Be it in receiving an education, seeking services, or looking for employment, the hardship that differently-abled people face is severe and the major reason for this is that we don’t understand their language; making communication difficult.
Happy Hands Nepal is a social enterprise that aspires to bridge this gap by spreading awareness on sign language and creating a platform for the differently-abled to showcase their creativity. It offers adorable cards, delicious chocolates, breathtaking paintings and many more that are sure to make everyone happy.
Blincventures.com got candid with Anita Gurung and Adait Astha Gurung who are the founder and Communication Specialist at Happy Hands Nepal respectively.
1. Can you tell us how Happy Hands ideated?
Anita: I saw a group of students in a public bus communicating via sign language which intrigued me. I have always had this hunger for learning new things and seeing those kids made me want to learn sign language, the American Sign Language to be specific but the course was not offered here in Nepal. Wanting to still learn a new skill, I then decided to take up the Nepali Sign Language course which was like killing two birds with one stone for me because along with the sign language, I was also learning the Nepali language.
During my course, I got to meet many deaf people and interact with them. I found out that they were sitting idle doing nothing due to lack of opportunities despite their skills and creativity. The only barrier for them was that they didn’t have a voice of their own. So, I wanted to be their voice, explore as well as expose the skills that they have which led to the establishment of Happy Hands Nepal.
2. How did you initially bring in the deaf people to your team?
Anita: After taking up the Nepali Sign Language course, I wanted to do something for the deaf community but wasn’t sure how to go about it or what to do next. Fortunately, I got an opportunity to participate in leadership development and idea incubation program, which gave me the direction to what I wanted to do. During the program, I had to develop a pilot project and find deaf people. Luckily, one of my friend’s cousin was deaf, so I approached her first. Likewise, I also got to know that the deaf community is very closely linked, everybody knows each other, so she then introduced me to a few other girls whereby I got connected with them. Plus, I also approached the recent fresh graduates looking for job opportunities from a deaf school in Naxal and that is how I connected to them.
3. How was it like to shift from a stable career to one full of uncertainties?
Anita: It’s exciting but at the same time I have to sit back and ask myself “What exactly am I doing?”. However, at the end of the day, I know that I am ready for this. Initially, it was difficult as I have my personal commitments so finding a balance was tough but with time, experience and a great team, I have been able to manage it well.
4. Why the name Happy Hands Nepal? Also, what’s the story behind your logo that is so eye-catching?
Anita: I am a very happy go lucky person and our products are such that it is handmade with love while at the same time empowering the differently-abled as well as creating an impact in the society. Those activities make me, my team and my customers happy, hence the name Happy Hands Nepal.
Talking about our logo, we in fact had it recently redesigned. We have now included a map of Nepal being held by two hands which represent that the products are handmade in Nepal with love. It also represents the social inclusion of all regardless of being abled or disabled. Our previous logo was more focused on the deaf community only.
5. How do you measure the impact you’ve been creating?
Adait: Talking about the impact, we are still not there but till now I feel that we have gained more followers, recognition, and appreciation which shows that we are moving in the right path.
Anita: Yes, we have been recognized more so in the hearing community and people have loved; and appreciated our products. However, I personally believe that we have not yet created the impact that we want to. So, in 2020 we are gearing up and will be working on this and its measurement.
6. How did you feel the need to rebrand your business process?
Anita: The major goal of Happy Hands Nepal is to create an ecosystem of social inclusion and that definitely does not happen if we only have deaf members in our team. We want to provide equal opportunities to every differently-abled individual, hence we felt the need to rebrand our business process.
We now have three major co-values for the year 2020 i.e. the 3Cs- Connect, Communicate and Collaborate.
7. Can you tell us about your team?
Anita: We have a team of 7 people including me and Adait Astha. Five members are from the deaf community. Initially, I started off with 5 deaf girls after which we added men to our team too because like we said before, we wanted to give every differently-abled individual an equal opportunity. While the number is constant, people are different. However, Barsha Gurung, who is our Creative Head is the only person who has been with Happy Hands from the very beginning. My team is the reason Happy Hands is here, they are very supportive and are always there when needed.
8. Where do you get the raw materials for the products?
Anita: We have suppliers who supply us with the raw materials, luckily procuring raw materials was not tough for us mainly because the raw materials we require are easily available in the market. Also, we try our best to use locally available raw materials.
9. How do you market the products?
Anita: We don’t have a specific marketing tool. As of now, Social Media has been the platform for us to reach our customers. We take orders online via Instagram and Facebook. Apart from that, we put up stalls at various pop-up markets which is something we have been recently active in doing it so. So basically, our major marketing strategy at present is word of mouth.
10. What are your future plans for Happy Hands Nepal?
We have plans of organizing various training and leadership programs for our staff as well as other differently-abled individuals to provide them room to grow. We also have plans for collaborating with other social enterprises, eco-friendly companies, and Nepalese companies. Plus, I would also like to connect the deaf and the hearing communities by raising awareness about our Nepali Sign Language and making people learn the basics at least so that we can truly have a socially inclusive society that we keep talking about. Moreover, not only the deaf, but we have plans of involving other differently-abled people to our team too.
11. Currently, Happy Hands Nepal is operating only inside the valley? Do you have plans of including differently-abled people from rural areas too?
Yes, definitely but in the future, because as of now we are only a startup and when deciding on expansion and scaling up we need to consider our own resources too. But after a few years, we surely would want to reach, empower and actually help people from different rural places across Nepal.
12. Any unique customer experience you’d had?
Every customer is a new experience in itself. But we have had this customer who always gets products from us and is always actively supporting our work as well as the initiation we have taken. He bought a Mother’s Day card from us sometime back and recently upon his request of making a particular kind of box, he ordered 100 of them which we made from hard lokta paper to be used for a wedding purpose. So, this was a unique customer experience for us. We never thought our product would be used for occasions like weddings, so we personally think it is a great achievement for us.
13. How has your journey as a part of Happy Hands Nepal been so far?
Adait: I have got an opportunity to meet amazing people here at Happy Hands. Seeing them and working with them motivates me to work better. They are so energetic, supportive and friendly. The initial meeting was difficult, but they are very friendly and made me comfortable despite me not knowing sign language.
Anita: It has been full of ups and downs. Initially, everything was difficult, having a balance between personal and professional commitments, addressing customer needs and the like. It’s true things get overwhelming when you are an entrepreneur but the satisfaction it gives at the end of the day is something I cannot put into words.
For more information on Happy Hands Nepal and collaboration with them, check out their Social Media handles.
Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya