27th May 2001
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  • Lanka Ventures Ltd on the way up
  • Technology adds spice to Mushroom pickled products 
  • New lease of life for Sri Lankan arts and crafts
  • NSB's Hapan card for the young
  • Comtrust Equity declares dividend
  • Another first from Pizza Hut
  • Soaps promote good health
  • Dynavision teams up with UK website
  • Two seminars on ergonomics
  • 'In Black & White' reaches out to Asia
  • Chemanex Adhesives (Pvt) Ltd awarded ISO 9002
  • Ceylinco Life Fund exceeds Rs.4 bn. mark
  • Gateway to train for Java certifications
  • Indian IT advisor to address seminar
  • Lanka Ventures Ltd on the way up

    Incorporated in 1992 under the sponsorship of DFCC, Lanka Ventures is backed by three other formidable institutions: the Asian Development Bank, Hatton National Bank and John Keells Holdings. They presently manage a fund of around 900 million rupees with a diverse portfolio of over 35 investments.

    "We will continue to rebalance our portfolio by appropriate diversification to increase further sector representation and investments in IT and software development will rank high in our future investments. "We see AsiaSoft as a company with very good future prospects in this industry," said Mr. H.A. Ariyaratne, the CEO of Lanka Ventures, at a recent gathering at which agreements between AsiaSoft and Lanka Ventures were signed.

    Newly-appointed Chairman of AsiaSoft, Mr. Ranjit Fernando said that although the company was young it had successfully completed many major projects in Sri Lanka and overseas and had earned for itself a reputation in business consultancy and for developing quality software for the US market. The US office of AsiaSoft has moved to Dublin, Ohio and is concentrating on the healthcare Industry, (amongst other projects), which has proved to be a growing market.

    "Providing solutions to the healthcare industry has been one of our major strengths", said Ms. Sujatha Nadesan, the Managing Director of AsiaSoft. "Early last year we successfully concluded an e-strategy for the healthcare and education sector of the Varkey Group, which is a large multi-national group of companies in Dubai owning an international hospital and providing the largest education service in the UAE. It was a three-pronged strategy, addressing the Welcare Hospital, education sector and the corporate office," she said.

    Technology adds spice to Mushroom pickled products 

    The Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) has now transferred the know-how for the manufacture of three types of Mushroom pickles to Pik Lanka Products. The know-how that was developed at the request of the company is for Pickled Mushroom, village -style, Pickled Mushroom, Malay-style and Pickled Mushroom, hot garlic and prawns that is ideal for barbecue-type cooking. Pickling is the process by which food is preserved in brine or in vinegar. The method used in pickling comprises two steps. Initially ingredients are steeped in salt and vinegar and after fermentation occurs the separately cured ingredients are mixed together to make the desired pickle.

    The innovative Mushroom pickles are already available in leading supermarkets in Colombo in 730 gram bottles. The Company hopes they will in the near future be able to export these products that have a shelf life of about one year. The pickled mushroom products will no doubt be popular in both the local and overseas markets as mushrooms have a distinctive and exotic flavour.

    Pik Lanka Products that is presently producing and trading approximately 100 kg of fresh mushrooms per day both to local and overseas markets deals mainly with the American oyster mushroom. This variety of mushroom is the raw material for the pickled products and the pickle will contain about 60% by weight of the fresh mushroom.

    Mushrooms are valued today as a potent protein source with dried mushrooms containing about 35% protein and the fresh containing 3-4% protein. It is interesting to note that Mushrooms and Soya beans contain about 35 to 40% protein when dried, and are also the two vegetable sources that contain all the nine essential amino acids. Mushrooms are also an excellent source of riboflavin (B2) and nicotinic and pantothenic acid. The mineral content of mushrooms is generally higher than in many fruits and vegetables.

    Pik Lanka Products hope to further collaborate with the ITI in developing other Mushroom products to be introduced to the local market. The ITI team from the Food Product Development Group that developed the know-how for the pickled mushrooms comprised Mr. P. Priyananda, Dr. Yasmina Sultanbawa and Ms. Sashika Hewamana.

    New lease of life for Sri Lankan arts and crafts

    The Export Development Board (EDB) is initiating programmes in three priority regions for the development of the brass and metal industry in Sri Lanka, Mr. Rauf Hakeem, Minister of Internal, International Trade and Commerce, Shipping Development and Muslim Religious Affairs, said during a recent meeting with brass and metal craftsmen in the Kandy district.

    These regions have been identified taking into consideration the export and employment potential there. They are Udunuwara, a traditional area for crafts, Kattankudi, well known for garments and handlooms and Puttalam/Kalpitiya, for reed products.

