Having come from a family where none of the generation of family members was involved in business but government job, Prakash Pyakurel had never thought he would one day become an entrepreneur.
After working in development sector (NGOs) for over 15 long years, Prakash Pyakurel wanted to have a career change.
“In our friends’ circle in Kathmandu, we used to talk ‘we also should do something new’ when we met. I also wanted a career change after being in a single sector for such a long time. Brought up in Terai, where tea used to be served in clay cups making it feel tastier, I came up with the idea of starting a tea shop where tea would be served in clay cups,” shared Prakash to Glocal Khabar. Many suggested him to open a restaurant instead. But, he stuck to the original idea.
With his friend Roshan Basnet, Prakash geared up to start the business.
But, opening up the café was not that easy, as none of the two had any prior experience in the sector.
“We wanted to develop the tea-shop as a hub to youths, as hangout places are rare in Kathmandu for them. Those already available are not that affordable. We wanted to develop it as a meetup place for youngsters, where free Wi-Fi is available, as well as books to read. We wanted to develop it as a to-go destination for young generation,” shared Prakash about the starting idea.
But, getting the cafe space was hardest of all.
After searching for about four months, they got the current space (by the end of June this year).
They had planned to bring the café into operation within two weeks. But, it took almost two months for them to design the interior of the café. And, what came out of that hard work is astonishing. The ambiance looks totally unique and artistic.
The café came into operation on September 3, 2017, with an initial investment of Rs. 22 lakhs.
Adding coffee to the menu
Their initial idea was just to start a tea-shop where tea is served in clay cups. “But, having such a spacious place, we wanted to introduce more services. We wanted to have availability of coffee, as younger generation equally loves coffee,” shares Prakash.
“We also thought of light snacks to be taken along with tea/coffee. But, we are not working on a restaurant model, nor a fast food model. If we start to serve Momo, Chowmein, Thukpa, etc., it’ll just end up becoming another normal restaurant. We wanted to do something different, and introduced popcorn,” he shared, adding, “After Dashain, we are planning to serve Gundruk Ko Achar with popcorn. We will introduce various other items on our menu that are not usually found in the city. We are targeting a different set of clients.”
The café gets crowded mostly in the morning, before office hours, and evening, after office hours. And, most of the clients are young people, both college students and job holders.
The matkas i.e., clay pots, are produced in Bhaktapur. “The pottery work is on its way of decline. The pots are replaced by ready-made crockeries, and none of the younger generations are interested in pottery. After a rigorous search, we found one pottery maker in Bhaktapur and placed an order for matkas with our designs. So far, it’s going well, though these cups are not reusable,” shares Prakash.
As there is no market of clay cups in Kathmandu, and there is no competition among the makers, there is a monopoly in the price of matka cups, Prakash shares.
Meanwhile, they have introduced ceramic cups of ‘The Matka’ brand itself to serve coffee.
The initial days of cafe
The Matka had put a notice on social media about the opening of doors at 3 PM on September 3. They were preparing for the same since early morning that day when few people turned up at the shop in the morning hour itself. “We had to return them back, informing the cafe is yet to open its door. After one week, the same people came to the shop. I tried to recall where I saw them. They informed about being here on the morning of opening day,” Prakash recalls the story with amusement, “I haven’t been able to let go off it. We even have that type of customers.”
3D Wall Art and Social Media buzz
“We planned to have some art works on our wall. And, got students from Fine Arts Academy to do 3D art works. It ended up being the most liked thing in the café. Most of the clients who visit The Matka take pictures of them along with the 3D art, and share it on social media. It has been helping the coffee shop get good publicity to potential clients to a great extent. More than ‘matka’, the 3D art work has became a brand,” shares Prakash.
The café is creating vibes on social media, especially Twitter. And, majority of the clients are from social media itself, or from referrals.
Challenges in the business
As café is a new career for Prakash, he finds it pretty challenging. “None of my family members are from the business background. My father was a government job holder. I hadn’t learned anything about this sector beforehand,” says Prakash.
There are no proper and reliable vendors to look after café supplies.
“Café business is really hard for new entrants, especially those who have never been into business, and don’t have any big network. I might not have to face the problems had I been son of a businessman,” Prakash shares, adding, “Coffee business has a huge potential, but it’s equally competitive.”
“I go through such moments almost on an everyday basis. The opening of the café was a great achievement in itself for me. Almost everyone who comes to the shop encourages us. They give us wonderful feedback,” Prakash says.
“We have prepared proper business plans. As winter season, also called the season of season of tea/coffee, is approaching, we are gearing up for the growth of our business,” he adds.
“We will be opening a new outlet in the next two years. Almost on a daily basis, we feel the pressure of growing and scaling up the business. In the duration of next five years, we have targeted to open at least two more outlets in the Kathmandu valley,” Prakash shares.
Along with the business growth of café, they also want to see the pottery profession thriving in Nepal.
Currently, The Matka is directly employing four people, excluding the co-founders. Added to this, three people in Bhaktapur have got pottery job.
To the aspiring entrepreneurs
You have to do new experiments. If you don’t do anything new, you’ll be lost in the crowd. While we were starting, we tried to do something new. If you start new business applying new and innovative ideas, every business has chances to succeed. There are a lot of things to do in Nepal. There are a lot of opportunities. You need to bring a new concept to stand yourself out of the crowd. – Prakash Pyakurel
Startups for a better Nepal!
Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal