2nd December 2001

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Tailor-made IT training from Aqucomp

Aqucomp (Pvt) Ltd, a year-old IT start-up firm, has made a name for itself with its unique approach to IT training, the company said in a statement. The company, which commenced operations as a BOI project, also provides system integration and software development in web-based applications.

Company officials said the training approach of Aqucomp is different from most other training institutes as the courses developed are targeted at segmented markets such as housewives, schoolteachers, secretaries, etc. Further an individual is able to create his own course in consultation with the training centre staff. The courses are conducted on a group or one-to-one basis according to student preference. The centre also provides training for children between the ages of 4 and 16 according to an international curriculum as the centre is franchised with Futurekids, USA.

In addition to IT training, Aqucomp specialises in software development in web-based applications. This includes shopping catalogues, online auctions, message boards, order processing and e-distance learning solutions. Most solutions are designed for the export market. 

Aqucomp recently completed an interactive catalogue solution for a Canadian-based website. Locally the company has implemented the website Aqucomp (Pvt) Ltd is the IT arm of Sky Cabs (Pvt) Ltd.

Ambuja Cement focuses on quality at SLAQ sessions

Ceylon Ambuja Cements played a leading role at the recently-held National Convention on Quality organised by SLAQ (Sri Lanka Association for Quality) in Colombo.

Gujarat Ambuja Cement Senior Vice President Technical Service, J.P Desai, presenting a paper on "New trend in quality management in the construction industry", said the construction industry in the developing world was passing through a transitionary period where one finds very primitive as well as very developed methods of construction.

The quality management of the construction industry is similar to that of any other product, however, as buildings are occupied by human beings who have varying tastes, it becomes all the more important to make it attractive and acceptable. "The concept of quality management systems is thus a very positive signal for developing countries," he said.

The market needs and demands stem from growth in development, preferences and priorities, improvements, technology innovation, policies and regulation, competitive forces, cost, problems, inefficiencies and disasters.

He said all developing countries including Sri Lanka followed a mixed technology in the construction field from orthodox methodology to the latest technology. "The primary need is to introduce quality management systems in whatever technology that is being followed," he added.

HSBC increases credit card clientele

HSBC's recent street promotion on Galle Road to promote credit cards drew an encouraging response with several people making inquiries and walking away with credit card application forms plus complimentary gifts.

Widely acknowledged as the market leader in credit cards both internationally as well as in Sri Lanka, HSBC has had a steady increase in customers, a bank press release said. Over 9,000 new approved applications have been routed through a prize circle competition-promotion, which allows current members the chance to win attractive prizes by introducing friends and relatives to HSBC cards.

CTC's post-tax profits plunge by 25 pct

Ceylon Tobacco Co (CTC), faced with falling revenues and vociferous anti-tobacco lobby groups in Sri Lanka, has again asked the government to take action against illegal cigarettes.

There was a 7 percent decline in sales during the period under review, the company said in its third quarter 2001 report, adding that two new brands were introduced to the market to prop up the situation.

CTC said it has re-launched 3 Roses and 4 Aces popular products in the past until being moved out of the market - aimed at responding to market demands. "Despite the lower prices, given the excise duties, these cigarettes sell at three times the price of illegal cigarettes and therefore are not expected to be a satisfactory response to the growing threat," the company said.

After-tax profits of the company for the nine months to September 2001 fell by 25 percent to Rs. 492 million from Rs. 654 million in the same 2000 period. Gross turnover fell by a billion rupees to Rs. 18.4 billion from Rs. 17.5 billion.

CTC, however, reported a rise in export income to Rs. 133 million against Rs. 74 million. Excise duties alone cost the company Rs. 14.9 billion against Rs. 14.5 billion in January-September 2000.

The company said it has urged the government to take action against illegally manufactured white cigarettes and points out that if these issues are not addressed "consumption of illegal cigarettes will rise sharply as legal sales decline, resulting in reduced government revenues and declining profits for the company."

It said the government was expected to lose an estimated one billion rupees this year due to illegal cigarettes escaping the tax net.

IT training vital for increased productivity

"Training is important, specially in a recession where the level of investments is low," said L. Balasubramanian, Senior Vice President NIIT India, at the seminar "Leveraging your investment in IT through training" held recently in Colombo.

More productivity could be gained through training, he said adding that research has shown that an investment in IT would bring in ten times more productivity. IT is essential for an organisation's survival especially in the banking and insurance sectors which are IT intensive.

Balasubramanian spoke of the importance of training and the challenges in training. Emphasising the above point, he explained that the Information Systems (IS) architecture, the level of management, course design, methods of training, evaluation of success and post-course follow up are the major challenges faced in training.

NIIT, established in 1981 is a US $270 million global IT solutions corporation which is also among the top three publicly listed IT companies in India. It has operations in 38 countries.

WTO to ensure protection for Sri Lanka exports

Sri Lankan products like Ceylon tea and a variety of other export items distinctly of Sri Lankan origin would soon get due protection via geographical locations under new rules worked out at the recent WTO conference.

