Business

Innovation-led exports can surpass $ 10 b: Stax

By Uwin Lugoda

Sri Lanka’s innovation-led exports have the potential to contribute over $ 10 billion, according to Stax Inc. Managing Director Ruwindhu Peiris.

During a roundtable organised by the global publishing, research, and advisory firm Oxford Business Group (OBG) in partnership with First Capital Holdings, Peiris stated that there is huge potential for the growth of the innovation export sector in Sri Lanka, taking into consideration its growth from a $ 100 million industry to a $ 1.2 billion one within the last 15 years.

He attributed this rapid initial growth of the industry to the lack of intervention from the government at the time, which led to no constraints.

“Exponential growth is one of the most important facets of humanity; this is what digital is currently doing, and we as a species haven’t evolved to comprehend that since we are linear thinkers. We have only just tapped the tip of the IT iceberg,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s exports for the first half of 2019 from January to June reached $ 5.9 billion, while total exports for the year 2018 reached $ 11.8 billion, according to data from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL). Out of total exports earnings for 2018, $ 995 million was from the export of telecommunications, computer, and information services, which had increased by 7.5% from 2017.

During the roundtable, First Capital Holdings Director and CEO Dilshan Wirasekara pointed out the need for Sri Lanka to adopt a national innovations strategy in which big corporations, SMEs (small to medium enterprise), and start-ups collaborate to expand the global markets and value chains, which will eventually enhance innovation in the country. He stated that innovation goes beyond the software industry and highlighted the possibilities for innovation in industries such as agriculture where more than one-third of Sri Lanka’s workforce resides.

Wirasekara stated that despite Sri Lanka having made some progress with a national innovation systems study, which is currently being conducted by the Government and the Enterprise Sri Lanka loan scheme given for start-ups and innovation, these tend to exclude the rural areas of the country.

“We’ve had a lot of companies like Hatch, Cake Labs, and the innovation tower in Colombo now that is sort of promoting start-ups and innovation, but what I would really like to see is that movement really going beyond Colombo and the Western Province into the rural areas and helping the SMEs who are the backbone of this economy.”

Titled “How can Sri Lanka enhance competitiveness in the age of disruption?”, the event took place on Tuesday, 10 September at Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo.

The roundtable brought together an audience of high-profile representatives from across the public and private sectors to debate topical issues under the banner of domestic political disruption, disruption in the global trade environment, and technological disruption.