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80 Years of Values : Project Sunshine

Planet & Society in Sri Lanka

For 80 years, Unilever Sri Lanka has strived to create a landscape that preserves and nurtures the true Sri Lankan way of life. Enhancing livelihoods of the communities we operate in is at the forefront of this effort. Project Sunshine Retailer Livelihood Development programme by Unilever is one of the many initiatives that has given life to this cause.

In Sri Lanka, every new venture begins with the humble hope of success - success that goes beyond the monetary, and grows with time - positively impacting the lives of Sri Lankan communities, a value that is at the core of Unilever’s Project Sunshine. Pivotal to the Sri Lankan commercial landscape, is our friendly neighbourhood “Grocery Store” - small-scale retailers that make a living by selling a wide range of products catering to myriad consumer needs.

With a shop window for a canvas, their commitment to serve the people in their community, is a value that fuels them to do what they do best. A value that is passionately and persistently supported by Unilever. So, when a call-out for help was made, Project Sunshine opened its doors to small-scale retailers across the country. Equipping them with the expertise they needed to stay competitive and keep serving their community in a progressive Sri Lanka.

Today, we have these grocery stores forming an intricate and ever-evolving network of retailers, forever changing the commercial landscape of Sri Lanka. To us at Unilever, it brings a sense of humble joy with every retailer family that we have been able to make a positive impact on - a testament to Unilever’s way of supporting responsible marketing, truth in advertising and Project Sunshine’s unwavering effort of enhancing the livelihoods of the small-scale retailer community in Sri Lanka. A success story that is inherently woven into the fabric of our communities.

That is the true essence of 80 years of Unilever, in Sri Lanka.

Project Sunshine and the resurgence of the grocery store around the corner

The friendly neighbourhood grocery store is evocative of a deep sense of nostalgia.

It’s where we’d all run to as children to spend our pocket money on cellophane wrapped toffees and treats. It’s the first place your mother would send you to pick up sugar when she ran out - sometimes you’d get lucky and get to keep the spare change. It’s where you bought your loaf of bread and stopped for a pack of cold milk after school - trying to get a foot into the tightly-packed place and making your way around the bags of rice and grains. An unmistakable sense of familiarity only years of patronising can bring.

As time went by and our lifestyles changed - busy became the new norm. Seeking comfort and convenience, we opted for the easy one-stop-shop option that offered what we needed under one roof and within a pleasant shopping environment. The small scale retail community needed to stay abreast with these changes in order to thrive.

Project Sunshine stepped in to address this issue - teaching retailers on how to stay competitive in a market that was evolving at tremendous speed. Various facets of the business were looked into and retailers were taught the art of sales & marketing, how to deploy promotions that benefitted their shoppers, how to manage their profits as revenue picked up, inventory management, store layout, and financial management amongst a host of other aspects that contributed to the growth they now enjoy. Today, we have 2,700 small scale retail outlets onboard the programme, positively impacting the lives of over 200,000 people in communities around Sri Lanka.

Ranjith Dharmarathna Liyanaarachchi

Roshan Indika

Peter Ranjith Grocery No 61, Kotahena Lane, Colombo 13

Amaya Stores No 131/E, Dawalasingharama Mawatha, Colombo 15

Tell us a bit about your business

Tell us a bit about your business

I inherited this business from my uncle. In the beginning, sales were low, and it took a lot of will power for me to keep pushing forward

My first store was called Diana Stores. It was a small store because I had nothing to my name - not a property, not even a house. That store was our whole world. My wife and I slept in the store itself. Looking back, I can’t understand how we even slept and lived in that small space - it all feels like a dream.

Speaking about its success, what lesson stands out the most?

Speaking about its success, what lesson stands out the most?

I think to succeed in a competitive market like this, you should be willing to try continuously and persistently, regardless of the obstacles. It was one of the most rewarding moments in my life, when Unilever recognized that quality in me and helped me to achieve even more.

My shop was not on a main road, so customers were few and far between. This obstacle forced me to make many sacrifices just to keep the shop open every day - and that’s when Unilever stepped in to help me.

How did Unilever help you?

How did Unilever help you?

I joined Unilever’s Project Sunshine which first helped me by uplifting the store’s look - from storage spaces to displays and outer appearance, Unilever changed the whole outlook. They next offered me advice, training and basic knowledge in business and marketing.

The Unilever agents who came to my shop told me about Project Sunshine. Once I heard about it I was eager to join and work, but I didn’t have to do a thing! Unilever did everything for me - from refurbishing my store, making it look like a stylish modern mini supermarket to teaching me the optimal way to stack products, how to give discounts and even how to make the most of the space available within the store to give my customers the best experience. They changed my whole business for the better.

How did you feel after the big change?

How did you feel after the big change?

It was the best day of my life. My little shop looked like a mini supermarket, something I never thought was possible. Opening the shop every morning brings a great sense of joy and peace to me and to see more and more customers walk in and freely choose their products makes it even better.

This has been the greatest thing that has happened to my business - not just for the business, for my whole life.

How has this impacted your income?

How has this impacted your income?

It’s better than it has ever been. I now earn almost 3 times more than I did before. I will continue to follow the advice and guidance of Unilever.

My income has grown 40% from what it used to be. Unilever’s teachings and advice is my main guidance when it comes to my business.

What are your thoughts on the Unilever Sunshine Project?

What are your thoughts on the Unilever Sunshine Project?

If it weren’t for the Unilever Sunshine Project, I will still be in my little grocery shop. This project and Unilever have brightened up my whole life and my family’s as well. I’m proud to say that Unilever was the beginning of my store’s success story.

There’s nothing to say other than that I am a living example of the project’s success as the proud owner of a successful business. I will never forget my roots. As long as I live I will continue to thank and tell the world about Unilever’s boundless generosity and their helping hand that gave new meaning and a renewed energy to my life.

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