By Venessa Anthony
Otara Gunewardene, one of Sri Lanka’s most recognised entrepreneurs, recently launched a new online platform “Who We Are”. The platform is all about making a difference, to the people, the animals, and the environment of Sri Lanka by providing an opportunity for one to live “the Sri Lankan way”, by shopping with intent and choosing longer-lasting, ethically, and locally produced products.In conversation with The Morning Brunch, Gunewardene talked about her latest venture.
[caption id="attachment_110201" align="alignleft" width="200"]"All my designers and creators are very talented, and unfortunately, their products are not visible. With Who We Are, I hope to give them a platform to showcase their work" Otara Gunewardene[/caption]
What is the concept behind ‘Who We Are’?Who We Are is an online platform that has many creators from Sri Lanka, from small businesses and young entrepreneurs that have just started their business. It’s a place for those who want to grow their brand and have their products visible on a larger platform. I want to create a platform for them and give them the visibility for their products and help them reach a wider audience. When was it launched?The platform was launched on 11 December online. There are a lot more products that are coming on every single day. There will be many more creator products coming on weekly and monthly. We already have many categories but we hope to expand on them. The Christmas category has been very popular. I’m very happy with the progress so far. What’s the story behind the name?I choose the brand name “Who We Are” because it represents everything of who we truly are – a conscious consumer, a consumer that cares for the environment and doesn’t harm animals, and a consumer that cares for a better Sri Lanka. I believe that’s who we truly are and that’s the concept we try to promote. What was your inspiration for the brand?I’ve always had a great passion for things that are Sri Lankan. In the business that I was in, before as well, I’ve always supported many Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and businesses by buying their products that are made here. There’s no better time than now to make these products visible here and internationally as well. My greatest passion is creating brands, and I thought I could help all these small businesses with Who We Are.How do you curate your designers?All the products are made in Sri Lanka. Who We Are also follows the concept of being eco-friendly, truly sustainable, and cruelty-free – no animals or people are harmed. We also believe in fair trade and supporting women entrepreneurs. I want to help the community directly. I do give them some input on how to better and expand their products. All my designers and creators are very talented, and unfortunately, their products are not visible. With Who We Are, I hope to give them a platform to showcase their work.Why encourage customers to buy locally?Buying local makes a difference. It enables all people to participate more fully and positively in their community. It leads to long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. It means more money stays within the community, boosting the local economy. It enables families to have a better quality of life. And as our communities grow and develop, so does our nation as a whole.How have you been coping with the pandemic?It’s a very different year for all of us, but there have been many lessons for all of us; how we need to change the way we live and how we need to change our lifestyle to be more conscious and caring. How will you be spending the season?Just with my family. We’ll be having a very quiet Christmas; I don’t think it's one that we need to celebrate in a big way. That’s what this year has taught me – to be grateful and appreciate what we have and to try and spend as much time as you can with those who are close to you. I think everything should be minimal and there’s nothing to celebrate in excess with everything that’s happening. We need to be grateful for all the little things that are good in our lives rather than constantly looking for more. That alone is enough to have a very good and happy Christmas and new year. Watch our video interview with Otara on our Facebook page and on YouTubeFacebook: /www.facebook.com/brunchlkYouTube: The Sunday MorningPhotos: Krishan Kariyawasam