GITMU East-South synergy

GITMU East-South synergy

Japanese technology park fills

Japanese vacuum with South Asian know-how

Japan and Sri Lanka share a wide range of cultural similarities. Japan has opened her doors to Sri Lanka on many pathways. Sri Lanka, however, is yet to enter a beneficial platform with her longstanding ally.

That may be changing, however. Global IT Park, in Minami Uonuma in the Niigata prefecture was established in 2016 to create an innovative sphere within Japan. The initiative establishes a connection between Japanese companies and information technology (IT) firms from across the world. It is a brainchild of Kaushal Wawlagala, who now heads Adam Innovations Co Ltd, building the links between Japan and eight IT companies of Sri Lankan and Indian origins.

Digital technology

Speaking to OSL-THE Investment Magazine, Wawlagala elaborates how digital variations evolved with the emergence of the post-industrial revolution. The digital sphere has changed the way of doing business, Wawlagala adds.

“More and more customers look for a better consumer feel with digital technology. They need a digital presence in almost every operational requirement. Plus, there are new business models that emerged with the new digital technology. Uber is a classic example.”

Any organisation looking forward to digital technology can readily turn to Adam Innovations. Wawlagala’s team help organisations see the other aspects of digital-related business, such as understanding customer satisfaction.

Wawlagala’s first inspiration, causing him eventually to initiate a project in Japan, was born when he toured the country in 2005 to study mobile internet.

“Back then, Japan had the most advanced mobile internet system. But everything turned upside down when Apple introduced the iPhone. The Japanese mobile phone industry was kind of wiped away with this. I began to see where Japan erred.”

The Japanese always think in terms of Kaizen, which is continuous improvement, involving employees from the shop floor to top management. Once a product is developed, the Japanese are overly concerned about making it much better. Kaizen worked years ago. But now they must realise that the competition is not within but outside the market. That is what happened when Apple introduced the iPhone. Apple had already introduced iTunes, and gradually they launched a device to listen to music.

The device enabled communication in voice and web browsing. This was a remarkable shift, but Japan did fail to see the growing phenomenon outside their market.

Japan is home to many excellent technology companies. But they are not bothered about global trends. Wawlagala initiated the Global IT park, Minami Uonuma (GITMU) to fill that vacuum.

Employing strengths

The IT companies need to fulfil a certain eligibility criterion before joining the team. They must be equipped with a cutting edge technology, coupled with well-handled global exposure. GITMU also considers the number of projects deployed by IT companies across the world. The chosen companies can install their offices in the park premises and look forward to business prospects with a Japanese company.

Uniquely enough, GITMU does not focus on outsourcing. They continue to employ the strengths of Japanese companies and foreign IT firms. What Japan mostly requires right now is software, which is becoming a dominant factor in the digitalising industry.

Out of the eight firms registered with GITMU, six are Sri Lankan and two are Indian. Wawlagala’s team has restricted the inflow of any other firms in order to build a proper rapport between Japan and the IT companies.

“We are very selective. When these firms arrive in Japan, we have to give them business. Unlike other countries, Japanese companies take time to take a decision. IT companies, on the other hand, look at quick money. You need to be patient and also genuinely serious. The Japanese companies take time in order to build trust.”

Once the trust is established, the Japanese companies never violate the agreement signed between the client and the supplier. They would stick to their suppliers no matter how lucrative an offer may come from another supplier. If you manage to build a trusted relationship with a Japanese company, no other dealer can come in between, however better their offer is Wawlagala guarantees.

The IT firms registered with GITMU are offered a tutorial session on the cultural traits of Japan, which will ease their business coordination.

Vacuum

Can Sri Lankan IT firms be benefitted by strengthening a business relationship with Japan?

“There is a very good potential for SL companies. From day one, the market approach of the Sri Lankan IT firms is to work with a foreign company. That is because the domestic market cannot afford digital shift. But now it is gradually changing. Most good IT companies in Sri Lanka explore the opportunities for capturing markets in Europe and other countries. So they are naturally attentive to global trends and new technology. This is where I see the opportunity to work with Japan.”

The phenomenon is quite the opposite in Japan. Despite excellence, the Japanese market concentrates on the domestic market. They pay scant attention to new trends. They simply want to maintain a relationship with domestic companies, doing the same business over and over again. But now with this post-industrial revolution, the technologies, as well as the customer experiences, change. Wawlagala, therefore, observes a huge vacuum in Japan in terms of new technologies.

“I am a Sri Lankan living in Japan. IT is one key area for Sri Lanka to be hopeful. Our IT engineers are quite good compared to other countries. I have been working with IT engineers of other countries especially south and south-east Asia. Compared to them, our engineers have far better talent. If we can invest more in Sri Lankan IT talents, the country has the potential to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Every industry now needs IT. And Sri Lanka can provide that. We have that potential.”

Focus

GITMU focuses on Enterprise resource planning (ERP), a business process management software that allows an organisation to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back-office functions related to technology, services and human resources. Digital Secure Remote Payments (DSRP) is another key area enabling secure transactions for remote payments.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are looked after by one of the companies. It is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction

In digital marketing, Wawlagala sees huge potential. In fact, digital marketing offers a beneficial opportunity to engage consumers, but precious few companies have realised its full potential. Leading companies are capitalising on the forces that have changed fundamentally the way marketing can be done.

Japan is on board now. And that is thanks to Sri Lankan born Kaushal Wawlagala.

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First multi-modal  transit hub Opens in Makumbura

First multi-modal transit hub Opens in Makumbura

Sri Lanka’s first multi-modal passenger transit hub is now open to the public. President Maithripala Sirisena, together with Megapolis and Western Region Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and officials of the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) declared open the Kottawa-Makumbura Multi-Modal Transport Centre (MTC) on 31 March.

The new transit hub is intended to deliver seamless, safe and comfortable connections to passengers using the railways, city buses, and taxis as well as coaches operating on the expressway (motorway) network, and reduce overall travel time. Expressway bus services, which started from Maharagama, will now use the MTC instead.

Its location in close proximity to the Kottawa expressway interchange, where the E01 Southern Expressway meets the E02 Outer Circular Highway (OCH), also enables users of private vehicles on the expressway system to park and use public transport into Colombo.

On completion of the third phase of the OCH between Kadawatha and Kerawalapitiya (scheduled for June this year), the Kottawa-Makumbura MTC will provide connectivity to the E03 Katunayake Expressway and the Bandaranaike International Airport as well. Connectivity to the Mattala International Airport and to the Hambantota Port will also be offered, when the final stretch of the E01 is completed in August.

Technology

At the opening ceremony, President Sirisena said that the MTC marked an important step towards strengthening the public transport service. He also stressed that Sri Lanka must strengthen the public transport service with new technology. Accordingly, the new hub is equipped with the paraphernalia of modern passenger transit.

Passengers may book their seats in advance using the e-ticketing system, either online or using the self-ticketing facilities, and may travel in trains and buses on a single ticket. LED screens inform commuters of the locations of buses and trains at any time, using GPS technology. The MTC’s energy requirements are supplied using roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels.

The centre also provides facilities for banking and bill payment, as well as restaurants and toilets. Furniture for the MTC was made by the inmates of the Welikada Prisons, and cost LKR 12 m (USD 69,000) instead of the estimated LKR 27 m (USD 150,000).

JICA provided funds to cover part of the construction and equipment costs for the Kottawa-Makumbura MTC, through its Official Development Assistance loans for OCH construction. Government of Sri Lanka treasury funds financed the remainder of the LKR 845 m (USD 4.83 m) project cost. The original estimate when the project was set in motion in 2014 was for LKR 400 m (USD 2.86 m).

Larger solution

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development implemented the project as part of its Township Development Component, and will be responsible for managing and maintaining the facility. Similar multimodal transport centres will be constructed in other key cities in future as well, including Anuradhapura, Moratuwa, Negombo and Ragama.

