As you pass by the National Eye Hospital, Colombo, towards Deans Road, you come across a number of roadside florists. Among those many shops is ‘Orel Flora’ run by Damitha Kumarasinghe (64) and Nihal Handagama (67).
“We’ve been married for 28 years now,” Nihal said. “We have been in the flower business for a good 15 years now. Starting this business with my partner is the best decision I’ve taken. My wife has been my supporter ever since we started this. She does an amazing job of helping me with the business and managing the family. Earlier, this place used to be a grocery store. The business was going fine. We managed to survive during COVID-19 as well – except we had to let go of our supporting staff. But now, both of them are back at work.”
Every week, Nihal and Damith receive flower stocks from Nuwara Eliya, Badulla and Bandarawela.
“Flower nurseries are having the hardest time with the current state of the county,” he said. “Due to the increased fuel and transportation costs and fertiliser issues, farmers, as well as distributors, are facing difficulties. This affects us as well. Sometimes the orders get delayed. Sometimes the requested quantity won’t be delivered.”
“Sales have also dropped compared to what they used to be before. People have limited their expenses. Even for supplying flowers and flower arrangements for functions, the customers come with a reduced budget, which makes it difficult sometimes with the increased courier chargers.”
“Being able to sustain a flower business for 15 years until now is an achievement for a couple like us, at this age. We’re happy with whatever we’re getting now. But the future is unpredictable with the current issues going on in the country.”