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Monday, 6 February 2012






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Prabha’s creations shine brighter

The saying ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman,’ has come true in numerous occasions. However, the influence of a man for a woman to succeed is not often highlighted. Prabha Nawarathne entered the business world going beyond her husband Sunimal’s vibrant business venture. Her efforts in making maximum use of the leftovers from her husband’s business namely, the material she is using for her product line, gave rise to a pulsating entity “Sunimals”. During the past two decades, the venture has grown steadily as a quality store providing soft toys, varieties of bags, cushion covers, pillow cases, fashion accessories and many more.

With their bright eye catching colour combinations, the products appeal more to the younger generation. However, her clientele is not limited to youth, but a large number of different age groups who has been patronizing her products from the inception of the business. Her aesthetic sensitivity, sewing skills and sense for fashion have proved to be the winning combination. The display of the store itself is an attraction and Prabha’s brilliant creations have become an emblem in the related industry. She has made “Sunimals” a family concern where her two young daughters have become live wires behind the operation at present. This involvement has ensured the sustainability and expansion of the venture further.

Prabha Nawarathne

She was interviewed by Daily News Business.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q. How do you describe your line of business?

A. My line of business is supplying soft toys, designed cushion covers, household items, souvenirs, gift items, cloth bags, pouches and many fancy items including pencil cases and belts. We also undertake curtaining, cushioning, upholstering and interior designing. The products are supplied to many corporate clients for their promotional activities. The key input of the products is handloom textiles. All the items are designed and made by me. Now I am supported by my two daughters and they are involved in production, sales and marketing.

The business was started 20 years back when my husband was involved in interior decoration. The remaining pieces of material were going to waste and there were heaps of cloths and an idea struck me to put them in to good use. I started making soft toys and varieties of bags and gradually this became an organized process to give birth to “Sunimals”, a store full of vivid items at High Level Road just before the Kirillapone junction after five years of venturing in to business.

Q. How do you strike a balance between family life and business?

Prabha with her family

A. My husband Sunimal Liyanage was instrumental in starting the venture. My two daughters Ruchini and Achini were small at that time. As they were attending a school in Kandy I had plenty of time before school holidays. I worked hard to collect large quantities of items when they were away so that I could spend quality time during their stay at home. They are full time involved in the business as now they are married and have quit their jobs.

Q. What motivated you to venture into business on your own?

A. As my husband was heavily involved with interior decoration, I was fascinated by the use of materials to make a home look beautiful. I tried out different items with the bits and pieces left behind as I was inspired by his work. This gave rise to a blossoming business where at present the store caters to a special segment of clients who have a taste for quality colourful items.

The response received at the exhibitions which I participated in the early stages of my business motivated me to pursue the venture where I identified a huge demand for the products displayed.

Q. What are your goals?

Colourful “Sunimals” store at High Level Road

A. Our business has enabled the traditional craft of handloom textiles to move forward. The small scale millers who supply material on a regular basis have a secured living. We intend setting up our own mill where we will train aspiring youth in this trade to continuously supply handlooms while also maintaining our original suppliers. Our key focus is quality and we are determined to implement quality improvement measures targeting the export market as well. With the set up of the mill we will be looking at export orders simultaneously building local customer loyalty.

Q. How do you face the challenges of competition?

A. With over two decades of customer relationship, the business is associated with quality and value for money. We have correctly identified the changes in customer taste and cater to emerging demands. Our items stand out they represent trendy, quality and fashionable products meeting customer requirements at a reasonable price.

Q. What is your specialty?

A. The products are made out of handloom. This is a fast disappearing industry and it is needed to recognize the skills of the craftsmen. Our business has given them hope for a better tomorrow and the products on offer are environmentally friendly. The tailor-made products for our corporate clients have a big demand. This is a niche market where products are made with special symbols and logos. We receive regular orders from hotels and travel agents. These are mainly for the tourists and most of the gift outlets at hotels showcase our products. With the boom in the tourist industry there is a promise of a lucrative market.

Q. What are your achievements in family life and business?

A. We are a united family and through our unity the business has prospered. There is a strong bond between us and we have set an example in today’s fast changing life patterns of modern living. My husband’s influence and encouragement supported the business to reach the top. My sons-in-law also make valuable contributions towards the success of the business. The progress of the business could be attributed to the family effort.

We have regular suppliers of handloom and our purchases have enabled them to continue in traditional weaving thus protecting a skill and an employment avenue that is threatening to fade away. We have created a trend in the younger generation to appreciate bright coulored items which has become a fashion today.

The clients are confident of a good quality product and we have maintained their trust by delivering desired products at affordable prices. We have promoted the Sri Lankan identity and each product is a unique creation with a local touch.

Q. What is your message to society?

A. Be a strong person. Have a focused mindset on what you are doing and a fair knowledge of the expected outcome. Have set plans to achieve goals and concentrate on the task at hand. On the journey to reach the end result face any difficulty with courage. As a change agent, move forward with confidence to make a lasting impression on the initiatives taken to make a better society.


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