By Sarah Hannan
An icon in the garment industry and among women entrepreneurs, Ramya Weerakoon has worked her way through many ups and downs in life. The award-winning entrepreneur marked another milestone on 9 May at The Kingsbury by launching her biography ‘Triumph Through Tragedy,’ which was authored by Namini Wijedasa.
The event was attended by Weerakoon’s well-wishers, family and friends. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa participated as the Chief Guest.
Welcoming the invitees, Ramya Holdings Managing Director Mahika Weerakoon, daughter of Ramya Weerakoon, said: “The scale of my mother’s achievements is immense. She has motivated us and has been the main pillar of our family’s strength. She has set a perfect example in our lives and influences the family a great deal.”
University Grants Commission Vice Chancellor Prof. Ranjith Senaratne presented the book review:
“Ramya Weerakoon is a single mother who overcame insurmountable issues and emerged as a queen in the apparel industry. Ramya’s father Walter Karunaratne hailed from Mirissa, Matara and her mother was from Kurunegala. Ramya has a brother and a sister. Noel Weerakoon was her husband who was a Major in the Sri Lanka Army who was tragically killed in an ambush in Medawachchiya by the JVP in 1971 during the insurrection.
“Widowed with a two-year-old daughter, Ramya gave birth to her second daughter just two months after Noel’s death. Her husband’s untimely death caused a great shock in Ramya and she found solace in a convent closer to her house. This disturbed her parents who then requested her to stop her visits to the convent.
“Identifying her interest in batik making, Ramya’s father encouraged her to get in to the batik business to take her mind off her loss. In 1975 she had her first batik exhibition in Kurunegala which boosted her morale. Ramya never kept her hopes low. She kept her hopes high and participated in The Frankfurt Fair in 1976 and rubbed shoulders with the giants in the local batik industry. She regularly got involved in exhibitions and fairs to improve her business and learn the ropes of the trade.
“She established her business ties in Europe in time to come. She incorporated historic events in her batik creations, which grabbed the interest of her clients in Europe. Her ambition was made of sterner stuff and was emboldened with courage. She has won many accolades as an entrepreneur and managed to become a giant in the apparel industry. Trendy Wear and Adithi are the two brands under her belt. “In the last chapters she mentions that she is focusing on her spiritual life by laying down her entrepreneurial skills. But I urge her that this country still needs her expertise as an entrepreneur. Ramya is truly living in the hearts and minds of thousands of people. I request Ramya to work with the widows in the north through our university and encourage them to get involved in horticulture and apparel. She is a great source of inspiration to women as well as men.”
Pix by Upul Abayasekara