A Focus On... Sri Lanka


Population: 21,045,000
Monetary unit: Sri Lankan rupee
Capital city: Colombo (executive and judicial); Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (Colombo suburb; legislative)
Major languages: Sinhala; Tamil (English has official status as “the link language” between Sinhala and Tamil)
Major religions: Buddhist c. 70%; Hindu c. 15%; Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) c. 8%; Muslim (nearly all Sunni) c. 7%
Ethnic composition: Sinhalese 81.9%; Tamil 9.4%; Sri Lankan Moor 8.0%; other 0.7%
Age breakdown: under 15, 26.3%; 15–29, 27.0%; 30–44, 22.0%; 45–59, 15.4%; 60–74, 7.1%; 75 and over, 2.2%
Life expectancy: male 70.6 years; female 78.1 years
Education: percentage of population age 10 and over literate 91.4%; males literate 92.8%; females literate 90.0%.
Urban/Rural split: urban 14.3%; rural 85.7%
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


The future looks good for Sri Lanka. In May 2009 government forces seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger forces, bringing to an end more than 25 years of violence. In 2011 the country's GDP grew by 8.3%, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

The PR industry is growing too. Imal Fonseka, MD of CBL Foods (CBL), the country's largest food manufacturing company, says: “More and more marketers are recognising the value that can be gained by including PR within the marketing mix.”

He continues with an example: “Our brand Kumarica is Sri Lanka's number one herbal hair oil, and when it ventured into the hairwash and facewash market, the launch was preceded by an educational campaign on print and electronic media. We carefully customised our messages and approaches to the readership and the viewership of each publication or channel.”


Sri Lanka has a vibrant media. The most read title is the Daily Mirror from Wijaya Publications and other tier one print titles are those from Government-owned publisher Lake House Publications such as Ceylon Daily News, Dinamina, and Thinakaran, as well as The Daily Island from Upali Newspapers.

There are many magazines including Lanka Monthly Digest, a monthly business/lifestyle magazine, Living, a bi-monthly women's lifestyle title, and Business Today, a monthly business magazine that includes content from the Harvard Business

Review. The Lanka Business Report is a new and fast-growing business title.

When it comes to broadcast, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation is the state broadcaster, and other important players are The Maharaja Group, ITN, Colombo Communications, and ABC Networks. ETV covers technology in some depth, and State of Business on ART TV is notable for being right up to date with its business coverage.

“Facebook seems to be a fashionable tool,” says Fonseka at CBL. “However talking to a

few brand custodians, I wonder if they realise that a ‘like’ is not necessarily a desired consumer response, rather just a confirmation of viewership. Sustainable engagement is more important. Yet the trend is quite positive, and brand owners do seem to realise the benefits of using a wide range of communications tools to influence their target audience.”

Major Brands

Telcos such as Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel, Etisalat, Dialog Axiata, Bharti Airtel Lanka are all important in Sri Lanka, as is software behemoth Microsoft. Multinationals such as Unilever and Nestle have a strong presence, but local brands such as bakers Perera & Sons and conglomerate John Keells Holdings have also gained impressive media coverage in recent months.

For many brands in Sri Lanka, a public demonstration of corporate social responsibility remains one of the best ways to gain positive column inches, and this is increasingly as true of local brands as it is of multinational ones. For example, Akeel Latiff, Marketing Manager at Sri Lanka’s largest fashion retailer NOLIMIT, says: “We use CSR when we can’t advertise.”

He continues: “We recently refurbished the university obstretic unit at the De Soysa Hospital in Colombo and invited reporters to the grand opening. The campaign has gained seven times the exposure we would have got by spending the same amount on press ads. Not only that, it has also given us the endorsement of a wide range of journalists.”


Strategic Alliance PR, is the leading agency in Sri Lanka, and is Burson-Marsteller's affiliate in the country. Text100 affiliate HardTALK is another major player that has enjoyed good success in recent months.

Ogilvy PR has an office in Colombo, Grant PR is affiliated to advertising group McCann Erickson, and ARC to advertising group Leo Burnett.

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