When words have the power to make or break this world

Akuru Collective is Sri Lanka’s first and largest typographic collection. This amazing group uses their love for letters to pull off some groundbreaking work for type and language. AkuruCon and local editions of international type forums like AtypI (Association Typographique Internationale) and Typoday are all their initiatives to bring in global typographic knowledge to Sri Lanka, and create valuable discourse out of the island.

We were excited to write and design their manifesto from Public Works. The final outcome was a pretty great example of what you can do with great design, even when the budgets are tight. The manifesto was printed using Riso technique and was written to highlight what brings this unique group together and where their sights are set.

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Feeling places; city stories

Places have stories. The language that place-stories are told in is complex, multidimensional and surrounding. Discovering the story of a place is not as easy as picking up a book and reading, or watching a documentary about it. You have to find it. You have to wait for it. You have to see it unfold as you watch its people wake up and go about making their morning. You have to pick it up through bits and pieces in conversations overheard on the street. You have to catch it in the nostalgia of someone who was born in that place, but had to leave. You have to dig it out of someone who hated it. You have to taste it in a tea shop frequented by its street labourers. You have to feel it seeping in through your pores while sitting alone at dusk, in its oldest quarter.

We were commissioned by @urbanislandcolombo to create bite-sized stories of three Sri Lankan cities; Colombo, Kandy and Galle— each with its distinct cultural aura. We were working with the already set identity of the concept store; At the same time, the stories had to be created to sync up with a contemporary island narrative that Urban Island was building parallel to the tropical modernism movement. Incorporating elements of cultural interest is already tricky. In order to avoid mainstream depictions of these places, the chosen elements could not be too popular; At the same time, they couldn’t be too subversive and completely miss the commercial audience’s understanding or experiences of these places. The stories had to sell; And, they did.

Although we created the stories specifically for postcards, Tshirts, cushions and poster prints, their popularity had Urban Island using the stories or their isolated elements on many different items. With the idea of travelling and discovering new places changing drastically in our post-pandemic times, we’re curious to see how people will continue to remember and hold on to places.

We were excited about this project for two reasons; it was a project that combined both our individual expertise in writing and visual art, and it was an opportunity for us to crystallise some of our favourite experiences and places in Sri Lanka. The series was to target both Sri Lankans and travellers. We understood that for travellers, the city stories series should be about taking back a fond memory from their time in Sri Lanka. Our strategy for the Sri Lankans, was to make the series about celebrating a memory about their hometown, or a place they have a connection to in their country.

The challenge for the writer was capture a special story, feeling, icon or an experience about each city, in just a few words; and, because we wanted to make the writing for this project to take the form mini poetry, the challenge also meant there had to be some form of rhythm or rhyme. 

The project was fun to work on, and from what we hear from the Urban Island team, the series is becoming somewhat of a cult favourite among their shoppers.

A mind flowing free in thread and colour

Joan is a fascinating multi artist with a Sri Lankan burgher heritage. She lives in Denmark now, but returns to Sri Lanka every year to her family estate in North-West of the island. When she commissioned us to write a piece about her life and work, I went and met her at that beautiful old estate. We spoke about her exquisite embroidery work, and her love for painting. Joan’s life was a fascinating viewpoint into lives lived in Colombo over fifty years ago.

Hidden amidst the foliage of the outskirts of Wennappuwa, there is a coconut estate that is a breathtaking composition of human and nature. Coming in, you will be pleasantly warmed in the sunlight pouring through the cane palms standing guard along its impressive driveway. It nestles a charming planters’ bungalow with arched windows opening into sun spangled verandahs. Further in, a beautifully dimmed living space and cool sleeping chambers await. Between the fun play of the vintage furniture, rare heirloom treasures and a twist of Scandi-inspired postmodernism, there is an obvious air of creativity floating through the bungalow.

When you meet its hostess—you instantly know her as the source of that creativity. Joan Leth Pedersen is in the autumn of her years, and radiantly beautiful with a sense of style that could only speak for an intensely creative being. She’s the kind of hostess who excites you with her meticulous devotion to fine hospitality—you just know it’s going to be a good day.

