I am Yathusha Kulendran, founder of OLAI, an online business based in Sri Lanka selling Palmyra-based products such as jaggery, multi-coloured handbags, leaf trivets and pen holders. I learned to code so that I could design the website for my business on my own.
She wanted to empower local women in the community.
The Palmyra Tree, called “The Tree of Life” in our culture, had helped us survive the civil war in the country in 2009. By setting up a business selling local-made Palmyra products, I wanted to work towards a better life for women artisans and help them rebuild their lives. Together, we created a stable business and a stable life for ourselves till the pandemic arrived.
She had to deal with a breakdown of the supply chain during the pandemic.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business was unable to connect with artisans living in various places around the country. We were also unable to conduct some of our planned training programs and as most of the suppliers were village folk, their lack of access to technology was a great barrier. It was a tough time, and the delivery of our existing inventory of products was also halted.
She transformed her business strategy to deal with the pandemic problems successfully.
To deal with the problems, we learnt to adapt and use the free lockdown time to our advantage. I strategically planned and appointed regional teams to guide and coordinate the activities of artisans across the country. We also used the pandemic time as an opportunity to expand network planning for future business opportunities.
Today, the business takes orders from all over the world. My long term goal is to maximize the use of Palmyra products as a substitute for plastic since they are environment-friendly and sustainable in nature.