Sri Lanka has had its name in the press a great deal over recent years, coming to a grand crescendo in the past few months.  The Tamil Tigers conflict has caused a vast amount of opinionated articles to be written, some neutral, but most cast a dark cloud over Sri Lanka’s politics and military activity.  However, the 25 year conflict appears to have reached a final conclusion and, while the rest of the world pick through the pieces of the aftermath, Sri Lanka is setting it’s sights on building the country into an outsourcing hub.
 
In a bid to drum up business and support, Sri Lanka has this week launched its IT and BPO Industry Chamber into the UK market place.  SLASSCOM (yes, like NASSCOM but Sri Lankan) has the UK in its sights and has one aim in mind, to attract new investment into Sri Lanka’s BPO and IT industry.
 
Big name Indian BPO companies have already setup operations in the country.  More look set to follow suit as organisations such as Genpact ready themselves to launch a Sri Lankan presence.  Tholons, the sourcing advisory company, has ranked Sri Lanka as one of the top 15 emerging outsourcing destinations in the world, so what makes Sri Lanka an appealing destination? 
 
Well for one, they have a huge pool of UK certified accountants, all with cheaper salaries than their domestic counterparts.  Government incentives are coming thick and fast in the form of tax breaks, infrastructure investment and other tantalising perks and language skills are also of a high standard.
 
One particularly unique angle being taken by Sri Lanka is its push towards making the country the destination of choice for SMEs.  SLASSCOM believe that SMEs can fare particularly well by using Sri Lankan services and, in a market where many outsourcing destinations look to fight over the scraps from the tables of large cooperates, an SME targeted push may be one of the more innovative and interesting opportunities available to Sri Lanka.
 
However, the question remains, how much damage will the Tamil Tiger saga have had on promoting Sri Lanka within the UK?  India was notoriously in full support of the Sri Lankan government during the conflict and it would be realistic to assume that the conflict did little to the confidence of Indian companies looking to open up Sri Lankan venues.
 
The UK market, on the other hand, is a completely different beast.  Organisations are already concerned about their public image.  Offshoring is considered a cardinal sin amongst unions and the public alike, however businesses grit their teeth and continue to offshore, or at least nearshore.  However, offshoring to a country that has just emerged from a very high profile and somewhat controversial civil war maybe a step to far. 
 
The only recent example of outsourcing crisis management we have comes from Sri Lanka’s neighbour, India.  The terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the Satyam scandal had the potential to cause a devastating drop in confidence amongst offshorers.  However, the events seemed to have little impact on the industry at all.  India came out relatively unscathed (except of course those directly involved in the Satyam debacle) and it appears to be business as usual.
 
Now this may fill SLASSCOM with hope, however they must realise that India is a highly mature outsourcing destination that has developed such a lucrative offering that it would be hard to see anything significantly rocking the boat.  Sri Lanka on the other hand is a new and evolving outsourcing destination and must position themselves exceptionally well in order to generate sufficient buy-in from UK companies.
 
Sri Lanka is on course to be a key destination, especially in the finance and accounting market.  It is hard to ignore the fact that the likes of HSBC, Aviva and WNS have set up shop and Quattro are looking to expand their Colombo operations.  SLASSCOM are making their way over to the UK in the next couple of weeks and sourcingfocus.com will be there to find out a bit more about the destination which has a lot of people in the industry talking.