You get ideas when you’re both concerned about needy people and have the ability to analyze the market trends. Suman Rajkarnikar had been in the knitwear business for 12 years mostly exporting the products until he noticed an opportunity to sell them in the country. After partnering with someone he trusts, now he caters to the Nepali market with his products under the brand name “Lumu Wear”. While doing this, he not only meets the demand here but also helps his knitters gain extra income.
During the lockdown, we connected with Suman Rajkarnikar and Bhushan Shilpakar, who answered all of our questions eloquently. Read on to find out about his business here.
1. Can you give us a short description/background about yourself?
Suman: I have been in the knitwear business for over 12 years now. My company, Knits and Stitches, mostly export goods to the US and various European markets.
Bhushan: I have experience in events planning and graphic designing but now I’m trying my hands in branding and promoting Nepali products in the country.
2. Can you tell us the story behind starting Lumu? What motivated/inspired you to open this startup?
Suman: I had already been in the knitwear business for the past 12 years so I already had a good production and delivery process in line. As this is a seasonal business, we only get orders during the winter while other months are quite idle. Lumu was ideated to cater to the domestic customers and to ensure that production doesn’t stop once international orders are fulfilled. Since our knitters are the backbone of our company and most are from underprivileged communities, we wanted to ensure they keep earning as much as possible. Plus, oftentimes, they’re the sole breadwinner in their families.
Additionally, Nepali customers are becoming conscious of their purchases and are promoting Made in Nepal products. So, looking at the momentum that Nepali products are getting, I decided to team up with my nephew and start this venture in October 2019.
3. What were the challenges you faced while starting Lumu? What are the challenges you are facing as of now?
Bhushan: Because it was our first time entering the local market, we didn’t know if people would buy or even our products. Establishing the brand and increasing reach to targeted customers in a very short period of time were our biggest challenges. On top of it, we only get a window of three-months to sell our products after which winter is over and nobody prefers to buy woolen products.
Regardless, we did get an overwhelmingly positive response last year. So now our challenges included expanding the delivery chain and finding more vendors to promote our products. While all of this happens, we’ll also have to keep up with the annual international orders.
4. What do you think has stopped your company from reaching its full potential?
Suman: Since 2020 is only our second year in the local market so I’d say we’re still exploring our potential, finding out local tastes, and figuring out other products that we can introduce.
5. What opportunities do you see for your company in the market?
Suman: I have noticed products similar to ours that are priced both on the higher end and on the lower end, with questionable quality. If we can establish ourselves as a fashionable, quality and affordable brand then there’s a lot of opportunities in the market
6. Who are your target customers?
Bhushan: So far, our target demographic has been young Nepalis and non-Nepali communities, who are aware of what good, comfortable, and fashionable woolen products should look and feel like.
7. How do you sell your products? Do you have a physical store?
Suman: Our factory outlet is in Jawalakhel and our products are available through five different vendors around the Kathmandu valley. We also sell online through our website www.lumuwear.com.
8. Do you customize your products? Where do you source your raw material (wool) from?
We do not offer customization as of now but we may start doing that in the near future. We get the supplies from a vendor in Thamel who gets them from New Zealand.
9. How many people are there in your team?
We’re a team of 15 with 13 female members!
10. Are the home-based knitter full-time employees or do their numbers depend on the demand/ order?
There are around 35 part-time, home-based knitters from different parts of Kathmandu. However, the numbers increase depending on the orders we get each year.
11. How are you spending time during the lockdown to go forward with Lumu
Before the lockdown, we were revising ways to improve our products based on the suggestions we received from our customers. We were excited and looking forward to producing some of our 2020 winter collection’s new lineup that we had finalized. We could only send yarn to a few of our knitters to start the production but that has stopped for now.
12. What are your future plans for the company?
We are taking it one step at a time. We have plans to introduce some new product lines, colors, and styles this year but it’ll all depend on the kinds of responses we get.
13. Are there any customer experience you’d like to share with us?
We had a customer buy one of our products and then for the next few days, we continued receiving more orders from the same delivery address. We later found out that it was a small office where more than half of the staff were wearing Lumu! But they did make the conscious decision not to order the same color, though.
For more information about this company, check out their website here: Lumu Wear
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lumuwear/
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/lumuwear/
Article by Yangzum Lama