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Walking down aisle of success



by Zanita Careem

Nelum is a self-motivated individual, marked by her single-minded quest for success and achievement.She is breaking stereotypes with her talent, and inspiring countless women. Nelum’s strong determination to be independent, influenced her to be an entrepreneur. A fashion icon, who makes statements in any outfit at any place.

Nelum Haththella is the founder and editor of “Brides Of Sri Lanka” magazine, the premier bridal and wedding magazine is Sri Lanka. A graduate of Edith Cowan University, Australia with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and IT, Nelum started exploring her many talents from a very young age.

As the daughter of film producer Florence Haththella, she acted in films and teledramas as a child and moved on to modeling for TV commercials. At the same time she also explored her writing skills and won Young Writer of the Year in 1995 for her poetry. Soon after graduating, she got married to Viraj Rajapakse, a pilot and moved to the Maldives, where she worked as a manager for an IT and software development firm.

05Upon returning to Sri Lanka for her confinement, she completed a Diploma in HR and soon after formed her publishing company and hence the birth of Brides Of Sri Lanka, HealthWise and Mangalyaa. She proved her excellent entrepreneurial skills she inherited from her mother when she won Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015, in the medium business category.

With such accolades, this inspiring lady is still continuing her explorations of talents and is now using her spare time to share her passion for food and travel via Food & Travel Escapades by Nel – a Youtube channel and social media blog. She uses this platform to share her exquisite recipes, food reviews, travel destinations with videos and photos.

How did your business come into being

I founded my company in December 2006 with the website which was designed to bridge the gap between Wedding Planning and Technology. At the time, the use of the World Wide Web for planning a wedding was novel to Sri Lanka, but was widely embraced by young tech savvy couples. They found the features of my website to be time saving and extremely useful; especially the prospective brides and grooms living overseas. Then six month later, I decided to release a printed version of the website in a magazine form (Brides Of Sri Lanka magazine), which too became a favorite among brides and grooms. And ever since, we’ve been growing and now are proudly onboard Sri Lankan Airlines, is the media partner for reputed wedding expos in Sri Lanka and overseas and the two-time Gold Winner at the Sri Lanka Print Awards (2019 & 2020). We are also the only wedding magazine available for worldwide readership on all digital media platforms including Magzter, Online, Android & iOS Apps.

A few years ago, we also released Mangalyaa, a wedding magazine to satiate the Sinhala readership.

What has been the best and hardest thing about being an entrepreneur

There best things would be how I am able to create job opportunities to many and empower them with my expertise and knowledge, how am I able to aspire many youngsters to follow their dreams and venture into businesses and mostly importantly how I am able to be a part of the success story of my clients who are our advertisers.

The hardest thing would be to decide when to take a break, as you can get quite addicted to doing what you love.

Your passion and advise to young entrepreneurs

My passion is to be of help to others. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to start business with innovative ideas and products which makes you unique and indispensable. As a youngster, it is very easy to get carried away with what your heart believes in and overrule what your head tells you, but if you whole-heartedly believe in your business model, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Be persistent, resilient and take every hurdle as a learning experience. You are the only one standing your way to success!

Can woman have it all? Share your takes on this

Of course a woman can have it all! The biggest mistake most people make is think that being a woman is a disadvantage to becoming successful – on the contrary, women by nature are gifted with far more better characteristic such as endurance, resilience, tolerance, empathy and ability to multi-task, to name a few. Woman or man, having it all totally depends on how badly you want to have it all and what you are going to do about it.

What do think of women in sri lanka how do you think it can be better

I think of Sri Lankan women are extraordinary creatures – especially if you look at our history, we’ve had some remarkable women. We’ve had the first woman prime minister and president in the world; so we really can’t say women are oppressed or lack social representation in this country. If we stand our ground for what what we believe in, we are definitely heard. Sadly, however, I feel women in this country don’t maximize their potential due to various reasons. Most often they end their careers to prioritize family soon after marriage making them depend on their husbands for financial support. And funnily enough, most often it is women who encourage women to do this and make them feel that it is a woman’s duty to give up their dreams and careers for the family’s sake. The duty of maintaining the wellbeing of the family has to borne by both husband and wife, not wife alone. As long as we don’t change the mindset of people to treat a woman as an equal in marriage, we will not develop as a nation! We need to empower our daughters with education and financial independence. It is only then a woman can live with her head held high and never have the reason to feel inferior to any!

