Lessons from Colombo Saree Market to IT SMEs Sri Lanka

I had a habit and have to admit still have the habit of buying sarees from Colombo market. It’s been a while since I’ve last been there as well as it’s been a while since I had that impression I bought a great saree for a good price and they are not cheap! I tried buying from convenient shops but it didn’t hit me right. Probably the great uncommon collection of sarees they do have or probably something created by my mother in my head!!
After my recent visit, I think I analyze it in a different way. Well, it took me years to realize the reason to be exact till the last week. Wait! They do have the best collection. Since this is not a blog to promote shopping sarees or saree shops in Pettah Let me jump slowly into the point I want to make.

Well, from here onwards by “they” it is referred to Pettah Saree market, by the word “us/we” it is referred to the IT industry mainly the startups and SMEs

One Place and a One Name For IT SMEs?

In Sri Lanka Saree goes with the name Pettah/Colombo in Sri Lanka. But we have a place like that for IT SMEs?
We all are going our own ways own promotion, own campaigns, own SEO where not geographically but even a web space to have all IT companies listed? Is a client capable of coming to one place to see all IT companies in the country? Man! They even have a branch in each floor to increase the possibility through visibility.
They are all in one place united, so the potential customers are always free to walk in and out from one place to another, compare and contrast. Some shops are specialized in wedding sarees, some shops with materials, some shops are more focused in office wear, and they showcase it in front so the customers don’t have the hassle of spending a lot of time with not finding what he/she wants as the consumer enters to the shop owners ask the requirement if it is something totally opposite to what they sell they direct them to a shop where it’s available.

Competing in open market and tackling the competition

All sellers compete in an open market, open space and get the customers and welcome them to their shop. The greatest thing I found about them is they never criticize or humiliate each other they know they all are one group trying to achieve the same at the end of the day. Does our IT industry behave the same way? We always try to undercut others and move forward, we don’t see the fact it’s the industry we need to protect not ourselves, we often see others as competitors and try to surpass each other. Just think of an instance of how a Colombo Saree Shop owner treats a customer who returns from one shop to another? Most of the time they ask “Miss why didn’t you find your saree there?” they get the answer and they treat the cause, they don’t say a single word against their fellow sellers.

Good Conversation and reading the mind

Another fascinating thing about them is as we go into a saree shop their customer service! First they get the requirement, the budget range, the colour and then starts showing an unlimited number of Sarees! Do we have that customer acquisition and retention plan? It might not be that simple in our context but we generally go through a lot and at the end get rejected at the price point.
In Pettah market 1st they show the sarees in your range and totally increase and as we start looking through something over budgeted “Madam, shall I drape this for you? To see and take pictures? You don’t need to buy” They show you the options and they comment. Finally, we end up buying something expensive yet we think as a good deal.

Client Service and Role in the Eco System

Once you are inside their shop you are treated like the KING. Definitely full priority is given to you and your cause of choosing a saree. They let you feel recognized. And once you are inside their shop they never let you go! If something is not matching the next option would be the stores, in most of the time, this is another shop where one boy runs and get some other designs from maybe another shop and shows you. This is retaining customers once they are inside your shop.
We as IT companies do not white label others products and sell it more easily than we try to custom make from the beginning, which leads to a lot of people reinventing the same wheel.
Setting the Price
They let the customer bargain, that’s bit of a psychological game they play. But if you noticed never let you do it below a certain level. Do we SMEs have it? Small IT companies in the industry are suffering because of this we don’t think about the industry standards we just price it in a way we can close the deal. At the end of the day it does an equal harm to you as well as for the eco system you grow in. It is essential to be mindful of all the costs and your price point. Specially the bottom line.

Compete or Collaborate? Easy of Two

They don’t usually compete as sellers of each shops. The sellers in the saree market they do collaborate, once you are inside the market chances are very less that you are returning without a saree in your hand. They collaborate with people in the same industry and try to solve the problem somehow within the market they borrow and sell, they direct to the correct shop, after you buy a saree the shop owner just take you to another shop for you to buy the blouse material. That’s the level of customer service they provide.
Though this article I tried to write what I saw, experienced and tried to apply the same to the industry we are in. Since this is based solely on my opinion what you see and think might be totally different. So remember to drop a comment and let me know what you think.
Finally for a startup/ SME Inspiration is all around it’s just a matter of absorbing it!
Stay tuned for the next article on my suggestions for the IT SME eco system….


  • BrianBaict

    April 2, 2020

    Love the website– very individual friendly and lots to see!

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