Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

KANDYGS en­ters the dig­i­tal space

- BY KAMANTHI WICK­RA­MAS­INGHE PICS BY Kushan Pathi­raja Consumer Goods · Iceland · Leeds · India · Vietnam · Eastern Province · Cambodia

ISURI NANAYAKKAR­A

“We are launch­ing www. kandygshan­d­loom.com to make it eas­ier for cus­tomers in the out­skirts of Colombo and even overseas to view our prod­ucts and buy them with­out any has­sle”

Hues of blues, greens and pinks wel­come vis­i­tors at the Kandygs Thi­rasara Is­land show­room lo­cated at the heart of Thimbiriga­syaya. As a long es­tab­lished brand that gave much depth and mean­ing to lo­cally pro­duced hand­loom tex­tiles, the third gen­er­a­tion of this fam­i­ly­owned brand is ready to turn a new chap­ter in its 49-year jour­ney to­day.

HUM­BLE BE­GIN­NINGS

The story of Kandygs Hand­looms (Ex­ports) Ltd., dates back to 1971 when its founders Sita and late Felix Ya­ham­path were in­tro­duced to Bhag­wan­das Hir­dra­mani, a tex­tile gi­ant at the time. “He re­quested my hus­band to run the gar­ment fac­tory and that he will pro­vide the know-how,” re­called Sita Ya­ham­path in an in­ter­view with the Daily Mir­ror Life.

From be­ing ab­so­lute begin­ners, the Ya­ham­path couple then mas­tered the art of weav­ing, mostly through a self taught process and even­tu­ally had to find mar­kets. “We sold to Ge­hantex and we re­alised that most of our prod­ucts were sell­ing,” she con­tin­ued. “We then thought we could sell them our­selves and started work­ing on hav­ing our own shop.” Grab­bing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity com­ing their way, they were de­ter­mined to mar­ket their prod­ucts. It was dur­ing this time that a fam­ily friend of­fered a space down Maya Av­enue to put up their first out­let. “We im­me­di­ately changed our ad­dress and it was quite an un­ex­pected turn of events.”

There­after, Kandygs opened their first show­room at Colpetty in 1980 when the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion stepped in to take their pas­sion for­ward.

PLAC­ING SL ON THE WORLD MAP

In­spired by the weav­ing back­ground in her fam­ily, the young Anu­radha ex­celled in weav­ing and other hand­work in school. “Al­though I did my A/LS in the sci­ence stream I wasn’t quite keen in go­ing to univer­sity be­cause of the in­sur­rec­tion,” she re­called. “But we paid a visit to Europe for a buyer and seller meet. There, we ex­plored Euro­pean de­signs and on our way back we stopped at the Univer­sity of Leeds.”

Lit­tle did Anu­radha know that it would be a step­ping stone in her long term ca­reer as a de­signer. Bring­ing back her knowl­edge and ex­per­tise she was keen to test the wa­ters in ex­ports and buy­ers were im­pressed with their colours and qual­ity. The qual­ity was ex­cep­tional that they hardly had any com­peti­tors. But chal­lenges too were man­i­fold. “We found difficulty in re­tail­ing lo­cally with the open mar­ket econ­omy. So we could only pro­vide

Sita Anu­radha Isuri hand­loom prod­ucts to a niche mar­ket which was much smaller be­cause of the price. There were chal­lenges in mar­ket­ing our prod­ucts overseas be­cause other Asian coun­tries with hand­loom prod­ucts had sub­sidised their prod­ucts in or­der to sus­tain in those mar­kets. But coun­tries such as In­dia, Cam­bo­dia and Viet­nam were help­ing their pro­duc­ers. There­fore we found it dif­fi­cult to com­pete with other coun­tries in the ex­port mar­ket. We had high over­heads as well. But we still do ex­port to a niche mar­ket. The big­gest chal­lenge has been to keep up with qual­ity and their de­sign re­quire­ments,” she ex­plained.

TRAIL­BLAZ­ING A SUS­TAIN­ABLE FU­TURE

Tak­ing ev­ery chal­lenge as a les­son, the con­cept has gone from strength to strength as they have al­ways been con­scious about pro­duc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts. This is why their out­let at Thimbiriga­syaya is named ‘Thi­rasara Is­land’ which trans­lates to ‘A Sus­tain­able Is­land’. The fu­ture looks bright with its third gen­er­a­tion now tak­ing the man­tle to con­tinue oper­a­tions while keep­ing up with global trends. From to­day, cus­tomers will have the op­por­tu­nity to view the prod­ucts avail­able in dif­fer­ent show­rooms at the click of a but­ton. “We are launch­ing www.kandygshan­d­loom.com to make it eas­ier for cus­tomers in the out­skirts of Colombo and even overseas to view are prod­ucts and buy them with­out any has­sle,” ex­plained Isuri Nanayakkar­a, Gen­eral Man­ager, Kandygs Hand­loom Ex­ports Lim­ited.

“Dur­ing the cur­few pe­riod we also in­tro­duced a Thi­rasara face mask which is eas­ily wash­able and could be reused. Even our cur­tain fab­rics and other prod­ucts such as sa­rees are de­signed to pro­vide com­fort and last longer in keep­ing with our sus­tain­abil­ity con­cept.”

From home tex­tiles, the con­cept has ex­panded to sa­rees, shawls, sarongs, bags, pen­cil cases, soft toys and even a baby col­lec­tion us­ing nat­u­ral dyes. “The cost for the prod­uct will re­main but de­liv­ery and pack­ag­ing charges will be added but that would be far more cost ef­fec­tive than phys­i­cally com­ing to the shop and pur­chas­ing prod­ucts,” she added. An in­ter­est­ing range of sa­rees made out of bam­boo fi­bre is avail­able at the Thi­rasara Is­land out­let. Since cot­ton can­not be grown lo­cally, the team is ready to ex­per­i­ment pro­duc­ing ma­te­ri­als with other en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly fi­bres.

The Kandygs man­age­ment also plans to em­power lo­cal weavers and in­tro­duce hand­loom vil­lages around the is­land. Hav­ing iden­ti­fied skilled weavers in Kal­mu­nai and sev­eral other ar­eas the man­age­ment aims to pro­vide them with the know-how and tech­ni­cal sup­port so that they could pro­duce ma­te­ri­als from home.

“By em­pow­er­ing women in the East­ern Prov­ince for ex­am­ple we will be sav­ing them from be­ing ex­ploited as do­mes­tic work­ers in other coun­tries,” opined Kaushalya Ya­ham­path who is de­ter­mined to in­tro­duce new break­throughs within the hand­loom in­dus­try un­der the Kandygs brand. “We are also look­ing at in­tro­duc­ing ma­chines for lo­cal weavers where they can buy the yarn from any­body and be­come a weaver. If we could col­lab­o­rate with oth­ers we could also look at the pos­si­bil­ity of in­tro­duc­ing other sus­tain­able raw ma­te­ri­als such as bam­boo yarn, banana fi­bre, flex and jute,” he said in con­clu­sion.

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