Two cousins, Pratima Chand, a nursing graduate and Aakriti Neupane, an IT graduate, with strong values delved into their vision of making their mothers and other homemakers financially independent by commercializing their skills. After almost a year, their venture, Aamako Koseli has not only seen a market for their aama made products but a massive positive change in the Aamas themselves.
Blincventures.com got an opportunity to connect with these young entrepreneurs and talk about their venture and their journey as social entrepreneurs that Nepal is in dire need of. Read on to know what we talked about!
How did the concept of Aamako Koseli ideated?
Pratima: We have always seen our mothers make beautiful hand knitted woolen socks, pickles, snacks for our family members, relatives and neighbors. They did this out of love and never expected anything in return. But we both wanted to commercialize this skill. Along with the emotional values attached to the products, we wanted to add monetary value to them.
Similarly, Aakriti and I have spent the majority of our student lives living in a hostel and both of us craved homemade snacks. And we knew that we were not only the ones. So, our willingness to make our mothers and all other homemakers financially independent while fulfilling the cravings of hostel students led to the establishment of Aamako Koseli.
You guys live in two different cities hundreds of miles away. Has the distance been a problem? How do you manage it?
Aakriti: Before we used to live together here in Kathmandu but Pratima had to move to Nepalgunj due to her work commitments. Personally, I have found the distance a challenge mainly in terms of communication. We do talk and share our inputs but sometimes things get overwhelming when we are not able to have face to face in person discussions.
Pratima: But we make sure that there is transparency between us. We communicate things that are happening on each end to mitigate misunderstanding or conflict. Also I think that living in two different cities has allowed us to cater a larger market. Aakriti looks after the production and sales in Kathmandu and I looked after the sales here in Nepalgunj. We have been able to target a larger market and work with house-makers from two different cities which has helped us a lot in our product launch.
What are the different products Aamako Koseli offers?
Pratima: We are offering a number of products. Our main as well as the best seller is the knitted woolen socks which can be customized as per the need and requirement of the customers. Along with this we also offer homemade snacks which includes Thekuwa, Khurma, Namkeen. We also have Christmas Box and Maghi Box. Customers can place their orders on Facebook and Instagram.
Who looks after the production?
Pratima: Initially our mothers were involved in the production of all the goods from different homemade snacks like namkeens to handmade knitted socks. But we have recently hired two new homemakers and both of us also help them whenever possible especially when making snacks.
After all the planning, which product did you enter the market with and how did you reach out to the market when you first started?
Pratima: We decided to launch our product in December but we were not sure which product to introduce first. After lots of discussion and brainstorming we decided to introduce all the products at once as a Christmas Box. So,it was more of a trial to us, a kind of research. The Christmas Box contained all the products that we would be offering to the customers in future.
Aamako Koseli is mainly Instagram based so we decided on onboarding a renowned food blogger and through him we were able to reach a large number of people.
What were the major challenges that you faced?
Aakriti: When we started out we had difficulty increasing our production because we lacked sufficient manpower. We had a huge demand but we were not able to fulfill them because of this. That was the very first challenge. Next would be the communication gap. We are only two people working in the planning process but we still had miscommunication. Also we were very naive when we first started out, we only thought about the short term but never looked into what is stored for Aamako Koseli in the long run. And changing that aspect in our thinking as the founders was a challenge.
What are your future plans for Aamako Koseli?
Pratima: Firstly we are planning to legally register our company which has been delayed due to the current lock down. Secondly, we are planning to launch new products like accessories and handbags. Likewise, we are also researching on reaching out to more people and expanding our market.
Aakriti: Similarly, we are also running Smart Aama Contest, with the motive of showcasing the skills of mothers and homemakers across Nepal. So, in future we are planning to incorporate all these mothers and homemakers and their products into our platform.
How do you maintain a balance between your work as a founder and as a part time employee?
Aakriti: Previously both of us worked full time and were having a hard time balancing our roles as employees and founders. So, we decided to work part time and since then we have been able to contribute ample time to Aamako Koseli.
Pratima: Also the lockdown has made us realize our priority. Aamako Koseli is something that is very close to our heart. So, we are doing our best to give Aamako Koseli the majority of time as well as effort.
What makes Aamako Koseli different and unique?
Pratima: Aamako Koseli is established with the objective of providing recognition to the home makers and their skills while making them financially independent. So that is the first thing that differentiates us. The second thing is our quality. We are not denying the fact that you can find the products that we are offering in the market easily. But I can guarantee that you will not find the same quality that we are offering.
Aakriti: Also the products that we find in the market have high prices. It is unethical to charge over the top prices in the name of quality. And we abide by this principle, our products have quality and are affordable. Likewise we make sure that the designs of socks are different from those available in the market. Apart from this, our packaging is also unique. We try to stay away from plastic as much as possible. We have been using Nepali paper for packaging.
How has the journey as young social entrepreneurs been so far?
Pratima: Reflecting back,it has been a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs.There were times when we had very minimum orders and there were we were overloaded with many orders that we had to stay up all night to get them ready.
Aakriti: Adding to what Pratima said, we have learned a lot. This journey has been full of learnings. Now after a year, we are able to pinpoint the mistakes we made in the initial days. Aamako Koseli as a venture and we as the founders have grown a lot.
Any memorable experience you like to share with our readers?
Pratima: During our first Maghi box preparation we got huge orders and we spent an entire night making namkeens and packaging them for 5 days. We delivered the orders during the day and made them at night. That first Maghi for Aamako Koseli was really hectic and now remembering those moments is really funny as well as satisfying for us.
Any unique customer experience you’ve had?
Aakriti: We have this customer who is studying MBBS, I guess. She is one of the most supportive customers we have. She buys every new woolen socks that we launch and the snacks that we sell. She mentioned that she was able to connect with the emotions behind every Aamako Koseli product and made her feel closer to her mother.
Pratima: Likewise, there is another unique customer experience. All our orders for Maghi day were ready; however on the last day Aakriti received a call from a bank. They ordered our Maghi box, which was really special for us. It was our first corporate order.
What about the housemakers? What changes have you seen in them?
Aakriti: We personally think that they are very happy. They have the same innocence, the same dedication and much enhanced skills. Also, they are now getting monetary value for their skills and crafts. They have also become much more confident than before. Previously they used to do what we ask them to do in terms of designs and snacks but now they come up with ideas and are always trying to experiment with products. They learn new designs, new recipes from YouTube and proactively share them with us.
Pratima: In the beginning, home makers including our mothers used to feel shy to say that they were busy or that certain designs were complex and would take time. Now they don’t hesitate to ask the same question until they are clear about it. Also, they now confidently ask for their pay. We see positive changes in them everyday which makes this journey really worth it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Aakriti: We don’t want to be limited only to our mothers and few home makers from Kathmandu and Nepalgunj, we want to bring together thousands of homemakers across Nepal to Aamako Koseli. So please do root for us.
Pratima: Also we often hear people complaining that there aren’t many Nepali products in the market. But this is not true, there are many brands but people don’t prefer buying Nepali products due to the misconception surrounding quality. To break that misconception we first have to try and use the products. So, I’d like to request everyone to give Nepali products a try, they will surely not disappoint you.
Check out their products @aamakokoseli!!
Interviewed and article by Trishna Shakya