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ODEL Limited


2010 Stevie Award Winner

Company: ODEL Limited, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka
Company Description: ODEL, Sri Lanka's leading retail department store founded in 1989 from the boot of a car and have expanded upto 13 outlets within 20 years in business, now comprises over 130,000 square feet. Started with 2, ODEL has expanded to over 700 employees and is the 1st Fashion retailer in Sri Lanka to go public, having a very successful IPO oversubscribing by over 60 times & closing on the day of opening
Nomination Category: Individual Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Best Entrepreneur – Non-Services Businesses – up to 2,500 Employees

Nomination Title: Otara Gunewardene, CEO

Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated entrepreneur during the eligibility period (up to 500 words):

Introduction to Odel
ODEL is a brand name of a chain of department stores located in Sri Lanka with
franchise outlets overseas. It is the most successful fashion retail brand to make
its mark in the country and is considered a model fashion retail store for the
region. ODEL offers shoppers designer and high street fashion for men, women,
children and infants; home ware and personal care products; jewellery and
accessories; luggage; perfumes and cosmetics; toys and souvenirs; sporting gear
and environmentally-friendly products; pet accessories and gift packing; books and
music; confectionary and food. A business that began in 1989 when its founder
Otara Gunewardene, ODEL has grown in to a chain 13 definitive fashion and
lifestyle stores today. Its 40,000 sq ft flagship store in Colombo is referred
to as the ‘mansion of style’ due to its colonial structure, and has been called the
Harrods and Harvey Nicholls of Sri Lanka.

Since its inception, Odel has grown to be one of the most coveted brands in the
Sri Lankan retail fashion sector. The pioneer and CEO of this phenomenon is Ms.
Otara Del Gunewardene. Her journey commenced when she began selling surplus
export garments, right out of the boot of her car. From being a well-known model
on the ranks of the local catwalks and armed with a Biology Degree from the
Bowling Green State University, Ohio, Otara’s career took on a whole new
direction. So much that she was inducted into the University’s Entrepreneurial Hall
of Fame for being a forerunner in retail innovation.

Since the first store in 1990 and despite Sri Lanka’s internal conflict and recent
global recession, Odel has grown in leaps and bounds. Fuelled by Otara’s savvy
and conscientious entrepreneurial skills - to date, Odel ( now has 13
successful stores in commercial and fashion hubs across the country and is a
public quoted company.

True to the very essence of ‘ever changing fashion,’ this iconic entrepreneur has
always understood and embraced the best of change. From October 2009 to
September 2010, Odel expanded rapidly by opening 05 stores that have all the
hallmarks the store is renowned for – uniqueness and in-style. It has also brought
this distinctive retail experience to the hometown of the suburban shopper. The
expansion has increased the staff strength to over 700 and have increased the
total floor space to over 130,000 sq ft. The Sq ft area added by the new 05 stores

In August 2009, history was created on the Colombo Stock Exchange, when
Otara became the first female entrepreneur to take a retail company public. Under
her sole ownership, the Company’s Initial Public Offer was oversubscribed by over
60 times, within 24 hours after the IPO opened. Odel’s recently concluded IPO of
16.7 million shares was oversubscribed by over 64 times, raising Rs. 16 billion
(US$ 139.1 Million) compared with the IPO value of Rs. 250.5 million (US$ 2.2

Throughout the years, Otara has always been involved in giving back to the
community on different levels; for people and animals like. Her personal
commitment has now translated itself onto a larger scale. Utilising Odel’s status
as a catalyst for change, Otara and her team believe in the power of a business to
do good and continue to work diligently in this respect. Many organisations have
recognised her efforts and have honoured her with many titles such as; the Zonta
Award for "Woman of Achievement" (2002), SAARC Woman of Achievement
Award (2000), Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) of Sri Lanka Award (2000)
and Entrepreneur of the Year (2000).

Odel’s trademark Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project – ‘Embark’
( stems from Otara’s vision to give all dogs a home, along with the
love and respect they deserve. The initiative aims at influencing communities to
adopt a more humane attitude towards stray dogs and to reduce their population.
Since July 2009 to August 2010, through this initiative over 3,500 dogs have been
vaccinated, sterilised, treated for injuries and adopted by loving homes -
creating cleaner streets and safer communities . In addition, innovative ‘Embark’
branded merchandise has now evolved into a line of trendy, in-store clothing,
jewellery and accessories that fund the efforts of this CSR project.

During the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami in 2004, Otara and Odel joined hands
with Habitat for Humanity in constructing 07 homes, in order to aid the resettling
efforts of families in the Southern coastal stretch of Balapitiya – 80km from
Colombo. In November 2009, Otara was made Sri Lanka’s new Goodwill
Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity. In the same year, along with many celebrity
volunteers, she participated in the ‘Mekong Build 2009’ Carter Work Project
organised by Habitat for Humanity in Thailand. In an effort to carry on the
philanthropic spirit of 2004 and in commemoration of two successful decades in
retailing, Odel constructed approximately 20 houses for homeless families, in

List the URLs (web addresses) of any online news stories, press releases, or other documents that you would like the judges to see that support your entry. IMPORTANT: List each URL on a separate line, begin each URL with http://, and enclose each URL in square brackets. For example, []:

Embark sterilization campaign

Embark products

Press articles
IPO(Initial Public Offering)

Store openings

Tsunami relief work

Provide a brief biography of the nominated entrepreneur (up to 100 words):

Ms. Otara Del Gunewardene

Otara, a 1986 biology graduate of the Bowling Green State University, Ohio, is a
natural entrepreneur. With an appreciation for fashion and a desire to make a
marked difference in whatever she set out to do, she wasted no time in applying
her knowledge and skills in the business world. In time she created a successful
brand by simply doing what she loved.

Otara’s first entrepreneurial attempt at a business venture was selling hair care
products. She then ventured into selling apparel. A chance request by an apparel
manufacturer to help him dispose of an assortment of export surplus garments led
her to set up shop in the boot of her car. Her friends were her first regular
and she consolidated this early success by selling to other stores in Colombo as
well. Realising the enormous potential in this segment, she set up her first retail
store in 1990, ODEL, a combination of her first name, Otara, with her middle
name, Del. Incidentally, ‘Otara’ means ‘reincarnation’ in Sanskrit. With her
original, energetic and confident approach to business, amidst the challenges
faced due to the war, Otara would go on to make her brand ODEL a celebrated
name and a retail success story for Sri Lanka.