Every industry is different and multidimensional, with its own set of unique challenges. However, it takes more nuance to drive businesses in a creatively driven industry like Interior Design. Elisha has had a lifelong exposure to creative expression due to the family businesses; Westgate and Gandhara. Seeing designers transform derelict sites into beautiful unique spaces, she was exposed to many forms of design from a young age. Elisha’s passion for travel further enriched and expanded her spectrum of design inspiration. There is nothing quite like culture and art to broaden one’s eye to the diversity of exquisite spaces. Today she can amalgamate distinct creative visions for her clients.
Westgate has been in operation for over 35 years, creating remarkable spaces for some of Sri Lanka’s biggest corporations. Elisha’s journey at Westgate began six years ago, and three of those years were under the mentorship of her mother and the founder of Westgate, Dehara Gomes. Being the current CEO, Elisha took over the reins in 2020, at the start of a global pandemic. Thrust into the deep end of collective industrial and economic turmoil, she maneuvered the company to unprecedented heights in terms of both acclaim and profit. This impressive feat can only be understood when diving into Elisha’s background in academia and sport.
After completing her undergraduate degree with first-class honors from Manchester Business School in the UK, she pursued a Master’s degree in Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Management at Imperial College, London, graduating with distinction. Elisha’s business acumen is no doubt a reflection of her education, and also a testament to being brought up by two incredibly successful business people; her parents. Attending Visakha Vidyalaya during her formative years built a strong foundation for her holistic development, as she juggled Academics, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Water Polo, and a plethora of extracurricular activities. One significant advantage is that of bilingual language proficiency. Being fluent in both spoken and written Sinhala is an immense advantage when leading a factory that includes joinery workers with 15+ years of experience.
Alongside her academic achievements, Elisha excelled as an athlete. She represented Sri Lanka in synchronized swimming at the Asian Games in 2006 and 2010 and was the youngest athlete present at the 2006 Games. Being a finalist at the Asian Games, she went on to become a finalist at the prestigious Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. Sportspeople understand the daily dedication and commitment required to excel, and it is no different when one is looking to excel in business, and Elisha clearly understands this process. Resilience is key. Under her leadership, Westgate triumphed in the South Asian Business Excellence Awards 2022, securing the prestigious ‘Brand Excellence in Interior Designing and Furniture Manufacturing Award’. This achievement is significant as it was accomplished during catastrophic adversity. This stands testament to Westgate’s commitment to delivering excellence.
Diving deeper into the business of Westgate, Elisha managed to centralize her teams by moving their Headquarters to Westgate factory premises. This move was no meager feat considering the distance from Colombo 6 to Panadura, and a team that works around the clock. However, hard decisions do pay off. The processes were smoother, and efficiency peaked with both manufacturing and design teams being present in the same location. Looking to the future, during the past 4 years as CEO, Elisha has also been focusing on recruiting the best talent to build and strengthen the Westgate culture.
Westgate’s Design philosophy is collaborative and is so mainly due to the company’s client-centric approach. Elisha and her team take time to understand a client’s needs from a holistic perspective, assessing what functional and aesthetic details to prioritize. Westgate adheres to international standards of design and fit-outs that cater to a global clientele. Being a turnkey solution provider, the company offers end-to-end Interior solutions backed by a team of 100 employees, including highly experienced joinery workers. They do a significant amount of experimenting and sampling internally, to deliver distinctive pieces to projects. Regular exposure to international exhibitions has both challenged and inspired team Westgate to keep pushing the envelope. In order to offer innovative and bespoke furniture and fit-outs, it is imperative to have the technology to produce it. State-of-the-art machinery and an in-house selection of materials remain one of Westgate’s unique strengths. This allows clients to fly with their imagination, knowing that with Westgate, they are in collaboration with competence backed by quality. Westgate’s notable clientele includes titans such as Microsoft, WS02, Omega Line, HSBC, and IFS.
From a creative and design perspective, Westgate has learned flexibility through years of experience. The team has transparency that not all trends need to be incorporated. Be it contemporary, timeless, and everything in between, there is understanding across subtle forms of style. More often than not, spaces become a combination of styles; making the balance of old and new necessary. Westgate believes that design language is a continuous evolution, and as a firm thrives to grow and learn to remain at the cusp of innovation.
The beauty of a product or space does not equate to functionality. Elisha is aware that Westgate’s strength lies in its manufacturing backing. Being a turn-key solution provider allows innovation, experimenting, and room for trial and error. This is not an opportunity many Sri Lankan design firms have, and it is an advantage for creative people to have the resources and safety to innovate. Over the past couple of years, space optimization has become a key driver for corporate interior spaces. Collaborative spaces that are focused on employee well-being have become popular, leading to the incorporation of features such as sleeping pods. Westgate thrives to accommodate these demands, despite the paradox; seamlessly adding more within smaller spaces. Elisha believes that challenges are meant to be overcome, be it within a respective project or in tumultuous economic conditions.
In the future, Westgate aims to be a brand synonymous with household names. This feat can only be attained if affordability is a driving force, so the company aims to offer aesthetically pleasing and functional solutions at affordable prices. Affordability and value remain a key decision-makers for any corporate client post-pandemic and during the economic crisis.
Embracing the rapid transformation of interior trends across the corporate sector, Westgate established itself as a specialist in commercial projects. The company has proven itself as a trailblazer in the corporate interior design industry in Sri Lanka and hopes to become the number-one design firm for corporate fit-outs.