The Sunday Times on the Web Business
2nd May 1999

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  • No immediate solution for Iridium
  • Satellite zooming in
  • Advantage grows as competition hots up
  • Internet fund
  • Imaging satellite lost in space
  • Short wave
  • One billion 'G-Mails' this month

  • No immediate solution for Iridium

    Iridium LLC remained tight-lipped at the announcement of its first quarter results last week, refusing to disclose any detailed business strategy designed to improve sales and revenue.

    The company, which saw its chief executive leave two weeks ago, announced revenues of US$ 1,451,000 and a loss of US$ 505 mn for the first quarter ending 31 March. As of then, it had approximately 10,294 customers

    Ed Staiano, Iridium's chief executive and vice chairman quit a fortnight ago after sales growth missed forecasts and the company's shares plunged. "Now as we move into an era of marketing and financing, basically the board felt that new blood was needed at the top," Robert Kenzio, Iridium's chairman, told the International Herald Tribune.

    Iridium's chief financial officer, Roy Grant, quit last month and the company announced that Mauro Sentinelli, executive vice president of marketing, will not have his contract renewed when it expires at the end of May.

    Speaking on behalf of John Richardson, interim CEO, Leo Mondale, senior vice president of strategic planning, said that as the company is in the process of rethinking its business plan as part of its negotiations with its bankers to renegotiate its terms by the end of May, he could not reveal any details until the plans were finalised.

    He did say the company would focus on sales and marketing training to "get people to understand what it is [they] have," and "spread what works worldwide."

    He said that current "usuage patterns are not indicative of long-term patterns" as users are still evaluating and testing the service.

    Alarmingly, the company revealed that it has very little knowledge about the demographics of existing subscribers since it only has indirect relationships with its customers through regional service providers.

    These are typically jealous of their ownership of subscribers, said Mondale.

    Iridium will be looking into post-sales successes and failures and work with its regional gateways and service providers "to get a handle on what works and what doesn't," said Mondale.

    Mondale avoided making any sales or subscription predictions for the rest of the year, saying "things take longer than you think they will."

    He hinted at the rethinking of pricing and handsets but said there were no concrete plans yet.

    "We are not announcing new products though, as we believe the present are sell-able," he said.

    Motorola has just launched the full range of accessories for its phones, and Kyocera's phones have finally come on the market after software problems.

    Referring to satellite outages earlier last quarter when one of Iridiums 66 GEO satellites had to be replaced, Mondale said the company is "pleased with the overall integrity of the system. performance has been good."

    Meanwhile, the U.K.'s Financial Times reported that Iridium faces further upheaval after shareholders filed a lawsuit against it, citing a writ filed at the District Court of Columbia. The suit alleges that Iridium executives failed to alert investors to difficulties with the satellite system and the possible adverse effects this would have on subscribers and revenue, the newspaper said.

    Iridium's 10,294 customers consist of 7,188 satellite-homed voice customers, 1,031 cellular-homed voice customers and 2,075 satellite paging customers. Iridium's financiers had set it targets of at least US$ 4 mn in revenue, at least US$ 30 mn in accrued revenue and at least 52,000 subscribers by May 31.

    Meanwhile, Iridium's Sri Lankan operations are on hold at present, pending Defence Ministry clearance.

    Satellite zooming in

    A Denver company plans to launch what it says is the first commercial satellite able to snap images with enough resolution to pick out objects as small as one metre in diameter.

    The Earth-imaging satellite, named Ikonos, is the product of Denver-based Space Imaging.

    Ikonos will produce the first commercially available images at such a precise resolution.

    The company plans to sell the images to customers in a variety of industries, including urban planning, environmental monitoring, mapping, natural-disaster assessment, and telecommunications network planning.

    "This is 25 times better than five-metre [resolution images]. Instead of just seeing buildings, you can see that there's a car there," said Mark Lucas, chief technology officer for Agis, a company that purchases high-resolution imagery for its image-mapping database.

    To resell to commercial customers, the database combines space images with other remote-sensing data, such as temperature information. Lucas is looking forward to the sharper-resolution images from satellites like Ikonos.

    Being able to zero in makes the difference.

    Until recently, one pixel in a commercial space image represented 28-square metres of the Earth's surface.

    Recently, that has come down to five square metres per pixel and, now, one.

    This year, five satellites will be sent aloft to provide images that are 25 times more detailed than traditional space photographs.

