From dentist to social entrepreneur- Manu’s journey of starting Ecosathi Nepal

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A strong advocate of Zero Waste Lifestyle, Manu Karki has a very clear vision of what she wants for her venture Ecosathi Nepal. “We cannot keep on forcing people to lead a sustainable life; the alternatives need to be available, else it will be just talks and no action” she says.
From being a dentist to a social entrepreneur, Manu took us down the lane of her journey and gave insights on how she decided to create a platform for sustainable products through Ecosathi Nepal. She not only sells sustainable products but also educates and inspires people about a sustainable lifestyle!

Read the article to know what we talked about.  

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1. How did Ecosathi ideate?
A few years back during my visit to Taiwan, I learned about zero waste living as was adopted by one of my friends there. Having no clue about that way of living, I realized the severe effects of my actions on the ecosystem after living for a few weeks with my friend. That is when I started becoming more mindful and as soon as I came back, I shifted and started looking for sustainable alternatives for my new home. However, the process was time-consuming and the products were either expensive or of low quality so it was almost impossible for me to have a sustainable life even when I wanted to due to the absence of alternatives. 

So, I decided to take action on my own rather than keep on complaining and hence, started Ecosathi Nepal as a platform to sell all sustainable products. I spent almost a year researching the products and officially opened an Instagram page around 7 months ago. 

2. What are the different products we can get from Ecosathi Nepal? Where can people buy your products?
We offer a variety of products. Currently we have bamboo toothbrushes, menstrual cups that we import from Vietnam and India. Other products such as Tote bags, travel kit pouches, bamboo hangers, dustpans are outsourced from Nepali local women entrepreneurs and few other companies for production. We also have hemp made travel kits and cooper bottles, which are among our most popular products. 

People can get our products from our Instagram page and website. We don’t have our own physical store as of now but you can find our products in concept stores like Maya ko Chino, Jhamsikhel and Sassy Nepal, Chaya Center, Thamel.

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3. You mentioned that you outsource the production of some of the products. How do you ensure the consistency and quality of those products?
I personally check each and every item, right from the finished product to its packaging. Then we have our sales person repeat the process all over again before we deliver to our customers. Apart from that, our producers give out certain samples before full-fledged production. I along with my team of 5 members and some few close friends, use the sample products and if everything goes fine, the producers move ahead with the production process.  This is how we have been ensuring the quality and consistency of our products. 

4. How do you manage the role of an entrepreneur and a dentist?
Everything depends on your passion and what you want to do in your life. I started off as a dentist, then I became an entrepreneur and started handling both these professions simultaneously. Now, I have become a full-time entrepreneur because in the present time taking a small step to making Nepal sustainable is my top priority. 

5. What are the major challenges of running an enterprise?
One of the challenges is that people, despite being educated, still lack the knowledge and are ignorant. They know that we need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle and have seen all the problems due to our unconscious way of living yet aren’t willing to make a much-needed shift. So, breaking that ignorance is one of the very first challenges.
Similarly, some of our products are imported which makes them expensive. So, pricing the product with the motive of making them affordable to our customers while at the same time covering our cost becomes tricky.  

6. What are your short term and long term plans for Ecosathi?
For our immediate plans, we are planning to launch some new products which were halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are also working on collaborating with a number of other stores who can showcase our products, both inside and outside the valley.
Regarding the long term plans, if we do open our own store, I want to have a plastic-free concept store, where we will be integrating all the different services from groceries to gifts along with the products that we are currently offering. I also plan to produce high-quality affordable bamboo toothbrushes here in Nepal.

7. Who are your current target markets?
Our primary market is the Nepali market itself. This is because in the case of a foreign market what happens is that they already have many alternatives available. But that sadly is not the case here in Nepal, so our primary focus is the Nepalese market. Also, we have chosen “Ecosathi” as our brand name because we wanted to connect and be relatable to the Nepali audience. We want to cater to the customers here first and slowly move towards exporting. 

8. Why makes Ecosathi unique?
Along with the sustainable alternative products we offer, we are also into educating and inspiring people to not only use the products but also about the sustainable lifestyle. We believe in educating people and making them understand the need for the shift to sustainable products while supporting them in their zero waste journey rather than forcing the products to the customers. This is something that makes us different.
Apart from that, we have an A-class customer service. We have appointed customer service personnel who handles our social media. He looks after all the queries, addresses the questions, takes in feedback and suggestions from our customers and followers with regards to our product, delivery, content, and everything. We make sure that customers are always our top priority. 

9. Any unique customer experience you’d like to share with us?
There isn’t one, every customer is unique and means a lot to us. There was this customer who got a customized travel kit for her friend, she gave us a very positive and wonderful review, beyond what I had expected. Also all our followers and customers are really sweet. They inspire and motivate us to work hard. As an entrepreneur I am always questioning myself whether I am doing the right thing, moving on the right path, will I be able to make it, and things like that. So, the support from followers and customers makes me believe that I am doing great. They give me a reality check.

10. How has your journey as a social entrepreneur been so far?
It has been great; I have a great support system. I have 5 great team members and a family who is always there when I need them through my thick and thin.  Likewise, my friends too, they support me as much as possible with honest reviews and feedback and word of mouth. I really do consider myself very lucky for such positive people and energy around me. However, it does get overwhelming sometimes but I think that is what makes it all worth it and exciting.
I worked as a full-time dentist for 5 years but this journey as a founder and CEO of Ecosathi is very special to me. Along with Ecosathi, I am growing and knowing my capabilities and strength every day. Also, being able to create an impact, even though small feels great, I feel content and satisfied. I am really excited about what is ahead, I can’t wait to experience things this journey has to offer in the coming years. 

11. Is there anything you’d like to share with us?
For anyone trying to make a shift to zero waste life, take it slow, and don’t be hard on yourself. And if you are already living a zero-waste life then, rather than forcing someone to adapt your lifestyle, motivate and inspire them. All you can do is live your life and be an example for people around you. And I am really thankful to Team Blincventures.com, keep doing the great work you have been doing. 

Check out their Instagram page and website to stay updated on various sustainable products available as well as information on a sustainable lifestyle because SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE IS THE FUTURE!

Instagram: @ecosathi_nepal
Website: http://www.ecosathinepal.com/

Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya