Friday, January 1, 2016

Gulf Insurance Group retains MTI for Strategizing

Gulf Insurance Group (GIG), which is owned by Kuwait-based KIPCO and Canada-based Fairfax Financial Holdings , has recently concluded their 2016 Strategizing Exercise for Bahrain Kuwait Insurance  (BKIC) subsidiary.

“The senior management team of BKIC-GIG  were actively involved in this strategically critical exercise, which included a detailed review of the regional insurance market challenges and opportunities” said Mr. Ebrahim Al-Rayes, the CEO of BKIC

 BKIC was the first insurance company in Bahrain to have been interactively rated by an independent international rating agency and currently enjoys A- (Excellent) rating of A M Best. The company has grown to become the market leader in the Insurance Industry in Bahrain since the year 2008 in terms of gross premium and net profits.

 The GIG companies currently operate in Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.  BKIC is among the founders of United Insurance Company  and Gulf Assist – Bahrain. In 2015, it acquired 41% of Takaful International.
MTI Consulting is an internationally-networked boutique management consultancy enabling clients to Analyze > Strategize > Realize profitable business opportunities. Since its inception in 1997, MTI has worked on over 520 assignments in over 42 countries, covering a diverse range of industries, clients and business challenges. Specifically in Insurance, MTI has carried out assignments for the likes of AXA, Arab Re-insurance Group (ARIG), Bahrain Kuwait Insurance, BNI, Bahrain Credit, BIBF,  Daman,  Middle Sea Insurance, Middle East Insurance Awards, Orix,  Solidarity and United Insurance
 Photo: The BKIC-GIG Senior Management Team with the MTI Consultants

MTI retained for Golf assignments in UK and Spain

MTI Consulting led by Darshan Singh (Senior HRM Consultant – MTI Middle East & Europe) has successfully facilitated in Spain and United Kingdom, on the Management Development Program for the Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE).

In these challenging economic times Club Managers are under greater pressure than ever from their committees, owners and members to create and implement business strategies that guarantee the continued success of their clubs.

The Program focuses on strategic and business planning, performance and service standards and the professional and communication skills to develop every aspect of both the individual Club Manager’s performance and that of their club. This Program is also endorsed by the Club Managers Association of America as part of the educational pathway to the Certified Club Manager (CCM) qualification.

Michael Braidwood, Director of Education for the CMAE, said” we are delighted to have MTI’s Darshan Singh as one our lead presenters on the program, he brings a wealth of international human resource development expertise from Europe, Middle and Far East”. Throughout 2016, MTI’s Darshan Singh will be presenting on further CMAE Programs across UK, Europe and the Middle East.

Photo: MTI’s Darshan Singh (standing first row 3rd from left) with the CMAE European Team

Thursday, December 10, 2015

MTI highlights economic reality of lankans working abroad

There have been calls to ban Sri Lankan maids from going abroad. Emotionally, this is understandable, but logically and realistically consider the following as well:
• We have 1.7 million Sri Lankans working abroad, remitting over $ 6.5 B and there about five million people (25% of our population) who depend on this. Also, it is this inflow that is helping to pay for the imports (the cars we drive in Colombo) and to ‘hold’ our currency at least where it is today.
• The $ 6.5 B that these expat Sri Lankans remit is about four times what we earn from tea, 50% higher than what we earn from apparel (with relatively low value addition)
• Most of the lower-end blue collar domestic helpers go for such jobs out of economic desperation. If not why would someone leave your family behind for two years and go abroad for job that pays you as little as $ 250 a month? We can all talk of morals and principals but I guess we have no clue of what it is to be in such a desperate state?
• Yet, they have no voting rights, they have no ‘vehicle permits’ (I mean a decent bus service from the airport!) and so badly treated at the airport, including by the airlines!
• Yes in some cases the ban on sending certain categories of blue collar workers has helped (e.g. India for house maids), but why aren’t there Malaysian housemaids going abroad? The answer lies in education and economic development – so that our people are skilled and find satisfying work opportunities at home.
Why are we in this state today? What have we done since independence? Who really is responsible for this? Does our ‘revolutionary’ Budget address this? Do our chambers and elite professional associations even think about this? 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Build or buy brands, not promote Ceylon Tea - MTI

