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Does SL require a Financial Hub? - Suitable Brand

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Does SL require a Financial Hub?
Suitable Brand
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Suitable Brand

Whichever strategy that the industry selects, one of the key pegs that needs to be addressed is to make a brand suitable for Sri Lanka. Currently we must accept it that the brand is in question from many fronts. I yet remember when I was managing the global power brand Dettol for Reckitt Benckiser a Marketing Director of Indian origin saying ‘Perception is reality’ in the world of business. I guess this ethos remains even in the case of Brand Sri Lanka. But the challenge is not to critise, but see how we can contribute to brand building. One such strategy is called Nation Branding.

This concept is the work of a scientist called Simon Arnolt. The basic theory is that different attributes of the country is used to communicate the brand values of a nation on selected global customers.

In the outset, an important point to note is that Nation branding does not require fat budgets. It is more about an integrated approach to communication.

If we take a typical customer in UK for instance, the end result is where the different facets of Brand Sri Lanka are wrapped around the typical customer. Lets say in the morning if he switches on to Sky News, he will get exposed to an interview of a Sri Lankan Enterprener who supplies garments to the top UK retail stores and the theme can be on the ethically manufactured proposition of Sri Lanka. Then on the way to work in the tube train he might read the Morning Herald he can be exposed to a press interview of a Sri Lankan politician on a theme such as the Nano park in Sri Lanka and the innovative products it is developing for top end organizations. Then at work, he gets a news alert that Sri Lankan cricketers have won a tournament in some part of the world.

In the afternoon if he decides to savour Asian cuisine and takes a stroll down a street he comes acccross a Sri Lankan restaurant and he tastes the hospitality and the authentic food. May be in the evening at the zoo with the family he gets exposed to a Sri Lankan elephant that has been gifted to this zoo and whist watching it he is served with Ceylon tea. In the evening whilst watching a favourite movie he suddenly realizes that the movie was filmed in Sri Lanka.

This is Nation branding at its best. Hence we see that this concept is all about developing the architecture of Sri Lanka in the minds of global customers, so that over time, a strong positive attitude is formed in one’s mind. Some countries that have successfully used this concept are Turkey and South Africa and maybe a more indepth understanding can be got by the team that will champion this concept in Sri Lanka.

Next Steps

1) Given that the 18th amendment is passed and a stronger government is in place, Sri Lanka is the only country to have a stable political/safe economic climate, the time is right to launch a Nation branding campaign in selected markets.

2) The Financial industry must take a hard look and decide if a Financial Hub fits into the developmental template and if so, a resolution must be passed so that it is official.

3) If yes, then a task force needs to be appointed so that a passionate team takes responsibility to champion this task just like what the apparel industry and the software industry have practiced.

4) The financial hub proposition requires a careful selection of target customers, just like what Malaysia did of zeroing on Middle east, Western Africa and North Africa. We must do the same in the outset.

5) Thereafter, a strong positioning platform must be decided for the Sri Lankan Financial center. Malaysia selected the position of an ‘Islamic Financial Center’ proposition and it has successfully carved out a niche for itself in the global market.

6) Sri Lanka must then make the critical decision of deciding on what criteria do we compete. Is it on equities, bonds, hedge funds, private wealth, fund manager or an insurer/re-insurer. We must analyse our strengths and weaknesses and make this decision.

7) Whilst fashioning this basic business proposition of segmenting, targeting and postionong( the STP of marketing) the industry must involve the key policy makers intimating the key policy decisions required to make Sri Lanka a Financial Hub.

8) Whilst this deliberation takes place the industry must develop strategies to spruce up lending to 3.5 trillion rupees in the years to come that includes addressing the issue of taking off the names in the CRIB of the enterpreuners in the north-east that have been effected by the conflict.

9) A regular business health check must be carried out so that the path to being a Financial hub is monitored with the necessary changes.

10) Finally the concept of a Financial Hub must be explicitly stated in the Mahinda Chinthana –Idiri dekme so that that it will be mentioned repeatedly at forums and the ‘Task Force’ will find it easier in its deliberations.

Conclusion

Whilst we work towards making Sri Lanka the ‘Wonder of Asia’ with the already planned five hubs, there is an opportunity for a financial hub also to be included to this architecture that will fashion the future economic landscape of Sri Lanka. However, the challenge is how it is championed by the task force that, I guess Sri Lanka will have to wait and see.

The author serves the United Nations(UNOPS) as the Head of National Portfolio Development for Sri Lanka & Maldives based in Sri Lanka whilst also serving the Government of Sri Lanka on many policy making bodies in the area of Trade and Business an honorary capacity. He is a former Chairman Sri Lanka Export Development Board, National Council for Economic Development under the Presidential Secretariat and the Souvereign Rating Team of the Central Bank. In 2009 he was appointed to the President Appointed ten man committee on developing the Corporate Tea sector of Sri Lanka . He currently sits on the 7 man national task force to develop a New Industrial Strategy for the country.