Joan was born in Sri Lanka to Burgher parents who moved to the UK to educate their children. They also travelled between their island home and Malaysia for work in the plantations business. She met her husband, Jens Leth Pedersen in Malaysia fifty eight years ago, at a New Year’s Eve dance, ten minutes to midnight—he has remained smitten since. An accomplished hand embroidery artist with truly remarkable artistry, Joan practices in Denmark where she lives with Jens. But, for eight sunlit weeks a year, the family estate in Sri Lanka remains her home in paradise.

This year, Joan has brought down a large portion of her archive of handmade embroidery based wearable art. This is for a rare media exposure of her works. “It’s impossible for me to put a price on my work”, Joan declares, “because they are my babies,” she laughs. “But, seriously, it’s because my art has never equated to money. It’s not about that for me, it’s never been,” she explains. Joan believes that artistry does not always have to have a commercial element to it—in a sense, an artist does not have to cater to the incessant needs of a society. Art can simply exist—much like beauty or nature, without having to fulfil the human desire to own, to consume. Her work has an ethereal charm about it and draws inspiration from flora and fauna, abstract shapes and colour-play. Stylistically, she finds kinship with Chinese, Danish and Venetian embroidery techniques. But, the most impressive is her own style—an embroidery technique that Joan invented fusing patchwork and threadwork to bring about an unusual effect. Here, cut out fabric pieces are ironed on to ‘glue paper’ and pieced together with embroidered thread work to finally reveal one mosaic-like image held together with perfect thread work. “I don’t know how long it takes to do one piece—it takes hours and hours and hours. But, I love it, and I can immerse in it completely.”

Something striking about Joan’s work is its unapologetic femininity. Her work bears unrestrained female charm with soft colour palettes, dainty motifs and intricate filigrees. But, it’s anything but ordinary. The embroidery itself is unusual in its exotic mix of styles and technique while Joan’s decisive direction in their placement on the garment, and how they work with the female body also add to the unicity. “I always think of where this embroidery will go on a body, and I tend to embellish the unusual corners or the unnoticed curves…it does not always have to be on your upper chest tucked away to a side.”

Her process is fluid and natural, much like her work. “When I get an idea, I just have to do it,” she says echoing all impassioned artists. Her inspirations flood in through nature. In Denmark, the contained cool of Scandinavian landscapes influence her abstract oil painting and designed knitwear. While in Sri Lanka, the island’s paradisiacal abundance seems to translate to Joan’s vivid watercolours—often florals—and finally, to her intricate embroidery.

“Embroidery was always in our family,” she recalls the beginnings into her most accomplished form of artistry. Joan remembers being captivated by her mother’s hand drawn book documenting the baby clothes that she embroidered. She also remembers how she first fell in love with that incredible feeling of being enveloped in an exquisitely made outfit, through the finely embroidered dresses handmade by her mother. Later, she went to complete an embroidery and knitting course at the Denmark College of Handicrafts where she scored full marks, before plunging into the arts in full vigour. She went on to exhibit in unusual locations around Europe, such as the abandoned church in Aalborg commune, and the court house turned museum Tinghuset in Nibe. Beyond embroidery and knitting, Joan also began to see her art within the context of fashion. It came naturally to her, because style was simply in her.


“I always think that clothing should be a complete expression. Personally, I like to make underwear to match my work in order to avoid store-bought pieces that peek outside an otherwise perfect outfit!” she exclaims echoing a practice that still forces her to custom make intimatewear for every wearable item that displays her embroidery or knitting. In her heyday in Colombo, Joan was featured in the fashion and lifestyle pages of the local dailies for her bold sense of style and fashion. Her wedding gown with a spectacular floor-gracing train with hundreds of hand made flowers pressed out in silk in three layers, made fashion headlines and was borrowed by news pages. Style was definitely her thing.

