Otara Gunewardene (Sinhala: ඔටාරා ගුණවර්ධන) is a Sri Lankan entrepreneur, animal welfare advocate, conservationist and philanthropist.[1] She is the founder of ODEL, Embark and Otara Foundation.[2][3]

Otara Del Gunewardene
Otara Del Gunewardene

(1964-08-30) 30 August 1964 (age 59)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
NationalitySri Lankan
Alma materLadies' College, Colombo
Bowling Green State University
Organization(s)Founder of ODEL and Embark
Known forAnimal welfare
Environmental conservation
Notable workFounding first public retail company in Sri Lanka
AwardsZonta Woman of Achievement Award
Entrepreneur of the Year 2001 Award
HonoursWorld Animal Day Ambassador – Sri Lanka
Goodwill Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity - Sri Lanka
Ambassador Earth Hour - Sri Lanka

Early life and education Edit

Otara Del Gunawardene was born on 30 August 1964 in Colombo, Sri Lanka the third child to Norman and Delysia Gunewardene.[4] Her father was a former Chairman of Aitken Spence and her mother, Delysia, established the Chitra Lane School for differently-abled children.[5]

Gunawardene attended C. M. S. Ladies College in Colombo,[5] where she excelled in athletics and swimming, representing the country. Gunawardene graduated from Bowling Green State University, Ohio with a degree in biology.[4][6]

Whilst on holiday back home, she did some fashion modelling[4] – shooting for high-profile brands and international apparel catalogues right after graduating from University.[7]

Career Edit

In 1989 Gunawardene began selling factory surplus garments and apparel from her car boot to family and friends.[8][5][9] In 1990 she opened her first store, ODEL, on Dickmans Road in Colombo[10] and by 2010 had eighteen stores throughout Colombo.[8][11]

In 2007 Gunewardene launched the Otara foundation, a non-profit organisation which focuses on environmental and wildlife conservation of Sri Lanka.[12] In 2007 she also launched the fashion brand, Embark, some of the income from which is donated to fund eradication of rabies, canine vaccinations, sterilisation surgeries, puppy adoptions, and caring for injured street dogs.[13][14][15]

In February 2010 she converted ODEL into a public limited liability company and it became the first fashion retail business to be listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange.[8] On 11 September 2014 Gunewardene sold of all her shares in ODEL PLC to the Softlogic Group,[9] to concentrate on Embark.

In 2015 Embark opened its first standalone store in Galle, which was followed by an additional three stores in Kandy City Centre, Bandaranaike International Airport and at Dickmans Road in Colombo.[16] In September 2017 Embark opened its tenth store in K-Zone Ja-Ela.[17]

Advocacy Edit

In 2015, Gunewardene launched a campaign[18] asking the government to enact the proposed Animal Welfare Bill which gained over 100,000 signatures and led to the Cabinet Approval of the said bill at the time. This inspired a trend of creating petitions for social causes in the country.[19] She continues to advocate for the revival and expedient of the Animal Welfare Bill, passing of which is continues to be stagnant.[20]

In 2016, she launched a campaign against the Dehiwala zoo which resulted in the zoo improving the conditions in which wild animals are kept.[21]

In 2020, she launched an online platform, Who We Are,[22][23] to promote Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and small businesses who sell local, eco-friendly, ethically-sourced, cruelty-free and sustainable products.[24][25]

Awards and recognition Edit

Gunewardene has achieved wide recognition in Sri Lanka and internationally.

  • 2000 - Jaycees’ Most Outstanding Young Person in Sri Lanka[7]
  • 2001 - Federation of Chambers and Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) Entrepreneur of the Year 2001 Award[7][26]
  • 2002 - Zonta Woman of Achievement Award[7][26]
  • 2007 - Alankara Jewelry, Face of Alankara Brand Ambassador
  • 2008 - Inducted into the Dallas-Hamilton Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, class of 2009 as an outstanding innovator at the Bowling Green State University; South Asian Association for Regional Corporation’s (SAARC) Woman of Achievement;[26] Retail Leadership Award, Asia Retail Congress, India;[26] Woman of Saabstance, Saab Cars, Singapore; World Animal Day, Sri Lankan AmbassadorIn 2008 was bestowed the honour of World Animal Day Ambassador – Sri Lanka[27]
  • 2009 - Sri Lankan Goodwill Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity; Colombo Jewellery Stores, Dior Brand Ambassador
  • 2010 - Orchid (Dendrobrium Otara) named after her by the Horticultural and Flora Conservation Society of Sri Lanka;[28] Winner 'Best Female Entrepreneur' award at the seventh US Stevie Awards for Women in Business[29]
  • 2013 - named Echelon Magazine's 'Most Powerful Woman in Sri Lanka',[30] listed in 'The Sri Lanka Rich List 2013'; her personal website, www.otara.lk won the ‘Best Personal Website’ award for the first time in 2010 conducted by the Lanka Domain Registry Office[31][32]
  • 2014 - Selected and honoured as one of the ‘Prominent Women of the Country’ by the Women’s Parliamentarians’ Caucus, for her achievements in business and for her service to the country; Ambassador Earth Hour Sri Lanka.[33]
  • 2017 - 'Passionate 2017' by Business Today.[34]
  • 2018 - Woman of the Year Award, Women in Management (WIM) in partnership with IFC, member of the World Bank Group.[35] Featured in LMD’s 2018 A-List of Sri Lankan Top 50 Business People.[36]