With so many magazines around what is that thing which separates your magazine from others

Novelty and the use of modern technologies from graphic design, pre-press to printing. Over the years I think we’ve mastered it to the point our printer won Gold twice consecutively at the Sri Lanka Print Awards for Brides Of Sri Lanka magazine in 2019 and 2020 in the magazine and periodicals category. We’ve always been trendsetters and kept ourselves far ahead of competition, because our challenge has always been to better ourselves from where we are.

Why a bridal magazine?

A wedding in Sri Lanka is a greatly celebrated milestone in one’s life. And I know the dilemmas I faced as a young bride when I was planning my own wedding many years ago. Wedding planning period is a very trying time for a young girl as she is new to the whole experience and is caught in a web of opinions of parents, relatives, friends and wedding professionals. I wanted the best information resource for such young brides where they are guided to choose the most unique ideas and best vendors to plan their most memorable day. And with our international exposure, I am able to showcase the great talents we have in Sri Lanka to the rest of the world, making our island nation the best wedding destination.

Your husband’s role in supporting you

Right after God, he’s my go-to for advice, support and help. Being the youngest of four, I was very strictly raised by my mother who was a young window. I always say I earned my freedom the day I got married. Viraj and I started our  courtship at a very young age and he’s become my best friend. He extremely supportive and believes in everything I do and that has given me the utmost freedom to do take up any challenge or risk without fear. It is very important to find a life partner who embarks on life’s journey, not in front of you or behind you, but right next to you, holding your hand along the way.

Courtesy: Outfits by Aslam Hussein of GeeBees Designer



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Life style

LUXASIA aims to lead luxury beauty’s growth in Sri Lanka



Sri Lanka is a land renown for stunning natural beauty. Yet, LUXASIA still managed to usher in a different kind of beautiful to the market through its expertise in luxury beauty retail and omni-distribution.

In November 2019, LUXASIA unveiled its inaugural classy beauty counters at Odel, One Galle Face. Since then, it has brought enchanting fragrances from luxury brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Marc Jacobs, as well as trendy skincare from KORA Organics to beauty-lovers in an exquisite and captivating retail format.

Now, having successfully overcome the challenges in 2020 imposed by COVID-19 and related lockdowns, LUXASIA is ready and excited to thrill Sri Lankan consumers again. This time, it is with the launch of both skincare and make-up collections from the prestigious Japanese beauty brand, Shiseido. Arriving with a glamorously magnificent pop-up at One Galle Face from 8 to 14 February 2020, LUXASIA promises to bring memorable consumer experiences and a feast for the eyes that showcases the best in Japanese beauty.  

Leading up to this pop-up, LUXASIA partnered the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and top influencers of Sri Lanka to excite the beauty community with a sneak peek of what Shiseido have to offer. This campaign garnered more than 100,000 social interactions, with over 1.2 million social media impressions, piquing consumers’ fascination in Shiseido’s award-winning and best-selling serum, The Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate.

Looking ahead into 2021, LUXASIA aims to continue delighting consumers with even more fresh retail innovations to spice up the luxury beauty scene in Sri Lanka. Soon, fragrance enthusiasts can expect a unique pop-up of all the scents that Luxasia carry, featuring new launches from Davidoff and Calvin Klein, as well as other interesting novelties. Beauty-lovers can also expect more limited edition products and gifts-with-purchases, interesting workshops, as well as seasonal offerings in the coming months. Concurrently, LUXASIA also aspires to continue grooming the Sri Lankan beauty community through more entertaining collaborations with KOLs throughout 2021.

LUXASIA sees immense potential in Sri Lanka’s fast-growing beauty market and has been its voice in the international beauty industry. For some time now, LUXASIA has been relentlessly reaching out to numerous luxury beauty brands across to world to interest them in Sri Lanka. While it is encouraging to see the first-fruits, LUXASIA is aiming much higher. Forging ahead, LUXASIA strives to champion and lead the growth of luxury beauty in Sri Lanka, through even more partnerships with great brands, and by continuously delighting consumers.

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Newly published guide opens many windows on whale watching



by Ifham Nizam

Shipping lanes to the south of Dondra pose the threat of ships colliding with whales as the area has very rich marine life which also attracts whale watching boats, says prolific wildlife writer and photographer Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, author of the recently published ‘A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka’.

He says international shipping industry organizations have written to the government to push back the existing shipping lanes and if no action is initiated, there is the danger of whale watching boats colliding with vessels.

