Things have changed drastically in the commercial world over the past years. Customers’ attitudes, values, and perceptions tend to reflect a new perspective of evolution. Hence, business world’s innovations have become simplified, cost-effective, environment friendly, and at times disruptive! World’s leading brands are trying to come-out of being delighting the rich customers and they are closely watching what is happening in the emerging markets. It is just the fact of understanding that 80% of the world’s customers are from emerging and slum markets and this statistics matter a lot than the spending power. Let’s put it this way! If you are too bothered about 20% of customers who live in the developed world with high spending power; you are just losing 80% of customers who have little money and unique requirements. MNCs from India and China have best-understood this logic and they have been successful in creating new demands from the international markets in their industries simply by fulfilling the unique mass need of their customers. . What has made them greatly successful in the global market is that ‘they developed their products from home and took them global by upscaling the requirement standard. Despite the criticisms thrown at the BPO sector investments, if you look at carefully Indians are readily undergoing a unique economic revolution. Anand Gritharadas in an article ‘farewell to an India I hardly knew’ mentions that ‘they don’t crave for our mayonnaise anymore; they are working on their own’. Customers in the rest of the world appreciate their low cost formulas despite the perceptions that low quality is always associated with low cost and most importantly they respect the Indian identity.
So what sort of economic revolution that we as Tamils should be stepping forward to and what is the role of Tamil Diaspora to play? How the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka can be benefited from it? In my perspective, the Diaspora should be investing in the industrialization of our unique products (eg: Palmyra products, rice flour, Gingelly oil or sesame seed oil), hibiscus drink, and Cashew nuts from the East) in the homeland and should seek ways of taking them to the branded retail outlets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and MAS. This should be the initialization point of our own economic revolution. As I already mentioned; the world of customers has become so concerned about the aspects of sustainability, environmentfriendliness, and creativity in their purchasing process. In my understanding, handicraft products that are made from Palmyra look classy, low in cost, and highly environment friendly. Here I wish to point-out that cloths made from Bamboo are hot in demand in the current trend just because they are skin friendly, soft, and environment friendly. If this is the classic example of the current trend; there is no doubt that our Palmyra products can go far. Also not forgetting the hibiscus drink that has scores of health benefits and I am sure it can sell hot as green tea.
Further, I have seen rice flour packets in the Tamil and Indian shops in the UK with a label ‘From Jaffna’, which are actually imported from other countries. It only indicates that there is a demand for products from Jaffna. I think it would be highly noteworthy to mention about ‘Gingely oil’, which is scientifically proven to be good as olive oil. Not only the people in the western world but also those in the Arabian countries are merely addicted to olive oil due to the health and beauty related perceptions. However, Gingelly oil is not only proven to be equal to olive oil in a health related perspective but it tastes absolutely better than olive oil. Also the unique taste of Jaffna’s Karutha Kolumban mango is unbeatable and ‘Kathali’ banana is hardly seen in the international market. Herbal tea and healthy drinks are at their peak in the current health conscious trend. This can create a space in the market for the herbs that grow in the North & East of Sri Lanka. This indicates that there is a gap in the current international market to be filled by our products and to create an identity branding. The differentiation strategy relies on unique quality attributes such as taste, style, and health benefits. On the other hand, our challenges here are to create a strong awareness about these products and to formulate a clever supply chain strategy that should meet the political, geographical, economical, and psychological barriers.
However, this can only become possible through the strong commitment and coordination of the Diaspora members. The Tamil Diaspora should look at ways of building strong networks with the homeland relations in order to initiate industrialization there. In fact, this will be the best way to empower the war affected people in the post-war scenario as well. Quality assurance, cross-checking with the European or US standards, and final delivery are the key aspects of the supply chain and the channel authorities should negotiate with big retail brands to make these products available in their outlets. Although some of our products are already available in the foreign markets; what is currently lacking with our supply channel is that we are just limiting our products within our markets. What is further required is an additional effort, we should tailor the products to the best quality, and make them available in branded retails. We will have to rely on advertising and pull demand created by the supply chain authorities!
As I have already pinpointed, the current trend of customers’ perspectives and simplified nature of business innovations remain to be the positive signals for us that indicate we should be taking the steps immediately to be proactive in creating and satisfying demand in the international market.