KANTALA: WHAT’S BEHIND THAT NICE BAG?

The story behind my client, Kantala.

By Social Impact Consultant, Nathalie Richard

This brand was created in 2014 by two young entrepreneurs, Nadishan Shanthikumar and Vikum Rajapakse, who had the brilliant idea to launch a range of contemporary and ecological accessories using one of Sri Lanka’s oldest weaving techniques.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 12.03.11

(From left to right, Vikum Rajapakse and Nadishan Shanthikumar) 

Kantala’s primary material is the fibre extracted from the regrowing Hana plant. It is a fine, white fibre with a mild gleam but strong enough to weave a rope.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 12.03.21(hana plant fibre)

The Hana plant was the inspiration behind the name of the brand. Kantala being the Sanskrit name of the Hana plant, it represents perfectly the image of the company: a contemporary style brand with a twist of history.

For over 300 years, the descendants of Henavala village, near Kandy, had perfected and passed down the art of the handwoven mats to the next generation. Today, 10 families out of 95 residing in Henavala are actively engaged in the craft. While the younger folks venture beyond the village in search of more lucrative and modern jobs, Kantala hopes to provide a respectable livelihood and encourage the next generations to continue the tradition. To this day this highly skilled craft is not practiced in any other part of the country.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 12.03.30

(This artisan has been developing his technique for more than 40 years now.)

Contemporary AND eco-friendly

They also have at heart to favor an eco-responsible approach to their business.

Dyeing is one of the key pollutants. To ensure to cause minimal impact to the environment, Kantala uses a combination of vegetable dyes and eco friendly reactive dyes. The Hana fibre grows abundantly and re-grows fast. It is therefore a sustainable source of material. No machinery is used for harvesting and it is sun-dried and no preservatives are used to treat the Hana fibre.

Like any young company Kantala seeks to publicize and attract more customers to its two existing points of sale in Colombo: Trunk at Hotel Cinnamon Grand and Ramada Colombo as well as Selyn. While waiting to sell their accessories online through their website – and other platforms being explored – Kantala is slowly expanding its network on social media and looking for partnership opportunities to maximize its visibility.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 12.03.48

(a sample of some of Kantala’s bags)

Recently, Kantala has teamed up with the Foundation of Goodness on Women’s International day and has agreed to donate 10% of all their retail sales for March to the Foundation through their Women’s Empowerment Programme.

Corporate sales

Alongside the bags and wallets sold in stores, Kantala is also in the corporate market by offering customized products for hotels like menu folders, writing pads, in-room guest service directories and other in-room amenities. This niche is definitely the most lucrative one at the moment. Manor House Concepts, Ramada Katunayake, Galadari, Ceilao Villas and Sri Sharavi Villas are amongst their clients.

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(Customized bill folder for the Manor House Concepts)

Their main goals

As young determined entrepreneurs, Vikum and Nadishan sure have tons of ideas and projects they want to put in place with Kantala. Globally, they want to contribute to place Sri Lanka on the global brand market.

Kantala also wants to revive this wonderful handicraft and preserve it for future generations. The company pays above the market rate for the mats made by the artisans and also ensure they are paid in a timely manner. Kantala would like to eventually give an ownership in the company through an employee share scheme to the artisans.

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(Nadishan and Vikum with the chef artisan)

In regards of becoming a more sustainable brand, Kantala would like to obtain the World Fair Trade Organisation Guarantee and carbon footprint certification. Two keywords they strongly believe in.

To know more about Kantala….? 

Simply follow them!

Would you like to #JoinUs in either Brazil, India, or Sri Lanka in 2016? APPLY HERE. Immersion Programmes are running throughout the year as well as a new programme format for people who can’t take 6 weeks out of their lives – our 2-3 week Inspiration Programme in Rio in August/September, and our flexible volunteer programme _TheAssignment. See our website for more details www.socialstarters.org.

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