“Aiming for expansion of our business globally including Japan” --An interview with a director of a Sri Lankan fish processing and exporting company
Jay Sea Foods Processing Pvt. Ltd.
Mr. M. D. C. Asoka Perera (Quality Assurance Director)
Many business people from abroad including the emerging countries have participated in HIDA training programs. Positions of the targeted audience vary with the programs, and there are some programs aimed for top executives.
This time, we interviewed with a person who runs a fish processing and exporting company in Sri Lanka.
--Please explain your company profile first.
The company was established in 1979 as a fish products trading company. The head office is located in Colombo and our factory is located about 25 km from the city. We equipped our factory with fish processing facilities in 1995, and got EU approval in 1997. So, we are now engaging in the fish processing and exporting business. Our turn-over is about US$20M per year, and there are 125 employees, which puts us in the category of a medium-size company. We deal with various types of fish, out of which the main ones are tuna (big eye tuna/yellow fin tuna), swordfish, marlin, kingfish, mahi-mahi, barramundi and assorted reef fish types such as grouper, snapper, etc.
We provide guidance, direction, and leadership for employees.
Our management philosophy is to provide an environment that leads to employees with higher productivity. We achieve that through conflict management, keeping the morale high, providing encouragement to low performers and also rewarding the strong performers.
--Do you think of any challenges that hinder your company business to grow and develop further? What kind of actions do you think need to be taken to address the above-mentioned “challenges”?
[Challenges for the business of your company]
- Low availability of adequate raw materials (fish), and less quantitative amount throughout the year against customers’ demand.
- Higher purchasing price due to less quantity of fish.
- Post-harvest losses in terms of lower quality (freshness) by handling not in a proper way from the catch in the ocean to the transportation to the factory.
[Countermeasures need to be taken to address the above-mentioned “challenges”]
- We need to diversify in to the fish varieties or aquaculture (fish farming) in land /Mari culture (sea grown fish, farm fingerlings in the ocean) products.
- If we find more raw materials, we could reduce the selling price as well.
- We need to provide training for people who actually deal with fish from the loading process to unloading process at the factory, and this is being undertaken now.
--How do you view the current status of your business in the global market?
We had an EU ban for exporting fish from our oceanic area for one and half years from 2015 to June 2016. Now the ban has been lifted and we are getting more orders from EU member countries.
Aside from this, we used the facility of an EU GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) plus until 2010, but it is currently banned since Sri Lanka could not fulfill some EU requirements. We are hoping to get back the EU GSP plus as it was before, by the end of this year. GSP plus is a highly conditional duty free concession, and the Sri Lankan government has agreed with the EU to fulfill the requirements and other domestic concerns, and therefore we would be able to get it hopefully within this year. If we get it we would be able to export a larger quantity of fish with using the advantage of the duty concession.
We are currently exporting mainly to Holland, Germany, Italy, the UK in EU, and Switzerland and also exporting to the Japanese market as well even though it is just a small portion as of now.
--Are you planning to expand your business overseas? What does your company consider important and wish to focus on to lead your business overseas to a success?
Yes, we are now planning to expand our business to the Russian market, and even more to the Japanese market.
At least negotiating a fixed buying price is needed. Pre-agreement is quite important and this has been practiced in EU countries and other regions but in the Japanese market, the price fluctuates all the time and we cannot negotiate a fixed buying price.
We have been supplying sashimi quality tuna in gilled and gutted form (GG) for a long time. Since Japan has the auction market price, which generally fluctuates, it is difficult to maintain a consistent supply with a profit margin. Therefore we need to expand the business with processed products like tuna loins, stakes and cut portions (called "saku" in Japanese), etc. as well in fresh and frozen form.
--What are the points that you have kept in mind to develop human resources in your company? In other words, how do you wish to improve your engagement with the matter in the future?
In some areas we need to make changes to management. We need to amend the recruitment procedure and training of our employees.
And also we need to establish new policies for the identified areas in the production line with regard to process capability and other activities for enhancing the productivity. When we implement a policy, we need to develop its content, and draft it properly. Then write procedures accordingly. Finally policies have to be reviewed and approved prior to implementation by the top management. Then we need to improve policies continuously and do the necessary updates.
Japan is a very beautiful country. Although it is hit with natural disasters (typhoons), the country seems to me to be a very safe place to live, as the high technology provides up-to-date information on potential disasters. This helps everyone to be vigilant and take necessary preventive measures to save their lives. This was experienced by myself and all other members of this training course during the recent information on the typhoon during our stay at TKC (Tokyo Kenshu Center).
Japanese companies maintain very high standards, meeting all up-to-date quality requirements along with CSR activities. Therefore, there is no doubt Japanese companies help others in the world to overcome quality issues and to maintain high standards. Other companies can also do benchmark activities by visiting Japanese companies, learning and understanding the Total Quality Management (TQM) practices, promotional activities for upgrading their own standards, etc.
Japanese hospitality is very close to Sri Lankan hospitality; hence, I felt I am here for two weeks with my family and friends.
Finally I must thank HIDA for providing me this opportunity to visit your beautiful country and learn about quality management and the actual practices of TQM.
I take this opportunity also to thank all the lecturers and TKC staff for their support during my stay in Japan and to the Managing Director of Jay Sea Foods Processing (Pvt.) Ltd., for granting necessary leave and required sponsorship for me.