Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sri Lanka – Does Investors see it as a cost center or a talent center?

HI Guys… These days I’m having this thought. Is Sri Lanka a good place to find cheap labor or is it a place filled with talented individuals?

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Working for a foreign company’s Sri Lankan division I have a good idea about how foreign investors are looking at Sri Lanka. Most of the time Sri Lanka is promoted as a destination where you can find cheap labor. This was true for the garment sector, and that was fine. Lots of foreign investors established factories in Sri Lanka in the 60s and 70s targeting the cheap untrained labor available in the country.

My question is, is that portrayal still valid today? Today Sri Lanka is emerging as a major destination for companies looking for IT professionals. Lots of companies has already established their development centers in Sri Lanka and they are conducting their business very successfully. But a thing I notice is that still Sri Lankan bosses who are trying to establish joint ventures with foriegn investors are promoting Sri Lanka as a place where they can find cheap professionals.

This is true to a certain extent, But do we really have to pay below market wages to the professionals in Sri Lanka? Is Sri Lankan IT professionals so untrained that they deserve below market wages? No. Sri Lanka today has a huge force of IT graduates, When I say graduates I don’t mean they are just some idiots who has got some degree after parroting their courses. No they are trained and able professionals who are well ahead of their counterparts in other Asian countries in their knowledge of latest technologies.

So Cant we pay salaries that is still less than what they get in Developed countries but still higher than local market rate? Isn’t the foreign investors not able to pay like that and still make a substantial profit? I think they can.

Ex: a Software Developer who is in Singapore can get a salary from 240,000 to 500,000 LKR per month at least. So is it so bad to pay a developer working from Sri Lanka for a company in Singapore about 100,000 per month? Still its less than half of what they would pay for a developer in that country. And also its above market salary for the Sri Lankan Professional. And from my personal experience I know that Sri Lankan developers and IT professionals are actually far ahead than their counterparts in developed countries.

By paying below market salaries we are demotivating our IT professionals and preventing our country from achieving its goals of development.

Normally Developers in US or even Singapore are focused on one thing. A UI developer only knows front end stuff. Backend developer focuses only on backend technologies. But Sri Lankans.. at least the ones that I have come to know and work with are knowledgeable in all areas of development.

My point is Sri Lankans who are planning to start joint ventures with foreign investors should promote our technological skills and capabilities and not harp on the low cost and cheap labor. Then they can pay a good salary to their employees in Sri Lanka and get more business and foreign exchange into the country.