‘Thamil Arisi hotel’, the brave pursuit of a young woman’s daring ambition


On the road to Badulla passing Ella is Thamil Arisi’s hotel, a place well known to all in the area. Thamil Arisi short eats were well renowned from the time it was sold in a simple roadside cart and no one had the misfortune of saying they hadn’t tried the food. As the mist blanketed the high mountains of Ella, we sat down with a steaming cup of tea in hand to have a chat with Thamil Arisi one evening. There unfolded the story of her journey from starting a ‘vade karatte’ to owning two hotels.

“I was born in the village of Malwatte. The thought of cooking and selling food came to me when I was looking to help ease my family’s growing financial burdens. After all, cooking is something I have been doing for as long as I can remember and living close to the Badulla-Bandarawela main road meant I could easily sell my short eats by the roadside. I couldn’t even afford to rent a shop, so I made do with a cart to sell the ‘murukku’, ‘vade, ‘roti’, rolls and patties that I made. However, mine wasn’t the only roadside cart and the competition was high, so I ensured that the food I sold was worth the price. I wanted my food to be good enough for people to come back in search of my ‘vade karatte’. As time went by there was an increasing demand for my food and I soon realised that selling in my cart wouldn’t meet the demand,” stated Ms. Arisi.

“It was around this time that I came to know of HNB FINANCE. After learning about the ‘Diriya loan scheme’, I knew it will be the strength I needed to take my business forward. I went on to take my first loan of Rs. 5,000, and the understanding and value HNB FINANCE gave my business at the time is something that I will always appreciate. I know of many people who took large loan amounts from other financial institutions and struggled to pay them back. At HNB FINANCE, they monitor the progress of the business, base the size of the loan on individual financial strength, so I have never had to face any financial struggle in paying it back,” Ms. Arisi said as she related her story.

Ms. Arisi continued to say that It was not only a loan facility that HNB FINANCE provided but free workshops to arm them with insights and direction to uplift their businesses; including the why’s and how’s of recording income and expenditure, banking transactions, and other critical skills necessary to forge ahead in a tough business backdrop. These workshops and extra support has inspired and geared ambitious, hardworking entrepreneurs with the resources to be persistent, smart and consistent in growing their businesses.

“Together with my small collection of savings and a loan from HNB FINANCE, I was able to buy this little shop space close to the Ella junction. I am now able to work towards my dream of owning a hotel as well as a restaurant. Thereon, I obtained loan amounts ranging from Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 300,000 whenever the need arose, to enhance my business. Not only do we sell food now but have begun to undertake orders,” Ms. Arisi also stated.

“I also purchased a small lorry a few months ago using the leasing facility offered by HNB FINANCE. I am now looking forward to building a restaurant of my very own on a piece of land I bought recently, of which a lot of the work has already been completed. Business isn’t easy but we must always remember hold onto our dreams, and challenge ourselves to chase them. This is the only way to grow, live and succeed,” Ms. Arisi added.

Fierce determination and ambition can take people very far, but in today’s competitive, rapidly evolving socio-economic landscape can will power alone succeed? A helping hand at the right time undoubtedly gives people precious hope, and uplifts and pushes them to succeed, while surmounting the greatest of challenges. I will always remember how this hope shone bright in Thamil Arisi’s eyes stark against the darkening Ella skyline.