HIP Supports SME Development Conference 2020
Hambantota International Port was the venue sponsor of the SME Development Conference 2020, held under the auspices of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who was Chief Guest at the event, and special dignitaries Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa and State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal.
The aim of the conference was to help small and medium-scale enterprises meet challenges faced in financial management, entrepreneurial leadership and bank funding in the country’s post-Covid economy. This was the first regional SME conference organised by CMA with the expectation of gaining government attention on the SME sector. There were two panel discussions where several pressing issues faced by the SME Sector were discussed. The panel discussion on “Management and Entrepreneurship development in the New Normal” had HIPG participation where representatives fielded questions on how the SME sector can benefit from port related activities and future business opportunities HIP would pursue.
Speaking on how the Port adds value to the SME Sector in a post COVID environment, Nishantha Gamage, Marketing Manager of HIPG says the port continued to operate during the lockdown and even found other opportunities such as crew-changes that were handled via the port. He added that as more vessels with various service requirements such as ship supplies begin calling at the port, SMEs could operate as suppliers by upgrading their offerings to cater to them. As advice to SMEs on how to operate under the new normal Nishantha Gamage says, “SMEs should definitely look into digital technology to develop their business. For example, develop an online platform for ship supply services which can cater to international vessels calling at HIP.” He added that the port will soon begin containerisation business to support the free zone, paving the way for more efficient and streamlined container imports and exports via HIP, which would be advantageous to SMEs.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event the COO of HIPG, Tissa Wickramasinghe said, “We are committed to the development of Hambantota and we see smaller medium-scale enterprises as an important component in this endeavour. As much as Hambantota International Port is looking outwards towards developing the port, we also are looking inwards to develop HIP as a gateway port and for this the industrial development of Hambantota is a must.”
The conference committee comprised nearly 50 members from professional bodies, chambers of commerce & industry, commercial banks and industry experts who had met since April 2020 to find solutions to the problems experienced by the SME sector. Around 250 SME customers of Hambantota commercial banks took part in the event where varied challenges faced by the SME sector and future development opportunities were taken up. Going forward, CMA Sri Lanka plans to hold similar conferences in other districts across Sri Lanka.