Eleven tsunami ravaged entrepreneurs from the Southern Province managed to secure Rs. 1.64 million worth of orders at the recently concluded Small-and Medium- Enterprises (SME) Machinery Fair organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) SME development (SMED) project.
"A core competency of the Back to Business program is its focus in helping our entrepreneurs to find potential markets. We don’t merely dole out grants or equipment and provide technical assistance. The success of the program has relied on its end-to-end, holistic approach, where we assist entrepreneurs to build up their livelihoods and find and establish markets for their products," Back to Business Program Director Sam Stembo said.
The fair showcased the talents of 11 Back to Business enterprises in the manufacturing sector. Dhammika Wickramaratna, the proprietor of Dhammika Auto Light had invented his own laser mould production machine and light manufacturing machine.
This rural youth from Matara had started working at the Ceylon Electrical Company in the mid-1980s for a daily wage of Rs. 14. However, he diligently learnt the relevant technology and went back to his home town to establish his own business of making lighting cups for three-wheelers and motor bikes. His homegrown business expanded as the proprietor designed and manufactured his own casting and mould making machine. However, he lost his machinery and the business in the Boxing Day tragedy.
"I lost all my machines except one. However, I started my business with that and I have progressed. I am willing to share my technology with others so that they can also build their own home-based enterprises. The SME Fair has given me a chance to link up with corporate bodies, which are not only willing to buy my products, but who would also help me to improve my technology as well," he said.
Nipuna Products of Weligama have also invented a fibreglass alternative to commonly used street lamps. The energy efficient, low cost design uses only one tenth of the electricity used by a normal street lamp, has a longer life span and is low on maintenance. He has also designed and produced all the machinery required for his production line. Nipuna Street Lamps have now been deployed in the Weligama District Council area and the Matara Municipal Council area.
"I have been looking for funding to expand my services. If this low cost solution is adopted by municipal councils islandwide, it will drastically reduce the power usage. TheFair allowed me to bring it to the notice of the Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Minister’s notice, who has evinced a keen interest in it," the proprietor A.G.D. Jayasekera said.
Sithru Fibre Glass Ltd., an ornament manufacturer based in Thissamaharamaya, secured orders amounting to Rs. 300,000 at the Fair itself. "It is difficult to showcase our products to the urban clientele due to logistical limitations. However, a Fair of this nature has helped to bring us out of our rural enclaves and given us the required exposure in potential markets," proprietor T.V.K .Chamila Sanjeewa said.