Ko Lanka to establish handloom factory in North
By Surekha Galagoda
The proprietor of Ko Lanka Pure Silk (Pvt) Ltd R.S. Balanathan is
planning to set up a handloom factory in the North soon.
Balanathan said that initially he will open a factory with at least
10 machines and expand as the demand increases.
Internationally there is a very good demand for handlooms while Sri
Lankans too wear handloom clothing. He said that earnings have increased
after the conflict. The East is already developed. In the North there
are experienced weavers. Though it is almost two years after the
conflict nobody has started a factory.
Born in Jaffna to a family of seven children Balanathan had his
education at Skandavrodya College, Chunnakam and Mahinda College,
Badulla. After the Advanced level examination he studied textile
technology and on completion of the course he got a job at Kandy
Textile. In the adjoining building there was a sericulture project under
the Ministry of Plantations.
In 1976 he joined this project as a maintenance officer and quickly
rose to the position of project officer in charge of the reeling
process. He also got an opportunity to visit several countries to attend
seminars and conferences and received a three-month training on silk
cocoons and fabric grading in Korea.
In 1994 Sri Lanka became the best cocoon producing country and
Balanathan was appointed as the manager of silk processing. In 2000 the
project closed due to many reasons. "In 1987 I got married to K.G.
Ubayaratna who was an agriculture diploma holder. She died four years
ago and it is a real blow to me," said Balanathan. His only son is
studying medicine in China.
"Due to the strong relationship I had with the Koreans we started Ko
Lanka as a Korea Sri Lanka. BOI venture in 1989. We manufactured kimonas
and ob for export to Japan and Korea and had a workforce of 225 at Ko
Lanka while the sister company employed 185."
"Since kimonas and ob are popular in Japan we had enough orders. From
1989-1998 Ko Lanka was the leading exporter in Sri Lanka.
In 1998 the market for kimonas was captured by China from which time
we started making silk fabric, silk sarees, cotton shirts and sarongs."
During the past 10 years Balanathan has been the recipient of many
national and international awards. Among them is the award from the high
quality fabric producer from New York in May last year. At present
Balanathan employs 50 permanent workers and 50 on contract basis.
Ko Lanka has two showrooms in Colpetty and Pallekele.
He said that he imports silk yarn from Korea which is of quality and
is planning to develop the handloom industry with the support of the
government and the banks.
He has already got a low interest loan from the Lankaputhra
Development Bank to purchase raw materials.
The main obstacles for developing the industry are shortage of
labour, raw materials and designers. "I have a few trained designers
while I also get involved in the designs," he said.
Balanathan is a member of many organisations and is a philanthropist.