From its inception, the project was intended to be part of a larger solution to the transportation problems of the western conurbation centred on Colombo. Every day, more than 600,000 commuters would converge on the Fort railway station and the nine discrete bus terminals serving the Pettah commercial centre – including the venerable (and uncompleted for 44 years) Central Bus Station, for state-owned buses; the Bastian Road Bus Stand for inter provincial private buses; and the Gunasinghepura Bus Stand for provincial private buses – all at some distance from one another. This caused the commuters difficulty getting buses or trains on time, spending much time and walking several kilometres to catch a train or bus.

As a solution, the Urban Development Authority (UDA), after studying the systems available in several other countries, initiated an ambitious country-wide programme for constructing modern, efficient and comfortable integrated transport terminals connecting railways, bus services, taxis and trishaws, as well as envisaged future bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail transit (LRT) or monorail services.

For the first, the UDA acquired eight hectares of abandoned paddy land, for a mixed development called the Makumbura Township Development Project, involving the construction of, apart from the MTC, hotels, shopping centres, cinemas, commercial premises, residential units and other public facilities, as well as internal roads. The UDA selected a 1.2-hectare site for developing the MTC, and made plans to shift the existing Maalapalla railway station to land belonging to the Sri Lanka Railway, adjoining this site. The dream has finally come true, after over five years.

 

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Great system BAD EXECUTION

Great system BAD EXECUTION

The Central Bank’s regulation of finance companies.

Joan de Zilva Moonesinghe is a retired bank regulator, who has had 32 years of financial regulation experience, including 25 years at the Central Bank. She shares her views with OSL- THE Investment Magazine about what needs to be done in financial market regulation in Sri Lanka. According to her, Sri Lanka has very good financial regulatory and supervisory systems. She commends the two-pronged off-site and on-site surveillance systems but blames the Central Bank for regulatory failure.

“The off-site surveillance system is active on a daily basis and sends financial data from institutions to the Central Bank periodically – monthly, annually and biannually. The data is processed at the Central Bank and given to officers who are handling the on-site process. There are dedicated officers assigned to each financial institution who look for early warning signals. As soon as you identify the early warning signals you need early regulatory intervention and prompt corrective action. Timely action has to be taken before it deteriorates too much.”

Regulatory forbearance

Moonesinghe claims that the Central Bank should be held accountable for not intervening in failed and troubled financial institutions of the country. “How can you have an insolvent deposit-taking financial institution? That just cannot be. The signs of impending insolvency are coming every month to the Central Bank. So you have to take action long before the ratios deteriorate and go below the mandatory norms. It hasn’t happened. This is regulatory forbearance. Obviously, the off-site surveillance officers are giving their recommendations and there are so many provisions under the Finance Business Act.”

She goes on to explain the provisions under the act and the consequences of not enforcing them. “You can issue cease and desist orders for unsound practices. You can ask the board of directors to resign. You can suspend business. You can freeze deposits. You can make disclosures to the public. What has been happening is that the Central Bank has been just talking. to the directors of these institutions and trying to find investors. Those directors have promised remedial action but it has not happened. Take ETI Finance for instance. It was reported in the press that it had LKR 19 billion negative net worth. That did not take place overnight. What was the Central Bank doing? Their board of directors still functions. They haven’t been even asked to resign.”

She complains that transparency is lacking, especially where it concerns the customers of financial institutions.

“Depositors are not made aware of the state of these financial institutions. Because depositors don’t know that these institutions are unsound, they deposit money. Their names are published in the periodic publications by the central bank, together with the sound and strong financial institutions. And these are regulated, licenced financial institutions, not Ponzi schemes. It’s very unfortunate that the ignorance of the depositors is being exploited both by the institutions and by the Central Bank.”

Moonesinghe says that if a financial institution is insolvent, the Central Bank must intervene and act within a reasonable time. “There is a process by which the central bank has to intervene to either recapitalise the institution or find new investors. 10 years is not a reasonable time, as they did in the case of The Finance. No regulator has a moral or legal right to take 10 years to resolve any institution.”

