LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya participated in a panel discussion organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on “Use of Digital Platforms for SMBs”.
In his opening remarks, State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Development, Business Development and Underutilized State Resources Development, Hon. Shehan Samarasinghe, said a debt repayment relief scheme has been introduced to SMEs that have a bank account and a monthly revenue of less than Rs 1 billion. SMEs can apply through their current bank. He also described a one-stop-shop currently being piloted in the Monaragala district, where SMEs can obtain all approvals such as Grama Niladhari approvals and Divisional Secretariate services.
Helani presented the findings of LIRNEasia’s national survey of SMEs in Sri Lanka, including data on levels of ICT use by SMEs, and pointed to how high ICT use is correlated with higher enterprise revenue, higher likelihood of being integrated into global value chains and having more customer reach through various channels. She pointed out however that access to financial services (i.e. loans for business growth) is a significant barrier when personal guarantees are often required even for a business loans. She also pointed to the opportunity for the local e-commerce market to grow. Only 6% of SMEs used card/remote payment devices and most consumers over the age of 15 did not use electronic commerce. Even those who did use e-commerce only went so far as to search for information online, completing the transaction (including payments) offline. Helani’s slides from the event can be found here, while a more detailed slide set on the same topic is here.
Yasas Abeywickrama, Policy Programs Manager for Facebook presented data from a Deloitte study that showed both consumers and small businesses had increased their use of social media to interact with each other. Jayantha de Silva, Chairman of the ICTA described how the Roadmap for government digitalization developed by ICTA had significant digital support for SMEs.