We hear that Nepal is rich in culture and tradition. But we often forget about the skills and natural fibres that are available in our country. Working with the mission of reviving these rich natural fibres is Aamacraft.
Additionally, Aamacraft has been actively working to train the women from different parts of Nepal to process these fibres and manufacture beautiful products out of them. The products then are exported across the globe, showcasing the craftsmanship internationally. And the amusing part, this venture has been running for almost two decades now!!
Read our conversation with the humble and inspiring founder of Aamacraft and the president of Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Associations of Nepal (FWEAN), Reeta Simha to get better insights!
How did the concept of Aamacraft come about?
I visited Japan several years ago and a lady there complimented me for the saree I was wearing. She asked me if it was our national dress to which I proudly answered with a yes. Then she asked me if it was made in Nepal and it wasn’t which made me feel terrible. But I thank god for that question, I came back to Nepal with a sense of necessity and a dedication to work on commercializing the skills of the Nepalese women internationally. Then, with the help of my mother in law, who is also a businesswomen herself, we started Aamacraft two decades back. Today we are known for the quality and consistency of our products. So, yes that is how the idea of Aamacraft came about.
What are the different products Aamacraft is offering as of now?
We have four major product lines- Allo Nettle Natural Fibre, Dhaka Handwoven Cloth, Pashmina or Cashmere and Santang Embroidery.
Under Allo Nettle Natural Fibre, we have shawls, bags and table cloths. In Pashmina we are offering accessories, shawls and scarves. We have knit wears like sweaters,woolen caps and gloves. In Dhaka we are offering fabrics like garments, shawls, scarves and sarees. Aamacraft is famous for Nepali Dhaka topi and Dhaka Waist coat, they have become our signature products. Apart from this, we also make tablecloth, cushion covers. Likewise we have bags and wallets made of allo too. So, there are a wide variety of products at Aamacraft that customers can choose from. Recently we have created our brand “AAMA NEPAL”.
Where can customers find your products?
We have a retail outlet in Club Himalaya, Nagarkot and at my residence here in Kaldhara. As of now we are offline based but soon we are planning to go online.
How has the current COVID crisis affected the operation of your venture?
Previously we were exporting 60% of our products and the remaining 40% catered the domestic market. But with the COVID situation, we cannot say the same. We have come to a standstill.
Where are the products made?
The products at Aamacraft come from multiple different places across Nepal. The products from Dhaka fabric is one of our main and most popular products. They come from Therathun, East Nepal. The women there are extremely talented and the skill of Dhaka weaving has been handed down from mothers to the daughters for a long time now. We have been sourcing our production to these women.
Where do you get the raw materials for production?
Sadly, we are importing the majority of raw materials as of now, due to a number of reasons. One of the mostly used raw material, Allo is found in Nepal however it is not processed correctly. And since we are focused on offering quality products, we have been compelled to import it. Similarly is the case for Pasmina. It is found in Nepal but we again import it from China.
What is your staff strength?
Before the insurgency, we had 50+ workers working with us. During the insurgency I scaled down the factory and now we have very minimum staff. We have 5 women and 3 men working with us as of now and we have been outsourcing most of the work across the country.
What made you decide that scaling down and outsourcing was the best option for your venture?
Back then a lot of people used to visit us and ask us for donations which didn’t feel right. It was not fair for the makers who put so much effort into making the products. So, I thought that it was the best time to scale down.
How do you ensure the quality and consistency of your products?
We have a very strict quality control system, we cross check everything. Also, the weavers have been with us for a very long time now and they are very well aware of what is expected out of them. This way we have been able to provide the finest quality to our customers for decades.
Which countries do you export to?
We were exporting to Europe and the Scandinavian countries. We don’t have any exports as of now due to the situation we are in. Hopefully the economy will revert back and we will start exporting again.
What are the main challenges running Aamacraft?
When I started out in the 90s,the economy lacked skilled manpower. So, training them and at the same time providing optimal quality to the customers was a challenge. Apart from this the finances were also a challenge but my family supported me a lot in that aspect.
What are your future plans for Aamacraft?
Like I said, the majority of our raw materials are imported. So, I am working on that aspect and trying to get quality raw materials from within Nepal. And being the president of FWEAN, I saw this has opened doors for me. We have a lot of women entrepreneurs from different districts. To be precise, we have now covered women from 50 districts in Nepal. So, now I am trying to mobilize and train these women in making quality raw materials. We will then buy back from them, which will ensure skill development as well as economic empowerment. We have actually started working on this. We are training women in making quality allo from East Nepal and most probably, after COVID we will start training women from Mustang in making pashmina fibres.
There is a saying that women empower women. Do you have some role models?
Yes, of course. I have had the support of some most amazing women throughout my journey. My very first role model is my mother in law. She had been supporting me from the very beginning. She also connected me with some other amazing women, one of whom is Suzie Dunsmore.
In Nepal majority of fabrics were available in basic colors like red, cream and white but Suzie during her stay here in Nepal, taught the women from Therathum to make fabrics using other contemporary colors. Along with this, she was also looking for someone to market and commercialize these fabrics and our paths aligned. We went on a trek together, exploring the skills and resources that East Nepal had to offer. So, she has been a major part of my journey.
What are your thoughts about Nepalese not preferring Made in Nepal products?
I personally think that this mindset is changing. Our Dhaka saree is really popular after the president wore it for a formal event. It has escalated the demand. Similarly is the case for Dhaka topi. So, people are actually changing now, they feel more proud to wear Made in Nepal clothes. The change is definitely taking place.
How have you been maintaining a work life balance?
I personally believe that the busiest person has the most time. Also, I have a team of great people at FWEAN and at Aamacraft. They look after most of the things, making work easy for me. And the pandemic has also made things easy with remote working and virtual meetings.
How has your journey been so far?
I have been in this field for almost 2 decades now and it has been a very good journey for me. Aamacraft brought me a lot of opportunities, I got the opportunity of getting trained from international organizations which were eye openers for me. These training also helped me market my products in countries like Sweden representing the Nepali artisans internationally. I have learned some really important life lessons like “If you are good to people, they are good to you.” So, this journey has been really rewarding and fulfilling.
Check out the products from Aamacraft here. We are sure that you will love them!!
Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya