Rajapaksa was speaking to Media of Ministry of Industry and Commerce on 9 August. The one day long India-Sri Lanka CEOs Forum, held on 4 August was set up to develop a road map for increased cooperation and mutually beneficial economic partnership between the two countries, and saw participation of top business leaders from India and Sri Lanka. Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 7 August praised the Forum for its effort, “I commend the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the High Commission of India in Colombo for this successful initiative,” Minister Bathiudeen said. Already two top CEOs – Laugfs Holdings Chairman W.K.H.
Wegapitiya and Hettigoda Group Managing Director Asoka Hettigoda on 8 August revealed that they are keen to enter JVs with Indian firms in rubber based automotive components and also enter the upcoming Trincomalee’s Manufacturing Special Economic Zone.
Speaking on his interest in partnership with Indian biz Rajapksa added, “My firm is keen on a joint venture with Indian firms in the rubber sector. In that, we are keen to enter the upcoming Manufacturing Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) by India for automotive components. We like to manufacture rubber based components in this for Indian market.” Rajapaksa’s $ 5.4 million revenue (2011) Samson International PLC is a conglomerate and a market leader for footwear and bicycle tyres.
Carson Cumberbatch Group Director Mano Selvanathan the diversified conglomerate which reported profit after tax of $73.5 million (Rs 9.7 billion) in 2011 said: “The CEO Forum brought many aspects of Indo-Lanka trade to the discussion. We have not decided on any sectors for JV but we will definitely explore promising JVs with Indian firms in areas of our operations.” Carson Cumberbatch operates in brewery, oil palm plantations, property development, investment portfolio management and mutual funds.
Associated Motorways (AMW) President Tilak de Zoysa the largest and oldest automobile conglomerate in Colombo owned by Al-Futtaim Group, UAE, said that AMW is also ‘very keen’ for JV with Indian firms. “We are very keen to enter the proposed Trinco’s MSEZ. With our automotive expertise, we can manufacture rubber based automotive components and become part of the supply chain to Indian car makers. We already distribute Indian made Maruti in Sri Lanka.”
AMW are the sole distributors for Nissan, Maruti, Suzuki, Eicher, Yamaha, Piaggio, Goodyear, British Petroleum and Castrol in Sri Lanka.
The only Lankan woman CEO to attend the Forum, Ramya Holdings Chairman Ramya Weerakoon, the exporter of apparels and horticulture, expressed her strong interest in partnership with Indian firms.
“I believe the Forum is a very positive event to boost bilateral trade. And I am impressed with Minister Anand Sharma’s professionalism and keenness. For me, there is potential for JV in the hospitality trade and we are keen for a suitable partner. We also are faced with shortage of skilled workers and therefore we are ready to receive Indian workers for our operations. We can also provide them with any required training as needed.”
Ceylon Biscuits Ltd Chairman M.P. Wickremasinghe said, “I always favoured to go to India. And we all looked forward to this CEO Forum. I am not looking for JVs now but want to increase sales there. In fact, it is better selling to India rather than any other country due to the proximity and huge market. If the sincerity in which the Indian delegation spoke is also maintained at official levels, it will be very good for bilateral trade.” Wickremasinghe’s ‘Muchee’ brand set the grounds to revamp the biscuit market by new innovations and aggressive marketing and today, according to the Chamber of Commerce, Munchee holds 56% share of Lanka’s biscuits market while also exporting to 45 countries.
All the Lankan CEOs above, who expressed willingness for JV with Indian firms, also revealed that it is too early to indicate any initial investment values.