Saaraketha Managing Director Prasanna Hettiarachchi (left)
Sorting, grading and cleaning produce. Triple washed and ready to eat
When Sri Lanka entered a sudden lockdown, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Saaraketha, Sri Lanka’s largest retailer and exporter of certified fresh organic produce and ethically sourced sustainables, was one of the very first to respond to the overnight national need for delivered food. Unlike other retailers, in the food industry, Saaraketha had years of experience with home delivery, supporting a loyal base of urban consumers with a bi-weekly service prior to the pandemic.
Chemical-free and sustainably-sourced products
The island-wide curfew brought with it overnight unprecedented demand, where in the first 48 hours they witnessed a 100x surge per day on their online home delivery segment. They encountered fresh, un-foreseeable challenges as the Saaraketha team stepped up to fulfils their calling as a socially responsible company. With the leadership of Managing Director Prasanna Hettiarachchi, Saaraketha found not only novel ways to streamline their processes, delivery and service, but also opened up their platform and customer base to other small ethical businesses.
The Saaraketha Lifestyle philosophy has always been one of sustainability, social responsibility and highest quality; values that come alive particularly in periods of crisis. Because of their commitment to these principles, despite facing a severe disruption of their core export business, Saaraketha has still been able to contribute to support the livelihoods of their supply chain consisting of over 2,500 rural small holder farmers.
In addition they have also been able to contribute to the lives of 50 employees and their families, over 50 delivery drivers and their families, 28 small ethical businesses and 7,000 plus customers. In keeping with their philosophy they have also continued to silently help over three charity organisations with free food, at a time when both income and access to food has been scarce and uncertain.
The emphasis on stringent health and safety, and organic farming and processing protocols, that Saaraketha Lifestyle has built their reputation on, over the last eight years of operation, means that, even in a pandemic, their customer base can absolutely trust the products that they receive, going as far as being able to trace where their food has come from. This intense attention that the team pay to each product, its quality, its longevity and its journey is something completely unique to Saaraketha Lifestyle.
As the dust settles slowly, a new world is emerging. Not just for Saaraketha but for the whole world. Consumers are rethinking their habits, their allegiances and there is more awareness about the impact of their consumption choices. The changes that they embraced in crisis to both support farmers and feed customers, have paved the way for a new way of thinking, a new way of working for Saaraketha Lifestyle. A new business model that allows them to welcome more ethical producers of fresh fruit and vegetable, dry goods, prepared foods and other lifestyle products, expanding the Saaraketha Lifestyle portfolio.
COVID-19 is set to leave a longer term impact on consumer behaviour; the remote and contactless consumption model though forced upon us will be the new norm globally for evolved consumers where the traditional retail model is disrupted for good. The world order has changed; the world will navigate COVID-19 and the human race will move on but the changes that were thrust upon us by COVID-19 and awoke us to a new way of life, will remain.
In a changed world order where new thinking, a new lifestyle and a very different consumption behaviour; with social distancing, where responsible consumption, with increased focus on essential items, reducing waste and less impulse buying, will be the new norm. In this evolved era, companies like Saaraketha Lifestyle shines the light on why being sustainable, ethical and socially responsible, is the only way forward.