We all know this gorgeous Sri Lankan actress for her outstanding performance on the silver screen. There are hundreds of magazine features and TV interviews that extensively delve into her life as an actress, but she is so much more.
As I was watching a couple of her recent interviews, I realized that Kishani Alanki had more to offer women like us. Unfortunately, some of these interviews focused on crowd-hyping topics that diluted her essence as a strong woman and a successful entrepreneur. She is also a philanthropist, but she doesn’t shout it from the rooftops which convey her sincerity to the cause she contributes to.
In a world that vanity seems to take precedence, women like her can be the inspiration we need to take that step we’ve been reluctant to take because of fear of uncertainty and failure. So, grab a coffee and stay a while if you like to find out what makes Kishani Alanki tick and why she could be that refreshing breath of air we all needed before concluding the first half of 2019.
Kishani, what were your dreams and aspirations growing up?
I’ve had many dreams and aspirations but they evolved and changed over time, parallel to my views on life, but I always knew that I liked doing my own thing and being my own boss. Being the right kind of entrepreneur brings in creativity and change to society. I didn’t ever see myself doing a job because I knew the confines of a 9 to 5 job and that just wasn’t me. Having said that, I do greatly respect those who are successful in their full-time jobs too.
Did they change as you left school and graduated?
Yes. As soon as I left school I was offered all sorts of tv endorsements and films etc. That truly changed my course in life. It was all unexpected but it was surely a blessing. I discovered a whole different world of creativity and so many opportunities opened up for me since then. I then pursued my law degree since it is something I am truly passionate about and I am positive that it would be of great use to me in my future endeavours. Opening up my own saree boutique happened after my graduation. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur but never knew that my first venture would be in sarees. It was actually my mother’s suggestion and idea.
Today you are many things: an actress, a philanthropist and an entrepreneur but most importantly, a woman with a strong personality. What was your journey like transforming from this little girl with big dreams to the woman you are today?
My journey was in many ways unpredictable. I never dreamt of being an actress. I was convinced to take up the offer for my first tv commercial by my mother and then I was invited by a friend in the industry to take up my first teledrama and film and so on. I never saw myself as an actress since it was never planned or foreseen. Growing up, I had many insecurities, especially about the way I looked or how I was perceived by others. I was not very confident in my early years of childhood. I was often shy and backward in comparison to my classmates. I think I truly found my confidence in my teen years. Being an actress also helped me to be less self-conscious and it helped me find my inner strength and confidence. My mother was key in transforming that little girl into the woman that I am today. She believed in me when no one else did and always foresaw what I was capable of being.
When did you realize you wanted to enter the fashion industry? Why a designer saree line?
I actually realized the potential of a saree business when my mother suggested it. We are both partners in the business. She has an excellent eye for unique and beautiful sarees and I knew we couldn’t fail. There are many saree stores in Sri Lanka but only a few offer one of a kind sarees. Many offer wholesale sarees and therefore what you purchase would be something that is not unique. We offer one in each design and that draws a niche clientele and clients looking for something special.
It has been three years since you launched Radha by Alanki and I’ve seen some of the designs and they are graceful, unique and authentic. I’m sure business is great, and you have probably established a loyal clientele by now. Tell us how the first couple of months were, after launching? Did business pick up immediately? Were there times you thought it wasn’t going to work out?
The business did pick up immediately since many people already knew about it before it even started. However, there have been times when we thought it wouldn’t work out and entrepreneurship comes with many obstacles and hindrances but at times like that you should not give up. Our business has had steady growth throughout these 3 years. But there are definitely many frustrations and disappointments and then there are those times when it is very rewarding.
Starting your own business has its own risks and rewards. In your opinion, how you do know you are ready to get a business concept off the ground? What is the green light? Is it the financials or help of friends and family or are there any other elements that contribute to the decision-making process?
To be honest I think business in Sri Lanka can be unpredictable. I feel that some businesses do well in the beginning because of the hype and artificial media coverage that they get at times. I think the real green light is when you know there is a real “demand” for what you plan to offer. It is also important that your product is of quality and that you believe in it. I think its also wise to have sufficient financial support before you embark on such a journey because the risks are high.
How did you know you were ready to launch ‘Radha by Alanki’? How do you know when to give up or keep moving forward?
My mum kept suggesting the idea for around two years but I was already involved in many projects and I was busy. Finally, I decided to give it a go. Sometimes you never know if you are ready or not. But we decided to try it out. I think if your business is not working well then you know its time to give up.
Your mother is also a co-founder of ‘Radha by Alanki’. Personal relationships aside, what is her contribution to the business and what should we look for when choosing a business partner (a relative or not)?
I have usually heard that it’s a bad idea to work with family members because it ca sour your relationship with them and complicate matters. But in my case, I see my mother as the most trustworthy and honest partner for this business. Besides I always thought that her taste in sarees was on point. She is quick to pick unique sarees and she is a great businesswoman. There is a lot one can learn from her.
In one of your interviews, you mentioned how often we see women bringing down other women and that it’s a real challenge when trying to achieve something for yourself. The truth is some of us, really do this without realizing the impact or giving it too much thought. Leaving that in the past, what can we do moving forward to build other women in our communities?
It’s really important to not bring down another woman who is trying to make it for herself. it is important to provide opportunities to other women who are talented, capable and hard working. There are many women out there who lack opportunities and funds to realise their dreams. I have always openly admired other women who are doing something great!
How can we look at the competition in a different light?
Never feel threatened by competition. Always remember that you won’t be having competition if you are always innovative and creative and if you focus on your own thing rather than stealing ideas and copying. I have actually had people come up with similar names to “Radha” for saree boutiques and decided to open them just for the sake of doing a business. Businesses like that don’t last. If you are genuinely passion-driven, then your business will flourish.
It’s a common misconception that actors have easy luxurious lives. Surely, there is a lot of hard work that goes into what you do. How do you manage these multiple roles? What does your typical day look like?
These days I am not involved in any projects. But a typical day on set would commence at 5am, then makeup at 6.30 am, and shooting would go on until at least 7pm. It is a misconception that actors have it easy. To create one episode of a teledrama it would take around one day and for a 30-second commercial, we would be working for around two days! It’s an exhausting job.
Do you believe in downtime for yourself and why do you think it’s important?
Yes ofcourse! I always take time off everyday just to do the little things that matter to me and to unwind. Its very important because it helps you recharge and to be a better version of yourself 🙂
How important are friendships to this journey? How do you find time for your friends and other personal relationships when you are an ambitious career focused woman?
I always make time for my friends. Most of my friends are actually my school friends and uni friends.
What is your take on gender roles? Can a woman manage a business, be a traditional wide, mother or partner all at the same time?
Yes it is possible. Women are designed to multi task. A woman can play multiple roles in life and have a God given strength and grace to do so.
As an entrepreneur, what advice can you give women or even young girls aspiring to make a difference or build something for themselves?
Always be yourself. Do not try to fit into a box. Follow your passion and believe in your gut instincts. If you have a certain talent then pursue it because that might make you successful as opposed to what society may expect you to be.
Have questions for Kishani? Leave them in the comments below!