Minister Bathiudeen announced this on 2 July in the aftermath of his meeting with the visiting Dubai based, $ 300 million Fakih Group Managing Director N.P Fakih, the multicultural souvenir, gift and handicraft items supplier to 28 countries. The company currently has manufacturing operations in 14 countries and is privately held.
“We are looking for JVs but not in terms of capital equity but in terms of skilled handicraft-men. In fact, our approach is rural community engagement which is our global practice and as a result we are also known for CSR and charity. To this end we have already started a pilot project three years ago in Udaperadeniya in Kandy with 30 families and with only $230000 which has become successful. We are now keen to expand further,” Fakih stated.
According to Fakih, the group employs 5300 employees (a considerable number of them being women in households on a self-employment basis), to supply the growing demand volumes in their 28 international markets.
“The Group also uses kiosk vending model and in Dubai alone runs 28 kiosks. Among the 5300 employees are 3655 handicraft creators exclusively working for us in Asia. Our basic approach is to encourage households in the countries we operate to supply eco-friendly items with creative designs portraying their culture or traditions.
Among the countries supplying the more than 290,000 items strong Fakih Group multicultural gifts and souvenirs portfolio are UAE (467 items), Philippines (3600 items), Thailand (22467 items), Vietnam (11359 items), Turkey (1310 items), Morocco (12290 items), Nepal (2315 items), Cambodia (1310 items), African collection (3590 items), Indonesia (11274 items), India (55924 items), Egypt (1936 items), Yemen (3600 items) and China (160128 items).
“We want to add Sri Lanka to our growing portfolio. Initially we will start by a few handicrafts with an investment of $ 3 million but later we want to expand. We do not want land, expensive raw material or money from Sri Lanka. We are only looking for handicraft skills mostly and are looking to build gift and handicraft items by paper and wood at first, thereafter by clay. Our raw material requirement here therefore is very basic but Sri Lankan handicraft skills being the most important input material we are looking for,” Fakih added.
Meanwhile, Minister Bathiudeen said, “We like Fakih Group’s approach of community engagement and eco-friendliness while making profits. I welcome the Group to enhance their presence further in Sri Lanka especially when at a time our tourism is booming, thanks to the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Your entry to Sri Lanka is a sign of our tourism’s new outlook.”
Minister also said Sri Lanka has a strong handicraft tradition historically and workmen’s skills are second to none with successful handicraft villages such as Battaramulla Folk Art Centre and Craft Village in Sigiriya.
“Handicrafts and gift items play a key role in our Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s efforts to enhance tourism and also his in Divineguma back-yard economic unit development initiative where 2.5 million rural households will be strengthened towards self-sufficiency,” Minister Bathiudeen added.