Webinar on ‘Growing Resilient Businesses’ | Sunday Observer

Webinar on ‘Growing Resilient Businesses’

The European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in partnership with Chrysalis, conducted a webinar recently on ‘Growing Resilient Businesses’ showcasing four enterprising men and women from the Central and Uva Provinces, sharing their stories on turning challenges into opportunities.

Narrating their individual journeys on the road to recovery were proprietor, SGM Food Products, Sarawanaguru Sivadarsan, proprietor, Araliya Fashion Wear, Araliya Samarasekera,? Proprietors, Unigro Agency, Usha Nanthini and Senthil Kumar and? National Representative, Surangani Voluntary Services (SVS), Nalin Vipulendra. The event was moderated by? Senior Technical Advisor, Chrysalis, Hashitha Abeywardena.

Program Manager and Deputy Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation, Fabrizio Senesi, outlining the objectives of the event said, “Our support to the Sri Lankan economy including the MSMEs is a top priority and this event is to raise awareness of the sector and promote local businesses, which contribute greatly to the country’s economy. The impact of Covid-19 ? on the economy has been severe, but with it creativity and resilience in the sector and important lessons can be learned. Covid also increased the gaps and barriers for women in business. This webinar will provide opportunities and encouragement particularly to women entrepreneurs.”?

A beneficiary of the EU funded Enterprise Development project, Araliya Samarasekera said, “My initial challenge during the lockdown was to pay wages to my staff, mostly women. However, I overcame this and then realised the demand for face masks. I understood the first group, which needed our support were frontline health and military personnel who were in dire need of this item. I first sought approval from the health authorities and we then manufactured and distributed them free. It also presented an opportunity to market the masks commercially.” “As a female entrepreneur, challenges can arise at any time and we should be ready to face them,”? she said.

Sarawanaguru Shivdarsan, elaborated how his spice manufacturing business withstood Covid-19 challenges. He said, “During the crisis we had to face a cash shortage. Buying material during the lockdown we had to purchase 100% by cash and could not approach banks. However, based on my business plan with my team, we forged ahead.

I have a strong customer base and they wait for me to deliver their goods, which was a great strength to my business. Due to Covid-19 I built the business online through a mobile community even receiving orders from new customers.”

Offering advice to the younger generation, he said, “Opportunities will not be created automatically. We ourselves have to create opportunities even at a time of crisis.”

Owning a PVC fittings business, Usha Nanthini described how she overcame the challenges presented by Covid-19.

“A business idea and motivation are the most crucial for success in business. I had stocked material beforehand in the event of any problem and was able to resume production ensuring worker safety. Though many saw Covid-19 as a problem it gave me time to re-think and plan ahead. Through a Whatsapp group I re-organised my customer base and also used the bus routes to strengthen my delivery network. Due to the lockdown, home gardening and the cultivation trend grew which provided a good opportunity to develop fittings for water supply.”

“Many say that it is difficult for women to participate in nontraditional work. I disagree. I aim to manufacture products under my own brand in the future. I believe women can do any business. Chrysalis has supported me throughout. Today I am known as Unigro Usha. This has given me confidence to grow and I hope to produce interlock bricks using plastic wastage. If more women are provided with opportunities and enriched, we could break the frame which women are confined to,” she said.

Describing how his organisation, engaged in a peanut business, worked to overcome Covid-19 challenges, Nalin Vipulendra said, “The needs of children with special needs were to some extent overlooked during the crisis. It was stressful for them as they could not engage in their day-to-day activities. We made every effort to maintain continuous support and contact with them throughout to provide assistance during this period. We realised that the demand for our products had diminished. We contacted many businesses and provided samples free initially. This resulted in an increased demand for and popularity of our product.”???

“We have set up a business forum in Moneragala with 35 entities to develop essential business skills such as computer literacy and entrepreneurial knowledge,” he said.