By Dimithri Wijesinghe
AthkamRoo (Athkam Nirmana) produces bags, baskets, containers, and mats using ekel, and the store specialises in producing bags and other portable kits out of coconut, palmyrah, reed, and bamboo too.
We spoke to AthkamRoo Founder Pathma Wellawagedara, who shared that her main purpose for initiating this movement was to encourage people to use accessories and houseware made from traditional natural materials instead of plastic.
She shared that they ensure the quality and the uniqueness of each and every product while producing environmentally friendly products, thereby promoting the concept of going green.
Starting off as a collective of women, simply a gathering of friends sharing their generational knowhow of creating all natural products, the movement has now grown to include young girls in the Asgiriya-Minuwangoda area.
Pathma shared that she maintains something akin to a training college where she and her friends teach young girls who are interested, in small batches of 8-10 students, who then contribute to the main production once they’ve learned the ropes. These girls also have the opportunity to receive commission for their work.
She said that not only does it encourage the younger generation to be more environmentally conscious, but it also empowers them to learn a unique skill that is in demand moving into the new world; the world is headed towards an agricultural state where “all natural” is the only way to go, Pathma believes. Almost all industries, even that of fashion which is a high polluting industry at the moment, are soon likely to turn to green-friendly materials, designs, and products.
While they’ve been in the market for more than two years and initially introduced their products through the Saturday Good Market, they have made efforts to gradually expand their small-scale business to a large corporate businesses. “Some of our client portfolios include Good Market customers, Universal Freighters for window shades, and John Keells for dustbins/baskets,” shared Pathma.
With regards to the future of the business, Pathma shared that she is confident it will be propelled forward, considering the way things have been going so far. “Many travellers and local folk alike flock to the stall to purchase these products which are designed singlehandedly by myself, and I really encourage people to use accessories and houseware made from traditional natural materials, rather than synthetic counterparts which are harmful to the environment, and people are listening; they want to make this change,” she said.
The products at AthkamRoo are handmade and its creator takes great pride in her work, as she says “they are things I make by my own hands”, and so each piece is precious to her. She said that since these products are made from all-natural materials, they have a certain lifespan of about six to seven years. In addition, they provide at least a one-year warranty for product repair or replacement at no additional cost, and offer a limited money-back guarantee if a customer is not satisfied with a product or service. They also provide a lifetime warranty for product repair or replacement at no additional cost.
AthkamRoo was awarded the Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 award by the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and since its inception, have had a diversified range of products on offer to satisfy all the requirements of their customers. Customers are also able to pre-order in bulk and customise products according to their preference.
Pathma shared that they enjoy keeping things fresh by using the internet to research new patterns and designs so that they can stay in touch with what is trendy, and as a result, they have had many influential people purchase and model their products. She shared that one of the best things that have transpired as a result of her business is that she was able to create a close-knit community of strong, independent women who will not be left behind as the world continues to progress.