“We still use great great grandma and grandpa’s style of production by doing everything manually yet our prime focus will always be quality over quantity.” – Ms. Shanti Shakya, Founder of Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes
At an early age of 17, Ms. Shanti Shakya had already envisioned becoming her own boss. Despite the initial difficulties to start the venture, Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes has been in business for over eleven years yet its mostly favored by foreigners over Nepali consumers.
A couple of weeks back we connected with Ms. Shanti Shakya who answered all of our questions about her decade-long entrepreneurial journey and the upcoming visions for her venture.
Read our conversation to find out more about this enterprise here.
How did this dream to become an entrepreneur start for you?
I worked numerous jobs before starting my own business. The most common aspect in all those experiences was being governed by other’s decisions with no opportunities to provide creative inputs. Hence, at an early age of 17, I felt a need to start something small on my own and utilize my creative freedom. The determination became much stronger over the years.
Can you tell me more about the company?
Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes, is an all women led enterprise which creates natural dyes from herbs and other naturally available resources. We also make natural fabrics from bamboo, silk, pashmina etc. In terms of our services, consumers can either provide their own fabric to dye, or we also produce fabrics ourselves and dye it based on demand. For example, we use white merino yarn and dye it in different colors. We also have a knitting team who can produce knitwear for age groups from a few months to 14 years old. However, we do not sell dyes as a product.
Additionally, our production is spread throughout the country. The main work of dyeing happens in Kakani while other works are outsourced. The hemp fabrics are made in Bajura; pashmina thread are from goat farms in Gorkha; some raw materials like Reetha are sourced from Terai and knitting work is done in Kakani.
Who are your allies in running the business?
Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes initially started with a team of five, but the hassle of being an entrepreneur and slow growth in revenue led to parting ways for other four founders. I continued this journey as a solo entrepreneur. In the beginning years, the major support was provided by Business and Professional Women Nepal (BPWN), Bihani Social Venture and Change Fusion Nepal who have taught me all the invaluable skills to start and run this venture.
I currently have an all women team all over Nepal who help me with extracting raw materials, knitting, embroidery, etc. My family has been my strongest ally as my daughter looks after designing, my son oversees marketing while my husband supports in running my workshops. They have been a great support in running this venture.
Who is your target market?
From the very first day of idea conceptualization, my goal was to target the growing consumer base who value natural and organic products. However, our product has been highly demanded in several international markets such as the USA, Germany, Australia, Japan and Netherlands. It is also usually foreigners who visit Nepal that purchase our 100% Made in Nepal products.
What do you think is the main strength of your company for surviving more than a decade?
This idea of natural dyes in a natural fabric was an innovative concept when I started this enterprise. Considering the change in consumer’s perception in the 20th century, I anticipated a move towards more organic lifestyle beyond just organic food consumption. Despite having some first movers advantages, my emphasis on patience and social impact rather than overnight success must have laid the right foundation for this decade-long journey.
Who are your competitors? How do you deal with them?
Currently, there are a few businesses who are doing natural dyes like my enterprise. However, one point of differentiation could be transparency in my enterprise. Anyone who wants our product or service can visit the factory in Kakani and try the process by themselves. It provides them an opportunity to understand the process as well as develop colors of their choice. In addition, the social impact in the lives of numerous women all around Nepal also adds to our value.
What have been the major challenges in running this venture?
There have been two major challenges for this venture. Firstly, as it is sourced from naturally available materials, the most difficult aspect is related to color development. The colors are highly dependent on weather conditions. Secondly, despite operating for eleven years in Nepal, the product has not yet penetrated much in the Nepali market. People are still hesitant to purchase our products.
How has COVID-19 pandemic affected your operation?
COVID-19 has been both a blessing and a curse. As our products are mostly demanded internationally, the shipping issue has been a major setback. During lockdowns in the importing countries, some goods were on hold while others were not trackable. Hence, the difficulty to ship on time and reduction in demand has been some prominent issue due to the pandemic.
On the other hand, it was a blessing in disguise since it provided me with ample opportunities to explore and research further on new ideas and processes. I, along with my team, could determine a few new print ideas, which could broaden our product offerings.
How has this entrepreneurial experience been so far for you?
Although challenges are inevitable for any business, I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey so far. The level of social impact that my enterprise has been able to create is much beyond my imagination when I started this journey. Additionally, I have realized that locally sourced raw material makes you less dependent and can additionally support in having a more sustainable long term success.
Is there any additional information you would like to give to your potential consumers?
Throughout this 11 years of my journey, my greatest desire has been for every Nepali to try our locally sourced and produced product. I wish that people could see it as a representation of a 100% “Made in Nepal” product. Considering the general opinion on our price point, I assure you that as more people demand our products, it will be much cheaper due to lower cost of production.
Order their naturally produced yet globally demanded products here.
Fcaebook: Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes
Instagram: Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes
Interviewed and Article by: Shreeya Bhattarai