With Joan seated on the verandah of her family bungalow, it is almost visibly evident in the background, how her mind has flown free through the space, touching it with her devotion to beauty; The fiery heliconias set off against the earthly terracotta of the vase, the perfect geometry in the arrangement of hand-painted porcelain…they all vouch for her. As her life approaches a tranquil sunset, Joan has developed a yearning to share her art as a teacher and a mentor. “I have taught several times in my life, and it has always been rewarding. I still keep in touch with some of my students.” She hopes to share her expertise and extraordinary techniques with young fashion designers, textile artists, embroiderers and entities in textile related arts, crafts and design—those who would appreciate it and hopefully, reinvent it in their own way. But, there’s more to it than that too. Joan sees that mastering your creativity as a way to live a wonderful life. “Creativity has helped me to live life on an even keel…being immersed in creativity means that troubles can’t trouble you. So, I’d like to share that.” And with that, Joan offers the greatest gift a creator could leave behind in this world.

This story was published in The Sunday Times in Sri Lanka, which you can still find online here.

On a lush earth

This anniversary edition book was commissioned by Elpitiya Plantations of the blue chip conglomerate Aitken Spence Group. After twenty five years, the company has overcome serious challenges and moved from being a loss-making venture in deep debt, to Sri Lanka’s top rated plantation. The Elpitiya team was optimistic, inspired and victorious—a sentiment worth capturing in the anniversary book. The company’s evolution was told in this story bringing in the most important milestones, people and decisions that made up the company’s history. It ended in a high note of optimism, inviting new partners and collaborators to work with Elpitiya as the company entered the next phase of its development. The story received a fantastic response from Elpitiya plantations, and was distributed to its entire network in Sri Lanka and to partners abroad.

My favourite part of this project was the reactions that the Elpitiya team had to the writing; When I saw their emotional expressions, and was told about their experience of goosebumps while reading the ending, I knew that my job as a writer was done right.

The entire project came to fifty four hours of writing and editing in total. Below are some excerpts from the entire work.

They say love conquers all; All but, superhuman laws that are beyond our control. A drought of resources within a challenging global market context and a tea market meltdown at the worst possible time pulled Elpitiya down a bottomless well of debt.

It was the lowest of the lows.

Some leave it to the divine, others to fortune; but, us planters know that it is the drops of love we put into the land that would cloud the skies gravid come next season.

The little green buds have burst out in full bloom. Against all odds, Elpitiya has emerged out incredible. Amidst accolades and celebrations, the faces of friendship were remembered.

It was a beautiful day.

Being in an industry as volatile as the plantations, tunes your sixth sense to the elements of nature, to invisible forces, to something very much like instinct that is alive in the air. Eventually, you begin to recognise that same thing, in the depths of human spirit; in people’s courage, determination and faith. This is why people are Elpitiya’s most treasured asset; Because without them, the vast green fields of Elpitiya would have remained barren terrains.

A planter’s reward comes in gold. In twenty years Elpitiya has transformed a burden to a fortune. As the Elpitiya family takes a moment together, a second of collective breath to feel the magnitude of their efforts, it dawns on us that the fields are golden for as far as our eye could see.

Some said it was not possible, but we made it. The view from the top catches new vistas and a fresh sunrise in the horizon.

What an incredible place to be.

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“We’ve come to the top, and the dream is to go higher. The way to do it is to not stand by, but keep moving, keep changing, keep reinventing, and thinking of new paths. There’s no stopping us,” promises J. M. S Brito, Chairman of Elpitiya Plantations, channelling the spirit of everyone.

Strong with a faithful force, a potent land, and groundbreaking new ideas, Elpitiya is ready. The plans are many. As they set out, there is talk of adventure parks, perfumery, hospitality, tourism, real estate…there
is nothing stopping Elpitiya today.

It’s not going to be a lone journey, the team at Elpitiya knows. Fresh friendships, unconventional partnerships, and new patrons are welcome to join the expedition; Because now is a time for collaboration, creativity, and grand innovation.

The air in Elpitiya is ringing with excitement.

Can you hear it?

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Innovation Island

This is probably one of the most interesting projects that we’ve consulted in. Few years ago, Public Works was commissioned in a project that involved strategising and branding Sri Lanka’s creative industries’ policy; it was quite exciting. The local creative industries’ strategy was something that a large number of stakeholders—from British Council Sri Lanka, the Export Development Board and the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, to creative businesses like the Colombo Design Studio and Selyn—were involved in co-creating. This particular proposal for branding the creative industries came from AOD; We were involved in coining the name ‘Innovation Island’ and crafting the first strategic communications that went out to the public on this story.