Dr. Susannah Calderon and her colleagues at the University of Ruhuna have recommended the shipping lanes be moved 15 nautical miles south. The cost impact to all concerned will be negligible, but it significantly improves safety at sea, especially at night when the sea is dotted with the lamps from hundreds of small fishing crafts in the path of giant container carriers.

“It is primarily a safety issue though an important secondary impact will be that it reduces fatal collisions with whales, while generating favourable publicity for the government of Sri Lanka. It boils down to moving the shipping lanes further south and saving lives, Wijeyeratne stressed in an interview with The Sunday Island.

Asked what’s special about his latest publication, he said: “This is the first photographic field guide which covers nearly all of the mammals found in Sri Lanka. It covers 96 per cent of the land and marine mammals. The book, which is portable and affordable, also contains a large number of images from 40 photographers which are practically useful in the field to identify a mammal to species level. It also covers a number of small, discrete, nocturnal mammals whose existence that even many local wildlife enthusiasts will not be aware of.”

On the book’s coverage of the marine mammals, Wijeyeratne said there are two noteworthy aspects. Firstly, it covers all the species recorded in Sri Lankan waters expect for one, the Omura’s Whale. This will be included in a second edition. Secondly, it uses images of the whales and dolphins (cetaceans) which will show the animals the way a whale watcher will see them on the surface.

Artwork that shows the whole animal is important, but in field conditions, they are often of limited value to identify cetaceans which only show a little of their upper body in sections at a time they surface.

Q: You were the first to publicize that Sri Lanka was the best location for Blue Whale sightings and offered the best chance to see a superpod of Sperm Whales. Can you explain briefly how you set about branding Sri Lanka as a top international destination for whale watching?


I started with field work to ascertain the facts and launched a media campaign initially with Jetwing Eco Holidays and Jetwing Hotels which was supported over many years by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and others in the media and tourism business. I have published 37 articles on whale watching in Sri Lanka. The first, in May 2008, was pivotal as it boldly stated that Sri Lanka was best for Blue Whales. This set everything in motion. My articles give due credit to many people who were a part of this amazing story. This includes Dr. Charles Anderson who first told me it would be feasible to see Blue Whales from the South.

A Belgian millionaire philanthropist who prefers to remain anonymous and helped create the infrastructure for whale watching by 13 tsunami affected fishing youth who set up Mirissa Water Sports and Sue Evans who was important for connecting all of us and Anoma Alagiyawadu (the Jetwing Lighthouse Naturalist) whom I tasked with collecting the initial data for the Encounter Rates I publicized in the media.

Remarkably, no Sri Lankan marine biologist played any role in publicizing whale watching in the early years. However, soon after, they benefited by being thrust into the media spotlight by film crew researchers who had read the publicity which began with my various widely disseminated articles. Having read them, and sometimes after conversations with me, the film crews and the press came to Sri Lanka and incorporated local marine biologists into their story.

At the time I broke the first story, I do not think any of the local marine biologists had even one image of a Blue Whale of a publishable standard or had any idea that Sri Lanka was the best place in the world to see Blue Whales. Hopefully, the increased profile of local marine biologists has made it easier for them to raise the funds needed for their important research.

Q: Did the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau help your efforts with publicity and branding?


Yes indeed. At the start of the publicity campaign, we produced a series of informative and attractive publications designed by Chandrika Maelge. These were printed and distributed at key consumer and travel trade fairs such as the Bird Fair, WTM and Destinations where a number of important press and tour operators were informed about Sri Lanka being a good place for whales. At some of the press drinks events in London hosted by Jetwing Eco Holidays, around 35-45 press people would attend. These events were held in collaboration with the London Office of the SLTPB.

In some years, As many as three of these press events were held allowing personal interaction with a wide pool of media people. Another important and later development is the role played by Nalin Perera who ran the SLTPB office in London for several years and attended many consumer and travel trade fairs. I had developed media briefs for him which he would print and distribute. In one conversation, he estimated that he had printed and distributed over 10,000 copies of this material.

There were others who also disseminated my stories to the international press; a notable example being Chitral Jayatilake who shared my publicity pdfs with various wildlife documentary makers he invited to Sri Lanka.


Q: Did everyone readily embrace your ideas?

It took a couple of years. I remember even into the second year of the publicity campaign there were doubts from the big companies in tourism.