    Products created using Ikonos imagery will be available to customers about 60 to 90 days after Tuesday's launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

    The company says the satellites can distinguish objects as small as one metre in size, as long as they are well removed from other objects and have separate and distinct visual characteristics.

    Trucks, boats, tennis courts, and so forth are typically discernable, Space Imaging representatives said, because of their context within their surroundings.

    High-contrast objects can also be seen. The company said white stripes in parking lots and crosswalks are visible in Ikonos' photos because of their white-on-black patterns.

    One-metre imagery cannot discern individual people, the company said. But a large group of people like fans watching a football game would be visible.

    Advantage grows as competition hots up

    Nokia Oyj, the world's largest cellular phone maker, boosted first-quarter profit with hipper, smaller and more affordable phones, while Ericsson AB earnings dropped as it struggled to keep up.

    The Finnish company's first-quarter profit rose 50 per cent to US$ 536 mn, while profit at Sweden's Ericsson, the No. 3 phone maker, halved to US$ 108 mn, the companies reported today. Nokia shares rose as much as 11 per cent, while Ericsson dropped as much as 7.8 per cent.

    Ericsson "needs to establish a new product platform that will allow it to churn out lots of phones at a low cost," said Anders Jarheim, who manages Scandinavian equities at Oehman Fonder in Stockholm. "Nokia is doing everything right - it's got the right phones, the right production method and it all works."

    Phones with trendy colours and features helped Nokia dethrone Motorola Inc. of the U.S. as world leader last year.

    Ericsson has lagged its bigger rivals in targeting younger non- professional cellular phone users. Production delays also eroded Ericsson's market shares.

    Nokia, which has introduced a number of new phones, notably its big-selling 5100 series, saw phone sales surge 92 per cent, while Ericsson sales fell 12 per cent.

    Still, Ericsson aims to regain market share with a new low- cost A1018 series, to be released mid-year. Nokia, in turn, plans to release another new low-cost phone, the 3210 series, this quarter, making it difficult for Ericsson to grab back market shares, analysts said.

    "While competitors have complained about price erosion Nokia is getting successively better pricing for its new products," said Michael Schroeder, an analyst at Opstock Securities, who rates the stock a "buy."

    Investors have also been attracted to Nokia for its ability to keep cost-efficiency in setting up production for new phones. Although Nokia last year introduced a slew of new phones, it succeeded in keeping start-up costs under control.

    Ericsson blamed costs related to introducing production lines for its new phones attributed. The companies didn't report specific start-up costs figures.

    Nokia said about 40 per cent of global phone sales now comes from the so-called upgrade market as subscribers buy new phones to replace their old phones as network operators introduce new functions with which their old phones aren't compatible.

    At the same time, Ericsson's sales growth is being harnessed by its bigger focus on phone networks, for which demand isn't growing as fast as the phone market.

    The network unit at Ericsson saw sales rise 20 per cent, while Nokia's saw sales rise 25 per cent.

    Ericsson has also been hit by its focus on the traditional network business, which has experienced slower growth as customers are swapping their traditional phone subscriptions for cellular subscriptions.

    Nokia expects there will be one billion cellular phone subscribers in the world by the year 2003, two years earlier than its previous estimate, backing up its strategy on focusing on cellular telephones and networks, and not networks for traditional phone services.

    Nokia has seen strong demand after it released a range of new phones last year, notably the 5100 series which hit the shelves in the second quarter last year.

    While Nokia hasn't released any significant new phones since then, it will ship the new low-end 3210 series this quarter.

    Ericsson, in addition to the A1018, plans to introduce the high-end T28 phone in the second half. While analysts say the T28 isn't expected to be a big seller, its stripped down version, the T18, could help Ericsson grabbing market shares.

    The Swedish company said that will help its phone sales to rise in the second half.

    Internet fund

    Framlington Unit Management has launched the first (of what will undoubtedly become many) unit trust dedicated to Internet and related companies.

    The NetNet Fund was opened on April 19 and seems to be finding favour with financial advisors despite some dramatic falls in Internet share prices this week in London.

    However, VNU news pages report that on Wall Street new internet stocks continue to sell well with Net Perceptions ending the day at more than twice Friday's launch price. Launch Media, an online music magazine, didn't do quite as well but still managed a more than respectable 29 per cent rise over its starting price.

    The NetNet Fund hopes to follow the success of the US fund of the same name which has grown by more than 300 per cent since its launch in August 1996.

    The US founder, Paul Cook, is an advisor to the Framlington team.

    The fund will be about a third invested in ISPs, a third in support companies and a third in businesses expected to benefit from the Internet.

