The first-ever virtual Sri Lanka Investment Forum (SLIF2021) is being hailed as a benchmark for future, high-level global conferences.
The three-day online event was staged on Microsoft Teams and attracted more than 2,200 participants from 85 countries along with 2,500 local participants.

It is being regarded as a vital step in the island nation’s plan to target annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows of $1.5 billion over the next three years.

“We have FDIs of over US$5 billion in new investment opportunities across Sri Lanka in multiple sectors, ranging from hospitality and leisure, infrastructure, renewable energy to oil and gas. It is critical that we create awareness for them now and connect with the international investment community to tell this story, despite the many COVID-19-related setbacks,” said Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka Chairman, Sanjaya Mohottala.

“The challenge was to create a rich and engaging experience for investors at a time when we are unable to host in-person meetings and conferences. I am glad that Microsoft came on board as the forum’s technology partner, enabling the deployment of a globally adopted platform such as Microsoft Teams.”

The SLIF included 118 sessions with 108 local and foreign dignitaries, leading entrepreneurs, and global experts sharing information on investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.

Many participants hailed the ease in signing up and participating at the event, the seamless transition between main speakers and the participation in the parallel breakout sessions.

 

Connecting with investors

Private chat rooms were also available for investors keen on exploring opportunities directly with their Sri Lankan counterparts one-on-one.

“The SLIF2021 set out to showcase Sri Lanka’s foreign investment proposition through the establishment of a multi-sided engagement platform which would connect investors, promoters, policymakers, regulators and facilitators – all pivotal stakeholders within an investment ecosystem,” said Immediate Past Chairman of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya.

“Microsoft, the technology partner to SLIF2021, together with Microsoft certified partners Impact-IT and H One, enabled us to orchestrate a world-class forum experience for all stakeholders.”

Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) Dumith Fernando said the virtual setting brought in many investors who were looking at Sri Lanka for the first time.

“We may have gained a lot more attention with the virtual sessions than we would have with an in-person conference like our roadshows in the past where the number of participants is limited,” he said.

“Most participants were already using, or were quite familiar with, a global platform such as Microsoft Teams and if they weren’t already, connecting through a browser was still very simple.

“We need to build on this momentum and also consider hybrid events in future, where we tie in a virtual component to in-person conferences to allow in many investors who may not be able to participate otherwise.”

 

Cutting edge of technology

Sook Hoon Cheah, General Manager, Southeast Asia New Markets, Microsoft Asia Pacific said: “Congratulations to CCC, CSE, BOI – their teams and our partners who shouldered the forum and for initiating this progressive step in demonstrating that Sri Lanka is at the cutting edge of technology and is ready for business.

“Hosting a virtual investment forum demonstrated the country’s investment in its greatest assets – its people and technology – in supporting its economy to be resilient and its efforts to achieve 2021 target of US$ 2.5 billion in FDIs. It will be important to sustain this momentum and further develop the opportunity that has been created, to build a sustainable platform for Sri Lanka, to attract investment in the future.”

“Local and foreign investments play a key role in the rapid transformation of the economy and are critical as Sri Lanka marches toward an ambitious goal to reach a per capita income of US$8,000 within a decade,” said Country Manager of Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives, Hasitha Abeywardena.

“We were able to bring the best global practices and learning from across the Microsoft Network and partner network to provide a secure and robust platform for the SLIF2021. Our local partners, Impact IT and H One enabled the end-to-end deployment of Microsoft Teams based solution and helped ensure a successful virtual summit, the largest investment forum in South Asia.”

Abeywardena said the forum set a new benchmark for virtual events and that its lessons will help other institutions around the world forge ahead with their meetings and conferences.