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‘Nepal is a land of vast opportunities’

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Kathmandu, May 05, 2016: On a small but neatly arranged showroom-cum-office of Bhav Products and Stationery Udhyog in Jhochhen, Freak Street, its founder and product designer Bhintuna “Jya-Poo” sits in front of her laptop responding to customers’ queries, promoting her products, or brainstorming new product ideas.

“I’ve been meeting artists and entrepreneurs, and it feels nice. Being an introverted person, it takes me a lot of effort to approach people and share my ideas, but starting a business has propelled me to get out of my comfort zone and explore so many things,” she says.

A graduate of Master’s in Anthropology with an intense passion for all thing creative, Bhintuna dabbled in animation and freelance graphic designing before the will to do something on her own got the better of her. Hence, in December 2014, Nepal’s first and only stationery line, Bhav, was born. She shares about the challenges and possibilities of startups in Nepal. Excerpts:

From studying Anthropology to working at an animation studio to opening your own business. How did it all happen?

I studied Anthropology because studying about people, society and culture always fascinated me. On the other hand, graphic designing has always been my hobby. I took up some classes while I was studying in high school and then while I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, I took up 3D animation classes, which I really enjoyed. I worked as the Lighting Lead at Incessant Rain Animation Studios Pvt Ltd from 2009 to 2013. In the meantime, I discovered that I was more into graphic designing, so I quit the job and joined Lemon Lime Corporation as its creative head while continuing to work as a freelance graphic designer.

While I really enjoyed my work, I always felt that there was much more I could do. My friends and clients remarked that my minimalistic but meaningful approach to designing gave it a very international touch and they encouraged me to do something on my own. I thought of opening a t-shirt line with unique prints but tossed the idea because that was the time when t-shirt business was already booming. I then realized how I had to search everywhere for a good notebook and planner. Seeing so many cute and practical stationery all over the Internet but not being able to own one made me realize that I could actually fill that gap and introduce them here. I discussed the idea with a friend who promptly agreed to invest on the business. After three months of thorough research and planning, we officially registered our business on December 28, 2014. While my degree in Anthropology apparently looks useless, my knowledge of people and culture reflects on my designs and products.

Not long after you registered your business, our country went through some really difficult times. How did your newly established business cope?

We were marketing our products through social media and were getting few queries, too. Luckily, in January 2015, Yellow House offered us to set up a stall at its art market, and that gave us a lot of exposure. We got good feedback and Bhav Products started getting attention. But then, of course, the earthquake happened, followed by the blockade and so on. For three months after the April 25 earthquake struck, this showroom also functioned as the living quarters for me and my family. So the production and sale came to a halt, but I constantly worked on ideas for new products.

To be honest, the aftermath of the earthquake wasn’t half as challenging as the days we spent researching prior to starting our business. On the one hand quality paper was hard to find, and on the other, the suppliers thought we were too young to do business, so they would either not show us the available materials or try to overcharge us. We didn’t have much capital to directly import materials, so we had to rely on whatever was available here.

What about the challenges now? Do you think it’s a favorable time for startups in Nepal?

Our main challenge now is to educate the customers. Most of them have little idea on how to use our notebooks and planners that come in blank pages and different grid lines. We also have varieties of cards that can be personalized on your own, but many people can’t figure out its purpose. So I try to make Instagram posts about how they can be used and the feedback is pretty nice. I feel that when producers themselves use the products, it increases their credibility. Since I’m not really good with words, I do my best to make sure my work speaks for itself.

I can’t say if it’s a favorable time for startups in Nepal, but what I know is ours is a land of vast opportunities. While there are sections of people who prefer sticking to old ways of life, there are many others who readily embrace new ideas. Besides, I’ve realized that you can really stand out even if you are only slightly more creative. The competition isn’t really fierce here either.

What kind of feedback have you received from customers?

They are excited that Bhav Products are designed and manufactured in Nepal. They tell me how they are encouraged to produce something handwritten in the blank pages of our copies and that really makes me happy because I named our products ‘Bhav’ because it means feelings and notebooks and copies are meant to pour down our feelings.

Tell us about your future plans.

Right now we’re focusing on what new products we can introduce in the coming days. We definitely don’t have any plans to expand yet, but we would like to keep exploring the possibility. While the business is doing okay, it’s still a risky business. That’s why we don’t mass-produce. At the same time, we want to make our products as affordable as possible. So we’ll also be focusing on finding a stable supplier.

STARTUP TIP OF THE WEEK

Be patient and don’t expect to profit from your business immediately. As clichéd as it might sound, perseverance really is the key to success.