It was around 2014 when Bilal Ahmed Shah returned to Nepal dropping out from his engineering degree. Feeling that he had just been wasting his time there, Shah returned to Nepal with a big dream to do something here in Nepal itself. But, he didn’t have any clear idea on what to do and where to start from.
His dad was involved in the leather manufacturing business. Seeing jackets being produced in the factory since his childhood had made him pursue career in that field itself.
With a zeal and passion to set his career in the path of his interest, he planned to start a leather goods manufacturing company.
Seeing the leather goods being made in a traditional way in his dad’s factory had developed a feeling in him that he can make it in a different way and in different designs. He thought of improvisation of leather jackets designs and quality, and finally gave a start with a small workshop in Jhamsikhel. Thus was Latido Leathers born. Latido is a Spanish word for heartbeat, and Bilal is following his heartbeat and passion in leather products through Latido Leathers.
The company was started with an initial investment of around 10 lakhs, including purchasing and upgrading of machineries, leather goods and other materials.
Latido products are designed with genuine leather crafted to create the perfect elegant look. The company manufactures leather jackets, bags and various other accessories of custom designs.
As his dad has a lot of experiences about leather materials and products, he got help from his dad. His dad himself handles procuring and importing of raw leather from India.
The business was started with just two artisans. Over the time, the factory grew from the initial 2 employees to 3, 4 – 5, and now nine people are working under his company.
Most of the time, Bilal can be found at the factory, talking and co-working with his artisans about Latido idea, product designs and more. Now, he has built up such bond with his workers that they even go out together, and work in a vey cooperating way. His feeling of gratitude towards his artisans came from their support in the journey of Latido Leathers.
Latido, more than a product
As Latido products are made from genuine leathers and customized as per client’s necessity, the price is little steep than the mass-produced items imported abroad. But, people seem to love Latido. “Some feel it expensive, but most find its price reasonable,” shares Bilal, adding, “People are buying non-leather products at the same price in Durbarmarg. But, leather goods are luxury products. We only manufacture limited products, customizing every jacket. We make it as per body measure of clients. And, most of them are happy that we are manufacturing the products in a customized way.”
“At Latido, we believe in creating a reason for people to feel it rather than using the products,” he shares.
“Our concept is not to bring ready-made products from abroad and sell it. At Latido, clients can decide how to make and what to have in their jacket. This is also the reason they feel more attached to the jackets. Our concept is not selling the product, but the customization. We have also learned a lot from customers’ demands. They have also taught us improvisation, and how to build better designs and more,” shares Bilal.
Creativity followed by passion
Latido believes in creativity followed by a passion to improving its products and create a valid reason for people to feel rather than use the products. The customization part is very crucial in the business, shares Bilal.
Bilal is not a business student. The three years of journey has become a long journey of slow and steady growth. “Many people know my journey, and how I had started,” Bilal shares.
Many of his clients have even become friends with him, and helped him in the journey.
Marketing the business on his own
He had started marketing the business on his own, through social media in the beginning. People had not known it that well, and had not received that good response.
Slowly, he started going to various startup and entrepreneurship related events. He was heavily into the business promotion on his own. He used to go to events very often, get motivated, and share his ideas and concept with others. He learned many ideas through the events. He might not be making customers, but was spreading words about his products.
He networked with a large no. of people and made many good friends, who are supportive to him till now, and share about the journey and business plans.
The First Client
He vividly remembers the first customer of Latido Leathers. It was the very early days of the company. The client gave orders for a jacket as per his design. And, they made a simple leather jacket, the very first product with Latido stamp. He still comes every year at the shop, and Bilal feels him very special.
Clients’ response so far
Bilal says they are improving every next week. “I don’t say we have got wonderful response. They have given us good response, and at the same time suggested on the things we need to improve, which we are now working on,” he says, “The response has been quite motivating.”
“We might have made fewer customers, but they are all special and we have been able to build a personal connection with them,” expresses Bilal.
Family support to the business
His family wanted him to go to college, but he somehow convinced them that he is not walking in a wrong path, and really loves what he is doing. They understood him.
In the beginning, his parents were really skeptic if he will actually do anything. He felt he was disappointing his parents leaving his engineering degree, and returning Nepal. He didn’t have good relation with his dad. But, they have now become more together, and he feels more motivated now.
His parents accepted his decision after he clearly shared to them what he wants to do in life, and what his plans are.
He feels good to see them happy now.
Leather products market in Nepal
“Maybe we can’t beat China-made products in terms of price, but our products have the feeling of Nepaliness, and people are buying,” Bilal shares. “People have started believing and trusting Nepali brands. People now want to buy Nepal-made products,” he adds.
He also gets orders for jackets from Nepalis abroad, especially from those in Australia. “They simply put orders from Facebook or Viber, and we ask for their measurements and what designs they want. After the product is ready, they find somebody to take it to there in person,” he shares.
Normally, it takes around 2-3 days for a leather jacket to be readied from Latido. But, in the winter season, you have to wait as long as 7-10 days for the jacket of your choice to be ready.
The Journey so far
“I might have more ‘No’ moments than ‘WOW’ moments in these years,” Bilal jokingly says about three years of the roller-coaster ride. “I have made a lot of mistakes in these years, but have also learned a lot of things from the mistakes,” he further says.
For him, every moment is learning. He sees an opportunity for massive growth every next year.
Bilal says that he learned patience is very important, which he had been lacking earlier.
“Failure has been very crucial for me,” he recalls.
In the three years, Latido traversed from a very immature and small idea to the present shape, that is giving employment to more than 9 people directly, and building a brand of customized leather products.
Latido has also recently opened a new showroom at Jhamsikhel road, Pulchowk. There are many people who stop by the shop just to wish him a good luck, if not to buy products.
He wants to make Latido more than a product. “I do not know where I will reach in the span of 5 next years, but I know what I am doing this year. And, that will show what I will be doing next year. I am working on how to make this year more successful,” he shares
He is living and enjoying his entrepreneurial journey.
To the aspiring entrepreneurs
“I really didn’t know what entrepreneurship is while I was beginning. I probably had not heard this word then. Entrepreneurship was not glamorized and glorified like now. Only recently have we started to see the entrepreneurial scenario and startup trend emerging in Nepal.
After I started, I realized that entrepreneurship is a really difficult job to do. Had I known about it before I started, I wouldn’t have probably started it. I learned entrepreneurship the hard way. After I knew that this is the right path for me, I pursued it without a second thought. It might be possible to spend a happy life doing a job, but not pursuing entrepreneurship. But, if you love the struggle, the bigger picture ahead keeps you going.
If you are starting for a short term, it’s very difficult to survive. Starting up is not a joke. You need to ask yourself a hundred times why you are starting. You need to ask it repeatedly. You need to be ready to face challenges. After you start, you need to be dedicated to your work. You cannot complain. Lastly, ideas don’t matter, only executions matter,” shares Bilal to the aspiring entrepreneurs.
Startups for a better Nepal!
Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal