Taking the Reins, Braving the Pandemic – Elisha Gomes, Director of Operations at Westgate Interiors

Elisha Gomes is the Director of Operations at Westgate Interiors. She spent her formative years in Sri Lanka studying at Visakha Vidyalaya before moving to the UK to obtain her undergraduate degree at Manchester Business School in 2012. In 2013, she completed the Summer Program at Imperial College Business School and, in 2014, spent a year at Babson College in Boston, USA. Following her undergraduate degree, Elisha went on to complete a Masters in Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Management at Imperial College, London. She excelled in her sporting career, having competed at both the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010 and Asian Games 2006 and 2010 in Synchronized Swimming. 

Westgate Interiors – a second-generation interior design and manufacturing company, housing over 100 employees, founded by Elisha’s mother, Dehara Gomes – who identified a need for highly functional, turnkey interior solutions that are easily accessible for fast-growing corporations. Embracing the rapid transformation of interior trends across the corporate sector, Westgate established itself as a specialist in commercial projects. Vertical integration was imperative; establishing an in-house manufacturing facility was essential to creating a seamless end-to-end experience for clients. Yet it remains, at heart, a family-run business in its second generation of operation. Elisha is proud of everything the company has achieved and is excited for what is to come. 

From a young age, Elisha was exposed to the family businesses, Westgate and Gandhara. Interior design was an integral part of her childhood, and growing up her mother would constantly ensure that everything around the house was displayed elegantly – at its best. She has the opportunity to watch designers work to transform derelict sites into beautiful, unique spaces. Although she studied business, her interest in art and interior only grew more having had the opportunity to travel extensively whilst studying abroad. She is using her experience gained from her time spent abroad to implement systems-driven processes and automation in both design and manufacturing to take Westgate from a bespoke design and manufacturing organization to a household name that is synonymous throughout Sri Lanka.  

A trailblazer in the industry, Westgate is one of the few interior design firms that offer both in-house design and manufacturing solutions. They understand that people’s needs change and develop, and therefore collaborate and innovate with their clients throughout every stage of the process. From the initial design concept to the final fit-out, the team at Westgate is equipped to meet clients’ needs promptly. Their factory, located in Panadura, is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery along with some of the most experienced and talented craftsmen in Sri Lanka. Given the talent available in Sri Lanka, Elisha is a firm believer in collaboration, which is why Westgate also works alongside other architectural firms and designers throughout the country to provide manufacturing solutions. 

The current pandemic has continued for more than 14 months, challenging even the most established businesses, Westgate included. Change in management during a global pandemic is tough on both the leader and the teams. It was the realization that attitude and perseverance become the key engine drivers to keep team morale high. To survive at a turning point in the economy, a business requires hard work and the commitment of a team. At Westgate, it is this continuous can-do attitude that has enabled Elisha and her team to persevere through this turbulent time. 

To Elisha and her team at Westgate, the closure of their factory for two months last year was an eye-opener that called for a change in their current processes, and it had to be done without compromising their quality standards. The pandemic forced organizations to shift their mindset to become far more agile. Elisha, together with her team went over their cost structures; and soon realized that their manufacturing costs were higher than the industry norm. They decided to shift the team (both design and manufacturing) to one location- creating a learning environment that aligned everyone to a single vision.

Affordability and value will be a key decision-maker for any 

corporate client during and post-Covid, hence Elisha and her team started thinking like a startup – “How do we create the same for less? How do we reduce cost and streamline through technology? Can we introduce lean techniques for bespoke interior items?”.  Creating and fostering this culture and mindset was key to staying ahead of the curve through these challenging times. The pandemic isn’t over, it is constantly evolving, and organizations that continually adapt will survive. Elisha understood that success does not breed success; having had a 30-year history in the interior industry meant that change was imperative.

Westgate Interiors work with some of the biggest companies, delivering complex interior solutions on time, and budget, in a range of sectors; from office and retail to hotels and factories. They do this by channeling the diversity of their people and their thinking into fostering the idea of accountability. To Elisha, integrity and accountability are so important as these traits foster a positive workplace culture. “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford. In the ever-changing world of business and design, our team is a firm believer in having a growth mindset to keep improving, keep innovating, and striving for excellence to create better value for our clients.”.

As the business continues to change and adapt, you need a team with complementary skills to steer the business and teams towards a common goal. For Elisha, the last two years have been a steep learning curve, but she is a strong believer in change, with a positive mindset. A team must have resilience in the face of adversity; be able to learn from the mistakes to grow continuously. As a leader, one must understand that the organization is only as strong as its people. Elisha stated that the willingness and ability to adapt to the continuously evolving pandemic purely comes down to the mindset of their team. They now have 100+ employees, each of whom is a specialist in their area, making a real contribution to their business. 

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