The Role Model

From the housewife who runs a home-based business to the enterprising young entrepreneur, each one gleans inspiration from the success story that Otara is. Influencing, leading by example and recognizing the infinite power of perseverance – she has groomed many to follow in her footsteps. The very first Odel store, although only the start of numerous achievements to come, was borne through tribulation;

My shop down Dickman’s Road marked a new beginning. It was a piece of me, showcased in my very own little shop. At the height of its popularity and when customers were flocking to it, a fire burnt down the shop. This absolutely devastated me. I couldn’t imagine how I would recover from this. All my time, all my hopes, all my dreams – all gone before my very eyes – it was a feeling of utter helplessness at that point in time.


Just as Otara” means “reincarnation” and “embodiment of good in human form” in Sansrkit, with her tireless spirit and the willpower to soar above adversity – this challenge became an opportunity for growth;


Despite the rebuilding of the shop again during the shortest span of time, it really made me question whether I wanted to be in this small space forever, whether I am just being complacent in working within my comfort zone. When disaster strikes, you find yourself questioning what went wrong. This mammoth setback made me realize I needed to improve and understand financial management if I wanted to develop the business further and not be confined to a small space, so I put in all the time and effort to better equip myself and not give up.






Through self-belief and purpose, Otara’s ability to overcome obstacles has transformed Odel into what it is – an internationally acclaimed department store and she – one of Sri Lanka’s most influential individuals to date. Always determined to serve a purpose and give voice to the voiceless, Otara’s yearning to improve the welfare of animals and street dogs in particular only grew in time. Propelled by a passion that was within her since her childhood, she used it to transform mindsets and address subjects that were often overlooked. This, in turn laid the foundation to inspire more people to rally together for the greater good and become community changers themselves. Using her business acumen and celebrity-status to bring about change, Otara revolutionized the perception of the Sri Lanka street dog, making owning one of these once unwanted animals, into a trend that was “fashionable.” Being the forerunner that she is, Otara set the standard by adopting not one but three street dogs, each carrying its own unique tale. Establishing a team of likeminded individuals, to date, they continue to work tirelessly towards making each and every street dog that comes their way, loved and wanted.


Embark Otara



As Otara’s sphere of influence expanded, so did her compassion. Remaining true to the highest ideals of humanity, as Ambassador for World Animal Day, Habitat for Humanity and Earth Hour, Sri Lanka – she inspires, educates and empowers individuals from all walks of life. The ability to continuously renew knowledge and keep learning daily is an attribute of Otara’s that is worth incorporating into one’s life. Influencing the way people think, eat, exercise and perceive themselves; displaying that being a working mother is no easy feat, but not impossible for those who set their minds to it, are just some ways in which she leads by example.

Otara Childhood

Using her skills and talents to transform the world around her, Otara continues to serve as a source of inspiration for those who believe in the infinite power of themselves.


