Sri Lanka Retail Forum 2023 highlights strategies for navigating economic crisis in retail sector

The Sri Lanka Retailers’ Association (SLRA), the apex body of organised retail in Sri Lanka, recently concluded the annual Sri Lanka Retail Forum under the theme ‘Redefining Retail: Future Proofing the Forward Journey’. The Forum was opened by Mr. Murali Prakash, President of SLRA, who addressed the importance of navigating the challenges faced by the retail industry and the imperative need to foster constructive dialogue by multiple experts from varying fields in the retails sector, on leveraging emerging trends, technology and navigating the prevailing economic crisis.

Mr. Ganaka Herath, Managing Partner of McKinsey & Company in Sri Lanka, who was the Guest Speaker at the Forum, spoke extensively about macro-economic trends, impacts of the various economic shocks on the industry and what the future could hold for retail sector.

As the retail sector is one of the most impacted by the prevailing crisis, the Forum was designed and implemented to facilitate urgent dialogue on leveraging all plausible courses through current turbulent economic conditions. It also explored global macro trends and how they can be best utilised in a national context and saw multiple discussions on sustainable operations to help ensure industry stability and growth.

The first session of the Forum was a panel discussion under the theme of ‘Delivering Value in Inflationary Times’, which explored strategies such as pricing and managing consumer behaviour against a backdrop of the significant surge in living costs.

The panel consisted of Mr. Karthik Hebsur, Partner at McKinsey & Company India; Ms. Dilini Jayasuriya, Founder/Executive Director at Breakthrough Business Intelligence (Pvt) Ltd.; Mr. Kamal Dole, Founder/Managing Director of Celcius Luxury Bedding and Affiliated Companies; and Mr. Kumar de Silva, Chief Executive Officer of SPAR Sri Lanka. The session was moderated by Mr. Channa Gunawardana, Chief Executive Officer, Dankotuwa Porcelain PLC.

The second session of the Forum was a discussion under the theme ‘Leveraging Tech for Retail Excellence’ which looked at how the national retail industry and global trends such as technology and applications can help influence and improve marketing, talent, and service delivery. The session was opened by Foreign Guest Speaker Mr. Lu Yao, Chief Commercial Officer of Daraz Group, who discussed the many facets of Daraz, and how the company leverages technology within its operations.

The panel which followed consisted of Mr. Chalinda Abeykoon, Managing Partner of nVentures; Mr. Ahamed Ur Rahaman, Chief Operating Officer of DHL Global Forwarding Sri Lanka; and Mr. Janik Jayasuriya, Chief Executive Officer of Celeste Daily. The session was moderated by Ms. Sanjini Munawara, Regional Head – South Asia, ADA Sri Lanka.

The third component of the Forum was a rapid-fire session with panellists from various sectors of the retail industry who shared experiences and insights garnered during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed.

The panel included Mr. Fouzul Hameed, Managing Director of Envoy London & Hameedia Group Mr. Infiyaz M. Ali, Chief Executive Officer of Healthguard Pharmacy Ltd.; Mr. Charitha Subasinghe, President – Retail at John Keells Holdings PLC; Mr. Rajiv Meewakkala, Chief Executive Officer of Lion Brewery (Ceylon) PLC; and Mr. Shanil Perera, Director – Marketing at Singer Sri Lanka PLC.

The fourth and final session of the Forum was a chat with a panel of experts, on the future of retail in Sri Lanka and delved into insightful topics and helped create a possible roadmap for the future and sustainability of the Sri Lankan retail industry.

The panel consisted of Mr. Rakhil Fernando, Managing Director of Daraz Sri Lanka; Mr. Dimantha Seneviratne, Director/Chief Executive Officer of National Development Bank PLC, Ms. Avanthi Colombage, Country Manager (Sri Lanka and Maldives) at VISA Inc.; Mr. Shalin Balasuriya, Co-Founder of Spa Ceylon; and Mr. Shamal Gunawardene, Director, Sales and Commercial at Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka. The session was moderated by Mr. Murali Prakash, President of SLRA.

The Forum ended with an address by Mr. Roy Nicholas Mandey, Chairman of the Federation of Asia Pacific Retail Association (FAPRA), and a thank you note by Mr. Dinesh Perera, Assistant Secretary – SLRA and Director Operations, Abans PLC, who was the Project Chair for the Forum. The event was truly insightful and addressed a plethora of challenges faced by the industry in the current national context, and opened many possible avenues, to help grow and sustain the local retail industry in the future.

The Sri Lanka Retailers Forum 2023 also consisted of multiple sponsors and event partners, including John Keells Holdins PLC as Platinum Sponsor, and Abans PLC as Gold Sponsor. Bronze Sponsors included Damro, DSI, Healthguard Pharmacy, Singer Sri Lanka, Unilever, Union Assurance PLC, and Online Shopping Partner Daraz. Event Partners included The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Bata, Celcius, Dankotuwa, Hameedia, Nestle Lanka, SPAR Supermarkets, and Insight Partner Breakthrough Intelligence. Digital Banners were provided by Perera & Sons and Ceylon Biscuits limited.


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