Sri Lanka software body aims to position country as tech start-up hub

The privately run software industry body for Sri Lanka is SLASSCOM.

Known in full as Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM), this organisation is based in the country’s capital city of Colombo amidst a sea of British colonial buildings, many of which are currently undergoing restoration.

SLASSCOM chairman Jeevan Gnanam hosted a private international press and analyst briefing this November 2018 to explain how his team are working to promote its ‘Island of Ingenuity’ concept, a drive that that aims to put Sri Lanka forward as a start-up hub for technology innovators.

As a whole, SLASSCOM currently boasts 200 members who now account for 90% of Sri Lankan IT exports. With a heavy focus on Business Process Management (BPM), SLASSCOM wants to help grow the IT service sector four-fold to $5bln USD and create 200,000 jobs by 2022.

The group’s corporate mission statement reads as follows, “SLASSCOM exists to act as a catalyst for growth of the Sri Lankan IT and BPM industry by facilitating trade and business, propagation of education and employment, encouragement of research and innovation, and by supporting the creation of a progressive national policy framework.”

Chairman Gnanam explains that SLASSCOM works with member organisations to formulate policies which result in lobbying the Sri Lankan government over specific technology issues. No single member of the group is allowed to initiate policies independently, thus ensuring a more democratic and holistic approach.

Gnanam insists that this approach has driven SLASSCOM to a point where it is a ‘trusted voice of industry’ for the government to use – a point demonstrated by the involvement of Sachindra Samararatne who serves as a conduit for SLASSCOM to the government’s ICT Agency.

“As the country’s second largest employer in the IT sector, it is important for us to have a voice. Whilst each organisation in our sector could work independently, it is not only smoother and faster for us to collaborate with others in our field, but the outcomes are more meaningful which benefits the broader IT community” commented Ranil Rajapaksa, senior vice president of IFS in Sri Lanka and vice chairman of SLASSCOM.

But SLASSCOM is not only for the country’s larger software players.

Start-up nation

The concepts put forward by Gnanam distill towards the notion of Sri Lanka now attempting to position itself as an ideal tech start-up nation. With 92% literacy and a higher quality of life (in terms of disposable income and approach to family & leisure time) than many parts of neighbouring India, Sri Lanka is argued to be ‘small enough’ (yet technically competent enough) to be a manageable test market for new technologies.

The idea is… if it works in Sri Lanka, then start to roll it out to India, Pakistan and the rest of the world.

Longer term, Gnanam wants both Sri Lankan innovators… and, potentially, foreign investors to view the country as a viable innovation zone.

SLASSCOM chairman Jeevan Gnanam — Credit: Echelon Magazine on YouTube

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