First batch of 73 young Sri Lankan innovators expected to launch business start-ups in August 2014
Seventy three young Sri Lankans, identified as prospects for the country's next generation of top entrepreneurs, began their accelerated journey to entrepreneurship in January with the kick-off of the Brandix funded MIT Global Startup Labs' (MIT-GSL) Sri Lanka programme.
Chosen from over 350 candidates from five participating Sri Lankan universities and other higher educational institutions, these undergraduates and recent graduates will undergo seven months of intense start-up incubation with training by Massachusetts Institute of Technology instructors, Akshita Deora Puram and Amber Houghstow, and on-going industry mentoring facilitated by the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) and Brandix.
They are to be taken through three phases - 'Ideate & Test' from 9th to 27th January; 'Plan & Create' from February to May; and 'Refine & Launch' between June and August 2014, under the MIT-GSL global entrepreneurship incubator being run by MIT in collaboration with 15 international universities.
Delivering the keynote address on the topic 'Disruptive Innovation: Examples and opportunities for start-ups' at the kick-off programme sponsored by Brandix, Group Director Udena Wickremesooriya traced the innovations and improvements that had taken place in the automobile industry since the launch of the first car of Henry Ford. Holding up an office shirt, he pointed out that it had not been modified since his Grandfather's time. In addition to the lack of product innovation, he highlighted challenges in manufacturing, logistics, demand forecasting, and more. Hence, there is a huge opportunity in the apparel industry for innovation, Mr Wickremesooriya said, urging participants to explore new frontiers for innovation.
Other speakers at the launch of the programme included Dr Janaka Liyanagama, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Open University which opened up its new facility to host the sessions and Ruwindhu Peiris, General Secretary of SLASSCOM.
The Brandix Group has pledged to fund the MIT-GSL Sri Lanka programme for five years in collaboration with MIT and SLASSCOM. The programme is to be offered twice a year to second-year or older undergraduates as well as recent graduates of Sri Lankan universities. The first batch of 73 participants is from the Universities of Moratuwa, Colombo and Sabaragamuwa, the Open University of Sri Lanka, the Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), and Alliance Française de Kotte among others.
A spokesperson for the MIT-GSL instructors conducting the Sri Lanka programme said it was expected that 15 start-up teams made up of these participants would launch new businesses by August 2014.
A Group that employs approximately 47,000 people at 42 manufacturing plants in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, Brandix has partnerships with the Universities of Colombo, Peradeniya, Moratuwa, Kelaniya, Sri Jayewardenepura and Wayamba and the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT). A preferred supplier to many global apparel labels, Brandix is credited with many firsts, among them, the first apparel manufacturer in the world to build a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-rated Green factory certified by the US Green Building Council (USGBC); the first in Sri Lanka to build a LEED Gold certified office complex; and the builder of the first Supply Chain City in South Asia -- the 1,000-acre Brandix India Apparel City (BIAC).