Let’s read what Mr. Namgyal T. Lama, Founder at Bagels Kathmandu have shared with Glocal Khabar during an interview about his venture.
Could you briefly introduce the company to us? What was the starting phase like?
Well, the company is called “Bagels Kathmandu”. We primarily make authentic New York-style bagels, but since then have moved on to making brioche buns as well. The company is mainly a business to a business model where we supply to different restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets. We have, however, always been present at the Le Sherpa and the Yellow House farmers markets on weekends.
The starting phase was a very get your hands dirty and completely immerse yours with experience as is required in any serious work that you do in life honestly. I lived in the US for 12 years before this, so I’ve always been a fan of bagels. It was what I ate every time from college days to my working days in New York. I wanted to make bagels here for myself initially, so I did just that.
We had an old oven in the house that was used as a newspaper stand which I cleaned up and brought in the technician to fix some minor issue before we could fire it up. I tested a lot of bagels in that oven during which our entire family and neighbours devoured on only bagels. At the same time, the new farmers market was resifting to a new location and I thought that it was the ideal place to test my bagels and see if other people missed it as much as I did. That first Friday night before the market, I stayed up until 7 am baking 75 bagels in total. The oven was small and could take in only about 6-8 bagels at a time. I had about a half an hour quick nap before I put the bagels into the car and went off to the market. My girlfriend, who played a major role in the initial success helped to make assorted cream cheese to go with the bagels. The market was a hit right away.
My stall was the first to sell out and it went that way for a lot more weeks. We now have a bunch of regular, familiar faces that we see every weekend. As the demand grew, I realized that I needed to tackle the oven issue and scale up if I wanted to take this further. I travelled to Guangzhou after about a year of good sales and visited 8 different factories and finally ordered a custom rotating oven and other kitchen equipment. Once it arrived back home, we were able to make 120 bagels in 20 minutes! I have hired a total of 5 good people who work hard to make my life easier and to make this business a success.
How is the business going?
The business is smooth and ongoing so far. We have had multiple inquiries from new restaurants and cafes. Although this is a very niche product, I am glad to see that there are a lot of other people like me who enjoy bagels and need to have them now and then.
What kind of response do you hear from your customer? Can you share about it?
The customers love it. Initially, when I first started, there was a lot of curiosity around bagels which is totally understandable since not a lot of people knew about it., So obviously there was a lot of criticism. Many were good and I worked on them but some I chose to ignore such as that the bagels were chewy which is a universal fact that bagels are supposed to be chewy and eaten until your jaws hurt. I know it sounds painful but they’re delicious!
What are the challenges you encountered about your venture? What is the state now?
The only striking challenge that I faced and I still face is the lack of certain ingredients that I could use to further boost the taste of my bagels. Things like black poppy seeds and malt syrup are nowhere to be found here. Cream cheese prices are over the roof here, so I had to resort to making my own cream cheese. I even had no luck finding black poppy seeds in Delhi.
What are the long-term plans that you set up regarding your venture?
A lot of people have asked this question. I don’t have a definite long-term plan as far as this venture is concerned. Bagels are a niche product here in Nepal and slowly, people have come to like it. As long as people want it, I will continue to run my business and make that happen. That’s my long-term plan, I guess!