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'Imperial' rule in tea domain

PERSEVERANCE: Popularising the World Pure Ceylon Tea to the International market, Imperial Tea Exports, one of the largest tea exporters in Sri Lanka drives strongly today earning nearly US$ 32 million in the foregn exchange annually.

Company's Director Illanga Karunaratne said that the gathering of hardworking, dedicated and knowledgeable people were the most successful pillars of the victory.


Director: Illanga Karunaratne
with an award

Honouring her skills and efficient work, Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industries has granted her the bronze redal at the Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2003. Illanga was an Account Executive and has worked in a private firm for 12 years.

She has left the job after her second son was born. While looking after the children at home, both her husband and herself wanted to commence a business of their own.

Illanga's husband, Jayantha Karunaratne, who was in a tea business since 1975 has recognised more potentials in the tea industry and both of them started in tea exporting a small way.

She said that the young company was founded in 1994 with fifteen in the staff. Our focus was our marketing mainly on the packeted tea directed at the CIS countries.

"Renting an office in Wellawatta and stores in Peliyagoda. We worked hardly day night to achieve the targets," She said. At the dawn of 1995 we would launch our own brand name "IMPRA" and flagship product to the CIS countries.


factory: Workers busy in the packing section

"MIAD" was the next star to emerged in 1996, which enabled us to deal with bulk tea packaging. The company was able to export to Middle East countries such on Dubai, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan and Syria.

During the first year of its operation, the company exported 2,731,090 kgs and was placed as the 24th largest exporter in the country.

We next consolidated our brand in many regions in Russia and in few of CIS countries for high quality tea packed under the Impra brand.

With high quality products at an affordable price to its customers, Impra brand became a popular household name in the former Soviet Union by the end of 1995.

During the years 1996 and 1997, we consolidated our position further by moving into all CIS countries as a recognised product, our striking logo and colour-coded packaging was our weapon for recognition. By the end of the year 1997, Imperial Tea was rated as the 9th largest tea exporter in Sri Lanka.

During the year 1998, the company started moving into other markets including Japan, USA, Australia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Lebanon.

The company moved to the position of 5th largest exporter of tea. In 1999 Imperial Tea built its own modern, state-of-the-art tea processing factory and office complex at Peliyagoda.

The factory is equipped with modern tea storing facilities, and sophisticated cleaning equipment, blending drums and other related packing machines, to protect the quality of tea and maintain the highest of hygienic standards.

A well-equipped designing department and packing material development has run the company towards the success.

Processing and supplying department is linked to the factory, for supply of higher standard packing materials needed for production.

Impra is now sold in over 60 countries through a strong distributer network with continuous growth in the consumer markets. Recognised for our distinct blended flavour, Impra Tea now stands firm as the second largest packeted tea exporter of Sri Lanka.

Equipped with one of the best tea packaging factories in the country, IMPRA Tea markets a range of over two hundred products that require a variety of packaging for loose tea, tea bags, envelopes, pot bags, gift sets, flavoured teas and bulk tea.

All packaging is designed in house, allowing flexibility of design for the country of export. IMPRA Tea's distinctive logo adorns every container, pack or bag ensuring IMPRA Tea is instantly recognisable on any counter.

Complying with ISO 9002 quality standards ensure the leaves are quality tested at the plucking stage right through to blending, tasting and packaging. Tea bag manufacturing process has also been certified by HACCP in food production.

Around 500 people work in the company and we strive to increase our market share and providing a friendly and a healthy working environment for our employees who are our greatest resource.

We comply with the requirements of our quality management system and the general requirements on food hygiene, hazard analysis, critical control point system and principles of codex alimentarius commission.

She said that 100kg tea packets have a good demand among the products and it is very popular in Russian market.

The company was awarded the Best Sri Lankan Brand Exporter at the NCE Export Awards in year 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Most Outstanding Exporter award and Export Excellence award were also won by the company in 2002. "We expect to develop our new business of exporting spice.

The company has concentrated to go for a structural improvement according to the foregn consultants targeting the speedy development efficiently. She is a past pupil of Anula Vidyalaya Nugegoda.

Her husband Jayantha Karunarathna who is the Chairman of the company drives her towards the success.

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