The year under reference was one of the most challenging and at the same time most exciting. I had the greatest satisfaction in leading the SLT Group amidst tough conditions to return excellent results in every aspect for the year 2020.
I am pleased to issue a message on the publication of the Annual Report of the SLT Group for the year 2020. It is also the year where the changes in the top management took effect with a newly appointed Board of Directors. Therefore, the activities and results recorded in the Annual Report have a direct connection to the new Board of Directors. As intimated last year in my message, I had the greatest satisfaction in leading the SLT Group amidst tough conditions to return excellent results in every aspect for the year 2020.
The year under reference was one of the most challenging and at the same time most exciting. Challenging, because we were confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic as early as the first week of March and the real effect of it being felt from April onwards with lockdowns and restricted movement due to strict health regulations. The country had to endure quarantine emergency regulations and new protocols had to be drafted into our BCP (Business continuation plan) to ensure our tasks were carried out without a breakdown in providing the national service expected of us whilst ensuring our staff was safe and healthy.
Amidst the pandemic scare a threat of ransomware surfaced in July and timely action was taken to minimise any ill effects from this intrusion. I thank our vigilant staff for the quick action taken to mitigate a probable disaster. Readiness to prevent such situations is now defined in our business continuity plan.
It was also an exciting period where we discovered our real strengths and opportunities beyond the simple connection of communication. Working from home, working close to home were adopted to reduce converging and staff being exposed to the virus. Our timely action safeguarded the staff and we successfully managed the epidemic. Our staff was given the comfort of quick assistance through prearranged quarantine centres to meet an emergency. It also dawned on us that in the medium to long-term we can reduce converging at the headquarters and empower the regional officers to draft staff members closer to their places of residence. In the long-term this would definitely reduce operational costs whilst giving the staff quality time with family by reducing travel time between home and workplace.
Most unexpectedly the Company was inundated with requests for network options and digital solutions arising out of the pandemic lockdowns. Our enterprise teams and customer services were kept busy with new connections, new service platforms and new national enterprise solutions.
Improving efficiency and eliminating waste was an aspect we focused on from the very beginning of the year. The basic strategies adhered to in this regard were zero corruption, minimum wastage and maximum efficiency.
It was a year with the least amount of disputes between the Management and staff. Many issues brought to the attention of the Management and the Board of Directors were resolved amicably and the trend was set to cooperate on Company issues as opposed to confrontations by strong trade union action. With the appointment of a Chief Peoples Officer, corporate HR culture was introduced on handling staff grievances and assessments, developing operational procedures etc. These new initiatives helped in improving staff confidence in the Management which was a key factor for industrial harmony throughout the year. This was something unique in the Company where strikes and strong union actions were order of the day in the past. Instead, today the trade unions attached to SLT engage in many cost saving programmes going beyond their call of duty. We at SLT believe this to be a model for other state or state dominated institutions to become financially independent without being a burden to the exchequer. During the year our Company ranking was moved up from 16 to 8 by the prestigious BT magazine and we were also selected amongst the 10 most admired companies in Sri Lanka.
SLT Group is well positioned to transform the Company from an information and communications technology solutions provider to digital service provider moving into industrial, commercial, and personal requirements of the Nation. Already several important sectors of the country, education, health, agriculture, judiciary, MSME businesses are provided with tailor-made digital platforms with simplified applications for ease of operation.
Improving efficiency and eliminating waste was an aspect we focused on from the very beginning of the year. The basic strategies adhered to in this regard were zero corruption, minimum wastage and maximum efficiency. With leakages stopped on many fronts, accusations of large scale corruptions were non-existent during the year under reference. The Company also created an environment for submission of evidence based complaints on misappropriations and wrong doings for the top Management to take meaningful corrective actions.
