka is now heading for a food security disaster on rice, vegetables and fruits. The Ministry of Agriculture having six secretaries in the current term is the bad governance we have seen.

Allegations of corruption and irregularities from the LNG energy deal, the Lanka Sathosa sugar scam, the liquid fertilizer quality problem and the Litro Gas explosions, are just a few examples of absolutely poor leadership, bad governance and absolutely callous behavior by the state towards the innocent of Sri Lanka.

Next steps

It is difficult to predict what the future holds for Sri Lanka given the state’s decision not to seek IMF assistance. But the summary is simple: The people of Sri Lanka have helped the country deal with COVID-19, while the private sector has undergone drastic changes to cope with market disruptions over the past two years. But the government has failed to provide the necessary leadership.

(Thoughts are strictly the personal opinions of the author and do not reflect the organizations he serves in Sri Lanka and the South Asian region)

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