The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is an annual conference organized by the State Department of the United States. Held for the 8th consecutive year, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit or simply GES was held from the 28-30th of November 2017 in Hyderabad, India. The key highlight here was that several Sri Lankan entrepreneurs were selected by the U.S. Embassy in Colombo to represent Sri Lanka at this conference.
With the Conference completed, the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, together with the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka organized a knowledge sharing event with these same Sri Lankan delegates. Held on the 14th of December 2017 at The American Center, Colombo 03, the lessons learned and knowledge sharing on the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 had a number of panel discussions based on sessions that took place at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 itself with local delegates sharing their views.
The theme revolved around empowering women and bringing prosperity to all. in terms of the topics, a wide area was covered ranging from women’s entrepreneurial leadership to e-commerce as a critical tool in scaling entrepreneurship to effectively using traditional and social media.
The first video consisted of the following panelists:
Following the video, we had a live panel discussion. First up, Rohanthi Wijewickrama, CEO – Quebee Den shared that her husband was supportive in helping her get to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. She explained that it is important for men to understand their role in supporting women. They need to understand their goals and needs and support them. And for the women, she says “You just got to do it”.
Following Rohanthi’s views, we had Rezani Aziz, CEO – AdFactors PR adding that our support system for women is not cohesive. As an example, she explained that India has identified that women will help significantly increase the countries’ GDP. They are also significantly more advanced.
Empowering women entrepreneurs should be a national need, Rezani added. We have 15.6 million who are the working age. Of these, 8.5 million are females of which 65% are economically inactive. In order for any country to grow, they have to be encouraged to generate income, not only for their families but also for the country as a whole.
Rohanthi added to this that the reason she started Quebee was that she wanted her child to have nutritional food. Rezani shared that the entrepreneurial ecosystem isn’t developed enough to bring women into businesses. There is a mindset that needs to develop to show that entrepreneurship is something that can be done.
Rohanthi added to this that she overcame a challenge in building the brand by targeting the parents. They were looking at doing things to get their brand across. She also faced challenges when getting loans and convincing fathers compared to mothers. Culture too was a challenge. Generally, Manufacturing is a man’s world but now it’s becoming a woman’s world as well.
Rezani added to this saying that women face many challenges to obtain Capital. She shared that the opinion of banks is that women do not bring them confidence. Ruwanthi expanded on this saying there are other options to finance.
A member of the audience shared that it might be better to get some experience and earn some money by working somewhere before launching their companies rather than seeking loans. Rezani agreed with the point and reiterated that if banks are giving loans to men they should do the same for women as well.
Following the first video and accompanying panel discussion, we had the second video and accompanying panel discussion as well.
The panelists here were Lahiru Pathmalal, CEO – Takas, and Dhanika Perera, CEO – Bhasha Lanka. Lahiru was a GES Delegate for 2017 and Dhanika was a delegate for GES 2013. Lahiru kicked things off by stating that says starting a company means taking the good with the bad. He shared that at GES 2017, he felt insignificant. “We aren’t cool. We aren’t great, to be honest,”, Lahiru added. He also said that they want people to spend more and what happens when the country develops.
Lahiru explained that e-Commerce essentially creates a level playing field. Even if you’re not a technological person, you can do e-Commerce. The reality is you can build these incredible businesses using technology and get the products out there. He added that we need global brands coming out.
Dhanika shared that e-Commerce is one of his big passions. What he noticed was that the challenge the local e-commerce industry faced with technology was payment and logistics. Of these, he felt that payments were the biggest challenge.
The reasons behind this were that if you have an e-commerce platform to sell products online, you would need a method to accept payments. If one were to go to a bank they’ll ask you to show big numbers. This essentially puts a dent in your plan and you drop the idea completely. Dhanika felt that as a techie, he could build a better solution.
The final video and accompanying panel discussion for the lessons learned and knowledge sharing of Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 was certainly an interesting one.
This panel consisted of Lahiru Pathmalal and Rezani Aziz. Lahiru shared that in e-Commerce there’s a false perception that if its cheap enough, people would pay for it. This is false, Lahiru emphasized. You have to sell your product. He also added that social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter are quite useful to engage with your customer.
Rezani shared that you need to share your story of your brand. Rather than hiring an ad agency and paying them to create your story, you’re better off using social media or even more traditional media methods for this.
The narrative is powerful, Lahiru said. He added that when you’re trying to sell something to a consumer, it’s important. For the consumer, it’s not important since they’re mass market. The story of a business is solving a problem of getting products to people. Lahiru added that different businesses are built differently. In conclusion, Lahiru emphasized that if you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a new business, you should definitely look at all the ways you can reach the consumers.
With that, the lessons learned and knowledge sharing session of Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 came to an end. If you would like to learn more about the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, you can do so by clicking here.
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