    Mr. Hakeem said Udunuwara is a historically important area with culturally important temples. It has a reputation for producing skilled craftsmen. He said he hoped to assist traditional craftsmen through the EDB in collaboration with other government and private sector organisations to help them export their products.

    The minister listed the problems in the brass and metal industry identified by the EDB and said the agency has formulated plans to assist them to overcome these problems. Among the problems identified are the lack of technical assistance, limited outlets, difficulties in marketing attractive items of utility value and non-availability of finance.

    "Our craftsmen need to change their designs to suit the demand of the international market. The demand is mostly for attractive utility ware but our craftsmen continue to make the same type of items like vases, trays or elephants. The quality of these items is very low and it is difficult to compete with countries like Pakistan and India which manufacture high quality items," Mr. Hakeem noted.

    An exporter, who has visited Dubai and India on several occasions, said Sri Lankan products were of poor quality compared to India and Pakistan. He said Indian craftsmen were given a lot of assistance by the government. He added that Sri Lankan craftsmen would have to produce designs and items that are in demand in developed countries.

    Mr. Hakeem spelled out the plan of assistance for the industry through the EDB in collaboration with other organisations. Internal and international consultancy services would be made available to craftsmen to prepare items of high quality and design. Exhibitions would be organised to display the products leading to linkages with exporters while loans would be offered at concessionary rates. The EDB will further assist craftsmen to print a brochure with pictures of their products for distribution to prospective buyers.

    Mr. Hakeem suggested that the EDB form an action committee with represent-atives from other organisations and craftsmen to work out an assistance programme within a month. He said that on his next visit to Pakistan he would try to obtain consultancy services on brass and handlooms.

    NSB's Hapan card for the young

    The National Savings Bank (NSB) has launched another innovative privilege card under the name "Hapan", which is exclusively for children who are between 7-16 years of age, aimed at inculcating the saving habit from childhood.

    The Hapan plastic card, which is somewhat similar to a credit card, could be obtained after opening an account with a minimum 2,500-rupee deposit at any NSB branch in the country, NSB officials said.

    The card is a discount card as well as an automated teller machine (ATM) card which could be operated by a child who is over seven years of age.

    The NSB also offers special discounts on a variety of items available at dealers islandwide and card holders are eligible to enter quarterly draws which carry prizes and gifts.

    Officials said the card has a significant feature of permitting the holder to withdraw money up to 500 rupees per month at any NSB branch, Post Office or from ATM machines.

    Comtrust Equity declares dividend

    Commercial Fund Management (Pvt) Ltd., managers of Comtrust Equity, said it had declared a dividend of Rs 0.30 per unit to all unit holders of Comtrust Equity Fund on March 27, 2001.

    The company said the Comtrust Equity Fund launched in February 1992 as a balanced fund has been regularly paying out dividends to the unit holders since its inception. During the financial year ended 31 March 2000, the fund made a dividend payment of Rs 0.20 per unit which has improved to Rs 0.30 per unit for the year ended 31 March 2001. With this dividend, the fund has declared a total dividend of Rs. 6.40 since inception, the second highest dividend payment amongst the balanced funds category.

    "Timely changes in the asset allocation of the fund helped us to improve the income of the fund and declare a higher dividend," said the fund managers in a press release. Gross income of the fund excluding capital gains/losses increased by 24.9% during the financial year ended 31 March 2001.

    Comtrust Equity Fund holds 55% of its assets in Equity Investment and 45% in fixed income securities as at 31 March 2001. "We believe that we have positioned ourselves on the right track to provide a better income to the unit holders in the coming years," the statement said. Commercial Fund Management (Pvt) Ltd. is owned by Commercial Bank of Ceylon Ltd., Singer Sri Lanka Ltd. and Australind Ltd.

    Another first from Pizza Hut

    Dial a Pizza from just one number, from Rajagiriya, Union Place, Dehiwela or Havelock Town? Incredible as it sounds this super service has been brought to all pizza lovers, by Pizza Hut, who introduced the first international fast food chain to Sri Lanka seven years ago.

    "All Pizza Hut customers can now place their home/office delivery orders by calling up just one number - 729729 regardless of their location," said Area Manager Keells of Restaurants, Mr. K.R.T. Bandara.

    This telephone system which is unique to Pizza Hut in Sri Lanka is used by Pizza Hut International and was installed locally at a cost of Rs. 3 million.

