Technology Alternating the Culture of Gift-Giving – Yanika Amarasekera, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Silver Aisle

Yanika Amarasekera is the founder and CEO of Silver Aisle – A premium online gifting platform. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Economy and Mass Communication from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Management from Imperial College London. Growing up, Yanika’s parents frequently joked about having received 10 tea sets at their wedding, and almost everyone she spoke to had their variations of this, making her realize that there was an opportunity to create something truly special – to change this recurring narrative that couples have experienced for generations. Yanika wanted to allow newlyweds to receive the gift items that they truly wish for and need, all while providing their wedding guests with a seamless, convenient experience to purchase the said gifts – this was the premise of Silver Aisle – A company Yanika launched as a solopreneur in 2019. “If you want something you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done”. 

Through the Silver Aisle Wedding Registry, couples can create an account for free and effortlessly add the homeware items and experiences they would like to have, in just the click of a button! Silver Aisle features a thoughtfully curated portfolio of 2500+ products from over 30 luxury vendors, ranging from local favorites like Paradise Road to international brands such as Crate and Barrel. Thereafter, the couple’s wedding guests can purchase a gift(s) or choose to contribute towards a higher value item in just a few clicks. Silver Aisle finally delivers the beautifully wrapped gifts to the newlyweds on a date of their choosing. Seamless would be the word I’d use to describe the entire experience. 

While Silver Aisle was originally conceptualized to be solely a Wedding Registry, their newest (and incredibly popular) service, Silver Aisle Gifting, was launched out of necessity. Timing was not in Yanika’s favor as the Registry was launched just two months before the Covid breakout. This meant that all weddings were postponed indefinitely. She still had to bear all the overheads of the business, and thus decided to expand.

Silver Aisle Gifting features a curation of high-quality, stunning gifts ranging from flowers, to sweet treats, to experiential gifts, dining, and more. Unlike the Registry, gifting caters to all occasions––from birthdays to anniversaries and everything in-between (you don’t need a reason to gift a loved one something special, after all). In a nutshell, Silver Aisle is intended for those who want an effortless gifting experience with the ability to purchase one or more items across various categories; it is for those who value quality, convenience, impeccable customer service, and user-friendly technology, above all else.

Silver Aisle’s curation of gifts would be best defined as elegant, chic, high quality, and diverse – they have something for everyone. From the most beautiful collection of florals and plants to Single Malt Tastings and Pottery Afternoons to experiential dining at the best restaurants in Colombo. Yanika was also mindful in specifically curating a collection aimed at men, as this was something that always felt lacking in Colombo––and why they offer experiences like Golf lessons, gin tastings, and mixology masterclasses. 

Technology is the essence of Silver Aisle and plays a vital role. Particularly with the Registry, Yanika along with her team created proprietary technology to deliver this first-in-the-market solution. This is one reason why the Registry is very challenging to replicate; in addition to the time and investment it required, they streamlined complicated processes spanning multiple stakeholders into a few easy-to-use steps that are entirely automated. Furthermore, in addition to their strong backend, Yanika paid a great amount of attention to the overall interface––she wanted to ensure that whilst being user-friendly it was also a beautiful website to explore. 

Moreover, Yanika astutely understood from the onset that although the tech contributes towards the company’s success, if their offerings, customer service, and reliability weren’t consistently high, the tech would then become redundant. When asked what challenges Yanika faced in starting her business, she was quick to tell us that COVID-19 has by far been the biggest.

“It was frustrating to not be able to grow one-half of the business for reasons that are beyond anyone’s control.”

Yanika further stated that patience has also never been one of her virtues, but the pandemic forced her to be both patient and persevere, and see the value in being agile. The other challenge, and probably the greatest learning curve for Yanika, has been identifying the right talent. Understandably, many employees prefer working at established companies and there’s also a misconstrued notion out there that start-up life means either less work or a more flexible schedule––neither of which is the case. However, through trial and error, and slowly learning how to be a better leader herself, she is proud to say that she now has a wonderful team that is dynamic, enthusiastic, and undoubtedly the backbone of the company. 

“Scared? good. We don’t grow when we stay inside our comfort zone”. 

Speaking about the values that guide Silver Aisle, Yanika said that operating with integrity in every aspect of our business is a cornerstone. This means respecting vendors – their products & IP, ensuring payments are made promptly, and always working in good faith. On a more personal note, Yanika said that her views and values are progressive – undoubtedly inspired by her years at UC Berkeley – one of the most liberal places in the world. She strives and advocates for an inclusive, kinder, more accepting, and empathic society, and believes her brands are an extension of these values. For instance, their Love is Love campaign, featuring two same-sex couples was a no-brainer as LGBTQ+ representation is essential. Similarly, their Mother’s Day campaign, “All Those Who Are Mothers,” touched on the dynamic and complex nature of motherhood – which is not only biological; and spotlighted moms who adopt, foster, and more. 

Yanika and her team stay ahead of the curve by constantly innovating. She aims to introduce new and exciting collections every month. In a country where IP is unfortunately not respected, dedicating our energy and creativity towards new offerings has helped establish Silver Aisle as an industry trendsetter. Additionally, they also focus on creating more wholesome content. For instance, the aforementioned Valentine’s Day campaign. In an age where we’re constantly inundated with ads and promotions, Yanika realized that more meaningful content that is relevant to the brand has a more profound and far-reaching impact.

Yanika and her team also ensure impeccable customer service. On the rare occasion a mistake was to take place, and despite whom the fault may lay with, they always make it a point to be accountable, provide a solution, and also, offer something complimentary. They always strive to make the customer glad that they opted for Silver Aisle – one of their many strengths. Looking to the future, Yanika hopes to establish Silver Aisle as Sri Lanka’s go-to platform for high-quality gifting, and in time, take Silver Aisle regional, across South East Asia.

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