Navyamaya, a creative venture that curates unique personalised gifts and events, is run by two friends, Dr. Yamuna Rajapakse and Dr. Lakmali Amarasiri. Dr. Rajapakse is a consultant respiratory physician and Dr. Amarasiri is a medical physiologist. Both of them are also senior lecturers at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo, and are very committed to their professional careers and families. They have been friends for many years and share similar interests – most notably, reading, creating, and shopping.
Speaking to The Morning Brunch, they shared their story.
What is the concept behind your brand?
YR: Navyamaya means “bespoke” or “custom-made”. Our aim is to create the perfect gift, personalised to the receiver. A unique and personalised gift that would “wow” the receiver and give enjoyment to the person gifting it as well, making gift-giving an enjoyable and exciting experience. Our creative direction is not limited only to gifts; we have done a few events and designed personalised spaces.
What inspired you to start up?
LA: The reason behind the creation of the brand was to create a market and thereby an opportunity for females of diverse backgrounds to earn from their homes with dignity. A few years ago, I met a patient who had had to give up her livelihood due to limited activity due to her health condition. The idea that craft could be used as a means of empowering individuals began at this point.
The idea of setting up a personalised creative service, where such crafts could be utilised, came to my mind and I contacted Yamuna. She and I have always enjoyed being creative in many things we do – be it gift-giving, planning events, or decorating our houses. Many are the times we have been asked to do the same for our families, friends, and colleagues.
The idea to help others “to create that perfect gift” was the perfect excuse for the two of us to meet up, chat over a cuppa, shop, and create – all of which are things we loved doing. And so Navyamaya was launched, and as the business grew, we found that we could empower not only individual females, but also males and even small-scale businesses by making them suppliers and sources for material and items that were needed for our creations. We also marketed their wares at pop-up sales or by recommending them to other similar ventures.
So what started out as a creative outlet branched out to become something more meaningful.
It’s been three years since Navyamaya was launched. What has the journey been like?
YR: A life-changing, enriching, and joyful experience. We started off by creating a stack of suitcases as the theme for an anniversary gift, and it just took off from there. Suddenly, we were being asked to create gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, farewells, retirements, special occasions – the list of occasions just expanded. The two of us do the creations ourselves, and from the moment of being commissioned with the gift through the brainstorming and planning as well as the gift-hunting and creating, there is a tremendous adrenaline rush that just powers us on, and it fills us with joy.
As the whole process takes some time to plan, most often the person giving the gift becomes fast friends with us, and we have built many long-term friendships with some over the years. This is neither a business for us nor our livelihood, but rather a creative outlet where we can interact as friends to make people happy, empower others, and make new acquaintances and friends along the way.
What can your customers expect with your services?
LA: A unique gift-giving experience like no other. It is not a gift but a process – a very enjoyable process for all who are involved. The gift is so personalised that the receiver is astounded at the level of detail gone into relating the gift to him or her, and that makes them feel the vibe of the gift as well as the love and attention poured into its creation. The feeling we get from knowing that the gift and its proceeds go towards making someone else’s life better is a bonus.
What is your selling point (the most unique feature)?
YR: The uniqueness and extent of personalisation and the attention to detail. No two gifts or spaces are the same and they relate so well to the receiver or customer.
How did you manage with Covid? Has the situation improved?
LA: At the time Covid started to loom its head at the beginning of 2020, we had just finished a Christmas sale where we displayed, sold, and found more opportunities for our empowered community. Overwhelmed by the response, we had taken steps to expand and legalise the empowerment.
However, as the pandemic established itself, people’s priorities changed and venturing out to shop was not possible. Online shopping was a novelty and limited. We could not meet to create. And so, there was a decline in our activities. Even though we did have inquiries, we were also adjusting to the situation and were not in a frame of mind to do any creations. The most severe blow was, we realised, that we could not expand the empowerment as we had envisaged due to difficulty in securing funds and limitation of physical activities.
However, we have now begun to adjust to the “new norm”. We have become quite proficient at online shopping, which has expanded as well, and so we now have plans to revive the gift-giving service and also look towards other ventures in order for us to continue empowerment.
What are your plans for the future?
YR: To continue gift-giving, to plan for more visibility, and to develop projects for the empowered. We are creative directors; hence, we plan to diversify our services to other aspects as well. We have already worked on designing personalised spaces. You can view our creations and details of our empowerment sales on Facebook and Instagram. Our website will be out next month.