Transforming lives, one community at a time…

Otara with People +


Achievements and Accolades

  • 1986 – Otara graduated from the University of Bowling Green, Ohio in the USA.
  • 1989 – She started selling export surplus clothing and hair care products to family and friends from the boot of her trusty blue station wagon.
  • 1990 – Sri Lanka’s most innovative fashion brand, Odel is born at a trendy, commercial space in Colombo 5 with a little over 1100 sq ft.
  • 1994 – With its stately colonial façade – the first Odel department store opened with 10,000 sq ft.
  • 1999 – The department store expanded to 40,000 sq ft.
  • 2000 – Jaycees’ Most Outstanding Young Person in Sri Lanka.
  • 2001 – Federation of Chambers and Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL). Entrepreneur of the Year 2001 Award.
  • 2002 – Zonta Woman of Achievement Award.
  • 2004 – Odel unveils its new brand identity under the theme ‘Mind, Body and Soul.’
  • 2007 – Alankara Jewelry, Face of Alankara Brand Ambassador.
  • 2007 – A new collection of fashion accessories is launched under the Backstage brand.
    The same year, Odel’s trademark CR project Embark, was born out of Otara’s passion to give all dogs a home, the love and respect they deserve. Since its inception, the program has Sterilized 23, 899 strays, Vaccinated 53, 672, Re-homed 4, 224 and Treated 21, 346 dogs to date.
  • 2008 – She was inducted into the Dallas-Hamilton Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, class of 2009 as an outstanding innovator at the Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA.
  • 2008 – South Asian Association for Regional Corporations (SAARC) Woman of Achievement
  • 2008 – Retail Leadership Award, Asia Retail Congress, India
  • 2008 – Woman of Saabstance, Saab Cars, Singapore
  • 2008 – World Animal Day, Sri Lankan Ambassador
  • 2009 – Colombo Jewelry Stores, Dior Brand Ambassador
    Her personal website, www.otara.lk won the ‘Best Personal Website’ award for the first time in 2010 by the Lanka Domain Registry Office.
  • 2009 – November, Otara was bestowed with the honor of being made the country’s new Goodwill Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity.
  • 2010 – Otara became the first female entrepreneur to take a company public in Sri Lanka. The IPO made history made history on the Colombo Stock Exchange by being oversubscribed by 64 times on the day it opened. This also made Odel the first ever fashion retailer to go public in the country.
  • 2011 – Odel launched the Luv SL brand – a concept carrying stylish souvenirs and products catering to locals and tourists.
    A business which was started by Otara with just 2 staff members, a little over 1100 sq ft and 1 store has now expanded to over 700 staff members, over 135,000 sq ft of shopping experience and 13 stores in the country.
  • 2010 – She outshone leading female entrepreneurs from around the world to bring honor to her motherland by winning the Best Female Entrepreneur Award at the seventh US Stevie Awards for Women in Business held in New York.
  • 2012 – Otara is the only Sri Lankan designer featured in Swarovski’s ‘Gem Visions India.’ She was invited to design a piece of jewelry of choice and participate in its special edition of the ‘Swarovski Gem Visions 2012’ trend book.
  • 2013 – Echelon Magazine’s ‘Most Powerful Woman in Sri Lanka’
  • 2014 – Selected and honored as one of the ‘Prominent Women of the Country’ by the Parliamentarians Caucus, for her achievements in business and for her service to the country.
  • 2014 – Is appointed Ambassador Earth Hour, Sri Lanka.
  • 2017 – The Passionate Award, Business Today
  • 2018- Invited as a guest and speaker at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) that was held in Hyderabad, India under the theme ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’ hosted by Ivanka Trump and Prime Minister NarendraModi held in December 2018.
  • 2017 – Otara is recognized by Business Today for her significant contribution to the economy for reshaping the retail landscape of the country.
  • 2017 – The Passionate Award, Business Today
  • 2017 – Invited as a guest and speaker at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) that was held in Hyderabad, India under the theme ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’ hosted by Ivanka Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held in December 2017.
  • 2018 – Woman of the Year Awards, Women in Management (WIM) in partnership with IFC, member of the World Bank Group.
  • 2018 – Appointed as Non-Executive Director for Singer Sri Lanka.
  • 2018 – Brand Ambassador, Bio Foods
  • 2018 – Woman of the Year Award, Women in Management (WIM) in partnership with IFC, member of the World Bank Group.
  • 2018 – Invitation to speak the Ladies Study Group for their conference, ‘Shakti Beyond Borders’- a platform to celebrate success stories of women from the 6 SAARC countries who have made significant contributions to their country in different fields.
  • 2018 – Featured in LMD’s 2018 A-List of Sri Lankan Top 50 Business People.
  • 2019 – SRI LANKA TAMIL WOMEN’S UNION WOMEN’S DAY AWARD in recognition of outstanding excellence, dedication and kindness to all
Embark opens at Kandy Nugegoda
The Embark Volunteer Awards
Q & A at London Stock Exchange
Otara featured on LMD’s 2018 A List of Business People
Methodist College Commerce Day
Stop Child Cruelty Walk and Petition
Feeding of Hungry Street Animals
Tree Planting at the Kandana Water Treatment Plant
Launch of Sri Lanka’s very first Pet Insurance
Otara joins BioFoods as Brand Ambassador
embark logo