"The Doha declaration in respect of the WTO agreement on trade related intellectual property rights would pave the way for some Sri Lankan products such as Ceylon tea and a variety of other export products distinctly of Sri Lankan origin to be protected under geographical indications," the Commerce Department said in a statement.

"It would allow countries to override patents in the interest of public health with enhanced scope to add tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics in addition to the AIDS/HIV catastrophe. Accordingly WTO members would grant compulsory licences and allow parallel imports in respect of cheaper generic medicine," the statement added.

Sri Lanka recently allowed parallel imports of medicines to cut down health costs to patients who are forced to buy more expensive brands. The Code of Intellectual Property Act (Amendments) Bill now before parliament - contained provisions to protect undisclosed information, trade secrets and geographical locations like the use of the name "Ceylon Tea".

The department said Sri Lanka would also benefit from the creation of a work programme, initialled at the WTO meeting in Qatar, which would examine specific problems of small and vulnerable economies.

"Equally important is a decision adding flexibility for developing countries to provide domestic support and protection on grounds of food security, livelihood concerns and rural development," it said.

"Accordingly there is no urgent need for Sri Lanka to remove subsidies which exist. This would be beneficial particularly to peasant farmers and Sri Lankan exporters who enjoy concessions under the Board of Investment and the Export Development Board," it added.

Moreover, the tariff reduction commitments undertaken by the developed countries in respect of agricultural imports would create a greater market access for agricultural products of export interest to developing countries, the department said.

Another decision taken at the ministerial conference concerning non-agricultural products is reducing the import duty of certain products of export interest to developing countries including readymade garments and leather products thereby providing a greater market access for such products in developed countries.

IT institute gets a boost from SLT

The Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) tied up with Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) with the latter providing SLIIT with voice, data and Internet services.

Dr. Lalith Gamage, CEO and MD of SLIIT and Mr. Shuhei Anan, CEO of SLT signed the agreement at a simple ceremony held at the SLIIT campus in Colombo last week.

"SLIIT's mandate is to train and educate large numbers of IT professionals required by the country and from the numbers that we train now, it is evident that we are the largest IT institute in this country," Dr. Gamage said.

The SLIIT's IT training institute in Sri Lanka, commenced operations two years ago. This year 1,200 students will be enrolled for the four campuses managed by the SLIIT. The main campus in Malabe was opened on November 29 while the other campuses are located in Kamburupitiya, Kandy and Merchant Towers in Colombo. The SLIIT offers various programmes in IT, ranging from Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas, Degrees, Post-Graduate Diplomas and Masters Degrees to professional development programmes for professionals employed in the industry, and software development facilities which will be expanded into a software development park in Malabe.

Its research and development incubator supports start-up companies. "With the signing of this agreement with the pioneer telecom operator in this country, Sri Lanka Telecom, we are joining hands to realise our dream of building Malabe as the first cyber city in the country," Dr. Gamage said.

Business Briefs

Ceylinco Insurance, highest ranked insurer in LMD 50

Ceylinco Insurance's record-breaking performance last year has seen the company's rating in the LMD 50, the country's most respected business rankings, move up two places to 18, the company said.

Commenting on this, Ceylinco Insurance's Director/General Manager (Life), R. Renganathan said: "We are proud to be the highest ranked insurance company in the top 50. It is very encouraging to see that we keep moving up every year."

Listed as one of LMD's top ten "Movers and Shakers" in 2000-01, Ceylinco Insurance is also ranked fourth in the category, "Biggest increase in funds" by virtue of a 27 percent growth. The company has also been ranked 10th among listed companies in Sri Lanka in the category, "Biggest increases in assets".

The principal ranking of the LMD 50, now in its eighth edition, is based on turnover, but the magazine also ranks companies on profits, assets, shareholders' funds, market capitalisation and many other indicators, including growth in turnover, profits, assets and funds.

Celltel presents two new free services via SMS

Celltel GSM subscribers have been presented with two new free services via the company's popular short messaging services (SMS).

The company said the new services, Bill SMS and Celltel News Update, enable subscribers to receive detailed billing related information as well as regular updates on breaking international news on their handsets.

Celltel Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, which pioneered cellular services in Sri Lanka, now operates a quality GSM network through expanded GSM coverage, providing international roaming, CLI, SMS and many other GSM features.

Emirates to expand international network

Emirates, the Dubai-based international airline, is adding five new non-stop routes to its fast-growing network from Dubai next year. The move comes hard on the heels of its $15 billion order for new aircraft.

The move would help Emirates achieve its aim to become truly global, a transformation to be confirmed in 2003 when it launches its first flights to the Americas, the only continent it does not now serve, a airline press release said.

Next year sees the start of services to Osaka, Japan; Khartoum, Sudan; the Indian Ocean holiday island of Mauritius; Casablanca, the commercial capital of Morocco; and Perth, Western Australia, a route first announced earlier this autumn.

Go Smart cards gain popularity

The chip-based Go Smart Bonus Cash Card has gained tremendous momentum ever since it was launched in Sri Lanka in July this year, the promoters said.

