The Sri Lankan IT/BPM Industry Got Branded. What Does That Mean?

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Walking across the duty-free section at the airport, it’s hard to miss the iconic logo of Ceylon Tea, which is proudly displayed at the countless shops selling tea to departing tourists. This logo is a symbol that promises a good cup of tea. Now, the Export Development Board (EDB) wants to see if IT/BPO sector could benefit from a similar brand.

Thus, the EDB recently revealed a brand for the Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry. With a logo and the tagline, “Island of Ingenuity” the EDB aims for this brand to make a promise. A promise that Sri Lankan IT companies can deliver top quality solutions on a global scale. And help the industry hit its target of achieving $5 billion in exports.

The first step is identifying the key message

It’s not hard to see that the world is changing. Rockets launching cars into space, the rise (and fall) of cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence creeping into our lives, and so much more. It’s obvious that technology is revolutionizing our world.

“Then the question became how do we become a part of it and what makes us unique?” describes Ruchi Gunewardene – Founder of STING Consultants. Finding the answer to this one question was the first step to building the brand for the Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry. To answer this question, they began looking at Sri Lanka and found it was already a knowledge hub.

The Island of Ingenuity isn't solely for the Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry
The Island of Ingenuity isn’t solely for the IT/BPM industry

Ruchi defined a few qualities of this knowledge hub as having a relatively high standard of living, entrepreneurial spirit, a culture of engineering, etc. This is the base that has enabled the growth of some successful companies in Sri Lanka. Yet, many of the companies in the Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry are relatively unknown despite doing great things with leading global brands.

Yet, Ruchi admitted that these companies are only one of the many stakeholders in this industry. So when they looked at all the stakeholders they found two things that made the Sri Lankan IT/BPM sector unique. These factors are:

  • We’re small but we make a big impact. Our companies produce complex solutions with involvement from senior management
  • Our capacity for innovation. To succeed we understand that sometimes things must be done differently.

Looking at these factors, it was decided that the brand should show that Sri Lankans are agile, can solve complex problems, and offer complex solutions to them if needed. This was summarized in one word as ingenuity.  Thus, the term, “Island of Ingenuity” was born. This is the slogan for the Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry.

Yet, it’s not merely for the IT/BPM industry. Ruchi shared that, “Knowledge solutions is key because its core product offering is to go beyond IT/BPM and capture architecture, legal, and other industries that use knowledge to create solutions.”

How a message was transformed into a brand

Once the message was identified, it was time to bring the brand to life visually. This process began by first identifying the personality traits of the brand.

Lulu Raghavan – Managing Director of Landor Mumbai shared that being in sync with the message, “Island of Ingenuity,” the brand was to be defined by three personality traits. These three traits are:

  • A small industry but one that dares to think big
  • Our companies are creative and flexible
  • When interacting with clients we are warm, friendly, and hospitable

Once the personality traits were identified, the next step was to clearly define its goals.

Lulu described the goal of the brand saying, “Today companies around the world are unaware of the talent base Sri Lanka has. They perhaps think of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. Not one for doing high-tech business and perhaps there is also some fear of poor quality. But what we want to do is to shift perceptions to help them understand and believe in Sri Lanka’s strengths and advantages that all of the companies collectively provide.

Finally, it was important to identify who the brand wanted to share its message with. It was identified that the primary target audience would be C-suite executives (CEO’s, CFO’s, CMO’s, etc.) of global companies. The other target audiences were the Sri Lankan companies, local policymakers, and the workforce of the industry.

The aim of the Island of Ingenuity. Sri Lankan IT/BPM Industry
The aim of the Island of Ingenuity

With the personality, goals, and target audience of the brand identified, it was now possible to begin visualizing the brand. Lulu shared the first example of the brand’s visualization by pointing to the backdrop, which consisted of 1’s and 0’s over an orange background.

Inspired by a binary code, the logo translates to Island of Ingenuity in the form of 101 aka IOI. To complement this logo, a bold and contemporary typography was selected. Putting these together, the brand currently has applications for print magazines, billboards, trade shows, conferences, and digital platforms.

Ultimately, all this working together aims to position Sri Lanka, “as the partner to undoubtedly to do business with,” said Lulu.

So what’s next? That depends on the industry itself

The Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry now has a nice brand. But how exactly are we planning on using it to promote Sri Lanka? Speaking at the launch, Saman Maldeni – Director of Export Services at the EDB shed some light on the immediate plans to promote the IT/BPM industry with this new brand.

Kicking things off will be a website (that’s yet to be launched at the time of writing), which will have a series of case studies showcasing the industry. This website will be part of a digital marketing strategy and rollout, which has yet to be finalized. Alongside digital efforts, they’re also exploring efforts to promote the brand through print media.

Saman also shared that they’ve selected Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the EU, India, the Middle East, the US, and Canada as the initial target markets for this brand. As such, they’ll be looking at partnerships with hiring consulting firms in these countries to promote it through the media and trade shows. Additionally, the EDB also hopes to work with the Sri Lankan diaspora in these countries to have them act as ambassadors of the industry.

What the Island of Ingenuity needs to succeed
What the Island of Ingenuity needs to succeed

But prior to all of these efforts, the brand guidelines have to be released to the companies. Saman shared this will not be just for the large companies and SME’s in the industry, but also for companies outside Colombo. This is because, over the past few years, they’ve identified that there is a growing local IT industry in Jaffna, Kandy, and Kurunegala.

Ultimately, whether these efforts succeed or fail depends largely on the industry. Saman admitted that “We need the private sector support and participation in these programs. It’s as simple as that. If there’s no participation, then there’s no implementation.”

And much of that responsibility lies with the giants of the industry with a global presence such as Virtusa, MilleniumIT, Sysco Labs, etc. For if they choose to ignore the brand in their global promotions, then the “Island of Ingenuity” would lose its biggest champions that give it credibility.

And that in turn, would mean that smaller companies in the Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry would gain nothing. But if the opposite were to happen, then it would give these smaller companies a slight edge. This would be by giving them a better first impression when they choose to go global.

The big question for the Sri Lankan IT/BOM sector
The big question

Yet, it’s important to remember that the key reason why the giants of industry can give credibility to “Island of Ingenuity” brand in the first place. This key reason is that they can always provide whatever the client wants. In other words, if the Sri Lankan IT/BPM industry wants its brand to have power, then it must maintain its standards.

To quote Ruchi Gunewardene, “We need to recognize and nurture talent on one hand and on the other hand we should be looking at increasing our research and development initiatives. These two are absolutely key to providing solutions and provide credibility to the brand. This is what will make the brand a sustainable living thing and not just an advertising slogan that is relegated to a fancy website.

So are we going to see billboards at the airport by IT companies with the tagline “Island of Ingenuity” greeting the travelers that walk through Bandaranayke International Airport? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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