Ramesh Shanmuganathan

CEO of John Keells IT
Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Vision 2025 is based on a knowledge-based, highly competitive, social market economy. It’s identified several targets including raising per capita income to $5,000, creating one million new jobs, increasing foreign direct investment to $5 billion a year, and doubling exports to $20 billion per year during the next five years. Currently, almost 60% of Sri Lanka’s GDP is generated by services, 27% in industries and 7% in agriculture. Given that our domestic market size is limited, we need to be clear about how we are going to grow to realize our Vision 2025.

The key to this is to grow our market and the reach for our products and services is to go beyond the shores of Sri Lanka which would mean we need to differentiate our exports through value creation/addition by moving up the value chain. In IT parlance, we must move from pure-play services to the creation of products and solutions which are aligned with emerging trends and opportunities.

It becomes very obvious when you couple this with what’s happening in today’s global digital landscape that to realize her Vision 2025, Sri Lanka has to advance her technology and digital maturity in all her areas of economic activity to be competitive and to grow her global market share. This means Sri Lanka’s technology or digital quotient must be on a trajectory to be on par with those we compete against, like India, Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia or the Philippines, to attract investment and grow.


Since independence, the country has diversified its industrial capacity in many sectors and is developing a very competitive ICT industry. Could you please brief our readers about the strengths and the potential in the Sri Lankan ICT sector?

Sri Lanka has her unique advantage due to her geographic location as well as the diversity it brings in and I could name the following as key attributes which makes Sri Lanka an attractive destination for IT/Digital and related products, services and solutions.

The excellent enabling environment includes geographic location, investor neutrality or friendliness, good infrastructure both physical and ICT from a regional context, great healthcare facilities from a regional context, stable economic outlook, low corporate tax as well as incentives for FDIs.

Our human capital like the high literacy rate, language competency, cosmopolitan culture in the cities, diverse skills, trainable, young and highly motivated workforce. Access to markets as we are well-positioned both physically and digitally, and our ability to leverage the eco-systems due to where it’s positioned geographically between India and China as well as digitally across the globe.

Sri Lanka has a great value proposition to position herself as a Tier-2 Hub for Innovation, R&D, as well as Business Continuity centres for global players and MNCs whilst chartering our way forward as a Cloud-native product, services and solution providers, especially in the 3rd Platform space, leveraging on Anything as a Services model (XaaS).


John Keells IT is a focus, boutique consultancy and professional services organization focused on Digital Transformation and enabling the organization to leverage IT/Digital to be relevant to for data-driven, experience economy. Could you please explain for our readers a little bit about the story of John Keells IT? What are your main services and which goals do you have for 2022?

John Keells IT is an integral part of the John Keells group, www.keells.com, and is the main IT services provider to the group whilst serving clientele in similar leagues across the territories of Asia, Middle East, Europe and the Pacifics and we have plans for expansion into the Americas as well. was primarily serving the John Keells group. We have a track record for conceptualizing and successfully executing massive transformation initiatives which have put the John Keells group on an accelerated trajectory when it comes to leveraging Digital/IT to drive transformation across the group. We have been leveraging that competency, capability and capacity to help other organizations that we work with to accelerate their Digital Transformation with a confluence of our expertise, experience as well as partnerships.

John Keells IT has behind her more than 25 years of knowledge which has been accumulated through our journey having worked with the likes of Emirates Airline, American Express, Qatar Airways, Alfutaim Group, Toyota Qatar, Air Arabia, Emirates Aluminum, SAS Group, Glaxo, Fonterra, Calcidonia, etc. Today we have strategic partnerships with key industry players in the likes of SAP, Microsoft, UiPath, Salesforce, WSO2, etc to be able to deliver on our brand promise to, “ Enable an organization to be frictionless and data-driven to be relevant in the experience economy”.

We have 5 Value stacks to deliver on this promise: JKIT Strategy, JKIT Core, JKIT Cloud, JKIT Platforms, JKIT Ecosystems which has well thought through solution stacks to enable our customers to embrace Digital Transformation in a meaningful and simplified way based on their digital maturity. As part of our strategy, we are also packaging these solutions across the 5 value stacks as industry solutions to enable an organization to leverage a Cloud first, Mobile First and a AI-first strategy.


John Keells IT, with its strategic partners in the sector, accounts for more than 500 clients in 4 continents. Where are most of your clients from? Which markets are you growing in?

John Keells IT has 25+ years of history having started as a 100% focused software company. In 1997, we established a company called JKCS which was focused on software & solutions. We had Emirates as one of our marquee clients and developed their first-ever loyalty program for Emirates Airlines as their captive Offshore Development Center in the last 90s and then had a joint venture with Air Arabia from 2005 to 2014 which delivered the entire applications portfolio for the airline. Today we have our own product portfolio under the brand “Evinta” for the airlines including IBE, DCS, W&B, etc.

Today as John Keells IT, we focus on broader industry domains across manufacturing, retail, financial services, transportation, logistics, telecommunications, airlines,  etc and have strategic partners such as SAP. Microsoft, Uipath, Cisco, Siemens, WSO2, SalesForce, etc and our own products and solutions to address the broader requirements of our clientele.

At present, we serve the markets across Sri Lanka, the Middle East & Africa, Asia Pacific, United Kingdom, and Scandinavia and are planning our expansion into the Americas & wider Europe and are looking for partners to represent us in this growth markets.


The United States of America is the main economic partner of Sri Lanka; its annual trade represents over 24% of all Sri Lanka’s exports. In the long term, what is your plan to operate in the United States?

As we speak we are exploring partnerships in the Americas and that’s the very reason we are keen to partner with USA Today to leverage our brand and value proposition and are keen to hear from credible, established partners in the Americas and Canada for us to be able to expand into these territories and expand on our portfolio as well in aligning with market expectations.


Through your professional career you have made an incredible effort to become a true embodiment of driving innovation and entrepreneurship through being part of big corporate. what are you most proud of?

The most exciting for me, all along, was that opportunity I got to write my playbook every time I started a new role or accepted added responsibility. I wanted to truly create and do something different to set us apart and something had never been done before. It’s gratifying to see that people chose to trust, learn, follow and replicate what you have done by adapting your playbook for their organizations. The most challenging part was to write a master playbook to balance my multiple roles & responsibilities to address the multi-stakeholders as well as multiple industries in a regional as well as in a conglomerate setting whilst finding time for yourself, for family and to enjoy life.