Here’s a quick look at how the ‘innovation island’ vision was depicted through visual storytelling, followed by a news story that we developed to share it with the general public and the business community through the Daily Financial Times (Daily FT).

A national game-plan for Sri Lanka’s creative industries? About time.

Everyone is talking about Sri Lanka—new opportunities, interesting collaborations, untapped markets, fresh talent, paradisiacal beauty and a wealth of culture and heritage for inspiration. In this promising landscape, a major new focus is the island’s creative economy, and the enormous potential that it holds to transform the country. Efficiently harnessing this potential means having a national policy that encourages practitioners, supports emerging talent, provides infrastructure, facilitates innovation, research and education at the very least. But, why are Sri Lanka’s creative industries important enough for a national policy? Because ‘creative capital’ is central to today’s economies, and will undoubtedly become even more important as we progress into the fourth industrial revolution. Creativity, basically, is the new power currency. Keep reading.

Experts compare fuel energy—the power currency of the twentieth century economy, to creativity which is predicted to dominate the twenty-first century. In the same way that access to energy and the policies around oil determined the geopolitics of the past century, creativity will be among what drives tomorrow. This is why governments around the world have made some of their best efforts in policy-making to form their national strategy for creative industry development.

Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Canada, Singapore and South Korea are some of the leading global success stories of nations that have progressed towards enormous economic growth by harnessing the ingenuity of their people through effective national policies. The eleventh Five-Year Plan of the People’s Republic of China made it evident that the East Asian superpower aims “to move from made in China, to designed in China”—a powerful example of the worldwide understanding that generating original creative content is more valuable in the current economy than manufacturing larger product volumes. In 2015, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the creative industries in the US bring in $698 billion (Dh2.56 trillion) to the national economy via 4.7 million jobs. Similarly, the British government declared its creative industries  to be worth $116.7 billion per year in the $2.56 trillion national economy. The growth of creative industries in the Middle East and the North African region has demonstrated impressive results, with the design sector valued at $100 billion in 2014 (Mena Design Outlook report, Dubai Fashion & Design Council). Zooming out on the wider global picture, United Nations’ survey of the worldwide creative economy concluded with the following, “The interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology, as expressed in the ability to create and circulate intellectual capital, has the potential to generate income, jobs and exports while at the same time promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development. This is what the creative economies have begun to do.”

Tapping into Sri Lanka’s creative talent pool with the right focus and strategic approach requires a national policy that converges ideas, efforts and transactions effectively. In 2018, the first discussions on proposing a national policy for the creative industries was initiated in collaboration with AOD and the British Council Sri Lanka. This is where it all begins.

Who is behind Sri Lanka’s national policy for the creative industries’ development?

The first discussions on Sri Lanka’s national policy for the creative industries included representatives from the Ministry of Development Strategies & International Trade, the Board of Investments Sri Lanka, Export Development Board, the National Design Centre, University of Moratuwa and AOD. Keep reading.

Bringing in Britain’s expertise in forming and implementing strategies for developing a creative economy, the British Council Sri Lanka and Jane Rapley—professor emerita of the celebrated design university Central Saint Martins’ UK and AOD’s academic advisory chair, also joined in. As practitioners of creativity in cultural and commercial realms, artist and designer Anoma Wijewardene, and representatives of 99X Technology, Colombo Design Studio and the Colombo Design Market were also part of the discussions.

The panel concluded on the necessity of a nurturing a complete ecosystem of practitioners, commercial entities, education institutes, events, cultural units, infrastructures and research as well as the establishment of standards, ethics and codes of conduct, for a three-sixty approach to developing the creative industries.

Encouraging diversity in people, ideas and cultures, creating value for them and celebrating the creative industries were also highlighted.

Establishing Sri Lanka’s identity as a creative nation and bridging the communication gap between artists, designers and technologists, scientists was also part of these initial discussions. Developing the next generation of creative talent right by incorporating design thinking into the school system, and whether the state design universities were being made accessible to the students that are truly passionate about creativity through the existing z-score system, were also discussed by the educators and government representatives at the meeting. 

The group also brainstormed ways to navigate around challenges like the lack of design and innovation centres, art galleries, creative spaces, public resources like creative cafés and museums, design publications and dedicated culture pages. The role of entrepreneurship, mentorship, technological support and managing the attitude towards risk-taking were also part of the conversation.

