In today’s world of technology and machine-made products, it is very important to keep the handmade skills alive. Working with this motto is Nasia Burnet with her venture Sukhi.
Let’s read on to find out more about this unique venture Sukhi.
1. Can you tell us the journey of Sukhi?
Sukhi started 6 years ago. I studied textile design in the Netherlands where I also developed a passion and interest in the use of handmade techniques. I am from Amsterdam and we have beautiful interior stores here and we can sell our rugs in these stores. But it is crucial for us is to have buyers purchase directly from the makers with no middlemen and maximum transparency which allows us to offer lower prices to our customers.
Six years ago I and my husband traveled to Nepal where we discovered these amazing handicrafts and the skills of the craftsmen but they didn’t have the market that they deserved. And this is where our idea for Sukhi came from. Through Sukhi we wanted to provide global exposure to these skillful and talented artisans at an affordable price. In addition to this, we also wanted to finally help these artisans, who were mainly women, and eliminate the cost of warehouse and stores. So we started making rugs and carpets in Kathmandu and selling them through an online store named Sukhi where the customers directly bought from the makers. Hence this is how Sukhi started in Kathmandu and from there on, we grew and added more countries. Now, we have rugs and carpets from Nepal, India, Morocco, and Turkey.
2. Why specifically these four countries?
Sadly many people don’t understand the effort, hard work and time that goes into making the rugs and carpets due to which these skills are often lost with time. However, we wanted to make sure that the skills to make handmade products stay alive. So, we started with Nepal where there is lots of focus on hand sewing. Likewise, in Morocco, artisans are more used to hand weaving. So these four different nations have their own unique rug making techniques. Thus, with the motive of providing the artisans a voice and promoting their skills, we chose these countries.
3. How does the rug and carpet making take place here in Nepal?
We have two workshops in Kathmandu and all the women working at Sukhi live within walking distance from these workshops making it easy for them to come to work. Here, we actually have two groups and the majority of the women work from home. They come in the morning, pick up their materials such as felt balls, then go back to do the stitching, and once completed bring the products back to the workshop. That way they can look after the children and the household while earning. So, this is how the rug-making takes place.
4. How many of them are currently working? Isn’t it difficult to handle geographical and time differences?
We have grown recently. There are approximately 100 women working with us. Geographical and time difference is not really an issue. Technology has definitely made it easier. We mainly work through emails and have dedicated and passionate teams working in each of the four countries. So, it isn’t so hard as we’ve managed everything well.
5. What were the major obstacles you faced when starting off with Sukhi here in Nepal and how did you overcome them?
The majority of women working with us are not educated; they don’t know how to read and write. So, explaining to them how to make the rugs, teaching them to maintain the quality took some time and was initially difficult. But with time, they have become really good at what they do. Also some of the women who have been working with us for a long time, now provide training to new members. In addition to this, we have divided the task; rather than indulging in all the tasks, some women are more focused on making the felt balls, some of them look after dyeing and some are focused on stitching the felt balls together. So all the women have their own tasks making them the best at what they are assigned.
Apart from education, initially, it was also difficult to get women out of their shell; they were very shy. I would like to share an experience regarding this. We wanted to have the pictures and videos of our artisans for our website but they were very camera shy and weren’t willing to be captured. Since I am a woman it was much easier to make them feel comfortable despite the language barrier and the cultural differences. All of them are very warm and dedicated to their jobs.
6. How are the rugs made?
We get the wool from New Zealand and all the other work like processing the wool, dyeing, making felt balls, sewing them all takes place here in Nepal. All of these are done by women except the dyeing and other heavy works like the packaging of the carpets/ rugs.
7. Is there any standard quality checking measures that Sukhi follows?
Since we ship our products all around the world, they need to be of the highest quality. The felt balls are sewed together to make the rugs; so we make sure that there aren’t any threads hanging around. If we find something isn’t right we redo the whole work again. We’re always careful with our finished products and do not mess with our quality.
8. Who are the target markets? Do Nepalese buy the products from Sukhi?
We ship all around the world for free and our major target markets are the colder countries. Our products do not have a market in Nepal. Apart from the cost, I think people in Nepal are not used to decorate their homes using the rugs. Also, the climate here is warmer and our products are for cold regions.
9. Do you have any physical store for selling the products?
No, we only sell it online. We did try to sell it via stores but doing so made the selling price too high, almost 3 times the market price so, we limited ourselves to online.
10. What are the different types of rugs and carpets offered by Sukhi?
The types of rugs differ from country to country. In Nepal we have these felt ball rugs, the knitted rugs, and the chunky wool rugs. Likewise in Turkey, we have patchwork rugs made by vintage carpet collected from across the region. We begin the process of decolorizing; then these are dyed into one specific color and different pieces are stitched together.
In Morocco we have Beni Ourain rugs; high-quality wool rugs that are hand-knotted in the Atlas Mountains. And in India, we have hand-knotted, hand-tufted rugs, braided and wool rugs. So, these are the different rugs and carpet collection we have.
11. All your products are handmade. So do you find any disadvantage over the machine-made carpets and rugs?
No, our products are handmade and that is what makes them and Sukhi unique. It is true that machines produce larger volumes in a short span of time. However, the quality is compromised in most of the cases. Also, every single handmade carpet is unique and authentic.
In addition to this, if we move to machines, our whole philosophy would change. Sukhi wants to promote the handicrafts, local artisans, their skills and help women. So, I don’t find any disadvantages.
12. What makes Sukhi stand out from other carpet making companies?
What makes Sukhi unique is that all the rugs are customized. If you order a rug it is made especially for you; you can choose the colors, the size, the patterns as per your wants. Along with this, when buying from Sukhi, you buy directly from the makers and you can even see the name of the maker who made your rugs. Likewise, when you visit our website you can see that every rug or a carpet is named after the person who made it. So all these things combined make Sukhi and its products unique.
13. Why the name Sukhi for this venture?
We first started out with Nepal and Sukhi means happy in Nepali. And our main motto is to make both our customers as well as our makers happy. So, we thought no other name would be better than Sukhi and thus the name Sukhi.
14. Any customer experience you’d like to share with us?
One of the customers mentioned that she used rugs as wall cover as it was very vibrant as well as warm. So this makes us quite happy that using our products our customers are able to try new things and make creative use of our products.
15. Any unique experience from the makers, especially the women’s side?
In the span, so 6 years, I have seen our artisans gain so much confidence. And that is really nice and makes us happy and proud. Rather than sitting at home alone, they now can connect with other women so the laughter, the talks when working really make me happy.
Last week I also asked them if they were happy and satisfied with what they were doing and the responses were positive; most of them responded that they now have money for their personal expenses, can send their children to the schools and they felt good and independent. We try to help our artisans in the best way possible; for instance, Samjana Raj one of our artisans who is handicapped told me that Sukhi gave her the opportunity to work and contribute to her household, which gave her immense joy.
16. How has your entrepreneurial journey been so far?
It has been like a rollercoaster. There certainly have been difficult times but there are also beautiful moments of happiness and satisfaction. When you are an entrepreneur you are your own boss so you can do things that benefit your company. Also working for the betterment and empowerment of the women further motivates me to do good. So at the end of the day I am very happy, really love what I am doing and I will do this as long as possible.
Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya