Since their founding in 1860, Don Carolis has crafted furniture with a singular, unwavering commitment to excellence and value. Today, they are as committed to achieving this vision at every step in the process, from design through delivery. Viraj Hewavitarne, the Chairman and Managing Director of H. Don Carolis & Sons (Pvt) Ltd, and Devika Waidyaratne, Director are part of the 5th generation that guide this 161 year old family business, to new heights. Founded by Mudliyar Don Carolis Hewavitarne, a well known Sri Lankan industrialist and philanthropist from Matara, Don Carolis is the oldest furniture manufacturer in Sri Lanka and one of the oldest Sri Lankan companies.
Whether you’re an individual, developer, design firm, purchasing agent, local or international brand, Don Carolis will provide you a comprehensive service, from design vision to installation. Their furniture is manufactured by master artisans and state of the art machinery in two factories that span over 100,000 sq. ft. Don Carolis’ principal designers are a group of exceptionally artistic and innovative product designers. The brand has a collection of over 300 pieces of beautifully crafted furniture at their Interior Store down Station Passage, Colombo 02.
Viraj has always made decisions, even tough ones, in the best interest of Don Carolis. He is a firm believer that professional and honest management is the only way to ensure the company does well. “Being a family owned business doesn’t change the fact that a company is responsible to all its shareholders and stakeholders, irrespective of the relationship.” He stated. He added that if the company does well, while maintaining the values instilled by those at the helm during past generations, then the current leadership has done its part. “Our values shine through in all that we do. We view every client interaction as an opportunity to learn and grow,” said Viraj.
Devika Waidyaratne is proud to say that the company has maintained an unblemished brand reputation over the last 161 years. “Don Carolis is also synonymous within the hospitality sector and has furnished many iconic hotel brands as we are on par with international standards and is trusted by international investors for their projects. We are one of the few companies who can manufacture large quantities of high quality furniture, and in 2016 manufactured the majority of the furniture requirement for Shangri-La Hambantota, Anantara Kalutara & the entire furniture requirement for all the bedrooms of the Marriott Hotel in Weligama simultaneously,” She stated.
What distinguishes Don Carolis from its competitors is that 95% of the company’s products are manufactured locally using ethically sourced solid timber such as Ceylon Teak, Mahogany, and Mango. With apartments becoming a preferred alternative to residing, the Don Carolis Team has further expanded their product range to feature furniture specifically designed for small spaces. They offer a complimentary design service and have a well established and resourceful national and international network of producers and vendors who are able to source fabrics, fittings, and accessories for projects and individuals. “Don Carolis is also one of the very few companies who export custom made furniture to Australia, amongst other countries.” said Viraj.
Devika is very confident in saying that Don Carolis has many satisfied customers who have trusted the company for generations, and are proud to say that “All our furniture is from Don Carolis, I inherited furniture from our parents/grandparents or I bought this piece over 50 years ago & I’m still using it.” She also mentioned that they have a dedicated team that provides after sale service and restores used furniture for an affordable price.
To better serve local or overseas clients, Don Carolis has their own Packing and Shipping division that provides a door to door service, worldwide. With an experienced and skilled staff, some of whom have over 30 years of service, they have been handling the packing and shipping of exclusive clients such as the U.S. and Indian Embassies, Diplomatic Missions, numerous corporate entities, and individuals, while undertaking home and office relocations locally.
Creating value from waste is extremely important to both Viraj and Devika. Don Carolis have made significant strides in improving its environmental impact and pioneered the sawdust briquette industry in Sri Lanka. Don’s Renewables commenced operations in 2006 and converts sawdust into biomass briquettes that are used as a substitute for firewood in kilns and boilers mainly in the garment, tea and confectionery industries.
Talking about the pandemic, Devika said that the health & safety of their staff & customers is of utmost importance. From the onset of the pandemic, they have maintained consistent safety procedures. Their showroom, office, and factories are spacious, ensuring that staff and customers have ample space to work and move around, whilst maintaining adequate social distancing. Even in these challenging times, they have projects at hand. Don Carolis is currently furnishing a 292 room City Hotel for the Belluna Group, which is one of the largest Japanese investors in Sri Lanka. Devika added that the government’s decision to restrict the import of furniture has helped the local furniture industry tremendously.
In Viraj’s view, the greatest challenge is maintaining the values of the company while continuing to be successful in a challenging environment where there is sometimes no even playing field. He stated that archaic labor laws also don’t make it easy to run manufacturing operations. Being a strong believer that tradition is never nostalgic and innovation is paramount, Viraj is confident that Don Carolis will continue to thrive. To quote John Lasseter “Quality is the Best Business Plan!” He stated.