These ideas will be taken forward to form the national policy on Sri Lanka’s creative industries as a partnership between the state and the private sector, under the leadership of AOD and the British Council Sri Lanka.

The future we want from Sri Lanka’s creative economy 

Creativity has been proven to open up new avenues, unlock big ideas and bring in fresh connections between people, products, services, brands and businesses. It can help businesses achieve superior market edge, leapfrog competition and leave a lasting impression in the minds of consumers. So, with all this hype about creativity being the next big thing, how exactly would formalising a national creative industries policy play out for Sri Lanka? Keep reading.

In many ways, a focused national strategy to develop the creative industries will bring in high returns very fast in both export and domestic markets, as this potent industry can produce a remarkable growth in revenue and become a solid pillar for the Sri Lankan economy. 

But, it’s not just business. The development of the creative industries also carry non-monetary values such as inclusive social development to facilitating new understanding between diverse groups and ethnicities. The creative industries are also significant job creators, and have the potential to create thousands of new employment opportunities for Sri Lankans. A sound creative economy can also contribute to the overall well-being of communities, individual self esteem and the quality of life, leading towards sustainable development. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the initial discussions that will be taken forward to form Sri Lanka’s national policy on creative industries.

Creating understanding and facilitating focus studies on how the creative industries will be a driver and enabler of economic, social and environmental development processes in Sri Lanka. Such studies will allow the government and partners to project tangible outcomes and attach financial deliverables to the policies. Creating awareness on the creative industries development and its benefits will change the public perception on the sector and garner national support.

Discovering the available opportunities by investing on mapping Sri Lankan creative industries’ assets. This data will be instrumental in accurately projecting the necessary resources for creative industries’ development. 

Allocating state and private sector investments for creativity, innovation and sustainable creative enterprise development in Sri Lanka. 

Investing in developing the local creative talent pool through education, scholarships, opportunities for exposure and professional capacity-building to empower artists, designers and creative entrepreneurs. 

Recognising that the creative industries carry significant non-monetary value that contributes to achieving human-centred, inclusive and sustainable development for Sri Lanka.

Recognising that the development of the local creative industries will have a positive impact on other sectors, particularly exports, like tea, apparel and tourism to bridge local product and service propositions with international consumer tastes and needs.

Got more to add, discuss or propose? It’s important to us—let us know.

At a time when the world is transforming itself rapidly, we must recognise the importance and the power of the creative industries as enablers and drivers of a new and sustainable kind of development for Sri Lanka. It’s the future we want, and this is a big step in the right direction towards it.

This pull quote is from the Daily FT feature on the campaign. Here’s a link to the full article.

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Translating island experiences for fashion

SRI is definitely the most unique fashion brand we’ve seen in Sri Lanka; that’s a big statement to make, but the brand does truly live up to it. It is a brand that revolves around Sri Lanka’s mystique as the island of serendipity, where an allure of innocence and mystery mix with natural beauty. SRI captures it so well with modern style statements that could really work anywhere in the world. To create the introduction for SRI, we followed the brand identity that was created by The Future Laboratory—world’s leading trend forecasting agency.

SRI comes from a place of serendipitous ease. It exudes a sense of innocence and mystery. SRI comes alive in the same kind of intense vibrancy that you find in nature as you walk barefoot through the wilderness in a faraway tropical island.

SRI commissioned us again to create written content for launching its collection on the online fashion portal FMLK. This time, the story had to be told to Colombo’s jet set audiences. Staying true to the brand’s allure of uber-cool tropical vibrancy, we worked on creating something that is commercially sound, hard-selling and Instagram friendly.

Get lost in paradise through a timeless story artisan-woven in rich textures of twills, ombre and herringbone in tropical colours made from memories of somewhere magical. Get into the mood with urban minimalist style in futuristic easy silhouettes, perfect for the here-and-now transients, ever-curious culturists and neoteric wanderers whether in London, Tokyo, Paris, Colombo or New York.

