Nur­tur­ing Nepal

Brit Ni­cola Ma­har­jan and her hus­band Nabin, a Nepalese na­tive, started trad­ing di­rectly from the coun­try in the wake of the 2015 earth­quake. They now run a num­ber of so­cial en­ter­prise ini­tia­tives in the coun­try, in­clud­ing two that cre­ate prod­ucts for sale

Good (UAE) - - THE GOOD LIFE -

How did your re­la­tion­ship with Nepal de­velop?

I met Nabin in the jun­gles of Nepal in 2011, specif­i­cally in Chit­wan Na­tional Park, whilst I was on hol­i­day trekking and trav­el­ling. We mar­ried in 2014 and Nepal is now my sec­ond home. We visit at least twice a year and I now have a deep affin­ity for this beau­ti­ful coun­try and the warm, wel­com­ing and hum­ble peo­ple. Their slo­gan is ‘once is never enough’ and I am proof of that.

What was your work­ing back­ground up un­til this point?

I’ve worked in events, mar­ket­ing and spon­sor­ship for the best part of 20 years now. I spent eight years in Lon­don work­ing on in­ter­na­tional sports and mu­sic events such as the For­mula One sea­son, UEFA Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, Bri­tish Open Golf and Live Earth, and had the amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to travel to over 50 coun­tries de­liv­er­ing events for clients. Dubai then be­came home ten years ago and, af­ter a few years as an events con­sul­tant, my busi­ness part­ner and I took the de­ci­sion to set up Cus­tard Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a bou­tique events agency. We’ve just cel­e­brated our sev­enyear an­niver­sary.

So given you were al­ready busy with your own busi­ness, what prompted you to branch out into so­cial en­ter­prise?

I’ve al­ways en­joyed vol­un­teer­ing and get­ting in­volved in var­i­ous so­cial en­ter­prise ini­tia­tives. Hav­ing spent time in Nepal, I went on to spend three years sup­port­ing a small but ef­fec­tive char­ity there called Chil­dren of the Moun­tain that fo­cused on build­ing schools and train­ing teach­ers. That kick­started my de­sire to es­tab­lish a plat­form with my hus­band that we could grow and de­velop to­gether.

But it was the 2015 earth­quake that so­lid­i­fied that plan and brought your ini­tia­tives into fruition…

The earth­quake in April 2015 was dev­as­tat­ing, and we de­cided we needed to sup­port the long term re­cov­ery by in­vest­ing in the coun­try. In Oc­to­ber 2015, we es­tab­lished the so­cial en­ter­prise Roots, with

“If gIven the choIce, most of us would pre­fer to sup­port small busI­nesses and so­cIal en­ter­prIse”

the tagline ‘dis­cover lo­cal’, with the over­all ob­jec­tive to de­velop plat­forms to sup­port home­grown busi­nesses and cre­ate em­ploy­ment. Our first ini­tia­tive was Roots Eatery, a café that opened in June 2016 in the heart of Kath­mandu. Fol­low­ing that, in Oc­to­ber 2016, we launched Den, which sells hand­made chil­dren’s teepees made by crafts­peo­ple in Nepal us­ing 100 per cent lo­cal cot­ton can­vas, and just re­cently we fin­ished our first print run of Cul­ture in Colour colour­ing books for adults, based on the cul­ture and coun­try of Nepal, to en­cour­age mind­ful­ness.

Why was trad­ing with peo­ple on the ground in Nepal so im­por­tant to you?

There are very few ex­port­ing com­pa­nies who source di­rectly and solely from the ac­tual crafts­peo­ple them­selves in Nepal. We want to make sure the money spent on the prod­ucts goes di­rectly to those who de­serve it and that they are paid a fair price for their work. We also want to de­velop their skills to make new and unique prod­ucts that will be pop­u­lar in the UAE.

What have the ben­e­fits of those trad­ing part­ner­ships been – have you seen first­hand ev­i­dence on the ground of your ini­tia­tive’s im­pact?

The Roots Eatery neigh­bour­hood has re­ally started to be re­vived with the in­creased foot­fall, and the res­i­dents en­joy dis­counts so have started us­ing the café as a meet­ing spot and a hub for the area. In the fu­ture, we are aim­ing to use the café as a train­ing cen­tre for un­der­priv­i­leged young adults, al­low­ing them to learn hos­pi­tal­ity as a trade for free in or­der to give them a bet­ter chance at em­ploy­ment. DEN’s prod­ucts have also been in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar – we’ve just placed an or­der for an­other batch and are look­ing into new spec­i­fi­ca­tions such as dif­fer­ent sizes and colours.

How im­por­tant has the so­cial en­ter­prise as­pect of your busi­ness been to build­ing your brand and cus­tomer base her in Dubai?

It’s def­i­nitely been im­por­tant. If given the choice, most of us would pre­fer to sup­port small busi­nesses and so­cial en­ter­prise. Con­sumers are be­com­ing far more savvy too and want to know where the prod­ucts they buy come from, and en­sure the money they pay reaches the source.

What are your ul­ti­mate aims for the busi­ness, both per­son­ally and in terms of as­sist­ing in Nepal?

We would like Roots Eatery to grow to be­come a chain of eth­i­cally run cafés, of­fer­ing free train­ing and em­ploy­ment to the un­der­priv­i­leged and be­com­ing sought out by vis­i­tors to Nepal. We would also like Den to pro­vide full time em­ploy­ment to our group of crafts­peo­ple and see their teepees fea­ture in homes across the UAE, giv­ing the chil­dren who use them a place they can es­cape, play and re­lax in whilst re­mind­ing them that not ev­ery child is as for­tu­nate as them.

1. Nabin and the staff of Roots Eatery, Kath­mandu 2. A Den Nepal teepee 3. The Ma­har­jan fam­ily

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.