This feature is an outcome of infoDev, a multi-donor program administered by the World Bank Group, with a focus on entrepreneurs in developing economies. This piece was originally published on December 27, 2107.
Nihal Perera is an exporter of king coconut juice from Sri Lanka. He takes Sri Lanka’s favorite thirst-quencher to customers around the world, preserving its distinct, full-bodied taste in tall glass bottles. At the Export Marketplace — an event organized by the World Bank Group, the Sri Lanka Export Development Board, and Dilmah Conservation — Perera pitched before a panel of industry experts for a prize that would help him repackage his product using nanotechnology.
Along with Perera, 14 other Sri Lankan exporters took the opportunity to refine their products, meet new service providers, and connect with buyers, investors, and trade attachés from the diplomatic community. Three of them — Liven, H-Mark Trading, and Serendib Foods — were awarded prizes of $5,000 each to strengthen their export value proposition through investments in clean technologies.
A new program to grow exports
Indira Malwatte, Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board chairman and chief executive, said the lessons gathered during this initiative will inform the design and implementation of the 2000 Exporters Program — a flagship initiative of Sri Lankan government aiming to help local firms enter international markets.
The Export Marketplace provided an opportunity for firms and service providers to network and highlighted the need for domestic marketplace interaction before exporters can tap into international trade fairs.
“In 2018, the Export Development Board will have additional resources to support exporters through new programs,” said Malwatte. “The Exporter Marketplace experience will help us design these programs so that they best meet the real needs of existing and future exporters.”
By simulating a real marketplace, the initiative allowed the organizers to gather lessons about the needs and behaviors of export firms, buyers, investors, and service providers.
Panelist Malik De Alwis, CEO of MA’s Tropical Food Processing, was impressed by what he saw and emphasized the program’s potential for replication. “Today, companies learned about services available to them and service providers learned what the real needs of companies are,” he said. “As a buyer, I’m happy to have been introduced to a fantastic group of new producers and their products.”
'Green' is competitive
The Export Marketplace focused on the importance of climate-smart practices and technologies in creating value and boosting exports. Natasha Kapil, a senior private sector specialist at the World Bank Group, stressed how a climate-smart approach can strengthen the resilience of export firms, while also improving their value proposition in new markets.
“Most people don’t know that their product can become much more competitive when they incorporate climate-smart technology into their value chains,” said Ruwan Wijemanne of the National Cleaner Production Centre.
Wijemanne’s company works with both the government and private sectors to bring climate-smart practices and technology to exporters. His pitch proved to be very successful: By the end of the afternoon, his company had six potential buyers willing to make investments.
"Consumers want to know the social and environmental considerations companies have taken, and it is great to see that companies are thinking about how their production can benefit their communities and how they can reduce the impact this has on Sri Lanka's natural resources,” said Dilhan C. Fernando, Director of Dilhan Conservation and CEO of Dilmah Ceylon Tea. “We have to ensure that consumers know the full story behind our products, and the companies we have seen today have some great stories to tell.”
The Sri Lanka Export Marketplace was supported by infoDev's Climate Technology Program, a World Bank Group initiative sponsored by the United Kingdom, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australian Aid), Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA), Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.