Presenting the master expressionist behind the looks that left some serious impressions this London Fashion Week— Amesh Wijesekera—who made all heads turn with his award-winning international debut at GFW 2015. He returns to the catwalk as the designer, curator and stylist behind SRI’s trans-seasonal launch capsule that got everyone vibing in tropical modernism at London Fashion Week SS18

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If time was a long, golden beach

When Villa Oceane first approached us through our friends at the design studio Mooniak their initial brief was to write a light-hearted piece with surf lingo. But, we saw something different. As practice, we made an inquiry about the target audience of this work, and uncovered that they appreciate sophisticated and high quality experiences that were beyond just chasing waves. So, we proposed a much more poetic, dreamy tone for writing that resonated with the idea of a blissful island holiday; and, it worked.

Here are some of my favourite lines from the project.

Where the ocean fills your lungs in salty blues, while everything is rendered magical in a tropical sun-blaze, and nothing else matters.

Some say that Sri Lanka blesses certain souls with her serendipitous magic. So, don’t be surprised if you happen to find something you’ve been searching for, caught in the sun spots filtered through palm leaves, pearly smiles and the sea-swept breeze. Villa Oceane braids her days weaving in authentic island cuisine and a life philosophy built on surf, yoga and slow walks on the beach, perfected with a personal butler service that deepens the experience of easy luxury. 

‘Easy’ is how life should be lived. The mundane should be the last thing on your mind. Your only question should be whether to surf the big blue or dapple in drops of sandy gold.

Villa Oceane is a magical place throughout the year. From November to February is when you find the easiest temperatures that range between mild warm to balmy on the occasional midday. The southern sea puts forward her best time for swimming and surfing, with ocean currents mellowing down to perfect the water for easy, bathwater-warm dips, marking the most popular season. Come March, Earth’s tropics inch closer to the sun, bringing warmer days that peak in April. The surf is still up, with the waves growing in size but slowing down on smoothness. 

If life is a pursuit of happiness, why not spend your days chasing larger-than-life moments, incredible sunsets and perfect waves?

Between May and July, a short period of monsoon showers render the ocean turbulent and the sands to recede, but cast a haunting, rainy beauty across the landscapes. August brings cheerful shine but the ocean needs more time to regain her peace. If you’re content with the view of the ocean, and the stunning sceneries, this is a time with only a few visitors by the coast. By September and October, anxious surfers and swimmers set out to rekindle their connection with the water in less-than-perfect conditions because by now, the gold of the beach is starting to reappear and the ocean is seen returning to her perfect aquamarine—it’s hard to resist, and a good time to visit before the snowbirds fly in.

Experiences— they’re the only things that remain after the days have turned to dust and places to memories. So, make them many, make them rich, make them incredible.

It may be some old biological magic that lives in taste, that gives it the ability to transcend language to tell stories in wordless flavour, symphonies of colour.

The culinary culture of a place always carries the essence of its people. Through wordless stories in flavours and seasoning, you’re able to sense their habits, nature, days and lives. Villa Oceane likes to share some of her stories this way. With freshest seafood harvested off the balmy ocean waters, farm grown treasures from across the island, rich spices, and traditional culinary methods, the kitchens at Villa Oceane concoct perfect island delights to transport you across Sri Lanka, story after story.

What is paradise? Someplace where beauty and bliss are abundant, and time is a long golden beach that stands still—almost forever.

The ocean can cast a spectacular spell on your being. Its vastness can lead you to the eternity in yourself or render you small and speechless to be content with simple things – like a day spent in the breezy hush under a palm tree. Villa Oceane made her chambers with the enchanting vision of the Indian Ocean in their full view, so that your stay there becomes an unbroken stretch of seaborne magic.



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Made from paradise

When you live on a tropical island, the flip-flops you wear become such a part of your everyday identity; So, it is pretty common to have strong preferences when it comes to your go-to flip-flop brand. Mine are WAVES, because their flip-flops are made from 100% natural, local, fair-grown rubber that is completely biodegradable. So, I was pretty excited about writing the official brand profile for WAVES a few years back. When I met the WAVES team at the Samson Group’s DSI headquarters in Colombo, it was clear that they were really serious about sustainability.

For this project, we created a tone of voice that is trustworthy, earnest and warm; WAVES addressed the consumer directly, in first person, creating a moving, heart-to-heart conversation with the audience.