Safety mechanisms

She elaborates on the safety mechanisms the Central Bank is supposed to provide for banks and financial institutions. “A safety net mechanism is also two-pronged. It has the lender of last resort facility for temporary illiquidity, mostly for the banking system. For that, you need to be solvent. There is the deposit insurance scheme to safeguard depositors of failed financial institutions which are insolvent. If a financial institution cannot
recapitalise or resurrect within a reasonable time – I would think one year is more than enough – then they have to liquidate the company. Liquidation triggers the claims on the deposit insurance scheme.”

She laments that the Central Bank was not making payments using the deposit insurance scheme, pointing out that, under the deposit insurance scheme, compensation claims were eligible to be paid since 2012, at which time, it covered deposits up to LKR 200,000, increased in 2017 to LKR 300,000 and in 2018 to LKR 600,000. She claims that 93% of the depositors of The Finance, for example, would get their full deposits plus interest, up to LKR 600,000 – if Central Bank liquidates the company and makes payments under the deposit insurance scheme.

“So why wait? After all the safety net mechanism is for the depositors. It is the obligation of the central bank to pay the depositors under the deposit insurance scheme. Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure brought by the 7% with larger deposits. The Central Bank is also worried that the 7% might bring some legal suit against the Central bank saying that there are investors who are interested. But surely we can have faith in our system of justice to show that it is being done in the interest of the majority.”

According to Moonesinghe, most depositors are not aware of their rights.  “If they were aware that they would get their full deposit plus interest under the deposit insurance scheme they will definitely opt. Who wouldn’t opt for it? But they’re not informed of this. Instead, investor proposals are being sold to them by the Central Bank and the institutions. That is because institutions don’t want liquidation at any cost. It will expose a can of worms. When you present a liquidation request to the court, you have to state exactly what happened. Many of these institutions are full of fraudulent practices. All that will get exposed. Therefore, depositors are never informed. Up to date, I haven’t seen any depositor demanding that they are paid under the deposit insurance. They do not know how it functions and what their rights are.”

Market implications no excuse

She claimed that while Central Bank might be worried about market implications, its actions and non-actions were hurting the public greatly. “The investing public, especially foreigners, would think that this is the norm in Sri Lankan financial system – to have highly insolvent financial institutions. When these institutions publish their balance sheets, everything is negative. There’s not a single qualifying statement by the central bank on those balance sheets and the publication claiming that these are under resolution. But if you read their annual reports, given to the shareholders, all the audit qualifications and such are there to be found. So the central bank is obviously worried about market implications. However, they cannot take refuge under that. They have to disclose. It is their obligation to disclose the state of these financial institutions to the public.”

She thinks that investors would not rescue the failed financial institutions. “Nothing has materialised for so long. They were intoxicated by all these investment proposals for over 10 years. None of them materialised. No bona fide investor seems to have come on the scene so far. One company, a very small company was handed over to an investor. I’m not sure whether even those depositors are better off with that investor rather than with the deposit insurance. There is no information available about resolution actions. Neither the Central Bank nor the institutions have disclosed anything.”

Moonesinghe is attempting in her personal capacity to solve these issues, trying to educate the depositors and the public about what is happening and what needs to be done. And even the financial regulators themselves, including the incumbent Central Bank governor and the Monetary Board. “Some of the board members are new. They inherited all this trouble. It’s not their problem at all. All this action should have been taken much earlier by the previous regimes. I think the incumbent governor is aware, but perhaps he is under pressure by the 7% – I don’t know. They’re very strong.”

She stressed accountability from Central Bank at the parting. “I’m quite confident that the on-site examinations produced very good examination reports about what would happen. They were not heeded. That’s why I say there should be accountability. The institution that presides over the financial system must be held accountable.”

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Advancing Construction Industry  NCASL

Advancing Construction Industry NCASL

The National Construction Association of Sri Lanka (NCASL) an – organisation dedicated to advancing the interests of Sri Lankan construction companies and construction industry counts, at present, over 30 large companies and over 3,500 small to medium companies among its members. It is affiliated globally to the International Federation of Asian and Western Pacific Contractors’ Associations (IFAWPCA).

Foreign competitors

Liyanarachchi claims that local construction firms face heavy competition from their foreign counterparts, especially in the field of large-scale government projects.

