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A journey towards transforming Sri Lanka into a global logistics powerhouse: The Hayleys Advantis Story

Throughout Sri Lanka’s history, its fortunes were tied to the maritime and shipping industry. Whilst it is true that our country is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, it is our ability to effectively trade that has enabled Sri Lanka to secure the level of cumulative economic development at present.

Logistics underpins our nation’s economic growth. For generations, Hayleys Advantis has been a part of that growth, serving as a key pillar on which Sri Lanka has built a globally competitive logistics hub. Backed by the blue-chip multinational conglomerate Hayleys PLC, Hayleys Advantis is at the forefront of the logistics industry providing end-to-end solutions covering air, land and sea. As Sri Lanka’s most diversified transportation and logistics provider, Advantis has served as a pioneering industry leader for over six decades, and is rapidly expanding its regional business across Asia.

In the wake of COVID-19, Sri Lanka has come to rely on its logistics sector like never before. Despite unprecedented challenges, Hayleys Advantis stepped up to deliver uninterrupted, comprehensive logistics services covering diverse industry verticals.

Managing Director of Hayleys Advantis, Ruwan Waidyaratne, focuses on the most significant contemporary challenges and opportunities in the logistics sector.


Q: How would you describe the current performance of Sri Lanka’s logistics sector, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Prior to the pandemic, the market grew at a rapid pace, with the Port of Colombo having reached a milestone 7 million TEUs in 2018, only to do better in 2019 when throughput hit 7.2 million TEUs despite it being a very challenging period in the country. For the sake of comparison, a decade previously, that figure was close to 3.5 million TEUs. During this time, there were some truly impressive feats in the logistics industry happening in the background.

With the pandemic, we saw a complete disruption of global and local supply chains, and with it, unprecedented fluctuations in demand and supply. COVID-19 made people realise the fundamental role logistics plays in almost every facet of economic activity.

Though we saw a significant decline in global trade volumes from Q1 of 2020, there was a strong rebound later in the year. We have every expectation that as the COVID-19 crisis gradually ease with vaccination initiatives, global trade would surge. Given Sri Lanka’s perfect positioning along one of the world’s busiest maritime routes, and at such a crucial moment when Indian Ocean trade volumes are set to grow exponentially, we see tremendous opportunity for Sri Lankan logistics to capture new business.


Q: What are some of the strengths of the Sri Lankan logistics sector? 

A: Reaping the benefits of our strategic location, we are in a position to attract a significant portion of the expected growth in maritime trade in a post-COVID-19 economic environment in Asia. This would be a true paradigm shift in the Sri Lankan economy.

In my experience, the logistics sector thrives on the value of people. We have supported our teams in building technical expertise that is on par with the highest global standards. This type of investment in technical capacity development is a feature in the general Sri Lankan logistics industry as well. That is why our sector has tremendous growth potential.

Our resilience as a nation is another fundamental strength. Whether it is our industry, or the broader economy and society, Sri Lanka has weathered many challenging moments in history, and we have every confidence that the challenges we face today will be overcome.


Q: During the pandemic, consumer behaviour has also undergone massive changes. How will this trend impact the logistics sector?

A: Sri Lankans grew to rely on e-commerce alternatives with the implementation of lockdowns. This shift was the start of a trend towards digitalisation in the country.

In the future, customers will value efficient service almost as much as the product itself. The minimum expectation will be for efficient last-mile delivery, reduced waiting times, and same-day deliveries. These trends will put pressure on the logistics sector to ensure new standards in efficiency so that consumer products are readily available to meet increasing demand.


Q: How can logistics companies ensure success in an age of digital disruption? 

A: Hayleys Advantis was early and aggressive with digital investments because we saw the potential. Therefore, during the pandemic, we were able to protect our customers’ supply chains with minimal disruptions.

Drawing from our own experiences with digitalisation, logistics service providers, in the least, should implement Management Information Systems so that management could react to situations as they develop and take effective decisions in a highly volatile operating environment.

Especially with our 3PL services, we benefited from implementing a Warehouse Management System (WMS), which drastically reduced last-mile delivery completion times. The addition of big data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, gave us predictive capabilities to respond to fluctuations in supply and demand before it even happens.


Q: How can the regulators support the logistics industry?

A: Reducing the cost of digitalisation through tax concessions on equipment that streamline industry automation would make complex investments feasible for local companies.

Direct and indirect support to facilitate quality training and knowledge sharing by the private sector would add value to Sri Lanka’s next generation of logistics professionals. This should be considered as a priority. Whilst the benefits of such undertaking may not be immediately apparent, they will undoubtedly be the most valuable investments towards the growth of our industry, and by extension, the Sri Lankan economy.

Lastly, all industry stakeholders should unite on a single agenda and vision for the industry. Together, we should move decisively towards a common goal. There is great potential for the logistics sector to contribute further towards the development of the country, and driven by our Purpose to Inspire, Connect and Enrich, we hope to continue our story towards this endeavour.