I remember Srilal Miththapala who was then President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka speaking to me and joining a celebrity whale watching event I was leading with Shyamalee Tudawe. This was organized by Olivia Richli of the Amangalla in Galle.

Srilal wanted to report back to the association if there was any truth to the claims being made by me about how easy it was to see Blue Whales. On the coastline, the people running small guesthouses readily embraced the story as tourists who were reading my stories turned up with copies of my articles and asked for boats to take them whale watching. The international press also readily took it on as I provided credible data.

Q: What do you say to criticisms that whale watching needs better regulation?

I agree on the need for better regulation and higher standards. The tourism industry has played its part in publicizing whale watching. Other state agencies also need to step up their efforts to regulate the industry in a way that is good for the welfare of the animals and provide a good visitor experience.

Q: What do you expect ‘A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka’ to achieve?

I would like people to understand that there is still a lot to be discovered about Sri Lanka’s mammals and I hope this portable and affordable guide will find its way into the hands of local naturalists and inspire more research and more practical steps to conserve habitats and species.



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Modern Brides and Grooms collection by LOVI Ceylon and friends



Brides and Grooms of Sri Lanka – Reimagined

“Together we’re creating moments of happiness and cherished memories for the new couple and their families” said Founder and CEO of LOVI Ceylon, Asanka de Mel, as he introduced LOVI Ceylon’s Groom collection. Each groom’s look was paired with extraordinary creations from Sri Lanka’s top bridal designers, jewelers, florists, hair and make-up artiste and was captured by story-telling photographers.

The presentation graciously hosted by the Taj Samudra and Shangri-La hotels saw 30 leading designers working hand in hand to infuse fresh ideas, celebrate cultural diversity and show-off Sri Lankan couture—the island’s hand craft heritage.

The stunning bridal costumes were painstakingly made by renowned designers Messrs. Dhananjaya Bandara, Rishard Raheem, and Michael Wijesuriya as well as Mses. Indi Yapa Abeywardena of Brides by INDI, Sonali Dharmawardena, Darshi Keerthisena of Buddhi Batiks, Ramona Oshini, Sandani Perera of IKIGAI Bridal, and Jaish Parathalingam of Aashkii. The newcomer, Ms. Anusha David also presented her couture creations under the label Gabriel.

“We want our Groom and all of the men in the wedding including the groomsmen, dads, young boys and friends, to be themselves–to feel rooted in culture, well dressed and at ease on the wedding day,” says Asanka. Celebrating the religious and cultural traditions including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Kandyan, Malay, Muslim, Sinhala, Tamil and western traditions of the island LOVI Ceylon’s Grooms’ range presented modern sarongs paired with formal shirts, jackets, kurtas and more. They were paired with sarees, dresses, lehengas, pant suits and an array of breathtaking outfits. There were many looks offered for the Sri Lankan diaspora, as well as couples seeking inspiration for destination weddings.

As the designs progressed from sketch to stitching, our jewelry partners Careems, Lalitha, Mallika Hemachandra, Tiesh and Vogue jewelers added their brilliant sparkles with handcrafted fine jewelry made of precious metals encrusted with diamonds, sapphires and rubies. And what wedding would be complete without flowers? Bringing the latest floral creations were florists Designer Flowers, Flowers by Joan and Karen Forbes, Lassana Flora, and Supreme Flora who made the spectacular bridal outfits blossom with their creations.

Breathing life into these wonderful creations with superb hair and make-up was anchor of the shoot, Ms. Nadiya Fernando and her collaborator Omesh, while Ramani Fernando Salons, Shane Perera, Viran Peter, Brides by Leena and Talia designs, also worked magic on the models.

The father son duo Dinuka and Dineth Fonseka of Studio3000 took on the herculean task of capturing all the creations as the anchor photography partner. The works of Ashene Bernard, Amarante Studio, Geeshan Bandara, and Portrait Culture were also presented in imaginative and artistic captures.

De Mel expressed his thanks to the wonderful models who brought the visions and fancies of the designers to life, as well as poet and author Ashok Ferrey for being the MC of the shoot and providing an eloquent commentary, delivered with his inimitable panache!

“We have world class craftsmanship here, it’s fun to work with so many experts, who just happen to be friends, to present a beautiful collection that could nudge the course of Sri Lankan clothing identity” said Asanka when asked about the work that went into this.

As he rightly reminded the gentlemen to choose wisely, “on that special wedding day, when all eyes are on her–her eyes are on you!”



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