“Small to medium construction contractors have limits placed on what they can take up provincially – between LKR 5 and LKR 50 million – due to a Finance Ministry circular. But foreign companies face no such restrictions. Earlier, private sector constructions like Odel, Havlock City and Cargills Food City were handled by top local contractors. Now, there is a trend for private sector clients to prefer the lowest bidder. Foreign companies also include clauses claiming they do not need advance payments for the project. Local firms cannot compete in this scenario. They are left competing for what is left over – work from state departments and such.”

He thinks that the government should be protecting, especially small and medium-scale builders. He also expresses concern about the influx of foreign labour.

“When construction workers are imported to Sri Lanka, local workers have to compete with the foreigners for jobs. Who will take care of our plumbers, masons and draughtsmen? Two years ago, we had 16,000 such people working for NCASL. I plan to discuss this issue with the President, the Prime Minister, the political hierarchy and the rest of the state sector.”

Government help

OSL-THE Investment Magazine noted that the Road Development Authority and Water Board, at present, have a scheme under which tenders are divided among contractors. Would it not be advantageous to NCASL members if other government organisations also had such schemes? Liyanarachchi replied that while there are such schemes, regulations often prevent large projects being divided this way. “For example, in Southern Provincial council, quotations can be called for work up to LKR 10 million, during times of natural disasters. I don’t know of occasions on which higher bids can be called for without tenders.” He also claimed that taking up such projects are often risky. “The Jaffna airstrip is one project that is divided among contractors. No banks have come forward yet but some large scale local construction companies are trying to do those projects, in the hope that World Bank funds will come in the future. It is a big risk with the current economic situation of the country. Our companies will work if they are foreign-funded projects. But with locally funded projects, I don’t think they would get involved. Even banks are giving up on those.”

What if the government was to assess construction demand for the foreseeable future and divide the demand among construction companies? Since it would reduce costs, there would not be need of a high profit margin as well. “It is a good idea but the government must involve us in the discussions, and ask us if we can do those projects” he responds. “I’m trying my best to bring these issues to the attention of those in power.”

Trishaws and labour

Liyanarachchi explained that lack of skilled labour was another issue threatening the construction industry. “There are 1.8 million trishaw [tuk tuk] drivers under 25 years and 1.5 million trishaws in Sri Lanka. Many young people prefer driving trishaws to construction work. We do a lot of advertising for our training programmes. We give a uniform, tool kit and LKR 30,000 a month to a trainee craftsman. A plumber can easily earn LKR 3,000 – a lot more than a trishaw driver. But we alone cannot get people off trishaws. We requested the government to put an age limit on trishaw drivers as a budget proposal. We requested both this government and the last but it didn’t happen. If it happens, then young people will look for other work opportunities. We are also trying to get more women to come to the industry. At present, only 28% of women in Sri Lanka are active in the labour force, and the Prime Minister wants to see it increased to 65% – an excellent idea.”

When asked about whether too much construction was going on in Colombo and too little outside, Liyanarachchi agreed but explained that most government construction going on in Colombo is due to the upgrading of the city drainage system by the Ministry of Megapolis and the Urban Development Authority.

“Colombo is lowland. If it were to rain for an hour, Colombo would be flooded. The drainage system is not up to quality. That is why the Ministry of Megapolis is doing these projects. Once they are finished, the government constructions going on would be minimal. The private sector constructions would of course go on. There are large scale constructions happening outside Colombo and a lot of money has been allocated by the budget. For example, a conference hall that can seat 2,000 people in Galle is being built in Galle.”

Joint venture investors

What could NCASL offer foreign investors? “According to Construction Industry Development Authority Act (CIDA), foreign investors cannot invest 100% in construction projects. What they can do is to engage in joint ventures and invest 49%. I like joint ventures very much. They are beneficial to both the local company and the foreign investors. We can offer advice and information about construction in Sri Lanka to such investors through Advanced Construction Training Academy (ACTA).”

