Sri Lanka stationery maker Atlas in South East Asia push

ECONOMYNEXT- Atlas Axilia, a top stationery manufacturer in Sri Lanka, is planning to grow exports to South East Asia, where it may also open a new plant, an official said.

"We are currently exporting to the Philippines, Bangladesh and the Maldives," Managing Director Asitha Samaraweera said.

"Currently, exports do not make up a large portion of our sales," he said.

"However, plans are underway to grow our export earnings four to five times."

"There is a big push to build up a substantial export business in South East Asia."

He said the firm has studied regional markets, and Atlas has an opportunity in countries such as Cambodia and Myanmmar.

As a stationery brand, opportunities arise for Atlas as countries grow their education spending, which is happening at a rapid pace in developing economies.

Atlas has an immediate plan to grow its local business and to resist an anti-Muslim boycott which it is caught up in, Samaraweera said.

Export plans would firm up over the next two to three years, he said.

"Due to tax reasons, we may even set up a factory outside, with the royalties coming in," he said.

D. S. Madanayake founded Atlas in 1959, when the market was dominated by imports, he said.

Atlas has managed to compete and build up a 50 percent market share in its product categories due to increasing production and reducing costs.

The price of the firm’s popular pen Atlas Chooty has remained at 10 rupees since 1999, while productivity at its factories have grown 20 percent annually over the past 3 years.

In 2018, the Esufally family’s  Hemas Group bought a 75.1 percent stake in the stationery firm, to build up its defensive cashflow across all economic cycles, due to patterns of education expenditure.

Hemas, which has a fast-moving consumer goods business focusing on personal healthcare and pharmaceuticals, has a distribution network in Bangladesh, Myanmmar and India.

(COLOMBO, 05 July, 2019)