‘Right now is a breeding ground for new ideas’: A chat with Ronali Perera

August 25, 2022

Despite the ongoing economic crisis, there’s no time like the present to put on one’s thinking cap and come up with new business ideas, says Ronali Perera, Founder of Refreshing Ayurvedic Wellness, or RAW Sri Lanka.

“There are a lot of problems that need to be solved right now and a good business is born out of solving an urgent need or a problem, so put your thinking caps on and solve the problems that the people are burdened with right now,” she asserted, in an interview with the EthicalX team.

RAW Sri Lanka specialises in organic juices and detox cleansers, using mainly local produce.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

My name is Ronali and I am the Founder of Refreshing Ayurvedic Wellness, or RAW Sri Lanka for short. We specialise in organic juices and detox cleansers, using mainly local produce. We like to incorporate Ayurvedic Sri Lankan plants into them, such as gotukola, mukunuwenna, hathawariya, and thebu, which have unique healing properties which benefit the Sri Lankan body in particular because they grow in this soil. 

What’s the story behind this and what motivated you to start this?

That’s an interesting question. I was working all over the place actually. I’ve worked for the Government and at NGOs. I was working in the corporate sector and I was always unfulfilled and I felt like I was meant to do something much greater. 

One day I had this moment where I heard a voice telling me ‘do organic, cold-pressed juices’. I wondered what on earth that meant because I come from a background of a Bachelor of Arts majoring in criminology and behavioural studies and a minor in sociology – nothing to do with nutrition, food, or anything like that.

I did a lot of research; for three months I just did research and I found that these cold press juices had been used for years since the ’60s to heal people naturally of Non-Communicable Diseases and then I knew that I had to do this.

How did you go about doing this?

I was always someone who believed that before you get into anything you need to educate yourself first; firstly, so that you know what you are doing and secondly, so that no one can question what you are doing. 

I enrolled in a programme called ‘Food as Medicine’ online from Monash University and completed that. Thereafter, I did a course called ‘Ayurveda as a Lifestyle’ and also completed a one-and-a-half year programme online as a nutrition coach, so I am a certified nutrition coach now as well. I just immersed myself into this world of food and nutrition and it has been a wonderful journey. 

How long have you been doing this?

So for this year it has been six years.

In terms of your customer base, is it a regular group or is it a growing group? Do you select certain areas of society in your marketing? How does it work?   

I do have some customers who have been purchasing for five to six years from the day I started. I also have a lot of expats who purchase because they are more aware of what detox cleansers are. 

My fastest-moving products are the detox cleansers, which is where you do not eat for anywhere between 1-3 days and you just have juice. These juices are very filling; per day you are having easily about two kilos of produce. There is no water or sugar added so it is just pure juice, just 100% real. I guess it is a mixture but my target audience is mainly women, 70-80% of my audience comprises women. Yes, I do have some men who purchase as well but it is mainly women.

You mentioned the herbal aspect and the health aspect. What other elements make your products ethical, sustainable, and climate friendly? 

We use only solar energy to manufacture the juices and a lot of the produce is grown in my own backyard. All the food scraps from the juicing are used to make compost that goes back into the produce that is grown at home. The suppliers are smallholder organic farmers and the produce is sent via public transport so emission is much lower than sending a vehicle just for the produce to come along. 

All the produce is sent to me in brown paper bags so I’m trying not to use plastic even in packaging. The bottles are glass; customers are encouraged to return them so that they can be sterilised and reused. A bottle discount is given to encourage people to return the glass bottles because, as you know, glass can be reused many times but if it’s thrown away after its first use, its purpose is lost. 

The juices are made fresh to order; we don’t believe in stocking the juices or keeping them for a day before we send them to you. As soon as your juices are made, they are refrigerated for a couple of hours and then dispatched to you.

How do you think an entity/initiative such as EthicalX can support entrepreneurs like you?

I think it would have to be done in stages, because there are entrepreneurs at different levels and stages in their journey. Even when I attended the meeting, there were some budding entrepreneurs and there were some seasoned entrepreneurs. The programmes would have to be targeted depending on the level they are at and what they would need at that level. So, capacity building, better frameworks to check your carbon emission, a good measuring system for them to utilise, and I guess technical support. 

Personally, technical support is an area in which I require assistance. I am happy that there is an organisation like this that is actually helping and supporting companies that are actually good for people and for the planet.  

Do you have anything to add or share with anyone who is motivated to start a business like yours?

I know that right now is a very difficult time in the country and we are in the middle of an economic crisis, but remember that right now is breeding ground for new ideas so don’t waste these moments thinking ‘I don’t have the money,’ ‘Anything I try to invest in is just going to be a waste,’ or ‘Nobody is going to buy anything from me’. 

There are a lot of problems that need to be solved right now and a good business is born out of solving an urgent need or a problem, so put your thinking caps on and solve the problems that the people are burdened with right now.

SLYCAN Trust launched the EthicalX programme in January 2022 to enhance Sri Lanka's start-up ecosystem and strengthen ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly entrepreneurship on all levels. Through Climate & Innovation Hubs, EthicalX provides capacity-building and technical support for entrepreneurs at various stages of their business development, with a special focus on plant-based food systems.

The EthicalX Food Systems Cell comprises talented and well-rounded entrepreneurs with a common interest in enhancing their capacities, expanding their network, and promoting sustainable and ethical food systems through their enterprises

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About the Author

SLYCAN Trust is a non-profit think tank. It has been a registered legal entity in the form of a trust since 2016, and a guarantee limited company since 2019. The entities focus on the thematic areas of climate change, adaptation and resilience, sustainable development, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, and animal welfare. SLYCAN Trust’s activities include legal and policy research, education and awareness creation, capacity building and training, and implementation of ground level action. SLYCAN Trust aims to facilitate and contribute to multi-stakeholder driven, inclusive and participatory actions for a sustainable and resilient future for all.