    Known as the 3C system, this specialised software was brought down from Canada by Pizza Hut International in order that the local operation may be streamlined, thus offering customers maximum convenience and the fastest delivery. "The convenience to our customers is unmatched," said Managing Director of Keells Restaurants, Sumithra Gunesekera, who noted that any pizza ordered would be delivered to the customers' office or residence within 30 minutes.

    Pizza Hut's one number phone system can be used by customers in the total Pizza Hut delivery area and they are assured of the fastest delivery with the least possible hassle.

    Future plans include expanding delivery services to Wattala, Panadura and Moratuwa and Negombo.

    Soaps promote good health

    A series of awareness programmes for pregnant mothers on ante and post-natal care has been planned in a campaign to improve infant health in the country. Swadeshi Industrial Works, Sri Lanka's pioneer herbal based beauty soap company, plans to launch the programme using the company's flagship "Khomba Baby" baby care products brand.

    The decision to launch such a campaign follows the successful conclusion of a two-day programme conducted by the company at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital in Panadura. Two hundred pregnant women warded at the hospital and about 5,000 people from the area had benefited from the programme.

    The countrywide programme will reach out to pregnant women through rural hospitals with the assistance of medical personnel and officials of the respective hospitals.

    Swadeshi Marketing Manager, Chrisantha Fernando, said his company had produced leaflets and display panels that would be used in a series of exhibitions to be accompanied by presentations by doctors and experts on a wide range of topics pertaining to ante-natal and post-natal care.

    Swadeshi Industrial Works was established as a wholly indigenous personal care products manufacturer in 1941. Today the Kandana-based company produces and markets a range of soaps, toiletries and detergents under the "Rani", "Khomba" and "Perlwite" brand names.

    Dynavision teams up with UK website

    Dynavision Broadcasting Company (Pte) Ltd. and the Internet Content Provider Finder 2000 (Pvt) Ltd. recently entered into a strategic alliance agreement.

    Finder 2000 (Pvt) Ltd. is a joint venture between Computerland Sri Lanka and the Finder Group of the United Kingdom.

    Finder is a multi-service offering a portfolio of sites, segmented into specific business units with the sites including jobs, holidays, flights and auto.

    Dynavision, a frontrunner in the local television industry, chose its web developer with care which speaks well for the reputation of Finder 2000, company officials said. All programmes screened by the Dynavision television station will soon be available on the Finder website.

    Two seminars on ergonomics

    Prof. Martin G. Helander, Professor at the School of Mechanical and Production Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and Prof. Ravindra S. Goonetilleke, Associate Professor at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engine-ering Management at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology will address two seminars on Ergonomics organised by Global Conventions (Pvt) Ltd. from June 4 to 6 at the Hilton JAIC Tower.

    Prof. Helander is a world authority on ergonomics and was previously the Professor of Industrial ergonomics at Lingkoping University. He has been involved in human factor research since 1969 and was President of the International Ergonomics Association from 1994 to 1997. He was also the founding Director of the Graduate School of Human Machine Interactions. Prof. Helander has held several important positions and has also chaired the USA Technical Advisory Group to ISO/TC 159 (Ergonomics) from 1985 to 1992. He has served as a member of the Technical Advisory Board on Industrial Ergonomics of the IBM Corporation from 1990 to 1993. He has also contributed widely to international journals, has edited several books and has an outstanding professional record having held chairs in several well known Universities in USA, Sweden and Singapore.

    Prof. Ravindra S. Goonetilleke after completing his doctorate in the USA worked as a Project Leader and Ergonomics Consultant at the Biomechanics Corporation of America in Long Island, New York. During this period, he has helped companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Steelcase, General Motors, Dow Corning, International Flavours and Fragrances, Cooper Power Tools, Lear Seating, Thomson Consumer Electronics, Motorola, Ford and numerous others to improve their productivity and quality while reducing ergonomics related injuries and accidents. He led a group of researchers and managed the Ergonomics Department at the Nike Sports Research Laboratory at their headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, USA. He currently directs the postgraduate programme in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and is well respected in the academic and industry circles in Hong Kong and the United States of America. 

    Ergonomics though not familiar in the Sri Lankan scenario is a multi-disciplinary science that strives to achieve higher productivity that will lead to increased profitability by understanding the capabilities and limitations of people. 

    Applications of ergonomics include all activities that are done at workplaces. Sri Lankan companies are indeed fortunate to have these two world experts to address the two seminars.

    The first two-day programme that will be dedicated to industrial ergonomics will provide participants a comprehensive coverage of contemporary ergonomic concepts through lectures on case studies, videos, discussions and practical discussions. 

    The second one-day programme that will be dedicated to office ergonomics to improve work while minimising discomfort and injuries is targeted for all those using computers at workplaces.

