Establishing a new venture is tough but re-establishing and revamping the old venture is even tougher will all the changes coming in. But Neiha Joshi, Co-founder of Must Haves Nepal, really did embrace all the changes very well. She not only brought her mother’s decade old venture back to the grind but is also now working on providing it the much deserved international recognition!
Must Haves is a small business with beautiful hand knitted and crocheted products by the didis and bahinis. They have all kinds of products from gloves, beanies, earsavers, headbands, baby socks and many more! The list goes on and on. Along with all these beautiful products there is a much deeper aspect to Must Haves! It is actively working towards women empowerment, providing every other woman in need a source to generate income and brush up their knitting, sewing and crocheting skills!
Read our conversation with the co-founder, Neiha Joshi to more about this wonderful venture and the impact they have been making!
Can you tell us about Must Haves?
Must Haves actually is not a new venture. My mom started this company back in 2001 and she used to export the products which always fascinated me. But due to some reasons she had to shut it down.
But now we have restarted the venture with the name Must Haves. Back when I was doing my MBA, I used to wear hand knitted dresses and accessories like mufflers, beanies made by my mother and the reactions I used to get sort of made me realize that it was really necessary to reopen the company. I always got compliments not only for the designs but also for the quality and texture of the products.
Similarly during my trimester I had to work on a business plan which again I would say paved a road for me to restart the business. I got to revamp the business model to adapt to the changing market. I also started getting orders from my friends. Then after completing my Masters, I was confident that it was time to establish the venture and in 2015 we officially re-launched it. So, Must Haves is a venture whose foundation is a decade old with a new and innovative business model added to it.
Does your mother still make the product or are there other makers too?
Actually she doesn’t. Now my mom only checks the quality and stuff. We together look after the sampling, designs, quality and management in general. For the production, we have a team of women led, didis and bahinis. Currently we have 33 of them working with us. Since along with producing Made in Nepal brand, we have always wanted to support women, so we employ didis and bahinis who are underprivileged, housewives, working as maids or looking for a job. We provide all the resources, measurements and sample products for quality assurance and right now they are the ones behind all our beautiful products.We are also providing them training programs.
And yes we are working on expanding our team too.
How can the interested didis and bahinis reach out to must haves for a training or work opportunity?
Recently we have uploaded the opportunity post on our social media platform. The interested ones can directly call us or message us. The process is very simple, if they have already made handmade products they can drop the images and the details . After we check everything we call them back and ask to come up with a sample to figure out the time they take, finishing and knitting skills. And based on their skills we allocate them to different levels of training programs.
Also, the knitters and crocheters need not be professional. Someone who learned knitting and crocheting via YouTube can also contact us.
Does Must Haves cater both the domestic and international market?
We do export to the international market but not in bulk, because we have very limited resources. Also, we have very limited didis and bahinis. In addition, all the products are handmade so we cannot produce thousands of pieces overnight. So, we take very limited pieces of order from outside the country. In 2017/18 we exported to the UK and Australia.
For the domestic market our products are easily available. We have been catering the domestic market for 5 years now.
For the domestic customers, where can they find the products?
As of now we are online based. So the customers can order the products through our Facebook, Instagram and Website. For offline shopping we have also made our products available at Saleways Department Store, Pulchowk.
What are the different products you are offering?
We have unisex muffler, beanies, double neck warmers, head bands, handwarmer, pouches, earrings and lots of other handknitted items. Since 2018 we also expanded our product line to babies as well. We saw a major increase in baby showers happening in Nepal so we decided that rather than customers using imported products why not make affordable as well as high quality Made in Nepal baby shower dresses.
What makes Must Haves different from other hand knitting businesses?
Every venture is unique in its own. For us our USP is the quality that we offer and customer satisfaction that we have. None of our customers have complained about our products till date. I am being super honest when I say that 5 years down the line we haven’t got a single complaint for our design, size or quality.
But if our customers face any kinds of problems like size issues to be specific, we have an easy and hassle free exchange and refund policy. Further, we also customize the products as per the needs and preferences of the customers too without any extra charges.
So, basically the product quality and the customer service we offer I’d say are our strongest points.
What are the major challenges running the Made in Nepal Hand Made business?
The knitters and the crocheters are the pillars of our company. Majority of our makers are from the older generation due to which in this fast paced world those skills are becoming obsolete. So, having talented, skilled manpower to make all these products is a major challenge for us.
Considering this we are doing our best in trying to preserve that skill by providing workshops on knitting and crocheting. We conducted workshops in 2017 where people from various age groups as well as fashion designers joined us.
What about the competition with the imported product?
They are certainly our competitors but only in terms of price, other than that our products are a whole lot better than the ones imported. Mainly our market is filled with Chinese products and they are machine made which means at minimum 1000 pieces are manufactured overnight.
But for us all our products are hand made that takes time and effort which is why the price tends to slightly move upward in case of handmade products. So I would request everyone to think the behind the scene picture that goes on in hand made and machine made.
How have you been tackling this issue that is very common here in Nepal ?
Yes, people going after imported products is common but there are people who absolutely love, adore and support handmade products and think that the products are worth the money in terms of quality and designs. Also, I am not saying that people going after imported products are wrong, they are right in their place. Nobody would want to spend extra bucks on something if they know that they can get the exact replica at a much lower rate. So, I think the lack of awareness about the behind the scene picture of the production process as well as general awareness of the presence of Made in Nepal handmade brands is the problem.
Hence, as of now we are actively working on trying to promote made in Nepal products. We recently hosted a giveaway with other Made in Nepal brands.
What are your future plans for Must Haves?
We are planning for a global reach. For this we are in talks with a few companies based in the UK and US. Everything is in the initial stage but the plan is to export our products.
What do you think needs to be done to preserve the knitting skill to the young generation?
I think knitting, crocheting, sewing should be taught at school as a part of extracurricular activities. In addition, the summer and winter camps that we have for the kids should also focus on these skills. That way the kids will not only know that learning these skills are fun but will also be more interested.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’d like to say that, if anyone is interested in learning or looking for an earning opportunity staying home, then please drop us your email with your profile brief. Also, you can always give us a call regarding this.
Make sure to check out the products from Must Haves on their social media handles:
PS. They have all the essentials to keep you and your loved ones warm this winter!