Sri Lankan businesses in Cricket inspired bid to Break Into India

By Charindra Chandrasena

A committee of 8-10 members led by Export Development Board (EDB) Chairperson Indira Malwatte and Former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Suresh Shah has been set up to formulate a strategy to help Sri Lankan businesses break into the massive Indian market.
Appointed by the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, the ‘Break Into India Strategy Committee’ members are from several top firms that have experience in the Indian market, as well as representatives from research institutions and consulting companies.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade Advisor Anushka Wijesinha said that Sri Lankan firms have struggled over the years to break into India in a substantial way.
“However, some leading firms have, and their experience bears lessons for others seeking similar success in India,” he said.
The Ministry stated that the opportunity for Sri Lanka is clear as it stands at the doorstep of an economy with a middle class consumer market that is soon to be around 200 million, which is 10-times Sri Lanka’s domestic market.
The inspiration for the committee has come from Sri Lanka’s cricketing successes over the years, which have almost invariably come as the result of a positive approach as opposed to a defensive mind-set.
“We want Sri Lankan businesses to take calculated risks and step out of the crease and hit a six, instead of constantly staying on the back foot and defending,” Wijesinha said.

He elaborated that similarly, the local companies which have tasted success in India have generally approached the massive market with a positive attitude instead of being bogged down by its regulations, complexities and peculiarities.
This committee of experts has been primarily assigned four tasks:

  • Identify the critical success factors needed for ‘breaking into India’
  • Distill the lessons from successful Indian market entrants from Sri Lanka
  • Identify critical chokepoints for the private sector that GoSL needs to address with the Indian authorities
  • Develop a brief guide for firms (e.g. a ‘Ten Point Strategy’) that firms keen to break into India need to bear in mind and strategize accordingly, which will be disseminated widely.

An interim report is set to be prepared by December and a market entry strategy will be initiated before the end of the year. The latter will not be a policy oriented study but a business oriented one. The policy related issues and initiatives that come up during the discussions would be channelled into the ongoing bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations.
The countries currently have an FTA and talks are in progress to expand this beyond goods, to cover services, investment, etc. Meanwhile, the neighbours are also working to address challenges in the existing agreement that have made it hard for businesses on either side to gain full benefit of the FTA.

Meanwhile, Wijesinha said that no regions or cities in India have been identified as focal points for this initiative as yet, and such identification will be one of the responsibilities of the committee. Those identified are likely to be commercial hubs around the country.

Similarly, no industries have been earmarked for promotion or an initial push yet either.

As this is very much a self focused initiative, no discussions have taken place with Indian authorities to lay the groundwork for the entry of Sri Lankan firms.