The promotional funds for the tea industry comes from the CESS that is collected from the tea exporters. A significant part of this was spent in the last 2 years on sponsoring the Sri Lanka Cricket Team and now the decision to launch a global advertising campaign. Both these strategic decisions needs objective challenging and evaluation against strategic alternatives.
 If you are Sri Lanka Tourism, do promote the country – because the customer first decides on the country and then the hotel. If you are Intel, do promote the ‘ functional ingredient’ because that influences the PC you buy, besides Intel has very deep pockets.  But, not if you are ‘Ceylon Tea’ because:
  1. The Customer first decides on the brand, in some cases the Retailer, not what’s inside the pack of tea. Against this backdrop, the proposed promotional campaign is the telling Customer (be it London, Moscow or Tehran) to walk into a Supermarket and insist on a brand that will have ‘Ceylon Tea Inside’ and then expect the supermarket to insist on their suppliers (who happen to be top global and regional brands) to shift to Pure Ceylon Tea. Possible but at what cost and over what time period?
  2. And to do the above, with such meagre promotional budgets that Sri Lanka has at its disposal and that too spreading it across 5 continents!
  3. Ceylon Tea has no differentiating functional benefit that it can claim, only a reputation based one
  4. The words ‘Ceylon’ went off the map 43 years ago, therefore what relevance would it have to those in their 20s and 30s today? In any case, think of the communicating effort (and funds) that would be needed to create the link between Ceylon Tea and Sri Lanka?
Instead, why not pick (through a transparent and objective process) one or two Sri Lankan brands with global growth potential and ‘invest’ these funds to strengthen these brands globally? Imagine another ‘Akbar’ or ‘Dilmah’? (picking just two diversely successful examples). Of course, INSIST that these brands capitalize on ‘Ceylon Tea Inside’ . The question that needs to be asked is “Which strategy will give us faster and better returns i.e. investing in Ceylon Tea or investing in Sri Lankan tea brands? According to industry sources, the beginning of Dilmah (in the 80s) in Australia had to do with a Tea Board initiative to financially and technically support the brand launch in Australia. Of course, the company made best use of this opportunity, used ‘Ceylon Tea’ as a key part of its value proposition and brand communications. The brand’s market share and brand strength today is testimony to this. But imagine if that decision at that time (early 80s) was to spend this money instead on a generic ‘Ceylon Tea’ promotion?. The message is loud and clear, “let our brands demonstrate the greatness of Ceylon Tea, not the Tea Board!” After all, the monies being spent is that of the Exporters!
A more ambitious approach would be to set-up a multi-billion dollar investment fund that will go out and acquire emerging global tea brands, including those in the fast growing Ready-to-Drink and Retailing segments, much like what Tata has done.
Of course the unique challenge that Sri Lanka encounters, unlike in the case of a multi-national company, is that it must produce 330 million + kilos of tea – because the livelihood of 400,000 people depends on this. But, competing globally needs scale and the challenge for Sri Lanka is to be both small and big at the same time, much like what the New Zealand Dairy industry.
Strategizing needs to an objective and dispassionate process, asking the ruthlessly hard questions, not being emotional about it. For instance, why and what did we benefit from sponsoring the Sri Lanka Cricket team, considering that:
  1. The exposure of the brand to the Sri Lankan audience (being the most active TV audience) does not help the Sri Lankan Tea Exporters
  2. The largest cricket audience is in the Indian Sub-Continent and in the key markets of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, there are major, almost unsurmountable,  tariff and non-tariff  barriers. Advertising and Promotional campaigns will not help! 
Strategizing requires asking very simple questions, but our bloated egos and ‘lust’ for complexity is what clouds effective decision making!. This is no longer a ‘Storm in a tea cup’, the tea industry is experiencing a slow-release tsunami! How many more alarm bells needs to ring?
(MTI Consulting is an internationally networked boutique strategy consultancy, having worked on tea industry and tea company assignments in Sri Lanka)
Photo: MTI Consulting CEO Hilmy Cader 

