2020 Sep 29
Ever thought a mere 500 grams of flour and a bottle of coconut oil, could be the starting point for a thriving business spanning over three generations? If you thought not – then think again, because Samanmalie Rajakaruna, the pioneer behind Noas Products (Private) Limited, did exactly that. The name ‘Noas’ – an abbreviation of the 4 women in the family: Niroshinie, Oshanie, Aryana and Samanmalie – has become a name synonymous with that of the ‘bites’ industry in Sri Lanka today. And this gram, peanut and cashew mixture often called the ‘cocktail mixture’, is a staple Sri Lankans can’t do without!
A little over 30 years ago, in 1989, with a recipe passed down to her by her mother, Samanmalie Rajakaruna took to this business as just a hobby. Having seen her mother prepare these mixtures, for friends and family, and seeing how much everyone loved it, Samanmalie – after having given birth to her children – thought to start a humble business preparing and selling this mixture. So with just 500 grams of flour and a bottle of coconut oil, she made a few packets and sealed them in plastic bags with the help of a burning candle. Having initially sold it around her friends, her mixtures found immediate popularity. This was when she had made the decision to supply to shops as well. And when these mixture packets, known as the “devilled mixture”, gained immediate popularity, it became the launching pad for the next step of her business. She went into supplying a supermarket chain named cornel, which then, in turn, propelled her into proper business procedures, such as branding her products, providing bills and maintaining records. And with the earnings she was making by that time, she had purchased a small van in hopes of delivering her products faster. She brought in two assistants, but still personally drove to each store to deliver the goods. As time went on, Samanmalie’s confidence in her business grew, and she went on to invest in machinery, recruit more staff and slowly expand into supermarkets in Colombo, its suburbs and to the rest of the country.
From the beginning, Samanmalie had always been very particular when it comes to the quality of her products. To this day, she affirms that maintaining the quality of products and using only the best ingredients – whatever the cost – is of the highest priority. Not preparing the product in large batches and storing them for extended periods of time is another way Samanmalie ensures the freshness of her products. Therefore, her quality controlled product has an expiration period of four months. For this reason, when catering to large orders, they prepare the mixture in batches and deliver within a week’s time.
Another thing Noas Products prides itself on is the use of completely natural ingredients – mainly – cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fresh curry leaves and fresh garlic – and abstaining from the use of any artificial preservatives, like MSG, or chemicals for prolonging the shelf life of their products. In addition to this, her sales representatives are instructed to be fully alert if anything seems amiss, and pull the products out of shelves if any visible signs of a spoiled nature show up.
Being a family-run business, Samanmalie believes in treating her staff – now numbering more than 30 members – like her own family, while being more than just an authoritative figure. An annual trip for her staff and a supply of stationery and books for school for her staffs’ children are some of the few generous things Samanmalie does. Moreover, philanthropic Samanmalie donates cash to cancer patients for their treatment as well.
Now, having spent over 30 years building up Noas to what it is today – taking their products on to the racks of supermarkets islandwide, as well as online delivery stores – Samanmalie is passing the baton on to her daughter, taking it to the third generation of the ‘mixture’ business. Taking the baton is Oshani Ratnayake – Samanmalie’s second daughter, a student of Methodist College who has initially taken up beauty culture. Although a proud owner of a salon, she had then followed her mother’s footsteps once becoming a mother herself. Since becoming involved in the business, Oshani has been a pivotal role in taking this trade towards multiple countries on the international sphere, under the roles of a Director and Product Developer.
Noas is a testament to what women in Sri Lanka and all around the world can achieve. This generational story of three pioneering women is an inspiration for anyone to go after their dreams!