Introduced to the Sri Lankan market by Ceylinco PLC Technology (Pvt) Ltd., a member of Ceylinco Consolidated, this bonus cash-card scheme has, within the past two months in particular, gained more than 12,500 members, making it a tremendous business achievement.

The Go Smart card, which has been designed with a microchip embedded therein, offers bonus cash points to card members from a whole network of dealers and merchants island-wide.

Billion cellphone users globally by end-2002

By the end of 2002 there would be at least one billion mobile phone users in the world out of which at least 500 million would be Internet enabled, says Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, CEO of Dialog GSM.

He was addressing a recent seminar on the "Wireless Society" organised by the John Keells Institute. Other speakers included Ranjith Hadinnapola, Business Development Specialist, Dialog GSM and Ramal Perera, Product Manager, Dialog GSM. The Dialog CEO said Sri Lanka was on par with developed nations like the US and Britain in wireless technology. "Sri Lankans would be able to use state of the art General Package Radio Service Technology by the end of next year and by 2004, we could move forward to 3G (3rd Generation Mobile technology)," he said.

The seminar, sponsored by Dialog, was part of a series of seminars held at the institute focusing on the latest trends and technologies in the IT sector specially covering electronic and mobile commerce.

SIM Card Technology, Value Added Service, Short Message Service, Wireless Application Protocol, General Package Radio Service and 3rd Generation Technology were some of the topics covered at the seminar. The John Keells Institute is a fully-owned subsidiary of John Keells Holdings Ltd and is the only business venture in Sri Lanka to have collaborated with Tata Infotech Ltd of India.

HOTSHOT celebrates its 1st anniversary

In celebrating its first anniversary, HotShot partnered with TNL 101.7 & Lite 89.2 hosted "HotShot of the HotShot" pool tournament that was held on November 24, 25 2001. There were over 125 participants who took part in Men's singles, Women's singles and Mixed doubles for this tournament. Prizes worth over Rs. 50,000 were given away in cash and gift vouchers to the participants who made it to the quarters, semis and finals. The HotShots of the HotShot received a Digital Kodak Camera worth over Rs. 35,000 from Ninehearts (Pte) Ltd.

New Sinwa Shoe Store at MC

The Sinwa Shoe Store reopened its main showroom at Majestic City recently , with a new collection of stylish imported footwear a press release said. Customers were treated to attractive discounts, and there were models on hand to display the latest designs in ladies' shoes.

The newly refurbished Sinwa Shoe Store at Majestic City was the first of the Sinwa retail outlets, and has been in operation for ten years. Its new look is pleasing to the eye, and makes it easy for customers to pick exactly what they want out of the exciting range available.

Sinwa's latest range of ladies' and gents' footwear has been selected from designers in Malaysia, Italy and France, to satisfy today's fashion conscious customers.

Nexus loyalty program for Mitsubishi customers

United Motors Lanka Ltd. the No. 1 automobile company in Sri Lanka went into yet another partnership by signing up a Merchants Agreement to launch the co-branded United Motors-Nexus Loyalty Card with Sri Lanka's No. 1 corporate giant John Keells Holdings and Nations Trust Bank recently a press release said.

United Motors Lan-ka Ltd., sole agents for Mitsubishi vehicles manufactured by Mit-subishi Motors Corporation, Japan are the market leaders for brand new vehicles in Sri Lanka. The company today is a powerhouse of growth with a clear customer focused approach. The tie-up is a part of United Motors customer loyalty programme which will greatly benefit all Mitsubishi vehicle owners who will automatically be eligible to enjoy the benefits of the Nexus Loyalty Program whilst Nexus Card Holders can also now earn or redeem their accumulated points against the purchase of a Mitsubishi vehicle, Mitsubishi genuine spare parts or service. 

A spokesman for the Company said "we believe in delighting the customer, to us, providing transportation solutions that are tailor-made for customer needs is a priority. We are not just running an automobile business? We are meeting customer needs in transportation." 

He also added that benefits such as the Nexus tie- up will not only strengthen the relationship but will also reward thousands of current Mitsubishi customers. 

Furbiplan: a family company at your service 

Furbiplan is a comprehensive house refurbishing plan geared for your particular needs, your tastes and fancies. 

The very reassuring factor is that you do not need to build "Castles in the air" anymore. Your castle is right within your reach. It's a reality if you find out how to get there. Here's how you do it with a few simple steps to choose from any of the 4 options you wish to exercise a press release said.

If you need to renovate, modify, extend or make some change to your existing home or apartment call Fur-biplan and brief them of your requirements

Furbiplan will draw up an appropriate plan and recommend to you how best to go about it along with an estimated cost for the project.

Simultaneously, apply to NDB Housing Bank for a loan to cover the cost

Once the loan is approved and disbursed and you are also in agreement with the recommendations, Furbiplan will commence work and complete the project within the time-frame agreed upon.

Your doubts and fears can be allayed because Furbiplan is a comprehensive programme processed by Singer/NDB Housing Bank and executed by Singer together with WIDAC COMMERCIAL INTERIORS. 

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