Transforming tenacity & resilience into opportunity

Powerful message at SLASA AGM aimed at rebuilding industry for 2025 target of USD 8 Bn
Build on relationships, emphasize on service & adaptability, become preferred destination
Colombo Sri Lanka 19 th October 2022: The Sri Lanka Apparel Sourcing Association held its 25th
Annual General Meeting recently under the aegis of the Charge d’Affaires of the EU Thorston
Bargfrede for the post-business session. Wilhelm Elias was re-elected Chairman, while the Vice
Chairmen elected were Shweta Dhir and Azmina Kareem, Treasurer Denver Jayasundara and
Secretary Gayan Galapitige as office bearers for the year 2022/23. Gopal K Iyer was appointed
Secretary General for the Association.
One of the most powerful messages emerging from Chief Guest Bargfrede, Chairman Wilhelm
Elias and the Vice Chairmen Azmina Kareem and Shweta Dhir, was that while the apparel
industry had shown extraordinary tenacity and resilience through COVID and the economic
crisis well evidenced by the good export results Sri Lanka was showcasing in 2022, there was a
need to transform and that too with urgency.
Commending SLASA members for demonstrating the maturity of the industry and emerging
stronger and more vibrant post the pandemic, Elias described the rapid transformation seen
within the industry during the economic crisis as truly remarkable. “We adapted to new ways of
doing business while also keeping the country’s needs a priority. There was no rule book to
work on but business leaders demonstrated how the industry was flexible and quick to adapt
while reaffirming Sri Lanka’s reputation of being a safe pair of hands.”
He added that in the next half of 2022, external forces are emerging, prompting a drop in
numbers with galloping inflation west, customers being over-stocked and disposable income

reducing. Elias said competitor countries will hard to keep business they gain from Sri Lanka
even temporarily and hence, the industry must ensure that buyers are given good reason to
move back to Sri Lanka. “In the larger picture, all apparel manufacturing countries are seeing
an organic decline in business levels and we need to be conscious of reducing prices.”
Vice Chairman Azmina Kareem had similar sentiments, augmenting Elias’ message that the
industry needs to focus on opportunity. “Firstly, it’s about service and adaptability,” she
explained. “Customer expectations are moving beyond to an end to end service model and
suppliers are being empowered to do more for brands which is the bigger expectation of the
brands. The traditional buyer-supplier relationship is diminishing.” She also emphasized a
rebranding for Sri Lanka as a trading destination, taking advantage of the short transit times
and cost competitiveness
Vice Chairman Shweta Dhir detailed a three-pronged approach. “Fabric sourcing needs to be
diversified; we must hedge our risks with a healthy mix of near shore and indigenous fabric
sourcing, focusing on aesthetics together with innovation. And the conscious consumer is here
to stay which, with Sri Lanka being far ahead in terms sustainability initiatives, we can be the
first port of call for many labels who plan to become transparent and responsible. Thirdly, we
must showcase our product strengths, creating showrooms with shipped products constantly
re-quipped with newness and market intelligence to buyers – sufficient with just sketch, swatch
and digital representations.”
To meet the industry target of USD 8 billion by 2025 and determined to rally the troops, Elias
stressed the need for relationship building which will come under stress in the months to come.
“We are not the most cost-effective country, but we must transform our renowned resilience
and tenacity into opportunity by building on our strengths and re-thinking our strategy, keeping
that foundation of relationship building strong.”

SLASA Ex-Co for 2022/23
Seated:  Anil Wettewe (Past Chairman), Gopal K Iyer (Secretary General), Shweta Dhir (Vice
Chairman),  Wilhelm Elias (Chairman), Azmina Kareem (Vice Chairman), Gayan Galapitige
(Secretary), Denver Jayasundara (Hon. Treasurer)  
Standing: Ex-Co Members Padmal Silva, Angie Dep, Yasmi Bari, Manjula Bahlendran
Chairman of SLASA Wilhelm Elias speaks to the membership at the AGM
Chief Guest at the SLASA AGM Charge d’Affaires of the EU Thorston Bargfrede

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