Personal life Edit

In 1990 Gunewardene married Raju Chandiram,[7] with whom she had two sons, in 1994 and 2000. The couple separated in 2006.[37] Chandiram served as a senior executive at Odel and following their divorce subsequently served as a Director on the Sri Lankan Airlines board from May 2005 until March 2008.[38][39]

References Edit

  1. ^ "හිත ඇත්නම් පත කුඩාද? - ඔටාරා". BBC News සිංහල (in Sinhala). 7 December 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  2. ^ "දිරිය ලක් දියණිය ඔටාරා ගුණවර්ධන". roar.media (in Sinhala). Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Entrepreneurship lessons from Otara | Daily FT". www.ft.lk. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Pilapitiya, Sureshni (1 December 2016). "Humans and animals can live in harmony says Otara". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Ranwella, Nayanaka (25 February 2017). "Epitomacy of Elegance". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Indices green after three days". Daily Mirror. 10 June 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Karunaratne, Ilika (26 October 2002). "Personality of the week - Otara Chandiram". Daily News. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Srinivasan, Meera (12 November 2016). "Odel: Behind Sri Lanka's best-known store". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Ajit Gunawardene bows out of Odel chair 900 for one share split preceded Odel IPO". The Island. 10 July 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  10. ^ Hewavissenti, Panchamee (28 September 2008). "Challenges are blessings in disguise: Team work is hallmark". Sunday Observer. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  11. ^ Abeyakoon, Ruwanthi. "Uniquely Smart!". Daily News. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  12. ^ "Otara launches Foundation for environmental sustainability and animal welfare". Lanka Business Online. 13 July 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Otara's support to community dogs". The Sunday Times. 4 March 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  14. ^ Reddy, Sujata (16 April 2014). "How Sri Lankan designer Otara Gunewardene extends her passion to upkeep of dogs". The Economic Times. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  15. ^ Anver, Gazala (3 October 2010). "Embarking Mad!". The Sunday Leader. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  16. ^ "Embark opens 4 new stores and transforms 14,000+ doggy lives in 2015-16". Lanka Business Online. 23 June 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Embark opens standalone store in K-Zone, Ja-Ela". The Daily Mirror. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Campaign for Passing of Animal Welfare Bill, Sri Lanka". World Animal Day. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  19. ^ "Otara Foundation appeals to govt. to enact new Animal Welfare Bill". www.dailymirror.lk. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  20. ^ "A case for Charlie". www.themorning.lk. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  21. ^ "Otara Foundation joins concerned citizens' call for closure of Dehiwela Zoo | Daily FT". www.ft.lk. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  22. ^ "Otara launches 'Who we are'". Daily News. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  23. ^ "She Can: Featuring Otara Del Gunewardene". www.dailymirror.lk. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  24. ^ "VIDEO STORY: Otara launches 'Who We Are'". www.themorning.lk. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  25. ^ Nadeera, Dilshan. "Otara Launches "Who We Are" promoting Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and small businesses". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  26. ^ a b c d "Otara Gunewardene recognised at the Asia Retail Congress". The Island. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Ambassador - Otara Gunewardene". World Animal Day. 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  28. ^ Hopman, Tahnee (8 February 2008). "A flower for Iranganie". Sunday Times. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  29. ^ "The Stevie Awards for Women in Business". Stevie Awards. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  30. ^ "50 Most Powerful Woman – #4 Otara Gunewardene – Echelon". www.echelon.lk. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  31. ^ "ODEL Recognised At 'Best Web' 2010". Business Today. January 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  32. ^ "ODEL and Otara take top awards at 'Best Web' 2010". Daily FT. 19 November 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  33. ^ "Otara named Earth Hour Sri Lanka Ambassador". Earth Hour. 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  34. ^ "BUSINESS TODAY -Business Today Passionate 2017". www.businesstoday.lk. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  35. ^ "2018 – Women in Management Awards". womeninmanagementawards.org. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  36. ^ Silva, Sachira De. "COVER STORY". LMD. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  37. ^ "Feminism In Sri Lanka - Story of Otara". Lanka News Papers. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  38. ^ "Decision on Sri Lankan shortly". The Sunday Times. 26 November 2006. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  39. ^ "Raju Arjan Chandiram". CheckDirector.co.uk. Retrieved 28 March 2018.

External links Edit