Enduring over three decades of experience in the ceramic manufacturing industry, Art Decoration International Pvt. Ltd now exports to over forty-five countries worldwide. Director of ADI, Charman Dilanga Karunaratne, declares that the different types of ceramic elements present in the Sri Lankan manufacturing industry include decorative ceramics such as ornaments, figurines and vases, kitchenware, porcelain, sanitary ware, tiles and pottery.
While the global ceramic industry is around two hundred and fifty billion dollars, In 2021 Sri Lanka exported an estimated thirty million dollars, which is only 0.3% of its total exports. Seeing how the country plays a minor role in the current industry, Dilanga believes space will grow. “There is a lot of scopes and potential to grow when you take the global ceramic industry, and I think we can do that with the support of our government”, he responds.
As a global giant, China is considered one of the leading ceramic manufacturing competitors of Sri Lanka. Moreover, the Chinese government allocates 1.5% of its GDP to subsidize exporters, thus encouraging them to further export and prosper in the industry at a higher rate. Therefore, with the right directions and support provided by the government towards all local manufacturers, the ceramic industry of Sri Lanka can head a long way too.
Looking at the decorative ceramic sector alone, Dilanga notices that ADI holds 60% of the total exporting value from the overall exports. In expanding their ornamental ceramic production, ADI is looking to double their total value while increasing their decorative ceramics production from 2.5 million to five million dollars per annum. While decorative ceramics can be a tough market due to constantly changing trends, ADI ensures that they stay ahead of the changing world over being left behind. He states that they travel worldwide and attend exhibitions such as the Maison & Objet in Paris, stating, “We have to go look at the colours, the textures, then we get the idea of what the market is going towards now.”
Apart from decorative ceramics, they are also one of the largest manufacturers of ceramic sanitaryware in Sri Lanka under the brand ‘OTTO”. OTTO Bathware aligns contemporary design with state-of-the-art processes to create an inimitable range of exquisite sanitaryware. Promising a twenty-five-year warranty on all OTTO bath-ware ceramics, Dilanga says, “When it comes to bath ware, we always introduce new designs, and we also invest in the new state of the art technologies to increase our production efficiency and environmental sustainability”. Sri Lanka has five bath-ware manufacturers in the industry, all of whom are expanding at a greater rate with the distribution of quality products. This sector finds competition against the Chinese inferior quality products, he happily announces that the manufacturers are doing a fantastic job alongside the favourable contributing policies received by the government and His Excellency the President.
Upon asking Dilanga what sets ADI apart from other ceramic manufacturers, he responded, “Mainly, I would say we follow quality as a religion”. The following of quality as a critical element gives space for any product to perform in the market. Furthermore, unlike many, ADI considers themselves industrialists, focusing on being part of the industry rather than a business seeking profit maximization. “In whatever activity we engage in, we want to positively impact the consumers, suppliers, government or country as a whole”, he emphasizes.
From designing their products to providing custom designs with the help of their very own designers, ADI does not limit itself to a single perspective of style. With a collection of over five thousand designs in the last three decades, Dilanga considers catering to a range of demands for each region such as Scandinavian, Country Home, Contemporary, etc. “If you take the Scandinavian region, they like more neutral, simple colours and textures, whereas Germany or UK would like a bit more country home or rustic, and then if you take the middle east or eastern Europe they like metallic colours or shiny colours”, he annotated.
Dilanga also talks about the importance of traditional local manufacturers learning to make products that fulfil the global demand to increase the industry’s global sector percentage. Connecting them with the trending and demanding items can direct them to further manufacture and contribute to the country’s economy and industry’s future.
“I firmly believe you always see what you look for, whatever you seek you will find, so if you always think of it negatively, you will come across negativity, but if you’re optimistic, then you can do anything”, Dilanga stated when asked what the ceramic manufacturing profession would look like in the future. Taking the example of China who looked at the recession as an opportunity to flourish, Dilanga believes that one can find opportunities in a crisis. He sees the pandemic to be a great time to capitalize on these opportunities.
With freight costs increasing for products from China, western importers finding it expensive, ADI has received numerous inquiries from new customers. Dilanga also mentions that the late workforce shift in the Chinese manufacturing industry is a moment to seize. “In a globalized environment such as today where the world is at your fingertips, there are so many uncharted avenues and territories that you can explore”, he states.
Encouraging everyone to leap into the breach and pursue further in the ceramic manufacturing industry, Dilanga ends his account by stating, “If you have vision combined with passion and proper execution, I think we can go a long way in the future of our ceramics industry and always create”.