Liyanarachchi stresses that he would do his utmost to protect and advance the interest of the industry as the chairman of NCASL. “We have a responsibility to protect Sri Lankan construction professionals, especially the small to medium companies. I will be speaking and negotiating on their behalf.”

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Cutting Edge  Research at GJRTI

Cutting Edge Research at GJRTI

Sri Lankan research institute fulfilling multiple roles in research and training

Among myriads of vernacular names given to Sri Lanka, “Ratnadeepa” stands alone. Ratnadeepa, meaning the “land of gems”. identifies Sri Lanka’s specific niche. Earliest travellers such as Marco Polo listed the treasures available here – topazes and sapphires to name a few.  Sri Lanka’s earliest links with the seafarers have much to do with gemstones, the rarest and the most exquisite. The travellers from across the world were interested in this particular aspect. They noticed the benefit of the stones, long before us.

Inbound tourists are greeted by quite a few jewellery outlets at the Bandaranaike International Airport. Priced well above the common man’s means, jewels have a story of their own.

That story begins at the Gems and Jewellery Research and Training Institute (GJRTI). Established in 1995, under Section 25 (1) of the National Gem and Jewellery Authority Act, the institute is currently authorised to providing research and training services for the promotion and sustainable development.

“This is the only institute,” says Dr Prashan Francis, Director General of the Institute, “involved in training and research activities relating to gem minerals. In our institute, there are two areas, one of which is training people relating to the gem and jewellery industry, and the other is research.”

Dr Francis read geological and earth sciences for his Bachelor’s degree and subsequently gem minerals for his Master’s, both at the University of Peradeniya. He went on to explore mineralogy for his PhD at the University of Moratuwa. He researched on integrated petroleum geology as a post-doctoral Master’s at the University of Alberta. Dr Francis also owns a few patents, relating to petroleum.

Research functions

The key functions of the institute include exploration, colour enhancement of gems and innovation.

“Within the research area,” says Dr Francis, “we have three divisions. One division, called Mapping, maps probable gemming area. We cannot do much in terms of gem extraction. We follow the normal old method. Recently the President approved backhoe mining. I do not like that idea much, as it will naturally disturb the entire area. Such a process will always be harmful to the environment.”

Another division, Value Addition, is mainly involved in adding value to low-quality gem materials.

“We invented a very good method for value addition to gems, called epitaxial intergrowth, which can be used to enhance the value of a number of inferior-quality materials. It involves growing a thin layer which can withstand day-to-day activities.”

The most interesting division is Innovative Research.

“In innovative research we use some of the properties of gems. For example, gems have some piezo-electric properties, pyro-electric properties, ferro-electric properties, anti-bacterial properties and a lot of other properties. Actually these properties have not been tapped, not just in Sri Lanka, but in other countries as well. In our innovation division we have used some of these properties.”

The material used in this research is inferior-quality material, collected from gem miners, who discard it. Whereas gems are bought and sold by weight in carats, these low-quality gems are bought and sold by the kilograms, a kilogram being valued at between LKR 1,000 and LKR 3,000. Some people call these inferior-quality gems “Benz cut”, because some of the gems have a flaw shaped like the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star.

Filters

“We get this material,” explains Dr Francis, “we powder it and then we use it in a number of applications.”

Very recently, the GJRTI developed a water filter, capable of trapping heavy elements, such as Cadmium, Arsenic, Mercury and Thallium. This is very useful for areas which have problems with CKDu (chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology), which many doctors say is caused by abnormal concentrations of heavy elements in drinking water.

“The filter is capable of both adsorption and desorption, so once you use it for 2-3 months, you can put the filter cartridge in a solution of vinegar, which will remove these heavy elements, and you can reuse the cartridge as a totally new product.”

The GJRTI sold this patent to a Sri Lankan-owned Japanese company, who produce it now. The company makes the filter housing and empty cartridge in Japan, and send them to Sri Lanka, where they fill the cartridge with locally-sourced gem filtration media.

It also mixed the gem powder with natural rubber latex and made shoe inner soles, ankle bands, rapid-healing bandages.

