SARGA: Promoting brand value of hand-made Nepali Dhaka bags

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After about two years of research and market study, Saurab Shrestha and Ayush Shrestha have recently started Sarga, a creative venture aiming to raise the standard and quality of Nepali handmade products. Aiming to bring innovations and creativity in Nepal-made products, they named the company as ‘Sarga’ which means creation, and started-off with an investment of 2 lakh rupees.

They have kicked-off their works with Dhaka bags, with Shreejansheel Nepal, an NGO based in Kathmandu as their collaborative partner that produces the bags. As part of the collaboration, Sarga is helping to a brand-value to the bags, and promote and market the bags in an innovative way.

Previously, Shreejansheel Nepal had been producing the handicraft goods on a local level, and selling it. People had been appreciating their works, but the market of the bags was limited as most of the sales happened through their own personal network. Seeing the potential of the bags, Sarga came up with an idea to take the bags to the next level.

“Sirjansheel Nepal produces the goods with their own strength, and Sarga adds value to the products, and takes it to a bigger market,” says Upashana Shrestha, the creative head at Sarga. “We started-off the company aiming to enhance the products of Sirjansheel Nepal, and other similar producers in the future,” she added.

Currently, Sarga is producing ladies bags only, but they are also planning to come up with gents’ items too. “In the initial phase, we’ve targeted women only as it’s them who shop often, and as men don’t give much attention to a particular brand and design,” shares Upashana.

All the bags from Sarga come up with story tags that entail the story of Sarga on one side, and the stories of producers at the other side, giving a platform for the producers at Shreejansheel Nepal.

Marketing and Promotion

They have mainly been promoting the products through social media, as well as various events being organized in the town, including National Speaking Championship, Octave Kathmandu, and the workshops by Edushala. They have been carrying out sales, and marketing of the products through various online shopping sites in Nepal.

“Currently, Sarga bags are mainly popular among the youths of mid-twenties,” shares Upashana. “To make it more appealing, we have manufactured the bags with various hashtags like #OODT, #DOPE, #VEGAN, #NEPAL, etc. But, we are also coming up with various new designs and expand the age-group of their users,” she says further.

Added to this, famous Nepali celebrities are also using the Sarga bags.

Making Sarga stand apart

Sarga bags stand apart from varieties of other bags available in the market in terms of design, shape, size, and usability.

As the bags are handmade and produced using Dhaka materials, they have a different touch.

And, as the branded important bags are not affordable to the general people, and not that many varieties of Chinese bags are available in the market, Sarga bags are the best fit for the users, says Saurab.

Furthermore, the bags come wrapped in a lokta paper.

Currently, Sarga bags are available in two varieties and cost Rs. 1750 (bigger size), and Rs. 1650 (small).

Challenges in the bag industry

The main challenge for Sarga, hand-crafted bags, is to make bags with consistency and maintain quality. “Unlike machine-manufactured, in which a particular type of bag can be produced in mass, you have to make every hand-made bags manually,” says Saurab, adding, “The hand-made bags are little costlier than mass-produced bags. As the goods produced at Sarga are not machine manufactured, but hand crafted, it results with limitation on the number of items produced, and the varieties of items.”

The market size of the bags is relatively small, as there is no such trend of promoting Nepal-made goods, and there are very few people to pick-up the new-things, he further shares.

To be an entrepreneur

“As an entrepreneur, you can work on what you love, and it gives you satisfaction. If you don’t enjoy your work, you can’t be dedicated towards your work and give full energy to it. Had I not have interest, I would not have pursued this career. As an entrepreneur, my work is my life,” Saurab shares on how it feels to be an entrepreneur.

“But, it’s not that easy to start. You have to start from scratch, and it take great effort to take it to a height from the ground level. The feeling of achievement that time is different than getting promotion in a job,” he further shares.

Seeing people appreciate their products is what makes Sarga squad the most satisfied. In such moments, they feel that they are not doing anything wrong by starting the company, instead contributing something to the society.

The future

Making and branding of bags is the first step for Sarga. And, there are lots of other works lined-up, and they’ll be coming up with a variety of other products as they grow. They want to make Sarga an established and renowned Nepali brand, and make people feel that all the Sarga goods are trustable and quality products. At a time when people think of imported goods when they hear about brands, they want to build Sarga as an established Nepali brand.

As Nepali handicraft market is not that big, they are also planning to export Sarga products to foreign markets in a near future.

To the budding entrepreneurs:

“You need to do what you love. If you have passion and love working on your own idea, you can go further, and have higher chances of success,” says Upashana.

Meanwhile, Saurab shares that there are a lot of challenges for anyone who are going to begin something on their own. “You need to have the strength to cross the phases when you even doubt if your ideas would work. You can’t just start anything as a trial, and leave it after a while. You need to go deep into it, and grind it. Things might not go the way you expect. You also need to have the capacity to convince your family and relatives who can pressurize you to leave the work, and start a stable job. Your work might not produce results, and give returns until a certain duration. You need to have the strength to cross that phase,” he says.

“Starting up is frustrating at times. But, you shouldn’t be discouraged from it. As an entrepreneur, you should be prepared for all such hardships,” Saurab shares to the aspiring entrepreneurs.

Startups for a better Nepal!

Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal