By Chenelle Fernando
Be it a birthday, anniversary, or a special achievement, we are well aware of how challenging it can be to come up with the perfect gift. While customised and well-thought-out gifts are ideal for any occasion, not all of us seem to find the time to get on with it.
Navyamaya is an initiative founded by doctors Lakmali Amarasiri and Yamuna Rajapakse. They create unique gifts to cater to the personality of the receiver. At the onset, the gifts and materials for their intricately designed gift collections were sourced from well-known vendors, both local and overseas. However, with time, they began to empower local small-scale businesses and then embarked on creating an empowerment movement to engage women of diverse backgrounds, who were unemployed due to various reasons, as suppliers of some of their gift items. From the initiation of Navyamaya and the empowerment (*Npower) to juggling both their professional careers and their line of creativity, here’s what the founders shared with The Sunday Morning Brunch.
Could you give us a brief insight to your professional background?
Dr. Yamuna: I’m a respiratory physician, but I work at the Colombo Medical Faculty, and I’m a senior lecturer there.
Dr. Lakmali: I’m a physiologist with a special interest in lung physiology, and I am also a senior lecturer at the Colombo Medical Faculty. Working in such a close proximity has been an added advantage for our venture.
Q. How did you two get together to establish Navyamaya?
Dr. L: We have been friends for many years and we both have similar interests – most notably reading, creating, and shopping. When I came up with the idea of a customised gift collection service, we thought it was perfect. For one, you can hardly find the perfect gift. Secondly, it involves us going shopping to create the gifts and brainstorming over coffee (something they absolutely enjoy doing). Since we both love shopping, we both view this as the perfect opportunity to do just that! Most of our creations are made by us.
That being said, we’d like to point out that it’s not just a business, profession, or our livelihood, instead, it’s a creative outlet for us where we get to interact and make life a lot less boring.
We like to keep at least a week to design and conceptualise a creation, and we appreciate people who give us notice ahead of time because that way, we have time to think and shop. Sometimes, we even get our gift items when we go overseas.
Q. What would you say is the concept behind your initiative?
One concept we wanted to highlight was the fact that just because you are in one profession, it doesn’t mean you should give up on everything else in your life. So, because we did science, we felt like our creativity was being buried. However, we got the courage to bring it out and revive it. We are content because this, to an extent, makes life worthwhile for us, because from us creating it, the giver to the receiver and our suppliers look forward to this.
Q. You have embarked on a balancing act, with a busy professional career on one hand and Navyamaya on the other. You have found the time to engage in things that make you happy. Could you let us in on this process?
Dr. Y: I guess, to an extent, it has shown us that we can utilise our time more productively. If you are aimless, you end up idling and doing nothing. But we look forward to this so much that whenever we get time to rest, we would get on with designing these collections. Additionally, I think this is a good message to pass on to my children.
Dr. L: We have learned to multitask and balance things better now. I think it is important to have that balance in everything you do. You must have your academic balance, your professional balance, and even at your household, but most importantly, you need to have time for yourself and this is very important to a female. It’s also important to like your role and what you do, because if we didn’t like what we did, we probably wouldn’t do it. All in all, balance is important because it makes life worthwhile – you shouldn’t necessarily be in a tunnel and just do one thing.
*Npower – a concept built around empowering local ladies which was discovered when the founders were developing the brand.