The House of Mithila as the name suggests is a place to add to your ”MUST VISIT List” if you’re looking to experience the beauty of Mithila culture here in Kathmandu. From witnessing elegant Mithila products to trying mouth watering Mithila cuisine this startup will take you deep into the aesthetic skills that the Mithila women makers possess!
Not only that, the proceeds from this venture goes into supporting the women and kids from Jhanga Jithi village! Surely a startup with great vision and even a greater impact!
Read our conversation with the very dynamic husband and wife duo, Sujeet and Amrita to know more about this startup that is preserving and promoting Mithila culture!
How did the concept of The House of Mithila come about?
Both me and my wife have been working in the development sector for almost our entire career.By profession I am a researcher and my wife used to work at development centers. And as long as I can remember we always used to have conversations regarding working in the area of art and culture in a way that benefits our society and creates an impact. However rather than doing something out of our league we wanted to utilize the skills and knowledge we had to create an impact That is where the concept of The House of Mithila came about. We decided to utilize the knowledge we had about Mithila art, Mithila cuisine and other Mithila products to not only create a sustainable impact but also work in the area that we are really passionate about as two different individuals.
When was The House of Mithila established?
House of Mithila was established in the middle of the pandemic. The brainstorming, planning and legal aspects were looked into before the COVID-19 for almost 3 years. We had already registered our venture and right when we were working on the execution part, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. And since most of our important aspects were already taken care of, we decided to start our store “The House of Mithila” right after the very first lockdown without further ado.
What are the different things people can find at your store?
We have various Mithila arts and artifacts; Sarees and Shawl, Cushion cover with Mithila design as well as gift boxes. We also have ceramic cups, plates, bowls and mugs with Mithila Art on them. In addition we have also added some food items like pickles (Achar) and other typical Mithila snacks.
Along with all these Mithila goodies, we also have a restaurant attached to our store. So, when you visit our store you will not only get to see beautiful products but also get to try delicious Mithila food. So, the customers can witness an entire Mithila culture in a nutshell.
Where do you get all these products from?
Majority of our products come from Janakpur. There is a small village in Dhanusa where the women makers make the products which are sent to our collection center at Janakpur; then we get the products from there and showcase and sell it in our store located here at Bhaisepati.
Similarly, we also have some women artists residing here in different places of Kathmandu like Kusunti, Sankhamul so we directly get the products from them. Similar is the case for pickles and other Mithila snacks, they are manufactured in Chobar. For ceramic products, we get them from the local shops at Bhaktapur and our women artists make beautiful Mithila art on them.
Apart from preservation of Mithila arts, what are the other ways you guys are creating an impact in society?
Majority of the proceeds that we get from the sales of all these products are distributed among the women and kids from Jhanga Jithi village. We are providing education and school to 12 kids from the village. We ensure that they have access to the curriculum books, school uniforms, other stationery items, lunch and breakfast.
Who are your allies in running the venture?
Me and my wife comprise the core team. Legally I am the founder but in true essence my wife is the foundation of The House of Mithila. She looks after everything from designing to overall management as well as logistics and communication. Apart from us two, we have 14 women associated with us, 5 of them are the artists, 2 of them make delicious Mithila cuisine and snacks and the remaining 7 work on making Mithila artifacts.
What are your future plans?
We are working on creating a community for the women from our village where they can come together and work on designing, painting and so on while learning and sharing their knowledge and experiences.
We are also thinking of starting our own organic production of rice and dal and make it available in our stores for the customers to buy.
What about the availability of products online? Can customers order them from the comfort of their homes?
Amrita: Our website is under construction as of now but the customers can always order from our Facebook and Instagram page. It’s not the service we are officially providing but if the customers’ do request us then we are always ready.
If I am not wrong, The House of Mithila also offers painting sessions? Can you tell us a bit about this?
Yes, we have been providing painting classes to the interested individuals on a regular basis. Till date we have conducted 2 sessions with 3 groups following the required health protocols and social distancing. Almost all our art sessions take place on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays for around 2 to 3 hours by our artist, Ajit Shah who is a reputed National artist.
Taking about the charge, for kids we are charging Rs.1000 which is inclusive of all the necessary art materials like painting color, brushes and canvas. So the interested individuals can book their place by sending us a message on our social media handles or simply give us a call. We will soon be conducting a session this month.
What makes The House of Mithila different and unique?
We are not here with the motive of just doing business, rather we are working on creating a platform and a space where people can experience the Mithila culture. And this does not mean that anyone visiting our store has to buy our product or eat at our restaurant. He/ she can simply stroll by and check out some of our literatures and books on Mithila culture that we have placed at our store.
Similarly, not many people know about Mithila, their understanding of Mithila is generally Madhesi. And people have their own perspective and mindset about Madhesi and our society has sadly polarized this segment, mainly due to political reasons. So, one of the reasons for establishing The House of Mithila was to minimize this narrow thinking as well as work on creating a sense of unity among the Nepalese too. Hence, the core with which The House of Mithila is working makes this enterprise different and unique.
What about your target market?
For us our immediate surroundings are much more important and since our core values also lie in bringing change in the Nepalese society, we cater the domestic market. And to be honest our customers have been really supportive. However, this does not mean that we will not be expanding and exploring the international opportunities. If we are able to innovate more, I strongly believe that there are ample opportunities for expansion in the coming future.
What were the challenges you faced when you started out?
We have to meet all our operating and administrative costs which is the very first challenge for us like for any other startup. Also the COVID crisis has no doubt made things tougher with decrease in customer footprints. But I believe that we will eventually overcome these economical challenges.
How has your journey been so far as a social entrepreneur?
Sujeet: This is a completely new journey for me. Like I said , I am a researcher, my cup of tea is writing research papers, publishing them and so on. But again I would say that the work I did as a researcher, the topic I explored have led me to start this wonderful journey.
Amrita: The House of Mithila is like my own child. I left a stable job for this because for me honestly speaking it was the right thing to do. I could have handled both the jobs, but deep down I knew that my capacity to create an impact would have been limited. So I decided to quit which was not easy but the feeling of working for and promoting Mithila culture as a whole felt more homely and purposeful to me. So, yes it has been a very fulfilling journey for me till date and I am really enjoying this new role of mine.
Amrita ji, how do you maintain a balance between your role as a cofounder and as a homemaker?
The balance that I have been able to create is all due to the support I have received from my husband. When I have to be at the store, my husband looks after our house and my 6 year old daughter. So, he is always there when I need him which has made things a lot easier for me.
To know more about this beautiful store make sure to check out their Instagram page: @thehouseof_mithila
Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya