Give your skin the love it deserves through natural, edible, chemical and preservatives free products from Nuga:. Though started over a normal coffee conversation between Ms. Rasana Shrestha and Mr. Suyash Shrestha, founders of Nuga:, along with a few other friends, this venture really showcased the power of nature.
Read on to find out all about Nuga:.
1. Can you tell us about the journey of Nuga: and how it started?
Suyash: Nuga: Nuga: as a business idea was generated over a coffee during the college days. I had always wanted to be a part of manufacturing and agriculture sector and one fine day during a coffee break Rasana pitched the idea. We liked it and started working on it.
Rasana: Also, I have always been a DIY freak and love experimenting with organic products as an alternative to the skin care products available in the market. When I pitched my idea, all of my friends seemed really interested so decided to work on this. Also, in an event organized by King’s College we found out that our product has the market, and hence we started off.
2. What changes have taken place from the day you started and as of now?
There have been many significant changes. We started off with a completely different logo. Moreover, regarding the products, the iteration keeps taking place. Initially we had only one product line- body scrubs, now we have ten different products and with increase in the product range there have been changes in our packaging too.
3. Did you always wanted to become a part of health and well-being sector?
Rasana: To be honest No. I started using organic products because nothing available in the market suited me. The DIY organic homemade products were the only option for me. So, I never took this as a passion or something that I will be working on an as a business. It was just something that I made for myself.
4. Why the name Nuga:?
Nuga: as a brand is very close to our heart, we have an emotional attachment with it. Also, Nuga: is a Newari word which means heart. So we decided on the name Nuga:, something that is close to our heart.
5. What products does Nuga: offer?
We started off with body scrubs. Now we have around ten different product lines like lip scrubs, body scrubs, lip balms, soaps, face scrubs, face packs, foot soak and few other products.
6. Where do you get the raw materials for your products?
We get the raw materials from different places across Nepal. We have an agent who collects all the required raw materials, does the quality checking and other necessary procedures like grinding and then supplies it to us.We however make sure that he gets all the raw materials directly from the Nepali farmers.
But we import some raw materials like Shea butter and coconut oil which are not available here.
7. What makes Nuga: unique?
Suyash: No particular company has been able to provide consistently in natural made skin care products over the period and that is where Nuga: comes in, we provide consistency which makes us unique. Moreover, we are also environmentally conscious, we are plastic free so that would be another unique aspect.
Rasana: Also, companies similar to us target foreigners because of the misconception that Nepalese do not have the needed purchasing power. But Nuga: targets the domestic market which is another unique feature of Nuga:.
8. How do you ensure quality and consistency in your products?
We have a system in place where we clearly mention the quality and quantity of raw materials to be included in making each product, the temperature and time for grinding the raw materials and so on. So, we have created a rule book and all of us abide by that. Hence the result is consistency and quality.
9. Who are your target customers and how do you reach them?
Our major target market are working professionals, both males and females, who have the purchasing capacity and are aware about the natural made products. To be specific, people of 25 to 45 years of age are our target market.
Our products reach to the customers via Daraz. We also have our products in specialty stores and we take orders and sell via Instagram.
10. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
The major challenge was convincing the family, getting their support and making them understand that finances are not the only goals. But with time we have been able to make them realize that and the recognition that we are getting has helped a lot.
Apart from this, there are legal challenges, from getting the company registered to getting exim codes, everything is very complicated. Also it is not possible for a startup to hire professionals to look after these aspects.
In addition to this, deciding on the packaging was a tough egg to crack. Our products are natural and organic, so there was no way we use plastic pouches, hence finding glass jars was a major problem.
11. Being an MBA graduate, what made you choose entrepreneurship over a stable job?
Rasana: What I have seen in our generation is we seek something more than money, we want to belong to something. We have worked for many companies but they did not give us the satisfaction we were looking for. Moreover, I have always been bothered by the saying that Nepal is a poor country and I have always wanted to change that status. So I believe that is what drove me into being an entrepreneur.
Suyash: For me it was because entrepreneurship gave me what I wanted. Like I said, I wanted to work in manufacturing and agriculture sector and have also always been fascinated by made in Nepal products and Nuga: gave me what I was seeking for.
12. Made in Nepal products are perceived to be of low quality and expensive. What is your say on this?
Quality is always perceived; customers see what we want them to see. Most made in Nepal products target the foreigners who prefer rustic, earthy products. But we Nepalese want products that are well packaged and well-polished, so here the entrepreneurs, startups and manufacturers have not been able to differentiate and present them with the quality they are seeking.
Also made in Nepal products are compared with those that have been imported. The huge multinational companies can create one batch of soaps within an hour whereas it takes us at least 2 months to get one batch of soaps ready. The end product looks the same but the process is completely different. So it can’t be compared mainly in regards to price. We think these are the reasons for such perception.
13. How many units are produced in one batch?
In one batch we produce around 48 units which lasts us almost 2 months. Last week we produced 200 lip scrubs, that is 8 batches and as now of all of them have been sold.
14. What are your future plans for Nuga:?
Currently the plan is to expand the local market, we are planning to go outside Kathmandu and once we have a strong domestic market we are planning to cater the international market too.
15. How did you gain the expertise in the production of all the products?
We keep the records of all the process that goes into making the product and gaining expertise in making body scrubs, face packs, lip balms was not that difficult. However, producing soap was new to us but a food technician helped us. We also consulted many people and went through a lot of iterations before launching the soap line that we have now.But, I wouldn’t say that we have gained all the necessary expertise, gaining expertise and establishing a standard doesn’t happen overnight. We are still learning and growing.
16. What are the differences between the products of Nuga: and those that use preservatives?
The major difference is that the products that have preservatives can be used in any way you like. But with our products, you have to be careful. For instance, in the case of body scrubs you can’t keep the lids open, you can’t touch the product with wet hands, these things decrease the lifespan.
17. Any unique experience you’d like to share with us?
There was one incident with our face pack before this current iteration. Before launching the product we observed the face pack for almost 7 months, there were no changes, so we launched it. But within a week we found that the face pack went bad. We panicked and started contacting our customers. But what amazed us was the responses. They were like “It’s ok. This shows that you are not using preservatives and we didn’t even notice it.” So that particular incident rather than being negative turned positive.
18. How has your journey been so far?
Suyash: It has been fun. When I used to work for an organization, I knew what I’d be doing tomorrow. But when you are an entrepreneur, everything is uncertain, so it is exciting.
Rasana: Yes. I have even cried due to all the problems that we faced but we never gave up, this is what we wanted from life. If you are not in it for money, then entrepreneurship is really exciting.
19. Anything you’d like to share with us?
Nepal has a huge prospect in agricultural and manufacturing sector. Rather than going abroad seeking opportunities, youths should stay here and explore the unexplored, only then we think Nepal can be developed and reach the heights it deserves.
Interviewed and article by Trishna Shakya.