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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2761

Recognition of Excellent Service

By T.K.Premadasa

Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industry (SLCSMI) completes its 50th anniversary on 6th of April, 2013.

SLCSMI deserves a high degree of praise for its remarkable contribution made towards socio economic development of the country and uplifting progression of business of its members.

Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) found in 1839 was the first Chamber established for commerce and industries with the commencement of plantation industry in Sri Lanka. Immediately after Sri Lanka gained Independence from the British Colonial rule, the National Chamber of Commerce (NCCSL) was established in 1948 and Ceylon National Chamber of Industries (CNCI) in 1960. Sri Lanka Chamber of Small Industries established in 1963 was the fourth and pioneer chamber initiated for small and medium scale industries in the country. The objective of these Chambers was to help business community to meet and find solutions to their interests as they share an inestimable participation by making an invaluable contribution to the national development.

On 6th April 1963, a few reputed businessmen in Sri Lanka formed a Business Association known as the All Ceylon Small Industries Association with the objective of safeguarding their interests in business field. The first meeting of the Association was held on 6th April 1963 at Dawasa Independent Group of Newspapers Office under the patronage of Mr. D.P. Dhanapala, Chief Editor of Dawasa newspaper. The association, the foundation for formation of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Small Industries, started with only 27 members. A reputed businessman in Sri Lanka Mr. Albert Edirisinghe was the first President elected to be in charge of the All Ceylon Small Industries Association. In mid 1974 after a smooth development of this association Mr. Alloy Jayawardene, the incumbent President who was also the President at that time and the 6th President of the Chamber, re-named the Association as Sri Lanka Chamber of Small Industries. In 1981 the Chamber was incorporated by an Act of Parliament and came into effect as early as 1976 but was realized after 6 years. During the Presidency of Mr. Aloy Jayawardena this Chamber was renamed again as Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Scale Industries in 2006.

Starting from the bottom the Chamber rose to the high level of its functioning against numerous challenges confronted with. The Premier Council meeting was held on the first floor with inadequate space in Porolis Fernando Building and subsequent meetings were held at the Bank of Ceylon Building in Fort. Later Mr Albert Edirisinghe was gracious to allocate office space in his office situated in Maradana, Colombo 10. However by passage of time, the Office was moved to Y.M.B.A Building, Colombo Fort where the current office is located.

The objective of the establishment of Sri Lanka Chamber of Small Industries was to promote and develop local industry into local and international market by developing their entrepreneurships. Given high priority to its agenda, the Chamber always encouraged building the national economy of Sri Lanka in helping development of business.

Despite its initial membership of just 27 members, the Chamber has today reached the top as a leading Chamber with more than 350 members with giant trade partners like Richard Pieris, D. Samson Industries, K.I.K Industries, Sierra Cables, Semage & Company etc. The Chamber should be proud of its achievement in development through its indefatigable effort taken to overcome the challenges from local and international economic scenario from time to time.

As majority of members represented the industrial sector, the Chamber made a huge contribution to promotional development and took necessary measures to protect against various challenges emerged in between due to the changes in socio-economic factors during the last 50 years.

It is important to discuss briefly a few activities that have been carried out by the Chamber last 50 years for the development of national economy. After one year of the establishment of Chamber in September 1964, an exhibition of Small Industries was organized with participation of 35 SMEs in the Art Gallery as first activity of the Chamber. This is regarded as a small scale event held with the intent of having broader activities organized in future. Later mini Solo exhibitions namely “Made in Lanka” were organized to promote the products of SMEs.

In early 1970s the industries had to face a trying situation with the restriction on importation of raw material caused by the oil crises. At this crucial moment, the Chamber spearheaded a leading role negotiating with the government to help the industrialists to overcome the difficulties involved with the restriction. In latter part of 1970’s with the implementation of Open Economic Policy, the Chamber initiated massive development programs intending to protect the local industry with diversification of the existing industries to make them competitive with the international giants.