Part of the brief was finding a way to connect Sri Lanka’s beauty and nature to their brand philosophy. ‘Made from paradise’ became the coining phrase for the brand profile, because it drew focus to the process of making the product and its natural roots in both material choice and inspiration.

Shaped capturing the curve of ocean waves, coloured in the memory of indigenous birds and flowers, textured paying tribute to the sandy beaches, Waves is crafted by our island’s people using fair grown, natural rubber. It is an homage to a small drop of earth that remains true to nature’s sacred beauty.

We come from the life that runs in the deep blue water, fresh green leaves, and every free-roaming creature.

Devoted to leave no scars on the natural world that inspires us, the substances and the activities used in the making of Waves flip-flops are selected with utmost care. Waves is crafted entirely from genuine Sri Lankan rubber grown in the fertile slopes that run parallel to the rolling hills of the island. This rubber is harvested, treated and made into comfortable flip-flops using material and processes that meet the highest compliances and leave no trace on the natural world around us.

With our farmers, harvesters, makers, technicians and craftsmen, Waves  embraces one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful facets—her people.

This is what makes wearing Waves a much bigger experience than slipping on a pair of average flip-flops. Because, when you wear a pair of Waves, you become part of paradise, its incredible landscapes, flora, fauna and people. When you wear a pair of Waves you transport yourself to the memories of a sunlit place by the ocean. When you wear a pair of Waves you take a stand to protect nature’s pristine unfolding and safeguard it for tomorrow. When you wear a pair of Waves you touch the lives of many Sri Lankans from farmers, makers to harvesters, helping them build their families. When you wear a pair of Waves you make a difference.

Made from nature; from what we hold sacred; from smiles. Made from paradise.

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Do or die

We’ve been working with Sri Lanka’s e-commerce pioneer, Kapruka founder Dulith Herath for years now. His views on technology and its role in Sri Lanka’s economy are incredibly fascinating, and his ideas remain as groundbreaking as ever. Among the many stories and written pieces we’ve developed on Dulith, this is probably my favourite. When I met Dulith for this interview at his Java Lounge café in Jawatte, he explained how important it was for him to make local businesses understand the that e-commerce is no longer a choice. As much as the message came from a place of personal passion and conviction for Dulith, it was also important that the piece connected to his latest operation ‘Grasshoppers’ which gave local businesses the opportunity to streamline last mile delivery end-to-end. It was essential for the writer to make the connection between Dulith’s ideas and where they connect to a new opportunity with Grasshoppers. Dulith really loved the line we developed based on his own statements; ‘No more excuses, and do or die’ really captured the urgency and importance of the matter.

Since the article was presented as an interview with quotes of Dulith’s ideas and thoughts, the introduction we wrote for him needed to really nail his authority in the subject matter. Although the headline was the ‘punch’ of the article, this introduction was what really gave its weight.

Sri Lanka’s e-com pioneer Dulith Herath speaks out in exclusive interview discussing how his network of online retail facilitators, from ‘Kapruka’ to the latest ‘Grasshoppers’, gives Sri Lankan businesses everything they need to ace the online retail game.

“Sri Lankan businesses need to take a good look at how dinosaur enterprises were affected in bigger markets across the world. They were big, once relevant but completely outdated when the digital revolution happened and the online buying culture erupted. It became a fast downfall to those dinosaurs. But, we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes here. There’s room to change, but not much time. So, now is the time you need to get behind this, before it’s too late,” says Dulith Herath. As the man who pioneered the ecommerce sector in Sri Lanka, Herath has a wealth of wisdom to offer any business on how to get their online game right. Right now, he has just completed what he calls ‘Sri Lanka’s first complete e commerce facilitator network’. For years now, Herath has been working in developing the country’s ecommerce sector through his own ventures like Kapruka and Grasshoppers; going as far as meeting Asia’s e-com king Jack Ma of Alibaba. Sharing more on this, Herath joined Daily FT for an exclusive interview where he discussed the future of e-tail, how Sri Lankan businesses are losing out by not tapping into the online marketplace, and why there are no more excuses left for local businesses to get their e commerce game on point. “It’s a do-or-die really,” he says.

