Sri Lanka’s 130-year-old tea auction goes hi-tech

Published : 9:31 am  March 26, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 


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From left: John Keells PLC Business Solutions, IT Governance Risk and Compliance Head Hisham Nazeem, John Keells PLC CEO Sudath Munasinghe, John Keells Holdings PLC Plantation Sector and ICT President Sanjeewa Fernando, Mobitel Senior General Manager Marketing Nalin Perera, Mobitel Business Solutions Head Chamith Hettiarachchi, Mobitel Manager Business Solutions Vajira De Silva and Mobitel Senior Account Manager Enterprise Sales Dilshan Algama
Pic by Waruna Wanniarachchi


By Chandeepa Wettasinghe

The Colombo tea auction, considered the largest and oldest single-origin tea auction in the world, is receiving a breath of innovation through the mAuction service, which was launched this week, to bring the auctioneering services to the stakeholders’ fingertips in real-time.

“We saw an opportunity to innovate in an industry that has national significance. The uniqueness of this concept is that it ekes out linkages between multiple industry-specific processes and a plethora of technologies,” John Keells PLC Business Solutions, IT Governance Risk and Compliance Head Hisham Nazeem said.

John Keells Holdings, one of the country’s largest tea brokers, conceptualized the product, while state-owned mobile services operator Mobitel (Pvt.) Ltd created the product.

The mAuction service is available to buyers, brokers and their back-office personnel through the Buyer’s app, Broker’s app and Auction Viewer software, respectively, which are available on the Apple iPad and through web browsers on any device connected to the Internet.

Mobitel Business Solutions Head Chamith Hettiarachchi said that brokers and buyers must use their traditionally earned experience in dealing with each other and other market conditions to make the maximum use of the service.

He said that brokers could review past market performance prior to the start of the auction to list their tea lots, while buyers could estimate their optimum bid prices.
The buyers and brokers could also track and analyse their demand and supply fulfilment, respectively in real-time during the auction, following which the data could be uploaded to their back-office systems for payment and logistical processing through the web or via a CSV file transfer.

“We saw that people were always either taking down information on a piece of paper or keying them on to their devices after the auction to go back and put on their back-office systems. So this will eliminate that,” Hettiarachchi said.
The use of the service is expected to save time, which could be used to pursue other business interests and increase productivity of the companies involved.

The joint initiative commenced in January 2013 with the introduction of the ‘eGavel’ pilot project, which was built to capture tea auction information at the speed of the auction in real-time. The public, related authorities and interested parties too could view the information in real-time in the future.

Hettiarachchi said that Mobitel will continue to host as well as improve the platform as a national service.
He also said that Mobitel would provide consultancy to tea buyers and brokers alike about mAuction, conduct training programmes for familiarization and provide a limited time trial run to assess its viability.
The Colombo tea auction, which has been in operation for over 130 years, grosses an annual market turnover exceeding US $ 1.5 billion.