Singer (Sri Lanka) is a key player in the local manufacturing segment with a legacy of more than 6 decades. Singer claims the honors for introducing the world-renowned Singer sewing machines back in 1960s in their own factory at Ratmalana. Since then, Singer has gone from strength to strength in the local manufacturing segment with major introductions such as refrigerators, washing machines, domestic appliances, furniture, agro products and several light engineering products.
Now the retail giant has set sights on local manufacturing expansion having identified its potential to grow further and contribute to the domestic economy. Following are excerpts of an interview conducted with few dignitaries at Singer (Sri Lanka), who discussed about Singer’s local manufacturing strength and what it bestows for the country.
Q. We all are in the midst of a severe economic crisis, how has your company reacted to this situation?
Singer (Sri Lanka) Group CEO, Mahesh Wijewardene: Despite the economic uncertainties, we have taken proactive measures to ensure smooth flow of our business operations. For that, we have ensured that adequate raw material are available to continue our businesses. We have streamlined company operations by installing a new ERP system and also introduced a new corporate value system for the betterment of our employees. Apart from that, local manufacturing has been one of our key strengths and we are planning to further expand manufacturing and incorporate new products and innovations from small businesses and local manufacturers to strengthen our product range.
Q. Local manufacturing has the potential to address unemployment opportunities. Can you elaborate on this?
Mr. Mahesh Wijewardene: We all are aware that the economic crisis has affected almost every industry resulting in job losses and economic hardships. Encouraging local manufacturing can be identified as one of the most reliable ways to tackle the current situation as it creates job opportunities. Hence, it is vital to strengthen local manufacturing through investments and extend support for small businesses and local suppliers. Singer, being one of the largest retail networks, over 10,000 families depend from our organization. We already provide thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities while many local suppliers and manufacturers have joined hands with us to expand the footprint of locally produced goods.
Q. You are overlooking the Refrigerator and Washing machine manufacturing section at Singer (Sri Lanka) Can you elaborate on the key highlights in your manufacturing process so far?
Mr. Kelum Kospelawatta: Singer (Sri Lanka) is a leading manufacturer of refrigerators and washing machines and we already cater to 45% of the country’s refrigerator demand and 33% of the washing machine demand. Singer and Sisil are two of the most popular brand names in terms of refrigerators and washing machines. Our Regnis manufacturing facility deploys cutting-edge technology in its manufacturing process and we are blessed with a strong R&D unit for product development and innovations. Another major highlight of our refrigerator manufacturing process is that we became the first company in south Asia to introduce CFC free refrigerators and we are fully committed to manufacture 100% eco-friendly products. We are proud to say that Sri Lankans have warmly embraced our products from very beginning and we have been able to produce more than one and a half million refrigerators up to now.
Q. Other than that, can you explain about Singer’s overall local manufacturing strengths?
Mr. Kelum Kospelawatta:: Singer Sri Lanka’s contribution to local manufacturing has not often been highlighted parallel to its wide product range and large retail network. But Singer is already a big player in the local manufacturing category with four currently operating manufacturing facilities that produce world-class refrigerators, washing machines sewing machines, agro equipment, furniture, etc. All our manufacturing facilities are fully equipped with latest machinery and equipment while we have deployed highly skilled and experienced technicians to streamline the manufacturing process. Our strong R&D units provide immense support with product innovations and recommendations to ensure a high quality product output, especially suited for local conditions. In addition, our collaborations with local manufacturers have enabled us to expand our product range and we continue to introduce new products to the local market.
Q. Can you describe your division’s contribution to local manufacturing and employment opportunities?
Mr. Aruna Kolambage: We at Singer Industries primarily manufacture Singer sewing machines with a state of the art manufacturing facility that provides employment for over 100 factory workers and over 150 service agents. Singer Industries also manufactures high quality sofas and domestic appliances. Our section directly liaises with local manufactures to obtain raw materials for the manufacturing process and all our products are assembled at the factory premises. We are already contributing to the national workforce, and further local manufacturing expansions will create more job opportunities.
Q. Can you recall the support given by Singer for local manufacturers, small businesses and those who are self-employed?
Kelum Kospelawatta: Those who work with Singer including local manufacturers and self-employed people are assured of a reliable income and business continuity when working with a premier retail network like Singer. We also provide training facilities for them to develop their businesses and ensure high standards in their product or service delivery. Working closely with them, Singer team constantly provides guidance and technical assistance required for their businesses. Through these initiatives, Singer has contributed to create a skilled workforce, and we are proud to say that several local suppliers who work with us have established their own businesses. If we can expand our local manufacturing, Singer will contribute more to the national workforce in the coming years.
Q. Small businesses and local manufacturers are key to the supply chain at your section. Can you describe in brief about their contribution?
Mr. Sujeewa Perera: Singer Sri Lanka’s Piliyandala Factory complex is mandated with domestic furniture, domestic & industrial water pumps manufacturing. Currently, we work with around 125 local suppliers who supply raw materials such as treated wood for furniture manufacturing and metal and other components for water pumps manufacturing. Some of these suppliers have well established businesses, while some other are at early stages in their businesses. With our consistency in production capacity and market penetration, there is always an opportunity for them to continue their businesses with us and develop a sustainable business model.
Q. Local manufacturing is identified as the way forward at present. Any future plans in terms of local manufacturing expansions?
Mr. Sujeewa Perera: Yes! Indeed. We are of the view that strengthening local manufacturing is the way forward and we are currently discussing to increase our production and innovate new products to the market. If we can innovate new products by identifying both local and global market gaps, we can also attract export market opportunities, which is the need of the hour. The contribution we can make to the economy through local manufacturing is huge and we need to grab any opportunity coming our way with both hands.