Micros, SMEs to gain fresh focus with COSMI
Originally published in the Daily FT, Saturday, 19 October 2019

  • New organisation aims to revive and foster industrial sector by uplifting MSMEs
  • Claims successive governments have neglected micro, small and medium industries
  • COSMI is founded by industry experts and former members of chambers
  • Will assist in networking, knowledge transfer and finding markets

The Confederation of Micro, Small and Medium Industries (COSMI), a non-profit organisation aiming to revive and foster the industrial sector through the promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), was launched this week.

The organisation, which is founded by a group of industry experts and veterans of business chambers, aims to become the voice of industrial Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Sri Lanka and was recently incorporated, said COSMI Governing Council Chairman Macky Hashim at a news conference on Wednesday.

All founding members contribute on a voluntary basis and are united under a common vision and commitment to create a sustainable future for the Sri Lankan industrial sector, he added.

“Governments over the years have failed to recognise and uplift SME industries in Sri Lanka,” claimed Hashim, pointing out that about two million SMEs around the island had needed little support or guidance to compete in the ever-changing market space.

“We are here to facilitate, encourage and assist SMEs,” he said, noting that such an organisation was a long-felt need. To aid in this effort, COSMI has established an advisory panel which brings together a cross section of academics and professionals in different sectors.

COSMI’s founding President Nawaz Rajabdeen pointed out that the aim of the organisation was not to act as a chamber but to reach the grassroots level to assist micro-level industries and SMEs that, if handled right, would offer a solution to livelihood issues and alleviate unemployment. He stressed that to do so there also needed to be a special focus on promoting female entrepreneurship.

“Sri Lanka needs a clear industrial policy and directives to uplift micro enterprises and SMEs,” he asserted.

COSMI Governing Body Member Hui Min Dias Bandaranayake noted that the lack of support for the MSME sector in the North, North Central and Eastern provinces would make them a focus area for the organisation. The Central Province and some districts in the Southern Province have also been earmarked for attention.

Ayanthi Gurusinghe from the Board of Directors emphasised the need to afford access to digital platforms and the enhancement of skills to aid the micro industrial sector, especially where women entrepreneurship was concerned. She pointed out that with support, women could go beyond traditional barriers and contribute to the economy.

The experts pointed out that most micro level industries did not want to register as a business due to fears that they may be heavily taxed.

“This misconception needs to be addressed and micro- and medium-level industries should be given incentives to register with the Government,” Rajabdeen noted.

COSMI plans to promote MSMEs to register with the organisation to have access to a wide range of services, including market analysis, research and development, business feasibility studies, restructuring advice, networking, skills development, access to modern machinery and supply chain management techniques, among others.

One of COSMI’s directors Ramal Jayasinghe pointed out that in the MSME sector there was a lack of research and development which needed to be addressed. He also stressed the need to bring the SME sector within the value addition chain, which could boost exports.

“COSMI is ideally positioned to offer expertise and guidance to that effect,” he said.

With such advice, quality control would improve and industrialists would be able to market to more clients at better prices, while reducing production stages and cost and employing more individuals, the experts pointed out. COSMI plans to utilise regional and international alliances to provide opportunities and bridge the knowledge gaps of local MSMEs.