The Gandharvas, from the hills, mountain, and Terai of Nepal, are known for singing folk songs to make a living. Their basic musical instrument is known as a Sarangi- a Nepali string instrument, which is simple yet effective. One of the four partners, Mr. Kedar Gandhari started his career playing with his group in Thamel’s iconic Kathmandu Guest House. His journey to establishing Sarangi, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant, started there in Thamel. Let us find out where it is now.
1. What is the social problem you are trying to solve?
Sarangi supports marginalized communities Gandharba Community in Nepal at present who are excluded from economic, social, political, educational and health rights. We’re working to promote and highlight the Gandharva community’s social issues in Nepal.
2. Do you see any changes in society after the commencement of your business?
Yes, we do. From where we started and where we are now, I think the journey has been a beautiful one that has changed the lives of many for a better tomorrow.
3. Can you share the concept and idea of your business?
We run community projects and have also launched Sarangi Food Music Life and later to register Sarangi Social Enterprises and Gandharva Health Project with the motive to directly support the community at the grassroots level. We are trying to uplift their educational level, social and economic status by providing different opportunities, mostly in the hospitality sector. Furthermore, we have already trained more than 20 people from Sarangi who are now successful bartenders, waiters, waitresses, cooks, and Chefs. In addition, we also aim to provide no-interest microloans to the community to start small businesses such as small farming, grocery shops, poultry farming and more.
4. Can you share with us your venture with Sarangi?
By profession, I am a street musician who becomes a credential music therapist and we run street to stage programs. I used to perform at Kathmandu Guest House with my group and on one lucky day, we met a social entrepreneur from Australia named Sandra Fiedeldy who suggested ways to develop the lives of our community. She also made us realize that we shouldn’t be depending on donations and rather on businesses. That’s how Sarangi came to inception in 2014.
5. Were there any challenges that you faced while starting the business? Are there any challenges that you are facing at present
There were lots of challenges. I think the quote, ‘It’s easier said than done.’ was synonymous with our initial days. None of us were from the business background hence, management was a great challenge for us. Another challenge came in the form of investment and marketing. Looking back, we feel proud that we were able to sustain our business in such hard times.
However, challenges are a part of every business. So currently, the major challenges I see are getting a good human resource that’s sincere, motivated and inspired.
8. How did you raise funds to start your business? When you first started out, how many employees did you start with and what is your employee strength at the moment?
Mostly, it was released through banking channels. We are a very small business and do not have large amounts of cash flow but whatever is there, has been released through banking channels.
We had four employees during our initial days and right now, we have more than ten employees.
11. How many clients do you have on a monthly basis?
Well, business is quite fluctuating these days. As it is seasonal, it is really hard to say. However, we try to reach a target of 50 customers a day although ‘It is easier said than done.’
12. Can you give us an estimation of your investment until the date? Is the business profitable?
Well, we have invested a lot of money in five years’ time which approximates 1.5 crores. I cannot say the business is profitable at present but it is good that we are sustaining. Also, the restaurant business is seasonal in Thamel as it is a tourist area. But we are trying to focus on Nepali customers and hope we expand our reach. That way, business need not be seasonal.
14. Who are your target customers and what is the market potential of your business?
Well, we do not have specific target customers since we consider everyone as our potential customers.
A lot of people are aware of social problems and ways to eradicate them. Since Sarangi is a social business, people are aware of the fact that a part of what they spend here goes back to the community. They know that they are saving the lives of many. Hence, I think the market potential is quite good.
16. Can you talk to us about your business model?
Sarangi being a social business has a social business model. At Sarangi, we are passionate about social enterprise and strongly believe that sustainable development is best achieved by using an ethical business model rather than through donations. We try to uplift and promote the community in vulnerable situations and give a helping hand to the ones who need it. We try to support and encourage them to get involved in businesses to help them grow socially and financially.
17. What are the key needs of your company at present?
Of course, marketing is one of the key needs and the need for investment is something that will always be there. Mentorship is also something that Sarangi requires at present.
18. Do you have any future plans with Sarangi?
Yes, we have lots. The most important thing is we want to expand our business to tourist hubs like Pokhara and we are also promoting this restaurant with other projects. Apart from that, we are also supporting trafficked women and promoting Mithila art and Australian Aboriginal Arts and culture by making shopping bags from recycled plastics Bottle. These bags are then printed with Mithila aboriginal arts, which hopefully will contribute to preserving our and Australian traditional arts and culture.
19. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Have you been measuring the impact of your business on your society?
I do but I am still trying to give more to society. I hope I can be a successful social entrepreneur in the future.
Impact- Yes, definitely! That will help us plan better and grow bigger.
20. Is there any other information you would like to share with people?
If we want to do something, we should do it from the bottom of our hearts. It needs not to require huge investments to help people and society. All we need are the action, courage and strong willingness to do it.
For more information, check out their Facebook page here.
Interviewed and article by Ashmita Rai.