The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has launched a ground-breaking certificate course in SME skills development exclusively for women entrepreneurs, in collaboration with the Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) affiliated with the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
The course will consist of three seven-hours-a-day sessions spread over three months followed by a practical presentation session, the Bank said. The three sessions will be on the topics ‘Business Development for Women Entrepreneurs,’ ‘Finance & Negotiation basics’ and ‘Innovation & Branding.’ On completion of the sessions, participants will be required to present a practical plan on a new product or service complete with relevant costing and plans for marketing. A certificate will be awarded to the participants who complete all three sessions and the presentation.
The specific areas covered by the course topics would encompass How to improve business in tough times; How to find new opportunities; How to grow the business in revenue terms; How to plan finances for the business; How to keep basic accounts and statements; Preparation of budgets for the business; How to manage costs; Negotiating and relationship building with suppliers; How to plan new products and services; Moving from a businesswoman to an entrepreneur; and How to promote the business via different channels.
Commenting on this collaborative programme, Commercial Bank’s Deputy General Manager – Marketing, Mr Hasrath Munasinghe said: “Skills development in the SME sector had been one of our main areas of focus under non-financial banking services. Our recent initiatives in Women’s Banking place emphasis on supporting female entrepreneurs. As the leader in SME lending, we are happy to reach out to more women entrepreneurs and this skills development programme is the latest addition to this effort. With initiatives such as this, the Bank aims to create more opportunities to reach women entrepreneurs, create stronger bonds, and equip our customers with the knowledge and skills needed to withstand challenges.”
Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed recently between the Bank and PIM, a pilot course is to be conducted for about 30 – 40 female entrepreneurs from the Inner Colombo and Colombo Metro regions at the Bank’s Training Centre at Colombo 2, the Bank said.
Based on the feedback received on the pilot project and further evaluations and improvements, the Bank said it intends to extend this programme to female entrepreneurs around the country in Sinhala, Tamil and English. A second programme is already planned to be conducted in Tamil for the Bank’s female customers in the North and East.
Although the Bank has been conducting skills development programmes for SMEs continuously for many years, this is the first structured, standardised course it is offering women entrepreneurs in partnership with a national university reputed for delivering high quality programmes. The expertise offered by PIM and the practical experience opportunities extended to the participants would represent a significant value addition for women entrepreneurs, the Bank added.
Under the terms of the MoU, Commercial Bank will nominate participants for the SME skills development programmes for women entrepreneurs. Thereafter, the PIM will carry out an independent verification of the background of participants and will explain the curriculum individually, to prepare them for the programme.
Earlier this year, Commercial Bank also conducted a programme with panel discussions on beginning a career, climbing up the corporate ladder and success stories of women-led enterprises for a group of female undergraduates of the University of Colombo.
Commercial Bank launched the ‘Anagi Women’s Banking’ portfolio in early 2022 as part of its expanding efforts to the support women. The portfolio was designed in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) — under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program — using its expertise in increasing access to finance for women, an important but under-served segment. The portfolio comprises of the ‘Anagi Women’s Savings Account’ and the ‘Anagi Business Loan for Women Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (WSME)’ and the Bank has pledged to introduce many more new products and services in the future. The Bank offers a free Debit Card with all Anagi Savings Accounts and recently introduced a Credit Card exclusively for women. The Anagi Business Loan for Women Small and Medium Entrepreneurs provides female entrepreneurs with loans for working capital or investment purposes. Available exclusively for female business owners and businesses with female business partners or directors, this scheme enables applicants to receive loans from Rs 2 million to Rs 250 million at competitive interest rates and with flexible grace periods.
Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank, the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 12 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 268 branches and 940 automated machines in Sri Lanka. Commercial Bank is the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector and is a leader in digital innovation in the country’s Banking sector. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.