Crafting a Legacy in Interior Design – R. M. Perera (Pvt) Ltd – Ranjith Perera and Sonali Perera

Ranjith Perera, the Founder and Managing Director of R. M. Perera (Pvt) Ltd, has had an adventurous career that began in his early 20s as a trainee technical executive at Carl De Mel’s, where he was first introduced to the concept of interior design. On several projects, he slowly but surely learned the craft under the watchful eye of the De Mel brothers. Carl De Mel was the country’s foremost furniture manufacturer and interior design firm at the time. He also had the privilege of working with the great architect Geoffery Bawa, with whom he was honoured to gain such valuable professional experience.

Carl De Mels, on the other hand, came to an end after the 1983 riots. Ranjith was then inspired to start his own design company in a rented space, with the help of his wife Dulani Perera, who assisted him in taking the business to the next level. They united their enthusiasm and determination to work step by step to achieve greater heights, and a few years later, they moved into their workspace. Since then, the company has grown steadily, allowing it to become what it is today.

R M Perera Pvt Ltd has recently invested and opened their spectacular state-of-the-art production facility spanning over 21,000 sq ft of the work area with the latest machinery for office furniture and solid wood furniture, owing to their absolute commitment, loyal, and competent crew. Trendline and one80 are the two internal brands for the corporate and leisure sectors, respectively. It also has four stories of fully equipped staff housing, green timber storage facilities, and rainwater collecting systems, and this factory was built with the least amount of environmental impact possible.

Moreover, the company is the first and probably only furniture manufacturing and interior decorating firm to receive the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Certification, demonstrating the growing need to stay ahead of the competition and meet consumer expectations. Furniture and fittings and equipment, carpentry and joinery, aluminium and finishes, and floor/wall/ceiling finishes are all CIDA SP1 approved. These credentials and practical use of best practices have helped them secure several prestigious VIP, government, and private projects.

According to Ranjith, constant innovation is the norm at R. M. Perera (Pvt) Ltd, with its employees always on the lookout for the latest means to accomplish new goals. After beginning with carpentry, the company has expanded into other sectors such as aluminium and ceiling systems to suit the interior design needs and specifications of all of its clients. They’ve collaborated on several projects with several international architects, some of whom thought certain ideas were unfeasible in Sri Lanka, but they proved them wrong.

R.M Perera has progressed over the past 35 years solely on word of mouth. As a result, the company constantly innovates to maintain a positive reputation. This sets them apart from other interior design firms, as their main goal is to provide clients with the finest of everything, as interior design is such an important part of one’s lifestyle. 

As any family business must grow and advance, and change, Ranjith’s older daughter, Sonali Perera, joined the family business in 2009 after completing her further education in Business Administration. She is progressively acquiring experience and carefully studying the craft to this day. In 2011, her husband Thev Kanth, who has over 15 years of global and local expertise in the corporate sector, joined the family business to help develop the technical and operational areas. It is vital to note that they have consistently risen through numerous ups and downs, withstanding every challenge that has come their way.

Speaking to Sonali, she graduated from APIIT Sri Lanka with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Staffordshire in the United Kingdom. She then worked as an intern at John Keells Hotels for a short time, where she had the great privilege of learning how to work in a corporate environment under her late boss Anouchka Weeratunga Fernando, a wonderful person whom she still holds in high regard, highlighting that some of the work practices and ethics Sonali follows are a result of the excellent foundation Anouchka laid for her.

Looking into how her journey commenced, Sonali gained extensive knowledge of all the know-how, trade secrets, creating and sustaining relationships both internally and internationally, when she joined the family business in 2009 as an assistant to her father. She went on to become the Director of Sales and Marketing after being promoted to the position of Head of Business Development. Sonali goes on to say that she and her multi-talented team are in charge of generating the annual estimated turnover using both traditional and unorthodox means. She’s also researching and developing diversification markets at the moment. Apart from that, she works closely with Ranjith, her mother, and her husband to investigate all aspects of day-to-day operations, system implementations, and continuous improvement initiatives and decisions. 

Sonali’s husband, Thev Kanth, is an alumnus of Charles Sturt University Australia where he excelled in Business and Information Technology and went on to work for four years. He returned to Sri Lanka upon completion of his degree and began his career at Emagewise Pvt Ltd, where he worked for eight years and held many other significant roles in their sister firms. However, he left as a director in 2010, a year after getting married, and was then asked by Ranjith to join R.M. Perera in the post of Director – Operations. 

Since then, Thev has steadily elevated in his role as production and operations director, completing several well-known large-scale projects and now working on others with his refined production and operations teams. He is also a driving force behind all of the technological advancements they’ve made thus far and will continue to make in the future. 

“Every day is not a walk in the park,” according to Sonali, thus she and Thev believe that being patient, always improving, and having the strength to adjust to any situation or change gracefully are essential parts of success. When it comes to the essential principles that both Sonali and Thev bring to their jobs, they both believe in teamwork, where no one is greater or smaller than the other, regardless of their titles, and they consider their staff to be family. Sonali went on to say that they are extremely honest and follow ethical work standards and that she believes in never giving up and enduring no matter what.

When asked how she and Thev plan on taking over the firm and what their goals are for the future of the company, Sonali says that the shift from the founders to them must be gradual because it is impossible to shake the 37-year-old foundation overnight. She goes on to clarify that the important deciding factors, in this case, are the individuals and the procedure. Because management practices differ from generation to generation, the transition must be seamless so that their employees and clients are not negatively impacted. It should be done gradually, according to Sonali, so that the business can grow. They’ve established a process where certain functions run without the direct involvement of their Managing Director, but Ranjith will check in from time to time to make sure everything is in place.

Speaking on Thev and Sonali’s plans for R.M. Perera’s future, they aspire to take the firm to the next level in terms of lean management by strengthening their technological side and putting forth a more focused and efficient production line that caters to the increasingly digital world. They also want to bring in a more focused strategy with the greatest custom furniture on the market. She goes on to say that broadening their sector by adding more specialized raw materials and accessories will help not only their company but the industry as a whole. The duo also intends to establish a training and development center where they can impart their years of knowledge to new workers in the interior and furniture manufacturing industries, thereby creating employment opportunities.

In summary, Sonali mentions a statement, “Don’t overthink things! Do your best today and be consistent; naturally, you have worked your way towards the future you have always dreamt of.” With that being said, under Ranjith’s supervision, the duo’s close attention to detail and endurance has been an anchor in the company’s success over the last ten years, and Thev will undoubtedly become Sonali’s pillar of strength in carrying on her father’s legacy. 

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