Monday, November 9, 2015

People’s Bank unveils MTI-enabled strategic plan for future growth

The management of People’s Bank recently presented its five-year strategic plan for future growth to over 1,000 head office and branch network professionals, from different levels of the organisation. The plan ‘SP 16/20’ was formulated by MTI Consultants, in close collaboration with the staff of People’s Bank. The plan is based on MTI’s internationally acclaimed 8S Model and outlines key strategic initiatives that will help People’s Bank achieve its 2020 profitability targets and secure its position as the undisputed market leader in the financial services sector.
Over the next five years, People’s Bank will continue to remain dedicated to empowering the people of Sri Lanka and as part of its mission the bank will continue to serve and meet the needs of its stakeholders including customers, owners, employees and society at large.
At the presentation ceremony, MTI Consultants CEO Hilmy Cader officially handed over the first copy of ‘SP 16/20’ to People’s Bank Chairman Hemasiri Fernando. Also present at the event were People’s Bank Chief Executive Officer/General Manager N. Vasantha Kumar, along with the Directors of People’s Bank and the bank’s senior management. Employees were briefed on the bank’s way forward and were given an overview of the strategic focus and key initiatives which will be implemented over the next five years.
People’s Bank currently serves over 16 million account relationships, through 737 branches and is also connected to a network of over 2,500 ATMs which are linked to the Lanka Pay gateway. The new strategy places customers at the heart of People’s Bank’s operations and also focuses on boosting the bank’s overall efficiency. In order to ensure the optimal allocation of resources and energy, all business units and products have been classified as primary or secondary developments, and the latter have been identified as areas with high potential that the bank will concentrate on developing.
As part of the new strategy, the bank will move towards electronic and lifestyle based channels and will strive to enhance its service culture and branch ergonomics. Several customer-centric initiatives have also been identified to help People’s Bank reach a wider range of high-end customers, whilst maintaining its current customer base. Additionally the bank will also explore other funding opportunities and will consider expanding its international footprint in high potential markets.
The bank has also begun its paperless banking journey and will focus on offering revolutionary new green banking solutions throughout its operations. By becoming the most digitalised bank, People’s Bank hopes to bring a new level of convenience to its customers whilst reducing its carbon footprint and levels of energy consumption at the same time.
Commenting on the plan, People’s Bank Chairman Hemasiri Fernando stated, “People’s Bank has invested in developing a five-year strategic plan, which will help fulfil our vision for 2020. Having always played a pivotal role in the economic development of Sri Lanka, the bank will continue to be an economic driver and spearhead financial inclusivity by providing a wider segment of the population with access to high quality banking facilities and services.
“We are in the business of providing financial services that contribute to people’s quality of life and enterprise development via affordable, accessible and efficiently delivered solutions. Our new strategic approach will enable us to solidify our position as Sri Lanka’s undisputed market leader in the financial services industry and in preparation for the future; we will also focus on transitioning into the most digitalised and technologically advanced bank in the country.
“In a volatile and competitive climate, we hope that ‘SP 16/20’ will enable us to fulfil our pragmatic vision, gain a competitive advantage and reaffirm our ethos of being the pulse of the people. We will also work closely with our main stakeholder – the Government of Sri Lanka and support all of its efforts to modernise the country and build a thriving economy.”
Also commenting on the new plan, Vasantha Kumar stated, “Our new strategic plan is based on MTI’s internationally acclaimed 8S Model and is well-aligned with the Government’s vision for 2020. Staff members from all levels of the organisation helped to develop ‘SP 16/20’ and we now want them to take ownership and help us to effectively implement the required initiatives. Our key focus will be on creating a more customer-centric and goal-orientated culture. In terms of channels, strategic initiatives have been formulated to help the bank reduce its dependency on a single channel such as the branch network.
“Additionally, customer focused initiatives have been formulated to uplift our corporate banking and commercial credit segments to help attract more potential customers. We will also closely analyse and adapt to emerging market trends and implement a new culture of efficiency, as we strive to reach our financial and growth targets for 2020.”
Following a competitive pitching process, MTI Consultants was chosen to create the strategic plan for People’s Bank. Commenting on MTI’s development of the plan, Hilmy Cader stated, “We are delighted that People’s Bank selected us to develop its holistic strategic plan, which has laid the foundation for the bank to achieve its financial and marketing targets over the next five years. This strategy should enable People’s Bank to uplift its offering and deliver a new level of excellence, innovation and efficiency throughout its operations.” 
Since its inception 54 years ago, People’s Bank has opened its doors to customers across the country, from all walks of life, providing them with banking services that meet their unique needs and uplift their lives. The bank has been a long-standing institution that has always remained close to the country’s people and understood their pulse and needs.
People’s Bank continues to play a crucial role in encouraging various industries including agriculture, real estate, commercial development, small and medium enterprises and exports and this in turn has helped support communities across the country. People’s Bank was also the first bank in the country to commence bilingual operations in Sinhala and Tamil, and also introduced Sri Lanka’s first trilingual cheque book.
People’s Bank is well on track to achieve market dominance by 2020 and is currently recognised as one of the country’s largest and most financially exclusive banks. The bank recently received the ‘Best Banking Group’ ‘and Most Sustainable Bank’ awards at the prestigious World Finance Banking Awards in 2015. The reputed international financial and business magazine, ‘The European’, also recently honoured People’s Bank for serving Sri Lankans for over five decades and enabling them to meet all their financial and banking needs. People’s Bank also received the ‘Service Brand of the Year’ and ‘Banking Service Provider of the Year’ for the ninth consecutive year at the SLIM Nielson People’s Awards in 2015.
The management of People’s Bank, supported by the strategic planning provided by MTI Consultants is now well-poised to usher the bank into a new era of dynamism and leadership. Making its transition into a modern and engaging bank that is more geared to support the people of Sri Lanka, People’s Bank will continue to revolutionise the local banking industry whilst simultaneously supporting the country’s economic development.
People’s Bank Chairman Hemasiri Fernando receiving a copy of the strategic plan from MTI Consultants CEO Hilmy Cader with People’s Bank Director Jehan Amarathunga and People’s Bank Chief Executive Officer/General Manager N. Vasantha Kumar​
                                                                                 A section of the audience