The most novel product is the orthopaedic mattress which is impregnated with gem powder. Since most people spend up to eight hours lying on a mattress, its healing properties have time to take effect. The gem powder emits heat, so its is like heat therapy. They also emit negative ions. They also have anti-bacterial properties, they kill germs. We have tested it a number of times. So it has a very soothing effect.”

Odour-less intimates

Another novel product is odour-less intimate garments. It is a hot topic in most countries, but it may be produced for a very small sum. The other feature of these garments is that they cut down on ultra violet (UV) radiation, so can be used as swimwear, for wearing in bright sunlight.

“We can impregnate the layer of gem material to the yarn, but what we do at present is to screen-print the gem material onto the fabric. We apply 30% by weight of gem powder to the silicone-based screen printing ink. If we add more, there will be no stretching property, so we cannot use it for intimate garments.”

Gem powder has a very good catalytic action. Some of the researchers have been carrying out research on catalytic converters for vehicles, to cut down on exhaust emissions – which can be a headache, especially in countries such as India and China.

“Gem powders can withstand high temperatures, so if they are used for vehicles, there is no trouble with heat, so their action is continuous because their catalytic action cannot be harmed.”

The GJRTI has taken out three patents, and intends, very soon, to apply for patents the odourless garments and the orthopaedic mattress.

 

Commercialising

“We have commercialised one product,” says Dr Francis, “but there are two more that we need to commercialise. For these we need investors. The investment required is actually not that great. For example, odour-less intimate garments may be marketed easily. If a good company wants to invest in Sri Lanka, we can sell them our patents.”

Although not directly liaising with the ground level industry, the Institute headed by Dr Francis serves as a co-ordinator to enhance productivity in the gem industry.

“Once a Pakistani group came and worked with us, because they do not have this kind of research capability. They do not do this research even in the USA.”

A number of universities as well as the Industrial Technological Institute work with GJRTI to train the future gem employees.

“Anyone interested in training can join us. We train senior citizens and people with disabilities. Once they complete the training, we introduce them to certain companies. The companies, on the other hand, are willing to hire them. We have also conducted workshops, published books and papers related to the subject. We have so far provided training to war victims and widows,” Dr Francis offers a brief introduction.

 

Commercialising

“We have commercialised one product,” says Dr Francis, “but there are two more that we need to commercialise. For these we need investors. The investment required is actually not that great. For example, odour-less intimate garments may be marketed easily. If a good company wants to invest in Sri Lanka, we can sell them our patents.”

Although not directly liaising with the ground level industry, the Institute headed by Dr Francis serves as a co-ordinator to enhance productivity in the gem industry.

“Once a Pakistani group came and worked with us, because they do not have this kind of research capability. They do not do this research even in the USA.”

A number of universities as well as the Industrial Technological Institute work with GJRTI to train the future gem employees.

“Anyone interested in training can join us. We train senior citizens and people with disabilities. Once they complete the training, we introduce them to certain companies. The companies, on the other hand, are willing to hire them. We have also conducted workshops, published books and papers related to the subject. We have so far provided training to war victims and widows,” Dr Francis offers a brief introduction.

 

Training

The training is provided in six areas: gem cutting, manufacturing of jewellery, gemmology (including diamonds), jewellery design, colour enhancement of gems, allied areas of gem and the jewellery industry. Once the training is complete, the GJRTI requests the banks to provide loans to promote self-sufficient employment schemes in the gem and jewellery industry.

“In Jaffna alone we trained about 40 war victims. We also train the people already employed in the trade. They can approach us for further training. That will improve their work role.”

In addition to this mode of human resource development, the GJRTI is also letting sophisticated technology in. The 3D printing system, automatic panel cutting machines and nano-milling machines are among them. The machines are not fully automated, and require advanced human training for proper function and efficient results. Nano technology, though still gaining grounds, takes the traditional gem-cutting into a micro level. With the soon-to-be-purchased nano milling machine, the institute looks forward to engaging in more nano-related research.

The tradition has it that the bigger the gem, the higher its value will be. Dr Francis notes every gem has a market value. Not all the gems milled made their way into the auction. Now, with enhanced research, the gems are available in bulk form.

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