Q: In your assessment, what should the focus of the government be in terms of uplifting growth pro- spects?
A: The national budget for 2021 empha- sises the need for developing potential export industries with a particular focus on local value added sectors such as tex- tiles, agriculture, dairy, livestock and fisheries as they have a greater socioeco- nomic impact.
In addition, we need to encourage investments – perhaps even by the pri- vate sector – in agriculture technology, particularly post-harvest technology such as cold stores. It is important to develop connectivity and a rapid trans-portation network for conveying these products.
Q: How can businesses weather the impact of the COVID-19 crisis?
A: Having a balanced and diversified portfolio has enabled Hayleys to withstand the impact of the pandemic effective- ly and control the situation wherever possible. Furthermore, it has enabled us to explore new opportuni- ties.
While the largest impact is observed in the leisure sector, certain segments such as hand protection have proactively responded to provide necessary solutions, thereby realis- ing their full potential.
The diversified nature of our investment portfolio has enabled Hayleys to remain profitable during many global uncertainties under different circumstances.
Q: Where do you stand on the growing debate regarding the pros and cons of work from home (WFH)?
A: Hayleys favours the WFH model wherever practically possible. What’s more, WFH is highly effective for certain industries such as IT and business process outsourcing (BPO).
The Hayleys group is predominately present in manufacturing industries and services that require one’s physical pres- ence – such as construction, transporta- tion and logistics. Therefore, we have endeavoured to utilise WFH with well- defined key performance indicators (KPIs).
In the Sri Lankan context, we believe that a balanced approach is required.
Q: How would you assess prospects for the world economy going for- ward?
A: The widespread availability of a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 will be the key to normalisation. We believe that a V-shaped recovery in the world economy can be expected. Despite the initial setbacks, the recovery of the world economy is on track. Most countries have learnt to live with the virus. Moreover, the ‘fear factor’ will disappear with the availability of vaccines. Therefore, with a lower number of patients, it will be easier for the healthcare
authorities to respond more swiftly.
The injection of liquidity by central banks and a low- interest rate environment globally are expected to drive consumption and investment expenditure. In addition, we expect a gradual recovery of global trade, as well as the leisure and tourism segments.
Overall, we believe that the worst is certainly behind us.
Q: Would you agree that organisational perfor- mance and environmental sustainability should go hand in hand?
A: The impact on the environment from industrial activity is inevitable; therefore, we are continuously looking for ways of minimising this impact.
Indeed, the Hayleys group continuously invests in tech- nologies that minimise the usage of industrial water, and promote the conservation of energy and electricity, there- by improving our carbon footprint.
For example, most of our factories are now installed with rooftop solar PV systems to harness green energy. In fact, Hayleys adheres to sustainable business practices in all its industries because care for the environment and preserving natural resources are a part of our group’s culture.
Q: How do you view your group’s prospects in the future?
A: Our portfolio focusses on short, medium and long-term investments. Hayleys expects its traditional sectors to per- form well in the medium term until our long-term invest- ments gather momentum.
Traditional sectors such as hand protection, agriculture and purification have long-established and solid relation- ships in the international market. Moreover, Hayleys has inculcated a strong innovative culture, which aids those sectors to cope well with changing market dynamics and industry trends.
As a country that is strategically located in the Indian subcontinent and along a major trade route, we see a tremendous growth opportunity in the transportation and logistics sector.