Monday, November 2, 2015

Develop the Pola Markets before Capital Markets - MTI

In a developing country where a significant proposition of population rely on ultra-small businesses for livelihood, governments should invest more ‘energy’ and funds on developing the small business infrastructure Vs. getting distracted by the glamour of capital markets. The message should equally resonate to the chambers and business leaders.
Take tea as an example, there are over 400,000 small holders (who are also voters!), who, as we speak are in a desperate situation. The government’s decision to play the ‘buyers role’ is only a very temporary ‘pain killer’.   Similarly, there are over 350,000 ultra-small shop keepers and another 500,000 + who rely on the pavements, polas and walking around to earn a living.
This is the base of the economy and if this is fundamentally strengthened, it will permeate upwards and eventually strengthen capital markets Vs. developing capital markets and hoping it will trickle down to the these grassroots.  Even in mature economics like the US and Australia, there is increasing focus on small businesses. In fact, the post GFC recovery in the US is largely attributed the business improvements in small businesses. Australia has a dedicated minister for small businesses and considered a key role in the cabinet.
So, how about the next small business road show in Galenbedunuwewa, Thanamalwila and Girandurukotte?!
The core argument is: “Develop ‘Main Street’ and ‘Wall Street’ will follow”

Photo: MTI Consulting CEO Hilmy Cader 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RDB launches Strategic planning process with MTI

MTI Consulting initiated the five year Strategic Planning process for the Regional Development Bank (RDB), the largest development bank in Sri Lanka, with an interactive kick-off workshop session recently. This is the first of a series of consulting workshops in which MTI consultants guide and empower the bank’s team to participate in the Strategic Planning process and realize the Strategic Plan. The participants for the workshop represented a cross-section of the Bank, from business units to functional units from all regions. The objective of this full day workshop was to introduce the planning process for the development of the proposed five year Corporate Plan (2016 to 2020)
At the commencement of the workshop, RDB Chairman Mr. Prasanna Premaratne addressed the participants and highlighted that RDB has more opportunities to tap into the rural sector development in Sri Lanka.
MTI CEO, Mr. Hilmy Cader emphasized that for the strategic planning process using MTI’s 8S® model to be successful, the importance of the change in mindset is required, which will steer the expected change in the organisation in order to be more competitive and customer centric.
RDB was formed in 2010 by merging the six main Provincial Banks in Sri Lanka, and is a 100% Government owned Bank. RDB is committed to empowering the rural masses of Sri Lanka.
Since its inception in 1997, MTI Consulting has successfully delivered over 550 projects in over 40 countries for financial and non-financial institutions. 

Photo -  Manilka Fernando, MTI’s Financial Services Consultant and the RDB Team at the MTI Strategizing Clinic