    Imaging satellite lost in space

    Denver-based Space Imaging had as the first satellite to provide high-resolution images for sale to a range of industries, from farming to construction. But hours after its debut launch on Tuesday, operators said they had failed to receive signals from the orbiter.

    Denver-based Space Imaging had lauded the Ikonos 1 as the first satellite to provide high-resolution images for sale to a range of industries, from farming to construction. But hours after its debut launch on Tuesday, operators said they had failed to receive signals from the orbiter.

    Ikonos, built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, was shot into space atop a Lockheed Martin Athena II rocket that lifted off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base shortly before noon on Tuesday. And then?

    "We are gravely disappointed that we have not established contact with the Ikonos satellite as of this time," Space Imaging's chief executive officer John Copple said. Copple did not say if Space Imaging expected to eventually make contact with the satellite, but said the twin satellite Ikonos 2 had been built, just in case.

    Short wave

    Brokers warned about misleading ads

    Investors have already been warned about the mixing of audited and unaudited information on company's websites.

    Now it is reported that regulators in the US are getting set to crack down on brokers who use a mixture of media advertising and Internet trading to play down the risks of equity investment.

    The same phenomenon has yet to been seen in the UK, so lets hope this nips the practice in the bud.

    Yahoo! generates half of all web referrals

    According to Internet traffic analyser WebSideStory, nearly half of all traffic generated from search engines to Websites can be traced to Yahoo! Its closest competitor was Excite which accounted for only 22% while none of the others scored over 10%. If you are responsible for a website check that you are properly listed by Yahoo!

    If not you can simply submit your URL under the appropriate category.

    Ericsson to launch Bluetooth Data Transceiver

    Ericsson Components will launch samples of a Bluetooth data transceiver module in summer-1999, according to the firm.

    The device, which has been designed and built solely by Ericsson, will be launched commercially in November 1999 at US$ 10 per unit, according to Stefan Lof, Ericsson Components' Bluetooth manager.

    A complete Bluetooth radio will be launched in 1st-qtr 2000. The radio will incorporate a VLSI technology-based baseband processor.

    The Bluetooth technology is a standard agreed by Ericsson, IBM, Toshiba, Intel and Nokia, which will allow wireless connection at 1 Mbit/sec, at up to 10-mt distance, of any electronic devices.

    AOL plans screen phones for online access

    America Online (AOL) (US), online service, is planning to launch a series of Internet access devices which do not require PCs. One of these devices will be a screen phone, according to sources.

    AOL hopes the devices will help it to become a pervasive presence in the lives of consumers, while expanding E-commerce and advertising revenue.

    Alcatel (France), telecoms group, is seen as the most likely supplier of screen phones to AOL.

    AOL does not expect its 'AOL Anywhere' devices to replace PCs, but simply to provide consumers with a way of getting online when it is not convenient to use a PC.

    Log on, fight poverty

    In the surest sign yet that the Web has come of age, the organizers of "Live Aid" and "Hands Across America" are now planning "Net Aid," three simultaneous anti-poverty concerts brought together on the ol' dubya-dubya-dubya.

    The benefits are planned for 9 October in the United States, Britain, and Switzerland and on the Web.

    "Music is the only international language that crosses all barriers, and the music industry has once again decided to make a stand, this time to help eradicate extreme poverty," promoter Harvey Goldsmith said on Tuesday.

    The goal, Goldsmith said, is "to create 1 billion hits" on the Web with at least 10 mn online users committing themselves to some sort of action.

    Sponsors of the concerts are the UN Development Program, which dishes out close to US$ 1 bn a year for projects in poor nations, and Cisco Systems. Among the artists expected to perform are Sting, U2, John Mellencamp, Celine Dion, Lauryn Hill, and Jewel.

    EU backs E-signatures

    European Union (EU) telecoms ministers have given their backing to a directive on electronic signatures (E-signatures) in an effort to remove one of the last barriers to cross-border E-commerce.

    The directive establishes a legal framework for E-signatures with the aim of ensuring the compatibility of different systems. The ministers also agreed that companies providing services related to E-signatures would not have to secure authorisation from governments.

    One billion 'G-Mails' this month

    The GSM Association has announced that one billion 'G-Mails' (GSM text messages) will be sent over the airwaves by global GSM mobile phone operators in April 1999. The association predicts that this will grow at a rate of 40-50 percent this year.

