Baskota Tea: Changing Lives Through a form of Art

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Every morning you sip that cup of art. Yes, you are right. I am talking about the tea you sip on every morning and many times a day. Baskota Tea founded by Samikchya Baskota not only produces 100% organic form of art but also has been changing thousands of lives through the tea business. Let us see what she has to say about the venture of Baskota Tea. 

1. What is the social change that you are trying to bring?
When it comes down to a cup of tea, it changes the lives of many. My dad wanted to register the company under a  co-operative but it was not available in Nepal at that time. So, the Baskota Group of Industries is registered under the Company Act of Nepal Government. Though registered as a company, the prime motive of the company has always been to serve the community and work for its betterment. We look at our company as a social enterprise that invests in the social areas rather than a for-profit business. 

Presently, we have three ongoing projects. Out of the three, the scholarship project is the major one, initiated back in 2000 with the help of the proceeds from the tea products. At first, we ventured out this project with 100 children, while at present we have 116 kids under this project. So far we have educated 2400 children. We help these children not only in the primary education level but support them till the very end as per their interest. Right now, we have 3-4 students pursuing their higher technical studies while some have already completed their studies and are successful citizens of the nation. We have 1 veterinarian, 3 nurses, 1 Ayurvedic doctor, who are the success stories of our scholarship project. 

The other project is to uplift the economic empowerment of the community through a cow-bank project. We started out this project by giving out cows to the thirty-six families. We now have a total of 76 families. All these families are required to give back the first calf to the company so as to rotate the cow distribution process. The dairy products from those cows can be sold anywhere, which serves as a major source of income to the families. Apart from these, being an organic tea producer, the cow manure and cow urine are used as the organic manure for organic tea production. We buy the cow manure and urine back from those families further supporting them in economic empowerment.
Thirdly, we are also running a free housing project, where we provide free housing to our labors. 
Lastly, we are also running a thrift shop last year, which is still a new concept in Nepal. The products from the thrift shop are sent to the Paanchthar area where we also grow our tea. The people there have to pay only about a rupee or 5  for the clothes. Also, all the proceeds from the thrift shop go to the scholarship project. 
Apart from all these, we produce 100% organic tea. As I already said, it is less of a business and more of a tea for a social cause. It is all about dealing with nature in a sustainable way and investing in the future.

2. Can you share your venture with Baskota Tea?
Baskota Tea came as an idea of conducting tea business in the local market and branding Kanchanjunga Tea Estate (KTE), which is based on the foreign market with the absence of its own local identity. The blockade made us realize the importance of Nepali products/brands in the local market. Also, pricing is not a problem as long as you can deliver the values. So, we then started out Baskota Tea in 2013. Besides this, we also wanted to set an example and encourage local brands and products, as we believe there is huge market potential in our own lands.

3. Do you plan to grow or venture new plans with Baskota Tea?
Yes. Tea is a form of art and has large varieties. Hence, there is a lot that can be done with it. In late 2015, we opened up a Busy Tea Bar with a concept to make the consumers understand the art of making tea. We also wanted people to be aware of how a cup of tea can change the lives of many. 
Besides that, we are also working on tea tourism and hopefully, by mid-2019, we can start out that venture as well. 

4. What stage is the company in right now?
Baskota Tea definitely is on the mid-stage at present.

5. When you started out this venture, what was your employee’s strength?
I started with three employees. I had completed my studies in law, because of which marketing was still new to me. So, we had and still have to give our best efforts to excel in the art of marketing. Currently, we have 9 employees and 9 BOD and have dealers and vendors in different districts as well.

6. How did you raise funds to start with Baskota Tea?
I think when you want to do something, raising funds is not an issue. You just need to have the idea and someone to implement the plan-driven by passion. As for me, I was lucky in the matter of funds. Though I closed my law firm to start out this venture, I still had a legal consultation job, which helped me operate the Baskota Tea. After 2-3 months of continuous dedication, the BOD thought it was high time that they invested in Baskota Tea and that is how we began. 

7. Can you give us an estimation of your investment till date and is the business profitable now ?
More than crore. We also have an outlet in Chhaya Centre, Thamel which is on loan. Moreover, we recently invested in a Baskota Tea factory in Illam as well. So it stands somewhere between one to two crores. 
Yes! There isn’t a large profit bust we are sustaining.

8. Were there any challenges that you faced while starting Baskota Tea?
There were many challenges. When we started Baskota Tea, I still was a full-time mother which was one of the main reasons why I shifted to business from law firm. 
Also, marketing was totally new to me which was another massive challenge. There were many challenges but I took it as opportunities to thrive more.

9. What are the current challenges you are facing?
Well, the local market is very disturbed as everything works on a credit basis, which is a major challenge. If you cannot collect your money, the local market will collapse. Along with this, peoples’ mindset towards local products and their practice of demanding greater discounts is another big challenge in the present time. 

10. Who are your target customers?
We target the middle class Nepalese people for our products. Initially, we thought women to be our target customers but after several surveys, we have come to realize that men are our ultimate customers. If you are someone looking for a quality product, then you are our target customers.

11. Are there any key needs for the company?
Yes, I think there always will be the problem of scaling up and for that, we have to open up outlets in more city and tourist areas.

12. Have you been measuring the impact of your products on society?
Yes. People buy our tea for two reasons: the quality organic product being one and the ability to change the lives of many through just a cup of tea the other. Moreover, we have not spent a single penny on marketing to date. Word of mouth has been very important in marketing, so all thanks to our customers for believing in us.

13. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
Yes, definitely!

12. Is there anything else that you would like to share with people?
Well, all I want to say is the world out there has vast opportunities. Women, just go out, live your dreams, and never get scared to share your problems and stand up for yourself.

For more information about Baskota Tea, connect with them Facebook here or check out their webiste- Baskota Tea

Interviewed and article by Ashmita Rai.