Elisha Gomes, Chief Executive of Westgate Interiors, reflects on the company’s remarkable journey and achievements amidst a challenging economic climate. Westgate’s success derives from its exceptional in-house design and manufacturing capabilities, complemented by a highly skilled team and a core design philosophy that prioritizes collaboration, enabling them to craft customized turn-key solutions for each client. In this interview, Gomes explains how in the post-Covid era, the significance of interior design has grown immensely, as it plays a pivotal role in inspiring, inviting, and creating collaborative work environments.
Can you take us through the inception and journey of Westgate Interiors and how its vision and approach to design evolved over the decades?
Our journey began humbly 35 years ago when my mother Dehara, a management accountant, recognized the limited solutions for kitchen fit-outs in Sri Lanka. Westgate started as a small team of 7 to 10 members, primarily focusing on kitchen fit-outs. As the company grew, we expanded into handling interior projects in corporate, retail, and hospitality sectors. During this period, we made a crucial investment in building our in-house design capabilities. This involved hiring interior designers, 3D visualizers, and quantity surveyors to offer comprehensive and seamless design solutions.
To further support our growth, we established a manufacturing base in Panadura, which has expanded over the years to accommodate our work with multinational companies. Today, our team has grown to around 110 members, a significant leap from our initial team of 15.
Over the past two decades, we’ve experienced exponential growth, largely driven by our focus on providing corporate design and fit-out solutions. We concentrated on this niche instead of diversifying into residential or hospitality projects. This specialization allowed us to offer turnkey interior solutions, managing the entire process in-house, from design to manufacturing and fit-out.
This one-stop-shop approach has enabled us to successfully handle complex interior projects for various companies such as IFS, MAS Holdings, Teejay Lanka and Daraz. Our story has evolved to revolve around corporate interior solutions, and today, we are a billion-rupee organization. While we started small, we’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best companies in Sri Lanka over the past 35 years.
To what do you attribute the sustained success of Westgate Interiors, and what differentiates you from competitors in the same space?
Our 35 years of success stem from our unwavering commitment to innovation. We invested in technology, transitioning from manual blueprints to advanced software-driven designs while our in-house team, including interior designers and 3D visualizers, reinforced our industry position with their dedication to excellence.
We built a fully automated manufacturing base, equipped with cutting-edge machinery and a skilled joinery team of over 70 members, enabling us to compete with global standards. Our innovations extended to materials, introducing sustainable veneers as a cost-effective alternative to timber. Beyond innovation, our experienced team, often with over 20 years of tenure, is our greatest asset. Collaboration with top design firms and architects has been pivotal, as has our exposure to multinational companies. Our dedication to project continuity and strong after-sales service have fostered enduring client partnerships.
How has Westgate Interiors navigated the economic turbulence? Can you share specific strategies or initiatives that allow the company to weather the storm and unlock growth?
The past three years have presented significant challenges due to Covid-19 and economic crises, especially in the construction industry where remote work isn’t feasible. To adapt, we relocated our headquarters from Colombo to our manufacturing base in Panadura, streamlining our design and fit-out processes under one roof.
This move allowed us to reduce overhead costs, offer better solutions, and enhance collaboration within our team. Despite the limited resources, it transformed us into a more agile and cost-effective operation.
This decision led to a significant increase in turnover within 18 months. We also benefited from our strong financial position, allowing us to invest aggressively in procurement strategies. Our ability to deliver unique, custom projects and maintain competitive pricing during a volatile market earned us goodwill and solidified our reputation.
What is the design ethos that underpins Westgate Interior’s projects? How does this ethos differentiate your offerings and influence your solutions to the corporate sector?
Our design philosophy centres around collaboration, especially when working with corporate clients. Understanding their culture, function, operations, growth vision, and space requirements is crucial. We engage in brainstorming sessions and collaborate closely with clients to develop tailored solutions that set us apart.
We take pride in the diversity of our interior projects, ensuring each reflects the unique needs and brand identity of our clients. Instead of imposing a singular style, we prioritize aligning the design with the client’s culture. For instance, while open office concepts are popular in Europe, we recognize that not every company can embrace this approach.
Our design ethos revolves around collaboration with clients, where we aim to understand their brand and create spaces that are distinctive and unique. This collaborative approach encourages clients to push for the best office spaces in Sri Lanka, resulting in differentiated designs that cater to their specific requirements.
In the current economic landscape, why is it critical for companies to continue focusing on interiors?
The post-Covid era has spurred significant shifts in office design. The traditional focus on optimizing individual workspace has evolved. Companies now favour unconventional seating arrangements and diverse workspaces, creating a more communal working environment. Collaboration and communal spaces have taken centre stage, facilitated by technology’s role in shaping interiors. Meeting rooms have transitioned from formal to informal, resembling living rooms to enhance comfort and open discussions. Companies like WSO2 lead the way in adopting these changes. To retain and attract the best talent in this competitive landscape of business, companies must adapt to the times to stay relevant and having attractive working spaces is an important aspect of this.
Despite post-pandemic cost concerns, firms with centralized operations, like Westgate, gain a competitive edge by offering cost-effective turnkey design and build solutions. Our team’s flexibility and adaptability enable us to deliver innovative corporate interior solutions that align with ever-changing industry trends.