    Services available from many of the world's GSM networks today - in addition to simple user generated text message services - include news, sport, financial, language and location based services, as well as many early examples of mobile commerce such as stocks and share prices, mobile banking facilities and leisure booking services. The announcement follows a GSM Association decision taken last month in Helsinki, Finland to create a Data Task Force to share operator experiences on GSM data and text services, develop data standards to promote interoper ability and better customer experience in the non voice GSM world and promote data roaming.

    Confifi group invests into plantations

    The Confifi Group has invested Rs 30.2 million in Diyanilakele tea estate. The purchase was financed with cash flow generated from operations. The group expect to benefit from synergies associated with their investments in a hotel and a plantation. These include the cultivation of vegetation on the estate for the hotels. "The group will exploit existing in-house plantation management expertise" Managing Director Confifi Group, Mr Stefan Furkhan, told the Sunday Times Business.

    NDBS Stock Brokers said this investment could be an attempt to stabilise earnings and diversify risk. If the estate was bought at a depressed price, it would be a good long term investment, said John Keels Stock Brokers.

    The company has ploughed back profits into tourism but also seeks to expand shareholder interest when reinvesting cash flows to facilitate growth Mr Furkhan said. The company sees opportunities in the plantations and healthcare sectors, he added.

    At present the company has diversified in to rust proofing, water proofing, sewage treatment, trading in kitchen appliances and finance. It has also recently acquired the management of Golden Rooster and identified opportunities for this venture in South India and Bangladesh.

    Chernobyl virus bites personal computers

    By Shafraz Farook

    Inefficient communication took a big bite off PC users when the virus CHI 1.2 hit Colombo last week.

    The biggest question is if authorities knew about the virus, shouldn't they have informed PC users prior to a lacklustre eleventh hour warning. PC users claim that they did not know about the virus and that it was unfair of the authorities to have not given them proper notice. Though there were very few reports of the viruses affecting computers, the few which were hit were hit very badly.

    The brunt of the virus was felt by the individual users who were caught off guard. One such individual said, "as part of my routine I switched on my computer to check my e -mails everyday. As a journalist and a correspondent I keep in touch with news and developments, but felt that the warning should have been more forceful and given earlier.

    Just a warning the day before or tucked away in an obscure corner of a newspaper is insufficient notice of a disaster like this. There should be a separate column in the newspapers or news broadcasts, like the weather report of such disasters, which are definitely going to be more frequent.

    This is a national problem and should be taken up at a national level. Especially in a technological era, where day to day work depends on computers.

    Others said that they switched on their computers at work and they got stuck. Since they did not know about the virus, they did not know what to do. There were many reports abroad, from people who have had their hard drive deleted with years of work lost."

    PC users everywhere were in a panic because of the confusion created by people giving different versions of the effect of the virus. PC vendors and so called competent authorities too seemed unaware of the real impact of the virus. Like many others they too seemed confused and each had a new story to tell.

    Industry officials and vendors say that it was the responsibility of the PC users to protect their computers. "If such notices were to be issued, we would have to send out warnings every hour at least," a leading software vendor said. Viruses come out all the time, but usually affect few computers and this too is overcome by running a virus scan. This too could have been avoided if PC users had upgraded their virus guards.

    This raises another current issue: 'PIRATED SOFTWARE'. Vendors claim that if customers install legitimate software (licensed software) from a reliable vendor, they could get free updates. "This would have prevented the damage people claim had happened," vendors said.

    Software such as virus guards come with the PC, so PC users are eligible for updates. But what happens if the PC does not have an Internet connection or a modem?

    Some of these PC users handle a lot of diskettes from outside, which exposes them to new viruses all the time. What happens to such users, even if they had installed legitimate software?

    Meanwhile the first reports of the virus came as the workday started in Asia and Europe. The 26 April CIH virus had struck about 1,000 times across the globe said foreign news reports. A US newspaper publisher too had reported about 500 computers being infected. Some claimed that their lifetime works were lost forever.

    The Win95-CIH virus emerged in April, but until now its impact has been minimal. It infects systems running Windows 95 and 98, in some cases deleting file contents or even crashing entire systems.

    The CIH virus is a variant of the equally destructive Win95-CIH virus, which is timed to strike on the 26th of every month.

    The virus may overwrite the system's hard drive, erasing everything on it. CIH may also attack the portion of the machine's BIOS (basic input/output system), that affects the start-up sequence, making the computer unusable. Repairs might cost PC users anywhere from a few thousands to tens of thousands of rupees.

