Herbal drink launched to toast S'pore-Sri Lanka ties

(From left) Co-founders of local food science and tech start-up Asmara, Mr Tho Pin Da and Mr Ramesh Krish Kumar, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Singapore Sashikala Premawardhane and Ms Sally Chew, steward of GB Community Development, at the event la
(From left) Co-founders of local food science and tech start-up Asmara, Mr Tho Pin Da and Mr Ramesh Krish Kumar, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Singapore Sashikala Premawardhane and Ms Sally Chew, steward of GB Community Development, at the event launching the Simha Infusion beverage yesterday.PHOTO: DINESH NALINDA STUDIOS

Mrs Nilushika Silva Jayaweera first came to Singapore in 2001 to work as a domestic helper.

At the time, she could not have imagined creating products and selling them here.

Yet the intrepid Sri Lankan went on to found start-up Nilu Tea. Yesterday, a herbal beverage it co-created was launched to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Said Mrs Jayaweera, 40: "To see a product I co-created being sold in Singapore during a time when the relationship between Sri Lanka and Singapore is stronger than ever is like a miracle."

The herbal beverage - named Simha Infusion - was among the first cross-border tie-ups to be launched in commemoration of a half century of bilateral relations between the two countries.

It was created over 13 months by Nilu Tea and local food science and tech start-up Asmara.

It blends herbs such as ranawara and bael vilva flowers from Sri Lanka with ingredients commonly used in Singapore such as lemongrass, liquorice and tulsi basil.

Speaking at the launch event at the Smart Urban Co-Innovation Lab in Science Park 2 that was livestreamed, Mr Vikram Nair, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said the two countries are longstanding friends. Their economic cooperation culminated in the signing of a free trade agreement in 2018.

Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Singapore Sashikala Premawardhane noted that one of the country's biggest trading partners is the Republic, which was its fifth largest investor last year.

According to Sri Lanka Customs, bilateral trade last year came up to US$883 million (S$1.2 billion), with the South Asian nation's exports amounting to US$115 million.

Mr Nair noted that "we're living in a world in flux" that is made more challenging by Covid-19. But " it has also provided us with the opportunity to pull our strengths together and deepen our collaboration to face common adversity".

A virtual signing of a memorandum of understanding and exchange of two letters of intent took place during the launch event between GB Community Development (GBCDL) and three Sri Lankan partners, including entrepreneur consortium Leadership in Action.

GBCDL is one of 19 consortium partners of the Global Technology Innovation Village established by the Asian Development Bank and Singapore Polytechnic, with a strong focus to support transboundary start-ups.

The MOU between GBCDL and Leadership in Action will, among other things, help build tie-ups like that between Asmara and Nilu Tea.

The letters of intent were signed with the Entrepreneurship Department of the University of Sri Jayewardenapura, and the University Business Linkage Cell of the University of Moratuwa, to further foster innovation and start-ups between both countries.

Ms Premawardhane added: "Many international start-ups consider Singapore to be the entry point to the Asean bloc, with a market of over 600 million people. Fintech is one sector that has attracted much attention of Sri Lankan innovators and start-ups.

"I hope for more collaborations with Singapore for Sri Lankan start-ups in this sector.

"The signing of the letters of intent between GBCDL and renowned Sri Lankan institutions will no doubt facilitate this process."


Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2020, with the headline 'Herbal drink launched to toast S'pore-Sri Lanka ties'. Subscribe