By : Cameron Blake
With Sri Lanka becoming the number one travel destination according to The Lonely Planet rankings, the success of the novelty gift and souvenir industry, which is one of the major developing categories in tourism, is thus far stabilized. One could say LAKARCADE’s entry into the industry is well-timed, and it is the view of LAKARCADE CEO and Managing Director Anil Koswatte that it is here to cater to the demanding market, by setting up its flagship store in the heart of Colombo.
LAKARCADE is one of the biggest novelty Gift & Souvenir shopping malls in Asia located in the heart of Colombo, LAKARCADE offers a wide array of authentic Sri Lankan souvenirs and novelty gift items. The fine range on display includes carefully selected teas, spices, traditional art & craft items, batiks, gems, jewelry, silverware and many more creative products.
“Sri Lanka is now focusing more on the tourism industry, and we need to exploit this opportunity as much as possible like other South East Asian countries. When you look at tourism development, novelty gift and souvenir industry is one of the major developing categories in the world that contribute to tourism. Gem and jewelry, spa products and handicrafts are subcategories in this industry,” Koswatte said.
According to Koswatte, the statistics of tourists’ arrivals are on the rise, with numbers increasing every year; Sri Lanka currently has reached a mark of 2.5 million arrivals per year. He believes that Sri Lanka has the potential to reach the heights of countries like Thailand and Malaysia, and increase these numbers up to 20 million. As a Sri Lankan entrepreneur, Koswatte states that LAKARCADE is getting ready to take up this challenge by aiding the Government as a private entity, to boost economic growth from grassroots level by increasing its service to the rural crafts community.
Koswatte says that almost all of the products sold at the store are manufactured by village- or cottage-based craftsmen, with the exception of some products being sourced by local but established manufacturers. Crafts and artefacts from Batticaloa, Puttalam and Jaffna, covering areas from North to South, are sourced by LAKARCADE.
“Products that require a quality assurance such as tea, coffee, and spa products, we have reputed and established local manufacturers who supply for us. All products are manufactured here and all resources and expertise are local; we’re not importing anything. So, the majority of the products are produced in the cottage industry,”
According to Koswatte, LAKARCADE provides the rural craftsmen the ability to demand their prices. He said that no bargaining happens on their part, and therefore the craftsmen are assured a reasonable income for their efforts. “We don’t tell them this is your price. They come with their prices and we accept.”
Koswatte added that the suppliers, the cottage industry manufacturers, are very talented, creative and efficient. However, according to certain market standards and trends, some changes needs to be made, and this is where LAKARCADE collaborates with their designers and produces an end product that has more market value. “The manufacturers are very independent people. There are as per my calculations, 3000-odd suppliers of handicraft in Si Lanka. We purchase from some of these manufacturers, either what they are producing according to their designs, or after we do our own designs and value additions.”
LAKARCADE has recruited a very famous design consultant, Senaka De Silva. His expertise is utilised into understanding current market trends, and incorporated into the products produced by the suppliers.
“Suppliers come and see the stores. They can see the consumer points, consumer behaviour, market trends, what components in their production they should enhance such as packaging and weight. It’s an exposure program for them also. This is where the manufacturer and the buyer meets. They can see for themselves how the market behaves to their products,” he explained.
With a wide range of items such as gem and jewelry, handloom, Sri Lankan batik, Ceylon spices, Ceylon tea and coffee and handicrafts, the exclusivity of a gift shop such as this is its ability to make a global presence through e-commerce, says Koswatte. “We already have the facility in place for customers to do their shopping online. We’re joining with Ikman.lk and we’re aiming to have a global presence like Amazon and Alibaba as vendors.”
“Our market segment here is 80% tourists. Some people come and order items big in size such as wooden elephants or artefacts, and we will deliver it to their doorstep through our air-freight or sea cargo,” Koswatte explained.
The team at LAKARCADE is equipped with expertise knowledge as they all have prior experience working in a similar scope. With ease, one can observe a cross-section of Sri Lankan heritage and culture at LAKARCADE.
Koswatte says that unless marketing linkage is provided, the village- or cottage-based craftsman doesn’t get reasonable prices for their efforts. He states that the backward integration in the business, from buyer to manufacturer linking, is one of its main goals. Therefore, the sustainability of this business in the long run with adequate income to the craftsman is promised when market facilities such as LAKARCADE is available in the Centre of Colombo, aiming the tourists.
“As a marketing linkage institution, LAKARCADE does not produce any items sold at the store. All these are produced in the village level, either in the cottage industry or either in a rural level craftsman-owned business. Most of the products come from the cottage industry,” Koswatte explained.
Sri Lanka has a significant advantage on gem and jewellery, being one of the major countries manufacturing gems and jewellery, in addition to tea and spices, according to Koswatte, and he further added that Sri Lanka has the competitor advantage, with the ability to demand higher prices in these categories. “If the consumers aren’t happy with our product, including our gem and jewellery, they can return it and we can pay back. We have the money-back guarantee as well.”
Koswatte says that from the point of country, LAKARCADE plays the part of brand-building or destination-marketing for Sri Lanka, and that it is their corporate responsibility, objective, vision and goal.
“The tourism industry should sustain with a good image and attractive campaign and we are part of it. Our Sri Lankan authentic products should enhance the total value of the Sri Lankan brand. I believe LAKARCADE plays a major role in providing this assurance,” Koswatte elaborated.
LAKARCADE truly Sri Lankan with a vision “To become the global representative of authentic Sri Lankan Novelty Gift & Souvenir items by preserving our heritage”.