With a desire to utilize the local production of Nepalese farmers and bring on some natural and healthy solutions for the skin, Rasana Shrestha and Suyash Shrestha, two classmates from university became business partners and are now constantly thriving to make their start up – ‘NUGA:’ bigger and better.
NUGA: is a personal care brand which produces beauty products like soap, face scrubs, lip scrubs and foot soaks. NUGA: products are not only considered to be good for skin but they are also edible as no chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.
Our Glocal Khabar correspondent, Mahima Poddar had a candid conversation with the two partners to know their journey in the start-up and to see where NUGA: is headed to.
- What inspired you to establish ‘NUGA’?
When we travelled to rural Nepal, we saw how real Nepal looked like. While we only complain about problems like brain drain in the city areas, the real effect of this is truly visible in the rural areas. Due to lack of good manpower and infrastructure, so many of our herbs and agro-production go into waste and the families of poor farmers are bound to live in woeful conditions.
On the other hand, in case of urban dwellers, they do have good disposable income and they do have the need for personal care products too. However, the urban dwellers, mostly spend their disposable income in international personal care products.
This shows a demand for personal care products in urban dwellers and the need to commercialize agriculture among the farmers of rural areas. The production of natural personal care products would help bridge this gap between urban and rural Nepal. Our business partner, Rasana had a thorough background knowledge about production of natural personal care products already, since she had seen how natural products were used for skincare in Kerala. Her knowledge along with the desire to upgrade the lives of rural farmers of Nepal motivated us to start our venture ‘NUGA:’
- How long has it been that NUGA: came into being?
Officially, our company got registered 2 years back in the month of Shrawan. Our research and development process for the company, however, has been going on since four years.
Initially, even after registration, we hadn’t directly launched our products in the market. For the first year, we sold our products among our family, friends and
relatives and only during Teej 2075 we launched our products in the bigger market. Since then, our customers really like our product which keeps pushing us forward.
- What have been the major failures that NUGA: has faced in its journey until now? How has the company managed to overcome these failures?
Well, we have failed multiple times but the great thing is that every time we failed, we came back better.
One constant failure for our company has been the packaging of our products. We want to use biodegradable packaging products instead of the plastic packaging. However, due to some or the other problem, we have had to constantly change our packaging. We have changed our packaging five times already but the positive side to it is that our products look better every time.
For a start-up to overcome failures and keep on going on, the synchronization between partners has to be extremely good. Entrepreneurs are humans too and many a times, when things don’t go the right way, one feels like giving up. During such critical situations, if one has an understanding and supportive business partner, the motivation to keep on going increases. Hence, for any start-up venture that has been started as partnership, the partners need to keep on supporting each other to keep on going on no matter what happens.
- Does NUGA: have any plans for international expansion?
Yes, we have been in touch with many international companies and many of our potential international clients seem to be really excited to sell their products to them.
However, what keeps us skeptical about moving onto an expansion immediately is the financial demand that comes along. Currently, due to our limited financial resources, we aren’t very sure if our production would be able to sustain the high volume demand which would be raised by international expansion.
Also, we look forward to carrying out various certification processes before we go international.
But there is one thing for sure, even if not right now, NUGA: will surely go international within a year or two.
- Is NUGA: a social enterprise?
There is a lot of grey area in between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship and we find it difficult to draw a fine line between them.
For us, our desire for NUGA: is to see it as an ethical enterprise. As much as possible, we try to procure our raw materials from Nepalese local farmers or from companies that directly deal with the farmers. We want to promote gardening among the urban dwellers of Nepal too and we often encourage families to grow a few of our ingredients in their garden so we could buy it from them.
Our aim is to utilize the local herbs production of Nepal and generate more local employment in the agricultural sector, whether or not it be called a social enterprise.
- What is one key need of NUGA: in the current situation? What kind of support system does NUGA: need to move forward?
One key need for NUGA: right now is human resource. The demand for our products is going up, but due to lack of skilled labor, we have not been able to increase our production.
One major support system NUGA: needs in order to move forward has to be collaboration. We eagerly look forward to collaborating with other startups for generating better results. We work in collaboration with Naagiko Honey for procuring our raw materials. Similarly, we would like to build companionship with other start-ups too.
Rather than having cut throat competition with other cosmetic industries, we would rather support each other and grow together so that the personal care industry of Nepal becomes bigger and better and we can create a brand value for Nepalese personal care products around the world.
- Why did you choose the name ‘NUGA:’?
‘NUGA:’ means heart in Newari. Since, we put all our heart in making the all-natural hand-made personal care products for our customers, we named our company ‘NUGA:’ and both of us partners are Newari too, which makes the name all the more special and authentic for us.
- What is one message you would like to give our young aspiring entrepreneurs?
‘Entrepreneurship’ has become a fancy word that people have started romanticizing with. These days, whenever the term entrepreneurship comes forward, all that is thought of is a cool office with one’s own space and comfort to work in. However, there are a lot of struggles and pains that an entrepreneur has to go through in order to reach to that cool position.
In our case itself, we didn’t even have a proper working office until a few months back. We still deliver our products when the orders are huge. We take care of everything personally and there are a lot of struggles we face every day. The only thing that can truly define an entrepreneur is a person who ‘Never gives up’.