Story of a Nepali lady who set out to change the way people shop vegetables
With the availability of vegetables on carts on the street, in almost every grocery stores, and vegetable markets dominating how we buy vegetables, one would have thought that there is no room for a newcomer in the sector. But, agro-entrepreneur Sunita Nhemaphuki and her team set out to change that. She launched a vegetable mart named â€˜Green Martâ€™ in 2013 to try to transform the way people in Kathmandu shop vegetables.
After running an agro-tech magazine (Krishi ra Prawidhi) and consulting firm (R & D Innovative Solutions), Sunita saw many farmers who didnâ€™t get proper prices for their produces. So, with an aim of solving the problem, she started-off the business, with an initial investment of 25 lakh rupees.
The mart gets all the supplies for any day by 10 in the morning, and then segregates and carries out grading of all the goods, and sends to the individual marts. Two types of products are mainly available at the mart viz. green vegetables and agro-related products (eg. Lentils, beans, ghee, honey, etc.).
The beginning days
In a culture where vegetables are mostly bought from carts on the streets or from vegetable market, it was a totally new concept of showcasing vegetables in a mart.
Currently, Green Mart has opened six different outlets in various locations of Kathmandu, and is handled by a total of 13 team-members.
In an average, each outlet of the mart gets around 150 customers in a day, as per Sunita.
To maintain the smooth and easy supply of vegetables, they have been working with 500 small-scale farmers in Gundu of Bhaktapur, by constructing green-houses for the farmers. They have developed an agricultural center in the area, and deployed a technician in the center. â€œWe also provide all the villagers with fertilizers and seeds, with a guarantee of buying their produces,â€ says Sunita.
Sharing why one needs to visit Green Mart, Sunita Says, â€œYou need to come to Green Mart if you want to respect farmers and know who produced the vegetable you are consuming, as every vegetable have labels of the farmer who produced it. â€œAnd, if you want to buy those products which are graded and quality assured, you need to visit us,â€ she adds.
Added to this, Green Mart also provides a free home delivery facility for bulk purchases, above 10 Kilograms.
The challenges in the business
The April earthquake was a major speed-breaker for the business. And, the India-imposed blockade in the aftermath of the quake-affected them the most, as they had provided seeds and fertilizers already, with the guarantee of purchase of vegetables. And, with the blockade and petrol crisis, they couldnâ€™t transport the vegetables to Kathmandu. The blockade had affected them, and made things uncertain in such a way that they too had even thought of closing down the business.
As the life-time of the vegetables is only about 24 hours, they need to be very quick at getting the supplies and selling it. â€œWe need to do everything in an instant. Otherwise, vegetables are going to be waste. We need to vacant the supplies every single day, else weâ€™re at loss,â€ shares Sunita.
But, Sunita and her team has made the business in such a way that it runs on a system.
â€œI think, I am successful to establish a concept among the people that farming can also be done commercially and we can make profits from farming. Before we started, agriculture was not considered as a money generating profession,â€ she shares as her biggest achievement.
Another of her achievement is providing jobs to more than 40 people under her company, along with assisting the farmers.
By 2020, she has planned to establish green houses for 1000 farmers in the area, and have a total of 20 outlets of the mart. By 2025, they are planning to establish 40 marts.
By 2050, they have envisioned to work with 10 lakh farmers across Nepal, and establish green houses for all of them.
As in Europe, where farmers have availability of refrigeration services, from the instant of picking up the vegetables, to cooling system to make the vegetables last for a whole year, they are hopeful that they too will be able to bring such a facility to Nepal in near future.
To the aspiring entrepreneurs:
â€œBefore you start anything, itâ€™s better for you to join some other company and work. Then only will you know how to handle staffs, how to manage products and services, how to manage all the resources and ideas, and how to network for your business among others. Because you get to learn from othersâ€™ mistakes. So, I suggest every fresher to intern and do join jobs for few years, and only then start a business,â€ says Sunita.
â€œAnd, before starting anything, you need know your hobby and interest to know if you fit in the business. Similar to the way the word â€˜entrepreneurâ€™ entails glamour, it is equally hard and challenging. As an entrepreneur, you not only work for yourself, you work for your clients, and all your staffs. So, you need to be exposed to all these things before you start a new business,â€ she adds.
Startups for a better Nepal!
Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal