Mentor on Road, a unique initiative by Mr Jagat Shah, Founder & Chief Mentor, Global Network to advise and facilitate MSMEs on how to start business or exports or to build on the existing business for higher profits has reached Sri Lanka now. In the last two years Mentor on Road has covered the length and breadth of India.  Mentor on Road will be addressing several micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) in 30 cities across Sri Lanka in 13 days starting May 17, 2017. Mr Jagat Shah spoke to News MSME Editor Anup Kumar Sinha about the Sri Lankan leg of the Mentor on Road. Excerpts:

Sri Lanka has a wide  base of Small and Medium Industries  accounting for 70 per cent of industries in the country providing 45 per cent of employment. How do you see the growth potential of SMEs in the country.

Yes, SMEs in Sri Lanka employ close to 50% of the population. But in any developing economy, considering the technological advancements, the skills needed to be competitive. The skills levels have been the deciding factor for the last decade. Also the economic structure of any developing country is such that the money keeps rotating within the country – a worker at any SME will spend on SMEs to buy things, and earn from the SMEs only.
We are breaking this cycle by Mentor on Road project by imparting them the skills to touch the global market and increase the cash flow in the economy from other countries, finally adding to the GDP of the country.

Under the Mentor on Road Sri Lanka, we are driving to 30 towns in Sri Lanka starting from 17 may to 28 may 2017 and meeting college students – motivating them for self employment, young starts ups – guiding them on entrepreneurship, sme’s – connecting them to global markets through knowledge sessions and empowering women entrepreneurs to join the mainstream of Sri Lankan economy. Shaveen Fernando from Colombo & Jagat Shah from India will drive across Sri Lanka on this project. Mentor On Road Sri Lanka

Indians have natural advantage in Sri Lankan markets especially in SME sector.

Yes, and this is natural. India and Sri Lanka always had strong cultural and business ties, and the major reason is the colonial impact of the British times, combined with the strong cultural heritage that both countries share uniquely with each other. Both countries are relying on SME sector to help boost economy and jobs, and hence stronger co-operation is natural and befitting.

Which specific industrial sectors are more attractive from Indian point of view?

The most attractive sectors of Sri Lanka, from Indian perspective, are Real Estate, Renewable Energy and Infrastructure, in which Indian companies are already investing a lot – as Minister of Commerce of India Nirmala Sitharaman announced, in September 2016, that companies from India will invest USD 2 Billion over next 3-4 years in these sectors in Sri Lanka. Apart from that, India also imports majorly fresh fruits and vegetables, coir, pepper, rubber, etc from Sri Lanka.

Of late Sri Lanka has emphasised on the need for establishing linkages with global markets especially in case of exports.

Sri Lanka is one of the most vibrant populated countries in South Asia and its economy is one of the region’s smallest. Yet GDP per capita is among the highest in the region ($11,200 purchasing power parity in 2016) and the country has shown its ability to compete very successfully in developing trade and attracting investment.

Two powerful forces – globalization and structural reforms introduced by the government—are transforming the economy. FDI has increased; new industries have come up; and improvements are being made in government and business competitiveness, efficiency, productivity, and in employment.

Finding international markets for SMEs products is a major challenge for Sri Lankan Government.

Asia is a highly competitive market, when you see major exporting players such as China and India. But, Mentor on Road feels that Sri Lanka has unique capacity in many sectors such as Textile, Tea Agriculture, Fruits and Vegetables, food and beverages, spices, Rubber, ICT, etc. Sri Lanka needs to be on the world trade map by making it even more visible than it is today. The efforts done by Sri Lanka Export Development Board are really worth applauding. We, as Mentor on Road, are bringing innovative approaches, that we have learned from our experience in India, and other 22 countries, working with various governments, to SMEs in Sri Lanka, and this will further the effort the Government of Sri Lanka is already doing.