'Addressing the gap for core plant-based food’: A chat with Anushka Kahawela

August 22, 2022

The Veganly life venture was born out of love and empathy towards animals and later turned into inspiration for the climate and the planet, said Anushka Kahawela, in an interview with the EthicalX team.

The home-based family-run business serves up vegan food items including cakes, bakes, and savouries and the core of the brand is built upon three elements: free from harm to animals, free from harm to the planet, and free from harm to your own health.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Thank you for joining us today. Would you like to introduce yourself and speak about Veganly life?

I’m Anushka and I am from the brand Veganly life. We are a home-based family-run business that caters vegan food items from cakes to bakes and various savouries. We launched Veganly life a little less than a year ago and we also launched our website which has our history our story and the team behind it. It’s not just myself; my entire family is involved in it. It’s a little passion project that we created and is now a business.

So Anushka, why vegan? 

For many generations our family has been vegetarian or vegan, including myself. I was a vegetarian quite young. Why vegan? Purely out of love and empathy towards animals, which later turned into inspiration for the climate and the planet. But, initially, it began with empathy towards animals.

Do you have any specific component that you highlight in your work?

The core of the brand is built upon three elements: free from harm to animals, free from harm to the planet, and free from harm to your own health. Those are the three areas that we take into consideration. I think by going vegan, what we believe as a brand is that we will be benefiting animals and plant earth.

How has the journey been? Is there a specific way you reach out to people and people reach out to you?

It has entirely been through social media and our website. We have a very loyal customer base who come to us for their own unique versions of vegan food. It has been an exciting journey for us too; even though we have a standard vegan menu, our customers request various versions, which has given us the ability to explore new areas and it has been a learning curve.

What were the main challenges you faced?

The biggest challenge was that even though we are a family-based business, we were not into the food business. We all come from corporates and are IT specialists. That’s why we wanted to launch our website to make sure some of our skills would be incorporated into the business. We launched the website and with its help, we have been able to explore all these products that we can try.

So, if anyone wants to purchase something, it can be purchased via the website?

Yes, via the website or social media.

Can customers order Sri Lankan vegan food from Veganly life?

Yes, we do fusion food where we take Sri Lankan flavours and incorporate them in dishes, for example in a pie. We are currently expanding our product reach.

As a social entrepreneur, how do you benefit from entities promoting ethical business and have you been offered useful support through such entities, including EthicalX?

I have to be thankful to you and your team for all this; the experience we have gained by interacting with you and the discussions were very inspiring since our business is quite small and is a niche market with an ethical concept.

I think it’s a timely initiative that needs more discussion and awareness. It has been a great experience for us and we have learned from all the interactions we had with EthicalX, which shared the knowledge and exposure we needed for our business.

It’s great to hear that and as part of the learning experience on our end we intend to adjust what we offer cohort members. Is there anything you would like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those who would like to venture into plant-based entrepreneurship?

Yes; right now, plant-based is very new to Sri Lanka. We have great restaurants and food businesses and I can see many existing restaurants serving vegan and vegetarian food options, but there is still a huge gap for core plant-based food so I think we can expand on that. 

I believe that we are especially privileged to be in Sri Lanka as we have a wide variety of vegetables and our traditional Sri Lankan food mainly comprises pure vegan food. I think we can tap into that area as well, which is what we’re trying to do. It would also be great to see other entrepreneurs entering this area.

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.