The Chamber made various proposals to the government from the inception recommending trade fair participation such as Brussels Trade Fairs , Milan Trade Fairs. The Chamber contributed an invaluable share on its part to bring the Sri Lanka Trade Fairs recently held in Karachchi Exhibition , Carlton Fair to a magnificent success.

In addition the Chamber conducted many training programs to update and create awareness on various subjects with regard to the entrepreneurial development programming. Chamber within its frame work established Private Sector Policy Support Unit to make a linkage between SMEs and large scale businessmen. Today, the Chamber has been recognized as the focal point by the internationally reputed institutions over the great success achieved as a result of these training programs launched on development of the industry.

Another notable factor of great significance is the different measures taken by the Chamber to animate mutual communications with overseas institutions. Mutual Agreements between the Chamber and Karnataka Small Industries of Association in Bangalore and the Ambattur Industrial Estate Manufacturers Association (AIEA) and the bondage developed with productive Missions made by the President of the Chamber to Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia, Tanzania in Africa and Chennai in India can be regarded as perfect precedence of mutual cooperation with the International Industrial Community. It is a specific showcase of competence of the Chamber to strengthen affiliations with Small and Medium Industries in Rununa and Jaffna.

Proposals with protective measures were presented to the authorities concerned to safeguard the business community from future challenges in accordance with the new Vision of the Chamber. The establishment of Small Development Authority was an achievement of untiring efforts of the Chamber.

The Chamber has a clear insight of the challenges from the international scenario specifically with the advanced development of information technology, satellite communication and changes in international consumer pattern. Accordingly, the Chamber proposed its worked out plans to government institutions in order to develop member product sectors to meet the international demand and to help develop the competitiveness of the existing members who are already in the overseas market. The Chamber has already taken steps to change its name to Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries in its effort to further strengthening the development drive.

Indisputably the contribution made by the Chamber to help resolve the national crisis should be highly appreciated with gratitude. It was in early part of 1970’s that the Chamber shared an exclusively enormous contribution to the development of food programs on self-sufficiency. Not only a proposal for an Agricultural Project under the National Youth Movement was mooted for the first time since the establishment of the Chamber but also many a steps were taken to support Tsunami victims with financial aid through recognized organizations, a humanitarian effect of a worthy cause that deserves high praise.

In 2007 an Award of Excellence by the name of Industrial Excellence Award under the theme “Rewarding the Contribution to the Nation” was launched to recognize those members excelled in business skills and their contribution to socio-economic development strengthening motivation for further cooperation to business development. The ceremonial presentation of this prestigious award has continued to be held in colorful manner even at present day with due recognition to the Industrial Excellence. The writer of this article who served in two selection panels in 2007 and 2008 was directly involved in introducing the selection criteria designing the name of the award together with Mr. Alloy Jayawardena, President of the Chamber.

Asia Foundation, Bank of Ceylon, SMED and European Economic Commission extended their unremitting support to the Chamber. This recognition caused the appointment of Chamber officials to Corporations and Boards particularly the Industrial Development Board, CISIR and Sri Lanka Export Development Board to share their experience for national development.

It is an accepted factor by the business community that the importance of the role played and the contribution made by Mr Aloy Jayawardene was considered to be inestimable. He is one of the founding members of the Chamber with wider experience in business arena reigning the Presidency from 1973 to 1978 and from 2000 to date. Mr Jayawardane worked hard with dedication sacrificing half of his lifetime to bring the Chamber to the zenith if its glory in business.

The Chamber can preen itself to celebrate its 50th Anniversary with a proud and bright history of experience in the development of business sector. The Chamber should be praised of its untiring effort exerted to encourage the business community to brave the challenges from the international trade for the benefit of the nation.

The writer is the former Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications of Sri Lanka Export Development Board.

- Asian Tribune -

T.K.Premadasa
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