The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing recently welcomed a new President - Mr. Suranjith Swaris, Business & Marketing Consultant for Bellose Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Bluetown Real Estate and Ogabo Global Perfumery, and the Director of Care Belle International.
Following his appointment Mr. Swaris was kind enough to spare some time from his busy schedule to discuss his journey with SLIM and his plans for the institute’s future.
A product of SLIM himself, Mr. Swaris began his career in Sales and Marketing in 2002 with a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing at the very institute he now leads. Following his graduation, he joined SLIM as a member of the executive committee. During his tenure at SLIM, Mr. Swaris also received his MBA from Buckinghamshire New University and obtained the Certified Professional Marketer (CPM - Asia) status from the Asia Marketing Federation through SLIM.
During his rise up the proverbial ladder, Mr. Swaris was engaged in many projects by SLIM, including SLIM Deals – an added benefit for members, the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards and the SLIM Nielsen People’s Awards where he served as Project Chairman, and the Effies where he was a member of the organizing committee. Eventually, he was appointed as Treasurer in 2009/2010. After a brief two-year step back, Mr. Swaris re-joined SLIM as a member of the executive committee and continued to contribute to the marketing fraternity by leading national projects such as SLIM Gamata Marketing and SLIM NASCO as the Project Chairman. Subsequently he was appointed as Assistant Secretary, Secretary and Vice President in succession, and eventually received the honor of becoming the President of SLIM this year. Mr. Swaris is the longest serving executive committee member of SLIM, having been a member of the institute for a total of 12 years.
Mr. Swaris also contributes to the nation by representing SLIM in Government bodies such as the Export Development Board, by heading a number of technical committees. He was a member of the evaluation committee of the EDB’s Market Development Assistant (MDA) scheme, and was also a Think Tank member of the “Brand Sri Lanka” project in association with SLIM, the Universities of Kelaniya and Sri Jayewardenepura, and was a steering committee member of “Development of Brand Proposition for Sri Lankan Spices”.
He currently serves as a member of the evaluation committee of the EDB for the “Erambuma Credit Scheme”, an implementation by the National Budget Proposal 2018, which provides financial support for Business Start-ups.
When asked how it feels to be appointed the President of the national body of marketing in the country, Mr. Swaris replied, “It gives me great pride to be the President of such a renowned and well-respected institution, which contributes to the development of Sri Lankan economy through marketing. I’m especially happy to be the President who leads SLIM into its golden jubilee year as the 41st President of SLIM. Today, SLIM is a large and prestigious institution, our vision is to lead the nation’s effort towards the economic prosperity and our mission is to make Marketing as the driving force that enhances business and the national value. Thanks to the past Presidents, members of the executive committee, members, staff, stakeholders and all those who have and continue to work hard with dedication and passion to bring SLIM to the leading position it enjoys in the industry today. So being the head of the ‘alevikaranaye maha gedara’, as SLIM is known in Sinhala, brings me great pride, since I too am a product of SLIM”.
Detailing his plans for the curriculum of the institute, Mr. Swaris said, “We are driving the institute with a 5-year plan in order to constantly accelerate our contribution to the marketing fraternity in Sri Lanka. My Executive Committee, the CEO/ED, the staff and I continue to follow what we have set forth in our plan with a few revisions. For example, in the case of membership, we continue to provide professional environment for our members by executing evening forums, international speakers, panel discussions, conferences, seminars, workshop etc. As a new initiative, we started to publish two digital monthly newsletters called “SLIM Digest” and “Asian Marketer” to increase the visibility of SLIM operations to our members and as a means of value addition to their professional career by creating a platform of network with Asia. With regards to education, we currently have 14 products but we need to move further onto the online platform. In the current context the traditional classroom may not be favorable with Millennials and Gen Z. Thus, we are trying to include online programs and courses for students who would prefer to learn in an environment more convenient and preferable to them than typical classrooms, as our main focus. We have already developed an online portal for students to register themselves and gain memberships”.
Mr. Swaris went on to explain that there were also plans in motion to add another MBA, BSC and MSC to the portfolio of products in an effort to present the students who join SLIM with more opportunities to attain higher levels in their careers. The Certificate in Entrepreneurial Marketing (CEM) was recently introduced in order to support startups and SMEs by helping them improve the application marketing knowledge to develop their businesses.
At the moment SLIM’s corporate solutions are predominant in the Colombo region and its vicinity. Plans are in motion to expand SLIM’s reach to the North and East as well. The institute is also trying to introduce consultation services as well as an online training portal with modules for students to follow as well as to introduce the Corporate Management Development Program (CMDP) and study centers, which SLIM intends to franchise all across the island. The goal is to make Marketing a way of life across the entire country.
“When it comes to events, our key events are well-known throughout the country. We want to take these events to the region. We are currently looking for ways to get regional players interested in our events”, added the President.
Of his plans for the annual agenda of SLIM events, Mr. Swaris stated, “All SLIM events are homegrown events, except the Effies. As of the previous year, we are working to take the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards out to the region. We are working to introduce international Effie judges to the event as well as to support the local Effie winners to take part in the international event with more collaboration with Effie International. Last year we introduced SLIM Brand Week to the agenda of the SLIM Brand Excellence program, to add a knowledge sharing element to the process. Plans are to make it an event of its own in the future. We are focusing on developing the SMEs sector towards brand management as well as developing export branding by having more workshops island wide with the support of the Chambers and the EDB. Based on its objective of developing Sales as a profession, we have introduced the SLIM NASCO Gold Club to better develop those who win Gold at the NASCO Awards. The SLIM Nielsen Peoples’ Awards, saw an increase in the sample size last year, and will continue this year as well.
We’ve also re-introduced Gamata Marketing after a three-year lapse, and the project is currently being implemented in Matara for selected women entrepreneurs who are attached to the fishery industry with the collaboration of the University of Ruhuna and INDECOS. Marketing Roks is a program that is aimed at school students, with the goal of introducing the concept of Marketing to them at an early stage in a fun way. We also recently introduced the SLIM Digis in order to celebrate Sri Lanka’s best digital marketing work, innovation and talent, as well as recognizing the region’s growing influence in the global digital industry”.
“The theme is ‘Year of Transformation’. The reason is because at the 49 years of age SLIM can be considered as rather “old”, thus in order to keep up with the times and trends of the years to come, SLIM needs a “Transformation”. SLIM is in the process of the construction of a new SLIM home, the biggest project in SLIM history”, responded Mr. Swaris when questioned about SLIM’s annual theme for 2019.
According to the President, looking back over the years it is obvious that the world has changed immensely in comparison to how things were when SLIM first came into existence. It is essential therefore, as the national body of marketing, that SLIM keeps up with the ever-changing global trends. By implementing ‘transformation’ at SLIM, he hopes to transform the entire marketing fraternity of the country. Many initiatives have been made in this regard. The current plan is to launch the reforms and revamp on SLIM’s 50th anniversary.
“We recently made an open invitation to the entire marketing fraternity in order to increase the number of volunteers and contributors, who can be a part of the various teams, committees etc. Through this initiative we have received a very positive response. Our staff is our greatest asset. We continue to motivate and develop them to reach greater heights. Last year we organized an ‘idea challenge’ for our staff where we invited the members of our staff to present creative ideas on how to develop SLIM further. We are currently working on one of these ideas, which is to introduce D-SLIM – a digital face of SLIM. We hope such moves will sustain SLIM for the next 50 years”, concluded Mr. Swaris.