    Sources claim that it's the first computer virus known to attack a PC's BIOS which is built-in software that controls basic PC functions such as the keyboard, display screen, and disk drives. Apparently, the virus can overwrite part of the BIOS program, so infected machines might not be able to start up or reboot.

    Although the total number of affected PC is not known, officials said early indications suggest it could be the most devastating virus in years.

    PC users pray that it would not hit them again and hope that the authorities would give more priority to such disasters in future.

    New laws to ensure equality in workplace

    By Mel Gunasekera

    The government is putting the final touches to an Equal Opportunities legislation that will eliminate employment discrimination in the private and public sectors.

    The legislation is aimed at ensuring against ethnicity, gender and political opinion based discrimination.

    "It's a good piece of legislation which will encourage the culture of equal opportunities so that the workplace will reflect ethnic diversity," parliamentarian Neelan Tiruchelvam said.

    He said a recent study has shown that women account for only 11 per cent of public sector employees. Of this, nearly 80 per cent of them are employed in low skilled jobs like stenos, clerks and secretaries.

    "This has to change. This legislation will bring in equality as far as gender is concerned," he said.

    The legislation is drawn on a study of similar laws in Australia, USA, Northern Ireland and Canada.

    Under the proposed legislation, public and private sectors employers will have to develop policy statements; review human resource policies and practices; establish a strategic plan that incorporates employer's objectives, strategies and targets; and monitor and evaluate the success of the implementation of the strategies.

    Employers will also be required to submit annual reports with provision for sanctions to be imposed in case of non-compliance.

    An Equal Opportunities Commission will be set up to investigate and attempt to settle complaints through conciliation and mediation, monitor annual diversity reports, and develop and implement affirmative action programmes if the organisations do not practice equal opportunity principles.

    An Equal Opportunity Tribunal will be set up to settle disputes referred by the Commission.

    The Tribunal will have the power to summon witnesses, hear evidence and issue interim orders.

    The legislation will aim at eliminating discrimination (direct or indirect) on grounds of ethnicity, gender, religious or political convictions, caste, age, disability and take effective measures to protect persons disadvantaged by such discrimination.

    The law aims at eliminating sexual harassment in workplaces, educational institutions and harassment related to accommodation.

    The law also ensures that employers develop such programmes that guarantee the workplace (as far as practicable) reflect the ethnic and gender composition of Sri Lanka and also promote recognition and acceptance of the equality of all persons, irrespective of ethnicity and other differences.

    Mr. Tiruchelvam met with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe recently to solicit support for the legislation in parliament.

    "It seems a progressive piece of legislation. The UNP is studying it at present and will give its comments within the next few days," parliamentarian Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

    St. Anthony's Industries Group receives ISO 9001

    "St. Anthony's Industries Group (S.A.I.G), has become the first PVC pipes manufacturer to obtain ISO 9001 standards. The ISO 9001 is distinguished from the ISO 9002 standard because of its in-house design and development capability which enables the company to bring in new products and continue improving existing products," the marketing manger of S.A.I.G, Jerome Fernando told the Sunday Times Business. The company is a pioneer and leading manufacturer of PVC pipes, fittings, electrical conduits and plastic household items

    The cost-effective scheme of receiving the standards covers the entire company policy and also the in-house procedure manuals. "The company will also be monitored on a routine basis and through review meetings," Mr.Fernando said.

    S.A.I.G has introduced new products during the last year. The company has also invested over Rs. 40 million in new machinery with a view to enhance their production capacity due to the 40% sales group achieved during the last financial year. "There were many reasons to expand," Mr. Fernando added.

    It was mainly due to the expansion of telecom projects and water supply schemes by National Water Supply and Drainage Board. The company also exports its PVC pipes and fittings in a small scale to Maldives and Bangladesh and hopes to strengthen the exports through the ISO standards. "The standards will be a preparation to develop into exports" he stated.

    The existing pipes making plant and expansion are from Krauss Maffei Kuntsofftnecknic, a company in Germany that is the world leader in extrusion equipment. "In Sri Lanka only S.A.I.G has German equipment for pipe manufacturing. These have already been installed, ready for the expansion, he said.

    Mind your Business By Business Bug

    The bird of paradise

    The bird of paradise now managed by the Emirs has just started daily flights to Old Blighty.

    But all are not happy with this decision. Some executives say the project is a disaster because there isn't that much traffic to cater to.

    What they want are more flights to closer Asian destinations where the bird could serve as a carrier for two destinations outside Colombo. But for the moment they have been overruled by the top management, we hear...

    CHI virus

    Last Monday's computer virus was a nightmare for many vendors despite the advanced warnings given through the electronic media.

    Many customers who had their hard disks damaged by the nasty virus said it was not their fault and were demanding replacements. Some vendors agreed and did the needful; others did not.

    But most vendors are now seeking out insurance policies against such occurrences in the future.

    Cellular IPOs

    The news that one cellular company wants to go public has sent alarm bells ringing among its rivals.

    "Can't we do the same?" was the question pondered by two rival networks and a payphone operator.

    And at least one of them is taking the matter very seriously, for it has already ordered a feasibility study on the matter...

    Training for plantation men

    The Sri Lanka Business Development Centre (SLBDC) has conducted a four days HRD programme for 80 Junior Assistant Field Officers and Chief Clerks of the Kegalle Plantatins Ltd. on the Enhancement of Management Capabilites to compete and innovate from February to March at the Kegalle Planters' Club.

    The main topics covered were responsibilities of middle managers, receiving instructions and implementation, decision making, relationship between supervisors and subordinates, motivating people, team building, disciplinary control, labour relations, elementary personnel management, performance evaluation and training, documentation and procedures, communication, confidence building and personality development and basic accounting.

    Namal awards for winners of questionnaire

    National Asset Management Limited (NAMAL), the pioneer unit trust manager in Sri Lanka recently conducted an asessement of the awareness among unit holders of the investment options available through the company.

    Unit holders were asked to answer five questions in a coupon published in NAMAL's newsletter "Namal News". Three unit holders who answered all five questions correctly were selected at a draw, and Namal will present these winners with free units from the National Equity Fund (NEF) as a reward.

    Ms. V. R. Jayawardene representing the Trustees of the Fund, the Hongkong Bank picked the three winning entries of P. V. Joseph of Colombo 8, V.J. B. Perera of Ja-Ela and M. Haffez of Colombo 5. They will receive certificates for NEF units to the value of Rs. 1000 each.

    "The excellent response to the questionnaire from the unit holders from all parts of the country was very encouraging and re-affirms the knowledge they have of low risk investment products," said S. Jeyavarman, General Manager of NAMAL.

    NAMAL, which commenced operations in 1991, is the manager of three unit trusts, the National Equity Fund (NIF), Namala Growth Fund (NGF) and NAMAL Income Fund (NIF).

    Ceylinco Life sets new targets

    Ceylinco Insurance Company's Life Division which was the first private sector insurance company to top Rs. 1 billion mark in premium income in a year has set itself the target of revamping the entire computing resources in all branches with state-of-the-art software, e-mail and Internet facilities through a computer network by the year 2000 to provide a quick and satisfying service to customers.

    As part of the plan, new software would be introduced to branches and head office that enables faster and quality service.

    Announcing this ambitious target at the company's 11th life awards presentation for the staff, the Chairman of Ceylinco Consolidated Deshmanaya Lalith Kotelawela pointed out that for seven out of the company's 11 years of operation, Ceylinco has been the market leader among the private sector insurers, and the company would have no difficulty in achieving its objective.

    More than 1000 representatives of the company's countrywide network of 68 branches qualified to participate at the event at the BMICH. The awards were in recognition of excellence in the fields of sales, underwriting, policy servicing and re-insurance, information technology, accounts and support services.

    Deshamanya Kotelawela added that to achieve this objective, the company hopes to provide sales staff with laptop computers.

    National convention on quality

    The first national convention on quality in Sri Lanka will be held on July 20 and 21 at the BMICH. This convention is organized by the Sri Lanka Association for Quality (SLAQ) to promote quality management activities in Sri Lanka industry and the service sector. Technical papers from many local and international experts will be presented at this seminar.

    The theme of the convention is "Quality Challenges of the New Millennium" and it is proposed to identify the mechanism to promote quality management through modern tools in quality management to take Sri Lanka into the 21st century by enhancing the competitiveness of the industry and the services.

    Technical papers on Total Quality Management (TQM), ISO 9000, Benchmarking, Strategic Quality Planning, National Quality Awards and Quality Circles will be presented during this convention.

    This convention is timed to accommodate the 10th annual meeting of the Council of Asia Pacific Organization for Quality (APQO) of which SLAQ is a member.

    Dr. James Harrington of Ernst and Young USA, will address on "Business Process Re-engineering for Competitiveness" and Steven Bailey, President of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), will conduct the seminar on 'Bench- marking.'

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