    'In Black & White' reaches out to Asia

    "In Black and White", a popular talk show produced by MTVSri Lanka is to be telecast in twelve countries in Asia. The rights to telecast internationally have been purchased by Channel News Asia.

    The programme hosted by businessman can parliamentarian Milinda Moragoda profiles leading personalities. Its international guests include renowned people like William Hague, the British Conservative Party leader, Inder Kumar Gujral, former Prime Minister of India, Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan,and Mahathir Mohammed, Prime Minister of Malaysia.

    "Channel News Asia is extremely pleased with the quality of the programme and its presentation standards. They have chosen to telecast it in 12 countries and plan to introduce it to many more. With this development we are realising our vision of giving our viewers truly world class programming. The programme is world class in its content, presentation and coverage," said an MTV spokesperson.

    Channel News Asia will initially telecast the programme in India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, UAE, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Mauritius, Indonesia and Vietnam.

    MTV, a member of the Maharaja Group, is one of the first private sector television stations to be set up in Sri Lanka. MTV is among the leading English TV channels in the country today. Channel News Asia will begin telecasting 'In Black & White' from June 2001.

    Chemanex Adhesives (Pvt) Ltd awarded ISO 9002

    Chemanex Adhesives Limited (CAL), a leading chemical manufacturing company, was awarded the ISO 9002 certification by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution last week.

    Mr. C. L. de Alwis, CAL Managing Director, told the media that this certification is beneficial to the company as they will now be internationally accepted. Commenting on the success of the company, he said that it has achieved its goal of marketing their products internationally.

    The awarding of the ISO 9002 certificate enables Chemanex to assure its wide spectrum of customers around the world of their high standards of productivity, quality and delivery. CAL is a joint venture between Chemanex Ltd. and Adhesives & Chemicals of India.

    Established in 1982 as a pioneer in the manufacture of starch-based adhesives for corrugated cartons, Chemanex also manufactures speciality chemicals for the production of detergents, textiles, ceramics, etc. The company also supplies chemicals to Unilever and three other multinational companies in over 20 countries.

    Ceylinco Life Fund exceeds Rs.4 bn. mark

    Ceylinco Insurance's Life Fund exceeded the Rs.4 billion mark and has recorded the highest premium income among private sector insurers in the first quarter of 2001.

    The latest figures released by the company indicate that Ceylinco Life's market share has now grown to 43 percent, retaining its position as the largest private sector life insurer in Sri Lanka. Its premium income during this quarter exceeded Rs.423 million with Rs.138 million from first year premiums. This figure represents an increase of Rs.46 million over the corresponding period in 2000.

    Describing this performance as most encouraging during difficult times for everyone, Ceylinco Insurance's Director/General Manager (Life) Mr. R. Renganathan said the company was confident it would continue to be the leader in the private sector insurance market in the year ahead with dedicated customer service.

    Ceylinco Insurance's Life Division had sold 12,466 individual life policies in the same period. Ceylinco Insurance was also recently awarded the National Software Quality Award for year 2000 presented by the British Computer Society (Sri Lanka Chapter) for the development of a Life Insurance System (LISY) for Ceylinco Life.

    Gateway to train for Java certifications

    The Gateway Centre for Information Technology has teamed up with Sampath Bank and e-futures to offer value added services in training for Java certifications. Gateway was appointed an Authorised Sun Education Centre in Sri Lanka recently.

    Under the arrangement Sampath Bank would provide student loans for those following Java certification courses, while e-futures, a software development and recruitment organisation, will help students with job placement.

    As an authorised education centre, Gateway would train students for certifications using original course material developed by Sun Education Services using instructors who have been trained and certified abroad. The centre will initially concentrate in teaching the Java technology curriculum to beginners and programming professionals.

    Indian IT advisor to address seminar

    Dr. Ravi Kumar, advisor to the Indian Ministry on Information Technology, will address the local IT industry at a one-day executive seminar. The former IT department head at the Marshall School of Business in USA will speak on "Positioning your company for world class software development - securing offshore contracts".

    Dr. Kumar is also an author of over 40 publications and articles and has consulted Infosys on its offshore software development model in the E-Commerce market, while his other clients include IBM Europe, ABB, Ericsson, BAX Global, Motorola, Reuters and Dupont. Fidelity Investments, Caterpillar, Bourns Instruments, Southern California Edison and the National Science Foundation have also funded him for his research on various aspects of IT.

    The one-day executive seminar organised by Evolution Software (Pvt) Ltd. and will be held on 29 May 2001 at Lanka Oberoi.

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