In early 2020, an action plan was set in motion to identify industrial waste and monetise same for gain through recycling and disposal via a transparent tender process. The items identified were copper wire and drop wire being replaced by fibre to the home (FTTH) programme, disused equipment cabinets, electronic wastes, damaged telegraphic posts and rails. The consolidated value of this project is over LKR 6 Bn. and during the next few years the Company hopes to convert hitherto classified waste into cash through this programme.
As previously explained, Covid-19 facilitated many a cost saving solutions in operating our systems. This coupled with staff motivation helped in many initiatives to improve system efficiency and reduce down time in our services. The net results of these deliberations are well amplified in the financial reports where the Group recorded historical achievements in all fronts and posted the best ever net profit of LKR 7.9 Bn. for the financial year of 2020.
The two main companies and several subsidiary units in the Group operating in silos was recognised as a perennial cause for stagnation or stunted growth of our top line and customer base. It was more than evident that internal competition and different formats of promotion and marketing gave an edge over us to the competitors. In these circumstances the idea for a unified brand platform was mooted and by April 2020 a process was started to scout for a suitable creative advertising agency to submit proposals. The final determination was arrived at for SLT-MOBITEL unified brand and the single agency selection to drive the brand through a transparent process. The new strategy is destined to grow the market whilst reducing the costs in relation to the multiple agencies engaged previously. The people of SLT Group were ready to embrace the new brand logo and insignia deployed throughout the entire landscape of products and services. The new strategy was ceremoniously launched on 1st January 2021 and the sentiments in the market are positive towards our objectives.
Going by the vision of His Excellency the President towards a digitalised Sri Lanka and the opportunities now visible post Covid-19, SLT Group is well positioned to transform the Company from a telecommunications provider to digital service provider moving into industrial, commercial, and personal requirements of the Nation. Already several important sectors of the country, education, health, agriculture, judiciary, MSME businesses are provided with tailor-made digital platforms with simplified applications for ease of operation. Smart cities, smart meters for water and electricity supplies are in the pipeline to be rolled out soon. Launching of 5G cutting-edge technology would empower cost effective and precision manufacture. SLT-MOBITEL Research and Development Centre will introduce demand driven applications to meet many solutions including the human-elephant conflicts and securitised options for safe workplaces and homes.
During the year 2020, a substantial amount of social responsibility projects were carried out. Distribution of face masks and food packages during the crucial period of the pandemic was undertaken by the Company. The first ever COVID assistance donation contributed by the staff and Company was presented to the ITUKAMA fund launched by the President. Rehabilitated buses converted as bus libraries, a joint venture between the National Libraries and Sri Lanka Transport Board was launched to support underprivileged students in rural Sri Lanka. Under the Gamata Sannivedhanaya (communication to village) project SLT-MOBITEL expanded the network of communication to the persons especially students in most deprived areas.
Several new projects are earmarked for 2021. Amongst these, improving five training institutions with special attention to Hambantota and Batticaloa centres and advancing the curriculum to include IT and digital technology to make the students employable even in foreign countries, creating a knowledge HUB with retired SLT engineers and technicians to teach in our training centres, launching SLT Global to generate job opportunities for secondment of SLT employees and monetising of idle assets to boost the balance sheet will be focused on.
Despite the global downturn in economic activities, Sri Lanka will have new opportunities in many areas. In order to assist these activities, SLT Group will be ready with an IT rollout. It is with much hope we at SLT look to the future prospects of Sri Lanka in a new economic order.
Finally I would like to record my appreciation to the top Management of the SLT Group headed by Mr Lalith Seneviratne the newly appointed Group CEO, the fellow Directors and the staff for the unprecedented cooperation received in steering the Company towards the success we have recorded for the financial year. My appreciation is due to all shareholders of the Company for the confidence placed in the ability of our Company to perform even under difficult conditions. As we are aware today, the Company is in a strong position to take on the fierce competition in the world of telecommunication and we shall focus intently to meet such competition with new products and services to become the most admired national IT provider.
Chairman SLT Group
9 March 2021