What is the idea /story behind your business?
I am a political cartoonist. I have been drawing cartoons for various media since 25 years. It is my skill that I converted into my profession and now it’s my business. I saw the opportunity to transfer my wit from text to textile when my friends first approached me to design tee-shirts five years ago.
Since the opening of the first store in Sundhara in July 2013, I have created over 500 different designs ranging from creative drawings of the Nepali flag to witty catchphrases and colloquialism. I draw on latest happenings in Nepali culture, society and politics to create tee-shirt designs for ‘Phalano Luga’. It is full of Nepali flavour.
How difficult was it to start, and what kept you going through the challenges?
Entrepreneurship in Nepal is very challenging because of all the hassles of establishing business and materialising it at first. Our bureaucracy and system is not business or consumer friendly. Registering an industry is like going through SLC examination. For example, you cannot have any industry in the city. It has to be in Village Development Committee area and every industry must obtain signatures from surrounding neighbourhoods to get the firm registered. One can figure out how difficult it is to obtain signatures where you are completely an alien. This is just an example.
Nepal is a dependent country for most consumer products. Clothing line is not any different. Every single thing from fabrics, needles to printing materials must be imported. Plus shortage of skilled manpower has made it more costly.
Secondly, Nepal’s clothing market is dominated by Chinese products. Every clothing brand and consumer product available here is Chinese. Actually no one in the world can compete with them in terms of low pricing. Nepal’s non-branded lower priced garments in every corner of the country have equally taken the market. Cotton tee-shirts are available at just Rs 150-200 in the local market. Penetrating this market with a quality new Nepali brand is really tough. Customers mostly say, “Nepali pani yatti mahango” (A Nepali product so expensive). It’s hard to explain to each and every customer why our products cost more. But it’s great now that no such explanations are needed these days. Our clothing line has slowly gained traction beyond the market of my loyal readers that make up about 90 per cent of our business.
One ‘Aha’ moment in the business…
Our tee-shirt comes with a green label bearing the brand name Phalano Luga on the sleeve. I remember two years back when a customer came back to the store for this label as it was missing in one of the tee-shirts he had bought. With full excitement, I said, “Yes, this is branding”.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I never thought of becoming an entrepreneur.
The one thing you absolutely love about what you do?
I love drawing since my childhood. It became my profession for two decades and now a business a brand that people love. For all those years I have remained a creator. And now I am just converting the medium of my creativity from text to textile. I believe that there is potential in creating a unique Nepali brand in the international market. Phalano Luga is distinctly Nepali. Any Nepali living abroad who hears of the brand Phalano Luga will be able to tell that it is from Nepal.
What makes it worthwhile?
It is 100% organic super combed cotton fabric that comes from one of the world’s leading textile manufacturing region, Ludhiana. The fabric quality gets certified by European agencies. The fabrics are prewashed, pre-shrunk to avoid further shrinking. American digital printing technology with the world’s best eco-friendly water based ink known as Dupont is used. So far I have created over 500 different designs ranging from creative drawings of the Nepali flag to witty catchphrases and colloquialisms. It is full of Nepali flavour. Gaining regular, loyal and satisfied customers is our biggest asset.
We will be expanding our outlets nationwide. We will go beyond tee-shirts to various clothing range.