Homegrown recipe for success

Apr 17, 2017-For someone who began her working career as a lab assistant at a small photo studio run by her family, Reeta Simha has seen her star rise exponentially.

Initially a student of psychology, Simha has made a name for herself as an entrepreneur who has played her bit part in taking Nepal-made products to the wider world through her companies Aama Imprex and Aama Crafts.

Currently a second vice-president at the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Associations of Nepal (FWEAN), she now is committed to passing on her passion and skills to the next generation of business leaders.

In this interview with The Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Simha talks about branding and marketing Nepal-made products, entrepreneurship and her management mantras. Excerpts:

How did you become passionate about Nepal-made products?

In the 90s, I had the opportunity to do some marketing for a company heavily involved with the import and export of Nepali products.

At the time, I was really daunted by the huge responsibility, more so because I had such little knowledge about the textile and the handicraft business.

So, as a solution, I travelled to Terhathum where I was pleasantly surprised to see so many different forms of textiles that were begging for exposure.

It was a great opportunity to learn about the materials and fibres used and upon my return, I opened a small store in Thamel which prominently featured Dhaka products.

The business, to my initial surprise, really took off and I have been promoting Nepali textiles to the world ever since. 

Today, there are a lot of innovative Nepal-made products in the market and the demand for them is soaring as well. What can these products do to market themselves better?

The demand for Nepali products has grown like never before. Nepali products such as dhaka materials are now very much in demand, partly because of our President Bidhya Devi Bhandari wears them frequently.

The President’s desire and passion to promote local products have made a tremendous impact not only for us, but also the customers.

The other positive about such publicity is that the women who have been weaving such materials are now highly encouraged and are motivated to come up with more innovative designs and ideas.

An influential personality endorsing a product or a lifestyle always helps in making an industry soar. 

How can Nepali products better brand themselves in the market?

We are surrounded by two giants—India and China—who produce products that are being exported the world over.

It is impossible for a small country like ours to be competing with them because they can produce materials at such a large scale. We need to figure out our own niche market where we can convert a product into a brand name.

Although, Nepali-made products are top-class in quality, we need a better system and efficient teams to make a brand out of products. Earlier, Nepal-made pashmina was a brand in itself but because of inconsistency in quality, the demand has plateaued.

Fortunately, the demand for dhaka is picking up, and you can replicated that with any other product. The key to good branding always is consistency of product and service. 

As you have worked with various kinds of people in the sector, what are some of the challenges? 

The biggest challenge I have faced is finding skilled manpower. It has become difficult to find people who are passionate and willing to take their careers seriously.

There are very few people who are engaged in a small cottage industry like ours. Many go abroad chasing a better life and those who are skilled are doing things that they aren’t skilled at. That trend needs to be arrested.

What can be done to encourage more women to take to entrepreneurship?

There are many women who have had a successful career as entrepreneurs in Nepal and with the younger generation, the future indeed looks promising.

As an integral part of FWEAN, we are training women from various districts who are looking for opportunities to sustain themselves and their families.

FWEAN has about 30 offices in various districts. For instance, we recently trained a group of women from Myagdi district on alo (nettle fibre) weavings.

We took them to stores like Sana Hastakala and Mahaghuti for exposure and were pleasantly surprised to see the opportunities that are available to them via such handmade products.

As a woman entrepreneur myself, I feel there are many untapped resources in the country and I like to push women to pursue opportunities so that they can be entrepreneurs in their own areas. 

You have been involved in various sectors other than the textile industry. What for you is common about good management, irrespective of the sector?

As I have had a career for more than two and a half decade and worked for different fields, I have come to understand that the only way to have a successful career is through hard work, perseverance and commitment. These three things are always present in all success stories.

Also, the other integral value to have is honesty. I always recommend people to stay open to criticism and to compliments, and if you are, the sky is the limit. 

What advice do you have for the youth who are interested in getting into Nepal-made products?

The youth need to see the opportunity in the sector. Nepal has many untapped resources which today’s youth can cash in.

The cottage industry’s demand will increase in the coming years and the youth need to be confident and believe in themselves and the career they have chosen. Now that the tourism industry is also flourishing, big opportunities lies ahead. 

Published: 17-04-2017 08:46

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