GLX Garage Links Sri Lankan SMEs with World-Class Knowledge to Catalyze Growth

March, 13, 2021

GLX Garage is the bespoke business development programme for export oriented SMEs in Sri Lanka. The program just seeing its conclusion, supports sustainable SMEs in the circular design, food and agri, travel and wellness sectors to change gears and expand into international markets.

Companies that apply for the programme come to us looking for transformational solutions, which we provide while also helping them build long-term partnerships with new markets from around the world. With the help of both local and international experts, companies taking part in our programme are able to develop the ideal solutions to the obstacles they are facing, build a strong brand presence and embrace scale effectively. Currently, the programme’s local and international experts are summing up work with each company with customised solutions for each of them.

The pilot group of SMEs included Target Agriculture, House of Lonali, Worga Naturals, Serendipol and Ceylon Exports, each receiving personalized expert guidance and coaching targeted at helping them make the next leap for their businesses.

As Good Life X Founder, CEO Randhula de Silva elaborates, “This was very much an experiment that brought about vivid and deeply impactful results and learnings for the SMEs and us.  We brought in local and global knowledge together and had nine experts working with us on different aspects with these entrepreneurs through an intense development process. The structure and modality of this program was agile and collaborative quite different to what anyone has experienced before, helping us tap into the very core of these businesses and trigger further potential to grow.”

The nine experts included Arj Wignaraja - Independent Consultant & Advisor; Kasper Dam - Founder of Kandio; Andrea Richert - Strategic Business Consultant; Hugo Lamers – Trade Facilitation & Business Development Consultant, Inge Broers – Owner, Inge Broers Consultancy and Interim Management, Naveen Marasinghe - Chief Operating Officer Antyra Solutions; Frank Thiele - Managing partner, Factor Product design studio Germany; José Koopman - Clothing industry expert; Bert-Jan Ottens - Founder and Senior Adviser of ProFound; Kasper Kerver – Value Chain Development Consultant of ProFound, and Nio Liyanage  - Founder of StartupRight - all who brought the full force of their years of hard-won expertise to the benefit of the GLX Garage entrepreneurs.

This chapter of the Garage programme was facilitated by GIZ SME Sector Development program through the funding received for COVID 19 response by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The Mentors Viewpoint

The mentors saw many wins through the programme, primarily the unique advantage for the entrepreneurs to tap into nuanced perspectives and approaches brought out by mentors from across diverse industries and geographies - so as to be able to harness the best of local and global know-how, while also maintaining a collective commitment to sustainable thinking.

As Ari Wignaraja shared, “It was an incredible opportunity to collaborate with a global talent pool of experts, and support an exceptional group of companies who have chosen a path of sustainability and transparency in taking their products to the world.”

These sentiments were echoed by Naveen Marasinghe, “It was a fantastic experience. Not only we were able to have very meaningful engagements with a set of highly driven individuals but also had the pleasure of interacting and sharing knowledge with a great team of experts from around the world.”

As a diverse group, the mentors themselves benefitted from engaging each other and the entrepreneurs through the programme. Frank Thiele said, “I was absolutely thrilled to see so much expertise from different perspectives, energy coming together and creating results in such a short time,” while Kasper Dam added on, “I rarely get the pleasure of meeting such interesting people from other industries, and I’m optimistic that they will benefit from the GLX - potentially for decades to come.”

Driven entrepreneurs

Working with the SMEs, the mentors encountered entrepreneurs keen to disrupt their sectors and tell their story more effectively to build world-class brands. Andrea Richert found, ‘the cooperation with the companies was very engaging and positive’ and as Ari Wignaraja expanded, “All the founders were purpose-driven, passionate individuals seeking to make the world a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable place, and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to support them.  Helping them to clarify their purpose, values and goals, and charting a roadmap will hopefully enable them to create an even greater impact with more stakeholders.”

Launchpad for growth 

GLX Garage, in line with the ethos of the Good Life X as a whole, seeks very much to mine and surface the undervalued potential of Sri Lankan SMEs through the disruption of ‘business as usual’. Centering on innovation, future forward and sustainably resilient global practices, the programme sees a pathway for SMEs several years into their operations to both sharpen their efficiencies and also reinvent - thinking its mentors are strongly aligned with.

As Nio Liyanage expressed, “Agriculture and sustainability are so tightly intertwined with the DNA as well as the potential prosperity of Sri Lanka. The programme validated the immense potential in moving the needle for companies in a ‘traditional’ sector by applying agile and disruptive strategies, and enabling them to execute at speed through cutting edge expertise and resources.”

Elaborating, Bert-Jan Ottens added, “I see good potential in the companies to become leaders in structural sector change, based on sustainable sourcing, value addition and ethical/fair business approach.” One of Sri Lanka’s highest export earners, the apparel industry has also been highlighted for its potential. José Koopman explained, “There is a shift from the traditional linear business model to a sustainable business model and there is great growth potential for sustainable business in the clothing sector.”

Ari Wignaraja concluded, “With the conscious consumer movement is here to stay, companies in the agriculture, health and wellness, apparel and other areas can go after niche market opportunities and customer segments seeking and willing to pay for authentic products that are aligned with sustainable and regenerative values.”  Foreseeing the growth Kasper Dam said, “All the SMEs from the GLX programme have been firmly placed onto a launch pad that will potentially accelerate their lifetime trajectory.”