“It’s not even a question to ask whether e commerce revolution will happen in Sri Lanka; it’s just a question of when, and it’s already happening”

Dulith has studied the e-commerce landscapes in markets all over the world, from US, Canada, India, China to Thailand, observing the common traits. He pointed out that everywhere, the online buying phenomenon was welcomed at different paces— but surely and most definitely, it was always welcomed by consumers to eventually dominate the everyday purchasing habits. “It’s not to say that people will never go into a shop, but traditional retail will only survive at the more experiential end of the spectrum. For everyday shopping people will always resort to convenience, and online is hard to beat in this matter.” Herath also added that in every country, the entry of a giant player with major investments would bring about a significant ‘hockey-stick’ spike in the e commerce sales causing the entire sector to grow rapidly. “We’ve seen this in every country, from Amazon to Flipkart… Because when investment comes, the concessions to convert consumers into adapters become possible, and once they convert, the it’s a matter of continuing the habit. In Sri Lanka, this happened too, and the ripples of this are felt across the entire chain…and this is exactly what I hope will happen more often here with big companies like Softlogic being present. The share that investors can also gain is massive, because they’re breaking new paths here.” He assures that it’s only a matter of time for Sri Lankan businesses to realise that without e commerce, they’re not even scratching the surface of the possibilities available in the worldwide markets. “Accessibility to the online market is there now, the question is, are you ready to work towards it?”

“The idea that the markets in the South Asian region are not ready is a myth. About 15% of the Indian market is online. It’s only 22% even in the US.”

“If you look at the biggest retailers here in Sri Lanka, they’re not online. And when I say online, I mean really online. For most, getting online is a matter of adding a shopping cart to their website, cutting a ribbon and a cake, releasing a press story and waiting for something to happen. And when nothing happens, they fire the team,  start again, maybe give a discount, and have the customers flock, take the discount and never return…so it will keep dying this natural death, and they give it up saying the market is not ready. It doesn’t work like that. For me, even if 99% of my retail is brick-and-mortar, I will still go after developing that 1% because that’s the future. You need to get into it, and be serious about it.”

Herath explains that for e commerce to really work and become a success for a company, it takes the business leaders to understand that it is the future. With global statistics pointing out that online marketplace will only continue to boom, bringing in new accessibility and market shares from every corner of the world, it seems only obvious that e commerce will be the most popular form of buying and selling tomorrow. “Leaders need to motivate their teams to keep digging at it; keep investing; keep analysing the data; keep communicating with the customer…only then, it will begin to happen. And if you invest in this now, when the primary commercial channel becomes e commerce in the very near future, you will still be in the game.”

“And remember, the world is your competition now…”

Hearth spins the conversation to zoom in on another point of view. What does radical accessibility mean to the consumers here? Will Sri Lankan consumers stay loyal to local brands that don’t take the online retail world seriously, when the same or better products are available from abroad, at the click of a button? “It’s not just the Sri Lankan businesses having access to the consumer markets across the world. It’s the other way round too… our businesses need to remember that the local consumers now have access to products from every corner of the world. They can just order what they want, and have it shipped from the other corner of the world, right to their doorstep—especially with ventures like Grasshopper that we just started where last mile delivery becomes simplified and extremely economical. So what’s stopping your consumers from switching to a international competitor now?”

Herath adds that local retailers who go online and maintain their presence in the e commerce sphere will stay at the top of the consumer mind as people spend more and more of their time focused on screens.

“Everything you need to make e commerce work in Sri Lanka is there. There are no more excuses for failing at preparing your business for the inevitable future.”

Herath has connected an entire network of businesses and collaborators that can help any company to start their e commerce success story in Sri Lanka. He says that everything from infrastructure builders to delivery is now available in the country, leaving no room to hold back on the exponential growth that online retail world offers retailers. “You cannot say that there are no payment gateways in Sri Lanka—it’s there; you cannot say that there is no consumer adaptation here in the island—it’s clearly there; you cannot say there are no last mile delivery—companies like Grasshoppers are international award-winning experts at it. So, Sri Lankan retailers really have no excuses to get their online game right. It’s the future of retail, and with everything you need available in the country, what are you waiting for? Go on, make your business future-proof.

The article is online on Daily Financial Times DFT here

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