Suren Swaminathan, Chairman SLBC Dubai and Nothern Emirates
H. E. Mohamed Ali Musabbeh Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Mr Suren Swaminathan, Chairman SLBC Dubai and Nothern Emirates, exchanging gifts at their meeting in RAK Image Credit: Supplied

First let me give you an introduction to the Sri Lankan Business Council, which is licensed under the Dubai Chamber. We are one of the oldest business councils in Dubai having been established 28 years ago. Unfortunately, though the UAE has been one of Sri Lanka’s main trading partners for a very long time, we have not taken the opportunity to the next level, mainly due to our faults and constant political changes back home. We must seize the opportunity of EXPO 2020 Dubai and use it to achieve a quantum leap in our partnership with the UAE.

What are the key industries for Sri Lankan businesses in the UAE?

The key industries are IT solutions, cargo, tourism, bullion exchange, gems and jewellery, apparels and our other traditional trading items such as tea, coconut products and fresh fruit.

What steps have you taken to support Sri Lankan businesses during the pandemic?

The pandemic brought total disruption to global travel, job losses and more. The Sri Lankan Business Council with the Consulate and Embassy decided to provide food and take care of our fellow countrymen. We worked with community leaders and civic societies and successfully took care of every citizen of ours. We should be very thankful to H.E. The Ambassador, and the Hon. Consul General whose unwavering support made it possible for us to completely bring things under control. Long-term business leaders, Frico Cargo and Al Boghari group, were the backbone of the operation.

For the business people, we were able to organise webinars and also help in individual situations. We also participated in a campaign initiated by H.E. The Ambassador to recognise the frontline workers with Pure Ceylon Tea donations to show our appreciation.

How are you working to grow and develop business relationships between Sri Lanka and the UAE?

We have a long way to go. We have had very fruitful meetings with the RAK Chamber and Sharjah Chamber there is a lot of potential. Firstly, I think its high time Sri Lanka has its own trade office like the Malaysian and Indonesians. This has to be a one stop place and should be established by the Export Development Board (EDB). We are celebrating 73 years of Independence in Asia’s oldest democracy but nothing has changed. Unless there is radical change we will keep missing the boat. We need to look at Dubai and learn how to think outside the box in doing business.

We are seriously looking to have a country exhibition with Sharjah Expo but we are waiting for the quarantine rules to change in Sri Lanka so that business people can easily move back and forth.

How can businesses apply for membership of the SLBC?

Its easy and the details are on our website. I am also happy to say that we have quite a few female young entrepreneurs who have joined and that augurs well for the future.

To learn more, visit slbcdubai.com

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