Born in Pokhara, Tilak Subedi did his studies in hotel management and started an eco-friendly Bamboo bar in the lake city. But he claims it was only in his mid-twenties that he had this idea of opening up a cheese business and to live the cheese life.
Talking about how he got inspired to take up the cheese business, he recalls friends from Australia and Britain who were carrying out experiments with Himalayan cheese. At that time, he had just completed his education in India and had set up ‘Bamboo Bar’, an eco-friendly bar made by using only bamboo. Upon learning about the art of making cheese, he decided to try something them himself as well. He says he tried doing some of the stuff with them and fell in love with the art and the produce.
He then partnered with the pair of his friends and started operating ‘Pokhara Cheese’. Operating a bar and the cheese business at the same time, it was hard to keep producing high quality cheese and supply to the market wasn’t really feasible. Due to the limited supply and marketing, the customer base was also small back then. ‘Since this was more like an experiment with the art of cheese making, we didn’t make a lot of turnover, but we were happy with the response from our customers”, shares Mr. Subedi.
Persuaded by the overwhelming response from the customers and his love for the art of cheese making, he quit the hospitality business to start making cheese full time. It wasn’t hard to make a decision to focus more on the cheese than hospitality business as it was a hassle free business for the production part and the market was also easily accessible. The market for cheese is ever increasing in the Nepali market as people are learning to love it more than ever these days, the foreigners and the foreign return Nepali have played a major role to promote the use of cheese as a food ingredient in the Nepali food scene. “Even though the hotels and restaurants catering to visitors for abroad still remain the favorite, the demand from the Nepali households is also increasing”, adds Mr. Subedi.
As the popularity of their produce increased in the market, Pokhara cheese started getting orders from as far as Kathmandu and the business got better every passing year since then. The consumption of their cheese is twice in Kathmandu than in Pokhara, says Mr. Subedi. It is because the market space is huge here and we have larger market to explore. He has also been showcasing his prized produce at the Farmers Market every Saturday at La Sherpa in Lazimpat.
Pokhara cheese was relocated to Kathmandu recently. It was necessary to do so in order to be closer to the market and also promote the products. According to the founder of Pokhara Cheese, the market share of Kathmandu is double to that of Pokhara and there is also a healthy prospect for growth.
Asked if he has any regrets starting the cheese business, he says he actually regrets starting the business late and neglecting it for a long time. His family is also happy about the business he is doing. “I should have focused more in the cheese business since inception but I was also doing the hospitality business and I couldn’t get hundred per cent in the initial years”, he says.
When asked about the challenges he sees for the growth of his enterprise, he says there are more opportunities than there are challenges in this business. The production facility can be set up in a small area and the market is ever expanding as the Nepali individuals are learning to enjoy cheese, there is a lot to expect from the business then to fear. There is a huge scope for growth in this sector and I see a healthy business ahead. It is not always possible to find high quality milk for the production of cheese and that could be a challenge. “But I am planning to move my production facility to my own village in Pokhara and set up a farm of my own to supply the milk for the cheese production.”
Mr. Subedi wants to keep his production and supply chain small enough to have control over it and provide quality products to the valued customers and big enough to sustain his business and the farm. Apart from keeping up the business, he also wants to share his knowledge on cheese making with the upcoming generations of cheese entrepreneurs. “I also plan to establish my own farm to produce milk for cheese back in my own village in Pokhara”, he says.
Additionally, he also plans to share his knowledge on cheese making to the new generation of upcoming cheese entrepreneurs. He is planning to attend a crash course on cheese making somewhere in Europe or in Australia. “I want to see how large farms are taken care of and the factories and outlets incorporated.” He shares.
Message to youths
His message to the youth is also simple. All he has to say is one should follow their interest and do the things that fascinate them. “Follow your interest, love it and it will love you back”, he says in conclusion.
By: Avaya Devkota