The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), the apex Government body for Technology Startup Development in the country has been the catalyst in driving the startup ecosystem forward during the past decade. In its efforts to create a favorable environment for startups and contribute towards a startup-friendly government, ICTA in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers Sri Lanka (PwC) recently launched a survey study to accelerate tech startup ecosystem ‘Towards a Startup Friendly Government’ – a comprehensive report which focuses on the impediments faced by startups and enablers in Sri Lanka. The study also recommends respective remedial action plan to overcome such impediments.
The survey report was launched at a Press Conference held on the 29th of June 2021 with the participation of Eng. Mahinda B. Herath – Chief Executive Officer, ICTA, Mr. Anura De Alwis – Chief Digital Economy Officer, ICTA, Mr. Tishan Subasinghe – Member, Presidential Commission on the Simplification of Existing Laws and Regulations, Mr. Aruna Perera, Director – Corporate Finance and Valuation Consulting, PwC Sri Lanka, Mr. Mangala Karunaratne – CEO, Calcey Technologies, Ms. Ruchira Shukla – South Asia Regional Lead for Disruptive Technology Investments, International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank Group and Mr.Sachindra Samararatne- Director Startup Ecosystem Development, ICTA
The survey provides a broader view of the current tech startup ecosystem, focuses on the impediments which need to be addressed and possible solutions that can be implemented together with the government authorities. The survey also presents a collaborative approach where the government authorities can work closely with the startup ecosystem for the betterment of startups.
The report complied with the guidance and support of a 5-member steering committee comprising of key stakeholders in the startup ecosystem chaired by Mr. Mano Sekaram–CEO, 99X, ICTA Deputy Chairman, Chairman of Steering Committee, including Mr. Mangala Karunaratne – CEO, Calcey Technologies, Mr. Chalinda Abeykoon – CEO, Lankan Angel Network, Mr. Dhanika Perera – CEO, Bhasha Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Mr. Wellington Perera – Director, Cemex Software (Pvt) Ltd and Ms. Jayomi Lokuliyana – CEO, ZMessenger (Pvt) Ltd.
The significance of the study is that while showcasing a deep dive assessment of the impediments faced by the startups, it has also recommended a remedial action plan which derived after analyzing case studies of the other countries in similar nature. The proposed remedial action plan has further been localized to support local startups and make sure that these startups receive the due support from the government entities.
Commenting during the launch of the report, Sachindra Samararatne- Director Startup Ecosystem Development, ICTA said, “Startups are critical for the economic growth of the country given the potential to spur innovation and creativity. The report gives comprehensive set of information on the key areas that need to be focused as the government to accelerate the startups, alongside long-term solutions for the upbringing of the startup ecosystem. Going beyond this initiative, we will continue to work together with government institutions to create an environment conducive for the tech startups in Sri Lanka.”
“We are thankful for ICTA for initiating this timely report that provides a broader spectrum of avenues to accelerate the tech startups in Sri Lanka with the extensive support of the government being received. During the primary research phase, PwC surveyed over 110 startups on operational issues faced, growth inhibitors, funding and capital impediments and market accessibility. In addition, PwC conducted focus group discussions to understand the issues faced by the startups working in key specific sectors. Simultaneously, over 25 ecosystem stakeholders (including private incubators, educational institutes, venture capital funds, legal firms and professional bodies) were interviewed to validate startup impediments. The recommendations were further developed into a remedial action plan whilst considering the international case studies which brings suggestions to accelerate the startup growth in Sri Lanka. We at PwC Sri Lanka are proud to be a part of this initiative which is an indeed requirement in the country at present” Said Aruna Perera, Director – Corporate Finance & Valuation Consulting, PwC Sri Lanka
The report brings to light 29 impediments from 12 categories faced by startups including issues relating to Foreign Exchange, Barriers to Foreign Investors, Intellectual Property, Taxation, Immigration, R&D, Government Support for Cross Boarder Activities, Data Privacy & Cyber Security, Digital Payments, Debt Financing, Telecommunication Regulations, Digitalization of Administrative Tasks and suggests 44 actions to resolve these impediments by working together with government authorities, who are in charge of respective sectors.
As the catalyst in driving the ICT sector including the tech startup ecosystem forward, ICTA pioneers in all ICT related projects implemented by the government and is in the process of supporting the growth of the tech industry. With its vision to make Sri Lanka a digitally inclusive country, ICTA strives to empower tech startups via several initiatives such as StartupSL, Alternative Credit Evaluation Framework for Tech Companies, Spiralation, etc. ICTA expects to support the startup ecosystem development in the long run via creating a conducive environment for the tech startups to thrive with the aim to see new globally scalable tech businesses emerging in Sri Lanka.
Image 1 – Panelists standing from Left to Right: Sachindra Samararatne – Director Startup Ecosystem Development, ICTA, Tamasha Fernando – Senior Manager Start-up Ecosystem Development, ICTA, Anura De Alwis – Chief Digital Economy Officer, ICTA, Mahinda B. Herath – Chief Executive Officer, ICTA, Aruna Perera – Director Corporate Finance and Valuation Consulting, PwC Sri Lanka, Tishan Subasinghe – Member, Presidential Commission on the Simplification of Existing Laws and Regulations.