Story: A Sri Lankan dream comes true in troubling times

6 May 2020
ITC News
Sri Lankan companies standing tall and holding hands to help battle COVID-19.

Still in his thirties, Sahan has achieved a lot already. Graduating as an engineer from a prestigious university in the country, he chose to stay in his hometown of Galle instead of moving to the commercial hub and capital city, Colombo.

That did not prevent him from pursuing his passion to become an entrepreneur. His company was up and running in 2010 and now he has eight employees working for him.

His enterprise, Sanota (Private) Limited, provides innovative solutions in automation, biomedics and software development.

Sahan always dreamt of much more from his business than just profits. Earlier this year, when the coronavirus created a life threatening situation for everyone, he seized the opportunity to achieve what he always wanted - giving back to society.

He produced various types of medical devices.  Together with his university friends, he made five ventilators and presented them to the Ministry of Health for use at government hospitals.

The company did not patent the design in order to save research and development costs for others who might want to use it to produce more machines during the crisis.

"We decided not to patent the ventilator as we want to encourage anyone with the capabilities to produce them and join the national effort to save lives," said Sahan.

The innovations don't stop there. The company also produced patented design of a disinfection chamber and will soon produce eight such chambers for hospitals and the private sector. Sample collection chambers, and a robot that will help minimize physical contact between patients and doctors will also be produced in collaboration with two other companies.

The next step for Sanota (Private) Limited is to begin exporting. Sahan feels that the trainings on export marketing planning and export management practices that he received from the International Trade Centre have put him in the right direction.

Enabling institutional environment for trade policy and facilitation

The International Trade Centre, together with the Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka is actively engaged in building capacities for trade policy and facilitation to deter the economic setbacks from COVID-19. This includes regulatory assessment for the severely affected tourism sector, investment promotion and reforms, business advocacy on impacts of the crisis on the private sector.

Studies of the impact of COVID-19 on the country's trade policy, rural areas and small businesses will also be carried out.

The EU-funded project, in partnership with the National Institute of Exporters is also planning to issue a new edition of its trade facilitation e-curriculum for students, government officials and private sector representatives. As a result, traders, will have access to new learning opportunities during this period of uncertainty.

In addition, under its SME export coaching initiative, the International Trade Centre will work with SMEs that have been hardest hit.

The EU-Sri Lanka Trade-Related Assistance project contributes to Sri Lanka's inclusive trade-led growth and regional integration. It supports SME export competitiveness and value addition in sectors with high potential for economic growth and development.