Biocomp Nepal is an enterprise dedicated to converting organic waste into fertilizers in order to replace the use of chemical fertilizers among farmers in Nepal.
In conversation with Bijay Mahato- General Manager, and Saroj Mahato- Marketing Manager at Biocomp Nepal.
1. Tell me about your journey of starting this venture? When did it start?
The journey of Biocomp Nepal started in the year 2013 when the Chairman of our company visited Nepal for trekking. He saw the natural beauty of Nepal and its gradual degradation and thus, had the motivation to preserve it with innovation. That’s how Biocomp came into existence. Thus, it is a foreign-funded company and our foundation is in the Netherlands.
2. What is the social problem that you are trying to solve?
Biocomp Nepal is working at the farm level to aware farmers about the negative effects of chemical fertilizers and educate them about the benefits of using organic fertilizers. We are doing this through strategic partnerships and trial farms. We treat decomposable waste from the market and convert them into valuable, land-friendly and eco-friendly organic fertilizers also known as compost. The long term use of chemical fertilizers can largely degrade the quality of land output and health of consumers, but organic fertilizers play a vital role in sustainable agriculture and a healthy lifestyle.
We are currently working inside Kathmandu valley to establish a mechanism that segregates waste at source. Most of the people living in the valley are unaware of waste management. If you look at the household level, we usually dump all wastes into one dustbin. So, we’re also trying to educate organized sectors and households that it is our primary responsibility to segregate the wastes.
Through our entrepreneurship, we encourage our stakeholders to classify waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. The classification of waste allows us to efficiently produce organic fertilizers and at the same time reduces the amount of waste being dumped in landfills.
3. What challenges did you face while starting the company?
In our initial years, people were hardly aware of what compost is. So, the level of acceptance for our product was very low among the farmers as well as the consumers. The major challenge was to make people aware of the benefits of our product.
The situation was as such where we had to buy waste in order to carry out our operations. Moreover, we had to set the selling price of our products below the cost price in order to convince our clients to purchase our products.
We also faced another challenge due to lack of awareness on policies that directly benefit a company like ours. For example, there is an import substitution provided by the government for a company like ours. However, because of unawareness, we had to pay heavy duties on import of machinery.
4. How did you overcome your challenges?
We carried out marketing and promotional activities to aware our stakeholders. We also participated in several International conferences and built strategic partnerships and tie-ups to overcome our challenges. We also coordinated with government bodies to gain access to waste, and hence in this way avoided buying waste in later stages.
The emergence of organic culture among consumers through weekly organic markets has also helped us to overcome our challenges.
5. What do you think is the Operating Profit, scalability and market potential of the company?
We believe that the market potential for profitability and scalability is very huge for our company. Although we made a loss for six years, we always saw a positive indication to move forward. We project that in the next ten years to come, the market segment for organic waste will grow substantially.
Similarly, awareness among the consumers about the impact of a degrading environment is growing. Also, there has been a growth of commercial agriculture so, within another 3-5 years, the demand of the market will likely surpass the supply.
6. What stage is the company in?
We believe that the industry that we are operating in is still at its early stage. Every day, 800 tons of waste is produced within the valley and we receive 30 to 40 tons of waste per day. So, I guess we are in a growing stage just like the industry that we are operating in.
7. What is the future plan with your company?
We plan to establish a new plant within the Kathmandu Valley soon. There is a potential for market expansion outside of valley in terms of industrial organic waste source. However, the awareness outside the valley is relatively still low. Hence, we need to devise an effective marketing campaign to penetrate that market segment if we plan to move ahead.
8. What is your current staff strength and how many people did you start with?
We had 10-12 employees with us when we started this venture. Currently, there are 51 employees who are working in our plant. All the labors working in our factory right now are local women because we want to empower and uplift them as well as provide dignity of labor in the waste-management field.
9. Who are your target customers? How many customers (monthly basis) or clients do you have?
Inside the valley, our target customers include nurseries and big farms who grow organic vegetables. We have a dealer network to target our clients outside the valley. We serve more than a hundred customers on a monthly basis.
10. Do you measure the impact of your product/service?
We definitely measure the impact of our products by quantifying the waste that we treat. Our impact measurement model has been accepted and approved by the European Union.
11. What are the key needs of your company?
Our Company has plans to expand by the end of the year 2019. Considering this, our existing plant will not be sufficient to meet the demands of the market. So, we’re in need of at least 25 Ropanis of land within Kathmandu Valley preferably, government land as we’re adding value in the society.