Printing Press is Breaking Stereotypes and Empowering Women in Media

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Even across a long-distance telephone conversation, Kabita Khadka comes across as a fiercely independent woman. She has a confident voice, and her opinions are strong. Her business venture- Printing Press is located in Province 2, Birgunj. In terms of women empowerment, Birgunj is not as progressive yet. So, by the time we exchange a few initial words, she tells me that – she is unmarried and owns the third biggest-selling newspaper of her state. Kabita Khadka began her entrepreneurial journey while she was still in college. Since then, she has evolved into a Journalist, a Social Worker, and an Entrepreneur. She is nothing short of a boss lady!
Do you want to know more about Kabita Khadka and her enterprise? Read our conversation with her below!

1. Tell me about your journey so far for starting this venture.
I was a management student and I used to work for the UN here at Birgunj. It was a pretty respectable, safe job, I was a finance officer and I was in a position of authority. But, I wanted to do more for society, and for myself. I wanted to start my own venture. I also believed in the power of the press to critically construct a society. So, I approached my parents if they would invest in my venture. But, my parents wanted me to take a more traditional route. They wanted me to get married, and maybe start something up in partnership with my husband. However, I wanted to be my own person, before I became somebody’s wife. 

It can be quite scary to venture into something on your own. I stayed in the UN for another year, and with the money that I had saved up, I started my first newspaper Mandhya Nepal Sandesh Sapthahik or a weekly newspaper. Later we took our Newspaper online because everyone today is online right?!  You can find us at Mandhaynepal.com. Today we have over Twenty-Two Hundred readers. We are also the first women-run newspaper in our province. 

2. What was your initial capital and how did you raise funds to start your company?
I had four lakhs rupees saved up that I invested to start my weekly newspaper. I also generated an additional three lakh rupees by publishing congratulatory messages. So, I began with seven lakhs rupees as my initial capital. Now the newspaper has become self-sustainable.  
For Printing press we are still injecting cash, and financing it through self-funding.

3. What is the legal status of your company?
I officially registered Mandhya Nepal thirteen years ago in 2063 B.S.  My other company Printing Press was officially registered in Kartik 2075 B.S.

4. What stage is your company in?
Printing Press is fairly a start-up. Mandhya Nepal is at its growth stage. 

5. What social problem are you trying to solve?
A newspaper is the voice of a democratic society. With the power of the free press, one can challenge the adversities that a common man faces. If something or some situation is discomforting people at large, you can challenge and question the authority, and make them responsible to do a better job. By being the third-largest newspaper of province number 2 we can solve not just one but many social problems.
Secondly, we are also a women-run newspaper, even Printing Press has all women employees, except for some mechanical jobs for which we have men. So, I am also trying to change the patriarchal construct of our society and solve the challenges of women by empowering women and girls. 
Similarly, we have also started an initiative “Kapada Bank” to benefit the needy section of society and to provide direction to the youth. 
Moreover, I believe every business has a social responsibility. After all, business is a part of society, and society is an integral part of the business. Through the printing press, we have carried out many corporate social responsibilities from running blood donation camps to carrying out flood relief work of around 80 lakhs rupees, targeting women issues that no one was prioritizing.

6. What is your current staff strength?
There are a total of 18 employees at Printing Press. 

7. What were the challenges that you faced, and what challenges are you facing right now?
The initial challenge was to overcome prejudices that of being a woman and a young entrepreneur. Well, the thing is nobody comes to your face and says “I do not trust your work, because you are a woman”, but you feel it you know? You can point it or confront it but can feel it. 
Also, being in the business of the press is not like having a nine-five job. A story might pop-up at 12’0clock at night, but I do not feel safe enough to just pick up my camera and scooter and be on the road to cover a story. 

Moreover, there are a lot of challenges in the market. There is a lot of challenges from both domestic and Indian competitors, there are challenges to maintain quality while maintaining costs. There are challenges due to loopholes in regulations and custom checks. And there are challenges to gain the trust and reliability of customers. 

8. How are you overcoming your challenges?
To deal with our challenges we have ensured that we do not compromise on our quality and rate. We also have recurring clients who give us business.
Similarly, we have conducted a study on who are our clients. Who read our newspapers, and who make use of printing services? And have constructed a consumer profile. 
Furthermore, we have conducted a survey to evaluate ourselves and what our audience thinks of us. We were also able to explore how we can make ourselves better. For example, we learned that consumers preferred home delivery service, and we need to be lagged in marketing ourselves. We are overcoming our challenges by recalibrating ourselves, and also by overcoming own weaknesses. 

9. Who are your Target Customers?
Our target customers mainly include industrial clients, colleges, schools, government offices, business houses, and retail shops. 

10. How many customers or clients do you have?
Printing press so far has total of 1963 prospective and buying clients. We have extended our services to 400 clients in six months. 

11. What are the key needs of your company?
One of our key needs is in terms of finance. Due to insufficient funding, we have not been able to market ourselves as much as we would like to. Secondly, it is quite difficult to obtain and retain skilled human resources. I also have training needs to empower and strengthen my human capital.

12. What are your thoughts on impact measurement? How do you measure the impact of your work?
We do not have mechanisms to measure the impact we have created on
society. But, I believe the impact of our work is evaluated by the society and its agent like media. When we solve the needs of society, that’s how we see the impact of our work. So, society itself can truly measure the impact of our work.

For more information about Printing Press, connect with Kabita Khadka at muskankhadka15@gmail.com.

Interviewed and article by Shambhavi Singh.