Did you know that there are more than 180 Nepali brands catering to both the domestic and international markets? We didn’t until Susan Adhikari, the founder of Odokan.com, told us about it. Quite enthusiastically, he also told us about the initiation and investment made by terrific Nepali designers to promote Nepali craftsmanship through their own creations.
Knowing full well the quality of clothes that enter the country and those made here itself, Susan couldn’t help but wonder how beneficial it would be for Nepal and every one of us if only we used made in Nepal apparel. Hence, he aspired to bring all these Nepali brands together in a single platform to make them accessible to the general public and work on making his vision come true.
Trishna from Blincventures.com team got to sit down with him and talk about his journey with Odokan.com along with its future plans. Here’s what he had to say.
1. Can you give us a brief introduction to Odokan? How did it all start?
Dokan in Nepali means a shop and since we’re a web-based platform or an online shop, we decided to name the company Odokan, short for Online Dokan.
Odokan is basically an e-commerce platform that showcases and sells Made in Nepal shoes and apparel for the sole purpose of promoting Nepali brands by making them visible and accessible to potential customers. Odokan’s main purpose is to rid Nepali brands of worry about reaching a wider market but only to increase their production capacity. If this happens, it will be easier for Nepali brands to achieve economies of scale thus decreasing the price and capturing a larger market.
Currently, we only offer shoes and apparel because we want to focus on a niche while starting out. Likewise, we will be adding more categories when we expand as we don’t want to limit ourselves to just these two.
So, my family business is retail garment manufacturing in Butwal and I can clearly recall my childhood getting involved in it, if not directly making the deals. That helped me learn a lot about the clothing industry in Nepal and the huge potential fabric industry had here. Growing up, I realized there weren’t many made in Nepal clothing brands even though it had such a wide scope. But only later in life I came to know that Nepal already has more than 100 brands (currently 180) designing, manufacturing and selling apparel both in and outside the country. I was also fascinated by the quality of those goods and it took me a while to apprehend that they were made in Nepal. This finding surprised me and pushed me to bring all of them together in a single platform where I could showcase and market them in a way everybody, at least in Nepal, knows about them.
After discussing this idea with few of my friends, one decided to join me in my venture and also suggested we start an e-commerce platform instead of a physical store. That’s how the journey started and after 7 months, here we are still trying to better the platform.
2. How do you look for Nepali brands?
We look them up online and also find out about them through referrals. Then we set up a meeting where we discuss collaboration. As of now, we are associated with 20 brands that have fulfilled our certain criteria to ensure quality assurance. Likewise, we make sure that every brand associated with us is of superior quality.
3. Do you maintain the inventory of these brands?
No, we do not maintain an inventory as it is costly for us to get storage space. We’re basically trying to become a bridge between suppliers and customers. So, for now, once we get the order for a particular brand, one of our delivery boys goes to that brand store, gets the product and delivers it to the customer.
4. Odokan recently had a Made in Nepal Expo in Butwal. How was the experience?
It was the very first time we had an event outside Kathmandu and that too for Nepali brands and honestly, it was surreal. We had around 15 to 20 Nepali brands with 2500+ visitors making huge purchases. People found it hard to believe that the products we had showcased were made in Nepal as they got to touch and feel them. Moreover, They were very impressed with the quality. Apart from this, we also got to expand our knowledge horizon and to know more about Made in Nepal products that have been catering the international market for years. I’d say the event was a success and a great experience overall. Furthermore, we’re planning to organize a similar event in Pokhara soon.
5. What according to you makes Odokan unique?
What makes us unique is our focus on a niche i.e. made in Nepal shoes and apparel. So, anyone interested in owning high-quality Nepali shoes and apparel can find a wide range on our website. Additionally, our slogan is “know what you wear” that we derived from our motive of starting Odokan. We want customers to have detailed information about the products they are using so that they value the products.
Lastly, we maintain a stable price for a product in all places in Nepal. I personally believe that the customer should pay the same price for the same product whether he/she buys it from Odokan or any other stores.
I think all of these things make Odokan unique.
6. What were and are the major challenges in running Odokan?
Firstly, there is a lack of trust in Nepali brands so that makes it difficult for us to turn leads into clients. Although we get a lot of visitors on our website, there is a high bounce rate since people are reluctant to make a purchase.
Secondly, people aren’t well acquainted with our online purchase system. They need to sign up and create an account before they can make a purchase. However, they’ve found it quite hesitant and instead call or message us to place an order. This makes our operations less smooth than we might have otherwise had since some of our team members have to be available to answer them.
Lastly, we have problems with inefficient delivery systems in the country. Although all our operations are carried out here at Kathmandu, we deliver our products to different places outside the valley. That being said it takes us around 3-4 days to get the product delivered in places such as Butwal which lengthens the customer’s waiting time.
7. What are your marketing strategies?
We have two strategies- traditional marketing strategies and social media marketing. We’re involved in organizing events, attending related ones and basically networking. Similarly, we promote Odokan via our social media channels too.
8. Who are your target customers?
The working population and the college-goers are our target customers or specifically, people aged between 16 to 45 years. This group of people not only have the purchasing capacity but also tend to be more focused on fashion and style.
9. What are your future plans for Odokan?
We’re planning to showcase more than 50 brands on our website in the next one and half years. Right now, we’re looking for and approaching those probable brands. Secondly, we’re planning to organize events to promote those brands both inside and outside Kathmandu Valley. So, we need investments for that which we’re actively seeking too. Lastly, our plan is to maintain physical stores in Pokhara, Butwal, and Dharan so that people there can feel the product’s superior quality to help them make a better purchase decision.
10. Would the brands be willing to associate with Odokan if it had a physical platform because the brands will now be compared with each other?
Yes. I have seen that the brand owners are actually willing to collaborate and be associated with each other. They’re all like-minded people and at the end of the day, all brand owners are working for the same cause- to promote Nepal Made products. Thus, so far, we’ve never seen competitive feelings between different brands.
11. As a startup operating for more than 6 months now, how have you found the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nepal?
I think this is the best time to run a startup. The ecosystem is not only being created but it is also scaling up at a speedy rate with help from organizations like Blincventures.com, NEXT Venture Corp, Idea Studio. Likewise, entrepreneurial programs like Udhyami Seed Camp are being organized that have definitely provided opportunities for startups like us to learn, grow and sustain. But there are problems too. It is still difficult for startups to get the trust and support from the stakeholders though. So, the only way startups can succeed and prosper is if we have full support from stakeholders.
12. In that context, how has your journey been so far?
As an entrepreneur, this journey is taking me to another level. Being your own boss sounds amazing but within it, there are a number of layers. You need to learn not only to run your company, but also to work with a team, connecting and communicating with your customers, and many more which I am learning every day along the way.
13. What do you think are the internal aspects that need to be looked into when running a startup?
From my experience, I feel that getting feedback from customers is very essential. As a startup, you mostly have no clue about how to improve your services so it’s mostly trial and error. In that process, getting genuine feedback from customers really helps.
Then there’s company culture and team. For any startup to succeed or grow, you need to have committed team members who not only support your operations but also understand your vision. Accordingly, a company culture of sharing ideas, listening to everyone’s point of view and respecting each other take a company a long way ahead.
14. Any other information you’d like to share with us?
The only thing I’d like to say is that it is time we start using Made in Nepal products. This not only helps the company but the economy as a whole. Also, use platforms like us, this encourages the brands to increase their production, decreasing the cost and hence ultimately benefiting the end-users. I would like to request everyone to give Made in Nepal products a try.