MEET THE FOUNDERS

CO-FOUNDER/CEO
ANUSHKA WIJESINHA

Anushka is an economist specializing in trade, competitiveness and innovation, with experience in Government, private sector and think tanks. He consults for international organizations in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan and Maldives, including the International Trade Centre (ITC), UNCTAD, World Bank, ADB, and USAID.

Formerly he held a senior position in the Government of Sri Lanka as Advisor to the Minister of Development Strategies and International trade, where he led initiatives on trade competitiveness, export diversification and innovation, and investment promotion. In the private sector, he serves in a non-executive capacity on the boards of Seylan Bank PLC, Fairfirst Insurance Ltd, HNB Finance PLC, Capital Alliance Investments Ltd, and he chairs the investment commitment of a high net-worth family office. Anushka also serves on the Board of the Sri Lankan chapter of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

He has served on the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Innovation Ecosystems. Until recently he also served on the Monetary Policy Consultative Committee of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Anushka holds a Masters in Economics from University of Leeds, BSc in Economics from University College London, and is an alumnus of the Harvard Kennedy School’s ‘Leading Economic Growth’ executive programme. He has worked in South Korea at the Korea Development Institute in Seoul as part of the Asia Development Fellow, supported by The Asia Foundation.

Recent publications and presentations

  • ‘Sri Lanka and Global Manufacturing Value Chains: Lessons from China’ (forthcoming), for UNCTAD, Geneva

  • ‘Supply chain resilience of Sri Lanka’s apparel industry during Covid-19’ (forthcoming), for Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) SOPAS, Japan

  • Co-author of guest column in the DailyFT – ‘Did Sri Lanka gain from US-China trade war? An initial look’,
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  • Wijayasiri, J. and Wijesinha, A. (2021), ‘US-China Trade War: Trade and Investment Implications for Sri Lanka’, in Rahul Nah Chaoudhry (ed.) The China-US Trade War and South Asian Economies, Routledge: US
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  • Wijesinha, A. (2021), ‘Sri Lanka as a Commercial Hub in the Indian Ocean: The Role of Domestic Trade and Competitiveness Reforms’, in Attanayake, C. (ed). Maritime Sri Lanka; Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, World Scientific: Singapore.
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  • Wijayasiri, J. and Wijesinha, A. (2020), ‘Turning challenge into opportunity: Exporting PPE from South Asia to the US’, Trade Insight, Vol 16, No.3 (2020), SAWTEE: Kathmandu.

  • Panelist at the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Sri Lanka webinar on ‘Navigating the Pandemic: Survival and Success through Entrepreneurship’.
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  • Remarks on ‘Economic Impacts of COVID-19 and Implications for Cities and Urban Development‘ at the Institute of Town Planners international forum ‘Planning for the New Normal: Learning from Other Perspectives’.
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  • ‘Is there a secret sauce to reforming labour laws?: Q&A with an international expert’
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CO-FOUNDER / DIRECTOR
IROMI PERERA

Iromi Perera is a Colombo based researcher and activist. She works on land rights and spatial justice, with a focus on development and dispossession in post war Sri Lanka.

At present, she is a Co-Investigator leading the research work in Colombo for two multi-country research projects funded by the UKRI’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), studying human-infrastructure interactions in the context of urban crises and urban change. She is also currently working as the Asia Consultant for the Bank Information Center in Washington, D.C. Iromi serves on the Board of Trustees of The Asia Foundation as a Term Trustee, and on the Board of Directors of the Centre for Equality and Justice, a women’s rights organisation in Sri Lanka. In 2019 Iromi was a Commissioner on the People’s Commission on Land initiated by the People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL) in Sri Lanka. She was a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a Sri Lankan public policy research and advocacy think tank from 2008 - 2017 and headed CPA’s survey research unit. She is the founder and curator of the Right to the city Sri Lanka initiative; and combines research, ongoing documentation, photography and video to provide alternative narratives to the development discourse in Sri Lanka, with a focus on city making in Colombo.

Iromi has presented her work as well as been invited to speak about her research at many international conferences, and has written extensively in local and international academic journals, civil society publications and mainstream media. In 2017 Iromi was selected as an Asia Foundation Development Fellow. She was a Fulbright Professional Scholar in 2015 and was based at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C as an Academic Visitor at the Institute’s Center on International Development and Governance. Iromi has been a consultant and researcher for various organisations including the Secretariat For Muslims and the Law and Society Trust in Sri Lanka, the International Crisis Group, UN-Habitat, and UNDP. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, Sociology and Economics from Christ College, Bangalore and a Post Graduate Diploma in Development Studies from the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo.

Recent publications and presentations

  • The Urban Regeneration Project, recommendations for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, published by the Bank Information Center, November 2020.
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  • ‘We can’t feel the earth beneath our feet anymore: dispossession and high-rise living in Colombo’, Polity Volume 08, The Social Scientists Association, July 2020.
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  • ‘Land acquisitions for a public purpose in post-war Sri Lanka’, Law and Society Trust report, July 2020.
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  • Asha Abeyasekera, Ammara Maqsood, Iromi Perera, Fizzah Sajjad, ‘Losing a home in Colombo and Lahore’, Himal Southasian, February 2020.
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  • Asha Abeyasekera, Ammara Maqsood, Iromi Perera, Fizzah Sajjad and Jonathan Spencer (2019), ‘Discipline in Sri Lanka, punish in Pakistan: neoliberalism, governance, and housing compared’, Journal of the British Academy, 7(s2): 215–244.
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  • Paper presentation at the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) Annual Conference, April 2021 – ‘Urban Spaces in Transition: Space-claims from the Lived Experience of Women’, Ruhanie Perera and Iromi Perera. Panel ‘Gender in Sri Lanka: Resistance’.

  • Paper presentation at the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) Annual Conference, April 2021 – ‘Colombo: The Enduring Importance of the “Underserved Settlement”’, Asha Abeyasekera, Iromi Perera and Dileepa Witharana. Panel ‘Navigating the Grid in the “World-class City”: Poverty, Gender, and Access to Services in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka’

  • Panelist at the Design Impact Vol. 3: South Asia – Design Agency & Climate Change by the Harvard Graduate School of Design Alumni Council, February 2021.
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  • Speaker at ‘CREA COVID Talks: A Pandemic of Power and Exclusion’ series, 20 May 2020. This panel highlighted the voices of feminist academics and practitioners from the Global South, and on exploring feminist responses to COVID-19.

  • Speaker at ‘COVID-19 Sri Lanka: Inequality and Solutions’ discussion by Westminster Foundation for Democracy, 23 April 2020.
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