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South Asia

Sri Lanka: Hatching a fintech fort

Jeevan Gnanam, scion of a grand Sri Lankan business family, is driving financial sector modernization and helping to revitalise a once-thriving part of the capital.

Hatch’s founders (L-R Brindha Selvadurai, Jeevan Gnanam, Nathan Sivagananathan) want it to be ‘a one-stop shop for everything’ is a combination of technology incubator and co-working space, and a good example of how much has changed in Sri Lanka in recent years.

It is a new venture that symbolises the possibility of modern Sri Lanka: confident and cool, blind to religion, race and gender, and not poisoned by politics. And it is well-equipped to nurture tech startups from its offices, one in Colombo’s downtown Fort district and the other in Jaffna, the main city in the island’s war-ravaged and now re-emerging Tamil north.

Colombo’s Fort district was once a thriving, south Asian Wall Street. But it became an economic target for the Tamil Tigers during a 26-year-long separatist conflict with the Sri Lankan state, and it suffered some of the war’s most devastating attacks: in 1996, a suicide bomb at Sri Lanka’s central bank killed 91, and a year later, an assault on the capital’s World Trade Centre, which housed banks, their regulators and the stock exchange, killed another 15.