Contrinex is a global manufacturer of inductive and photoelectric sensors, RFID systems and safety light curtains. The company is a technology leader in the field of intelligent sensing and identification solutions for factory automation, including the harshest operating conditions and most extreme space limitations.
INTERVIEW OF MRS ANNETTE HEIMLICHER, CEO CONTRINEX AG
By Dilip S Samarasinghe, Director (Media & Publicity) BOI
Question 1: Could you please tell me about your Company, Contrinex AG and about the reasons why you chose to invest in Sri Lanka?
Our company is based in Fribourg which is in the French speaking part in the Switzerland. What we would need very soon would be a direct air link between Sri Lanka and Switzerland. So I hope that Sri Lankan Airlines will decide once again to connect Zurich to Colombo in the near future.
Many Companies in Switzerland are looking at relocating because of the strong Swiss Franc. This is very positive for Sri Lanka because not only manual work but also engineering and back office type work can also be done in your country. I am pleased that we are leading the way as far as Switzerland is concerned and this will encourage other Swiss companies to follow suit. What must be remembered is that many Swiss companies are high end goods market manufacturers. What we need therefore is a Swiss or European club of companies to help and advise more Swiss companies on what Sri Lanka can offer them.
Question 2: What were the driving Market forces behind Contrinex AG’s decision to invest in Sri Lanka?
We decided to invest in Sri Lanka because of the availability of certain type of wiring which is manufactured by a company already investing here which is used in Contrinex products. They make the electronic print in Sri Lanka. We work with them already in China they were impressed with the quality of work in Sri Lanka.
The advantage of Sri Lanka is that you have low cost, high quality and loyal and good people working in the country. Also we find people at all levels of skills in Sri Lanka and they can be easily recruited. It is much easier in Sri Lanka to find the complete staffing requirements of a company. Therefore, we were able to open our factory in just two and half months. We hired 50 people in a mere 3 weeks.
The level of awareness of staff in Sri Lanka is very high. I attribute this for a good schooling system.
Question 3: Investors from overseas often decide to start projects after they first visit the country. Today’s tourist is tomorrow’s investor. Was this the case of Contrinex AG?
I have never visited Sri Lanka before but I have a very good friend from Sri Lanka who always speaks of the country. Therefore I have a good knowledge of the country before I came and visited it personally.
Question 4: How would you describe your products and what are they used for?
We make sensors which areused for automation in machines. I would say that our products are like eyes of the machines. The machines are used for industrial machinery for automotive factories. They are used for industry.
Question 5: Are you satisfied with the support you received from Sri Lankan Government Institutions, particularly the BOI ?
BOI is doing a fantastic job. The most difficult part is to find production space that is suitable. We were extremely lucky that we found a place in Wattala and we decided to rent the place which is brand new. Many companies want to rent ready made factories initially. In the future they can build facilities of their own. Swiss companies are interested in Sri Lanka but they need approvals, space and other factors, ideally in a one stop shop.We are not a very large company. Current turnover is US$ 65 million. But we have very high skills and specific focus and I consider that we are leaders in the industry. We need to develop a new network of suppliers to create a sort of Silicon Valley in Sri Lanka.
Question 6: Do you invest in countries other than Sri Lanka?
Currently we invest in China and India. However in the future we want produce in Sri Lanka and re-export to our global logistic hubs. Sri Lanka is an ideal location because we expect very soon that GSP + will be granted to Sri Lanka which means that our products can be exported to Europe with very low customs duties. We are also highly interested in seeing a FTA between Sri Lanka and China so in the future we will have the opportunity to export easily to that large market.
Sri Lanka needs large industrial parks with ready-made factories and ready-made dormitories for workers. That would make the country more competitive to European investors.
Question 7: Let me conclude by asking you how you perceive your operations on Sri Lanka in the long term? What are your future plans?
In Sri Lanka we have employed 60 workers and this will increase to 100 by the end of the year. So we are looking at hiring more people.
I would like to add that BOI has been very helpful with customs. We are already investing in the country. We are looking at attracting more Swiss and German companies. The one strength of Sri Lanka is a good education system and at Moratuwa University there are about 200 engineering graduates annually but very few stay in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka therefore needs companies that can stop the brain drain.
Sri Lanka can become a very competitive destination with lower labour cost, easier customs and airport handling, low corporate and personal taxes and an efficient administration. Sri Lanka is located strategically between Europe and China and is thus close to all our key markets. Those are some of the existing strengths of Sri Lanka which can be further developed to make the country attractive to many Swiss investors. We feel very positive about the development of Sri Lanka as a place for investments.