Dubai's spending spree when the world is sunk in gloom
Most of Sri Lanka's plantation companies grabbed it; a foreign tea company in St Petersburg in Russia gets information regularly on Sri Lankan tea markets on e-mail.
"We send the tea data to him. The company is one of our subscribers and wants to know the tea prices, who is buying what and so on," says Khizer Amanulla, sitting in his comfortable seaside office at Kollupitiya, chatting while occasionally gazing at the television and the computer screen.
With a sophisticated desktop computer, Amanulla and his team sift through tonnes of information on economic and trade data, "packaging it nicely with analysis and other need-based information" and sells it to a varied client base.
His client base ranges from individuals, multinationals, large corporates and small firms to foreign companies. "Anyone who wants trade data – that's my client," he says.
In this first edition of "Business Unusual", The Sunday Times Business profiles Amanulla and his company, Data One, that has succeeded in putting together complicated economic and trade data into readable and user-friendly information for the business community.
It is the only product of its kind in the market. Business Unusual – a column reflecting bright ideas and unique products - profiles big or small Sri Lankan companies that have competed well against business giants or foreign goods, which are often cheaper, or reports on unique achievements by Sri Lankan manufacturers/industrialists in the face of global competition.
"There has been economic data in the market in the past like Customs and Imports/Exports statistics. But it was a raw product and extremely difficult for a busy businessperson or executive to sift through," Amanulla said, recalling the origins of the business.
Data One was set up in 1993 to serve as an information broker for import and export statistics by Amanulla, who has an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked for several Sri Lankan companies at senior management level.
Eight years and 1,400 customers later it continues to serve clients with a broader range of information and knowledge services.
"Data One was an information business before the Internet became fashionable," he said adding that a particular project that he had worked on with an earlier firm sparked his interest in getting into the trade data information business.
"I was working for NEXUS Software and we had to send tea auction-related information to the Tea Board, which in turn gave this to the trade. We then packaged a product providing extensive data on estates, production trends and an estate-by-estate comparison on production, etc. Eighteen of the 20 plantation companies grabbed this report," he said.
Data One's range of activities includes providing summarised, ranked reports with some basic analysis or comparison. "We also track high-income people and companies. We sell direct mail data bases to companies wanting to market their products to specific target groups," Amanulla said.
This year the company produced a CD-ROM containing several useful publications, including the Central Bank report, the Customs Duty Schedule and five years of external trade statistics. "Some of our publications are standard reference for companies in specific industries," he added.
Using the company's depth of experience, Data One is also providing free information and guidance where possible to students and those doing academic research.
The company says most of its information is stored in computers and produced on demand, while marketing is done by fax, e-mail and direct mail (in the form of a newsletter) on a monthly basis.
"We are always looking for new opportunities in our area of business. Sri Lankan businesses and government institutions have tremendous information needs. Having access to this information on a rapid basis saves money and management time," the Data One CEO said, noting that the company was currently working on trying to fulfil some of these needs.
Like any good corporate citizen, Data One also feels it has a role to play in contributing towards improving the quality of people getting into politics.
With this in view, the company is in the process of drafting a Sri Lanka Manifesto, bringing together a set of very specific suggestions which if implemented would make this country live up to its true potential, said Amanulla.
Jayampathy Arambepola has assumed duties as Director/CEO of Alpha Industries Ltd, the pioneers and market leaders in the production and marketing of safes in Sri Lanka.
Arambepola who holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Sri Jayawardanepura, was previously Assistant General Manager - Consumer Electronics at Brown & Co. Ltd, where he was responsible for launching, leading and driving the Sharp, Moulinex and Sumeet brands for Browns Electronics, an Alpha statement said. As CEO of Alpha Industries, Arambepola will be responsible for the existing business along with many expansion plans.
Bairaha Farms, the largest integrated poultry operator in Sri Lanka, has opened the company's fifth "Super Mart" in Ja-Ela, pledging to introduce innovations that will reinforce links between supermarketing and lifestyles.
The company said the new Super Mart would be the prototype for future additions to the chain, which will offer several facilities presently unavailable at local supermarkets, the company said.
"Life in urban and suburban Sri Lanka is becoming very fast-paced, and supermarkets can integrate with lifestyles by enhancing the under-one-roof concept," Bairaha Super Mart's General Manager, Saman Warnasuriya said. "We are looking to be the trendsetter in this approach."
Do you run a business that is unusual or against all odds? Have you succeeded in life as a small or medium-scale business battling against multinationals and giant local conglomerates and still made it to the top?
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