First announced in early November 2020, the state initiative of launching a retail chain named “Q-Shop” has since been put into action, and an outlet was most recently opened in Torrington.
Speaking to The Morning Brunch about the initiative, Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardana shared the primary objective of the retail chain – to sell high-quality products at low prices to the people as per the Saubhagyaye Dekma Policy Statement of the President. and to intervene to create competitive young entrepreneurs.
The Q-Shop concept, according to Dr. Gunawardana, is somewhat similar to the international chain of convenience stores known as 7-Eleven. Therefore, it will be a franchise of outlets, the physical manifestation of which will be housed in 40-foot containers which will be converted into mini supermarkets allowing portability, for it to be moved from one place to the other as market availability demands.
“Q” stands for “Quality” and the franchise will only sell quality-controlled goods, and this guarantee will be carried out by the Sri Lanka State Trading (General) Corporation (STC), which will carry out necessary inspections, ensure that products have their SLS certifications, and conduct factory inspections. The products will carry a guarantee in that the consumer will not have reason to fear buying dated products, or if the products contain harmful substances detrimental to one’s health.
The purpose of the initiative is in order to give priority to local producers, and therefore imported goods will not have a place at Q-Shop. The Minister shared an example stating that if we are to consider soap items, the Q-Shop will only have on sale BCC’s, Siddhalepa’s, or Upali’s products, and will not make available imported goods such as Lux.
Due to the farm-to-table concept, they will be ideally eliminating the middleman, “which will provide for the customer to get their hands on products for the lowest possible market value”.
Dr. Gunawardana said that with the very first 20 outlets to be initiated, costs are to be borne entirely by the Government and it will give way to a market test which will be done in and around Colombo. Following this, they will move on to phase two, which includes the broader plan and their collective goal of creating market opportunities for young entrepreneurs all around the island.
As a part of the programme initiated by Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs Namal Rajapaksa for the development of young entrepreneurs, it will move on to allowing access to this franchise for driven and passionate youths from outside of Colombo, which will allow for such youths to engage in fair trade practices and to provide for their community without unfairly garnering excess profit.
Dr. Gunawardana shared that they hope to set in place a mechanism where driven and dynamic youths, particularly those who may be currently running business with difficulty and trying to somehow sustain it, will be given a loan to procure the container Q-Shop completely furnished with all necessary amenities to be purchased on a 10-year plan where they will make small installments upon completion; they will be the sole proprietor of their own outlet.
He said that in order to remain as transparent as possible, there will be a tender issued to those who are able to develop these containers for Q-Shop at a competitive rate.
Dr. Gunawardana also spoke briefly about the recently opened outlet in Torrington, stating that the customer base that frequents that area is of the middle class or upper middle class, who would often come to exercise in the vicinity; so, this particular shop is stocked according to the healthy living concept where the food that is available is organically produced and sourced courtesy of the organic farmers collective in Nuwara Eliya which features about 3,000 farmers directly sourcing food for the platform. Similarly, as the programme develops, Q-Shop will include products made by local bodies such as the National Livestock Development Board, Fisheries Corporation, Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation, etc.
Under the initial phase of this project, 1,000 Q-Shops will be set up across the country, with plans to open 14,000 Q-Shops covering all grama niladhari divisions in the country by 2024 to create market opportunities for young entrepreneurs by delivering high-quality public sector and local private manufacturers’ products directly to the consumer.