Years had passed since the secession of the thirty-year-long war. Hopes of Sri Lankans for a better future still remain the same. It didn’t take much time for Japan to become a giant in the global economy after Hiroshima and Nagasaki disasters. China is getting ready to get on the market by increasing the quality of their products, while South Korea is increasing its hold on the European market. While India is trying to develop their economy focusing on Information Technology, Sri Lanka is still trying to continue the conventional tea industry. Without a precise economic vision, we are trapped in the global economy facing a situation where products and services cannot be marketed.
Ghana went ahead of other African countries at the point where they became a free nation in 1957, because of their massive production and export of cocoa. They had an income worth seven times their payables and had the leading infrastructure facilities in transportation among African countries. Ghana had a per capita income of $490 whereas South Korea’s per capita income was $491.
In 1980, Ghana’s per capita income decreased to $400, and the Korean income increased to $2000, and $4832 in 1990. More important would be to find out the increase of the South Korean economy rather than the decrease of the Ghanaian economy.
South Korea, which never had the experience of being a European Colony, started developing their economy through exports. They converted their agricultural economy into a production and export economy. Commencing with basic products such as ready-made garments and slippers, they gradually expanded their production and focused on technological products. In the contemporary Korean economy, motor vehicles and electronic appliances are major products. Since the 1950s the majority has moved to production of goods decreasing their focus on agriculture from 70% to 20%. Production of goods, product expenditure, quality, as well as marketing can be considered as important features in an export economy.
Among factors which affect the production expenses, manpower, energy, and raw materials are vital. Most countries, especially countries such as South Korea and Thailand, have worked on import tax on raw materials needed for the production of goods. In 2011 Sri Lanka also abolished the VAT on imports in research and development sector. Yet, the anticipated improvement was not materialized. Lack of a proper marketing strategy was a problem in many sectors. Research has been done without considering even the basic principles of marketing. It is vital for the researchers to have at least a basic knowledge in marketing. In the global market, Sri Lanka should be able to compete with Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, Taiwan and Korean goods and services. Brands, which have the capacity to compete with the brands of these countries need to be produced. Sri Lankan tea continues to be exported without proper marketing. European companies buy our tea as raw material and earn large sums of money by selling them under European brands. Switzerland earns a huge foreign exchange by selling chocolates made out of cocoa bought from other countries.
Indian producers try to make their way to our country through agreements such as ECTA, as the international market gives a higher recognition to “Made in Sri Lanka” label than the “Made in India”. We are still looking for foreign imports while foreigners make huge profits by selling our sales values.
Without looking for the technology needed to produce goods, Sri Lankans complain of the lack of it. It will not be easy for Sri Lanka to make foreign investments competing with countries like India, China, and Myanmar. The education system does not cater to the global needs.
Small-scale online business is popular in countries such as China, Hongkong, and Vietnam.
Sri Lankan business community has a tendency towards importing and selling, other than in-house production. Little action is taken by the government to recognize local products, resulting in importing goods, which can easily be made locally. Time is ripe to look for the international market; identifying goods and services which can be produced in-house is the initiative. Creating a local market for local products, increasing the quality to match and completing the foreign standards is mandatory.
Using Sri Lanka’s goodwill in the international community is another strategy to increase exports. The existing demand for tea, as well as the publicity Sri Lanka has gained through cricket, will be a perfect background for this. A major way to get hold of the international market will be accurate market segmentation and positioning of brands based on clear and efficient market research information.
Support of the government and a vision based on marketing is essential to win this as a country. Otherwise escaping from the debt bond would remain a daydream.
Dr. Himendra Balalle is an eminent Lecturer in marketing and a marketing consultant in a reputed conglomerate in Asia Pacific region.He is a Diplomat of Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing and holds the status of Certified Professional Marketer from the Asia Pacific Marketing Federation. He is a Business Management graduate of Durham University. He completed his Master of Business Management with Vinayak Missions University by specializing in Marketing. He also got his Doctorate from the University of Sheffield in marketing stream. He is even a member of Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing and Organization of Professional Association of Sri Lanka.