Jagadish Bhattarai is the executive chairperson of NICE Foundation Nepal, which stands for the National Institute for Capacity Enhancement. NICE Foundation is an institute started by Mr. Bhattarai and his team after working for more than 20 years for different NGOs and INGOs. Let’s see how he got this company started.
1. What social change do you see your product/service bringing in society?
Well, going through the 23 years of working experience in the development sector, I realized that the potentials of the people are not explored despite they used to have the willingness to perform better in their workplace. Lack of desired capacity or capabilities hinders people to excel in growth. 23 years, I see no significant steps taken by large numbers of organizations incapacitating the human resources which knocked me rigorously. This gap built the strength in me to start a new venture.
I quit the job and initiated this institution formally in 2017. Now, we are working to provide capacity enhancement opportunities to the individuals and the organization associates from every nook and corners of the nation. The plethora of NGOs in Nepal dedicated to social development is the primary target group that we support for capacity enhancement through intensively designed training and workshop packages, fieldwork and social mobilization skills, creating empowerment opportunity and participation. We are in the process to extend our services to the corporate sectors whereas we already have created milestones in serving GOs. So far, we have worked with an international organization like Freedom Fund, Global Glow, Child Rescue Nepal, and so many others. We served to capacitate over tens of
Freedom Fund’s partner organizations for social mobilization and community facilitation skills in Nepal. We have created avenues for holistic support in our services incorporating logistics arrangement supports which include advanced training hall, hygienic food, outdoor avenues, and transportation services. The NICE Coffee was initially a subsidiary service to the NICE Foundation later we let other regular customers in for independent sustainability of it. We now have had a plan in progress to serve organic food in order to promote healthy lifestyles to our valued customers.
For the time being, NICE Coffee offers export quality coffee made in Nepal such as Nepal Organic Coffee paving solidarity to promote Nepali products. We also have taken steps in starting our own coffee brand intended to sustain itself.
2. Tell me about your journey to starting your venture? When did it start?
Actually, I founded NICE Foundation in 2015 and initially operated it from a small corner of my home placing a table, desktop, and rack. It was an inception phase where I was weaving plans for future projects and activities.
During this period, I explored the opportunities to promote the organization and so far I came up with products in design to take in the market, happened to have collaboration with international organizations too Later, my home office was not sufficient, and I thought of having a formal office space. I found a beautiful place in Bakhundole which could fulfill my requirements. I booked the office space.
Later I got to know that the café attached to the office space was not doing well, and I decided to buy that as well. Thereby, I established NICE Coffee in July 2018 as a separate entity. I did lots of customization in the facilities, operating process and the services to attract the customers. Now, it has been a complimentary service component to the NICE Foundation’s service packages.
3. What is the legal status of your company?
NICE Foundation is a non-profit distributing company registered under the Company Registrar Office. It has some bilateral donors from the USA. Whereas, NICE Coffee is a profit-making entity registered under Lalitpur Municipality. 1% of the total sales of NICE Coffee and 10% of the total service charges are donated to NICE Foundation.
4. What stage is the company in? What is your current staff strength?NICE Coffee is doing surprisingly well right from the time we launched. In terms of business, we got to the break-even point for the overall investment. We have already reached the break-even point. In fact, NICE Coffee became self-sustained and self- regulated right after the second month. Currently, NICE Coffee has 12 employees and all of them are well trained in the respective services they handle.
5. How did you raise funds to start your company?
Although I had no plan initially to open a coffee shop. Later I captured this business avenue and opportunity at the most appropriate location adjoining to NICE Foundation. I am the sole investor for NICE Coffee and I used my savings to start it.
6. What challenges did you face while starting the company and what are the challenges you are facing right now?
The operational activity was a bit challenging in the beginning because I had no idea of operating a coffee shop or a restaurant. Before becoming the owner of NICE Coffee, I was just a customer who used to complain and give e suggestions to the management and sometimes to the waiters of other restaurants. Having started the NICE Coffee, now I am on the other side to listen to complaints and compliments. I take the complaints as feedback. Sometimes, it is a bit confusing but I feel fortunate that I had opportunities to solve the complex situations in my life. Finding employees was the first challenge but now everything settled and enough skillful human resources there to run NICE Coffee smoothly. I never have to intervene with the operations.
Many individuals come for Barista training paying up to Rs.14000 per month. We have no ideas on what are the rates for the training but still providing the training as other parts of this service income generation. Some of the baristas even stayed with us as an employee after the completion of their training. So, until now, it has been an interesting experience for me.
7. What is the future plan for your company?
In 2019, I want to start the production of the raw materials for NICE Coffee. So, I have been communicating and having discussions with tea producers and some agricultural farmers to produce coffee for our brand. We will set the criteria for the quality control on it and farmers working with us will follow the same. This will run in a social enterprise model contributing to the economic empowerment of the community and we will also provide support to those in need of technical and seed funding support. The support will extend further creating employment opportunities, skill transfer and providing the equipment to communities for the production of coffee and other agricultural products. That’s why I am collaborating with, local communities in eastern hilly communities.
8. Do you consider yourself a Social Entrepreneur?
At the current state, I do not consider myself a social entrepreneur. I want to be a social entrepreneur and I believe I am moving towards it. For this, I am studying and learning to gain more knowledge and insights on how I can really create a meaningful social impact.
9. Do you measure the impact of your product/service? If not what are your thoughts about impact measurement?
I am interested to measure the impact of using certain indicators. However, NICE Coffee has already become an interesting venue for our customers which we could easily confirm by observing the frequency of their visits and spending their time at our restaurant. The increasing number of NGOs and INGOs who are interested in organizing their events at NICE coffee indicates a level of impact on our services and products.
Further, I believe that the producers should know the value of their efforts and the value they provide to the end-users. So in between, they must know the increment of the value of the products in the value chain. In the current context of the agricultural market, we can easily see that the discrepancies in the value of the product in the field and in the market are far wider.