When it comes to starting a business in Nepal, you will not only encounter an uncertain market and competition but also venture into a new world of consumer culture and a new way of life. As people in the city have been adapting to various cuisines, businesses are getting more market opportunities in Nepal.
Chandra Homemade Pasta Noodles and Sauce is a local business started by Chandra Char and currently run by his whole family for the last 9 years. They have been serving not only Nepali customers but also expatriates as well as. They create fresh homemade food products like pasta of different flavors such as spinach, beetroot, nettle, and kale. Their products are not limited to that but also include various condiments.
Prashansa Char, daughter of the owner, who manages the business now says, “One of our old friends named Meghan who used to live with us as a guest gave us the idea of selling dry pasta after being a huge fan of my dad’s cooking. And as we were building our business, another friend named Kristin suggested that we add some more foreign items to our product list. That is basically how it all started and now we have almost 25-30 varieties of products and we are still adding a few more. To be honest we never had any work experience in this kind of business. My dad had taken a few cooking and baking courses. But most of the ideas came from the food products themselves. Youtube has surely been a huge support as well. But everything I know today, I learned it from my dad.”
Originally from Damak, he used to work in a tea garden before he left his hometown for Kathmandu. He started working for foreigners as a household worker while doing other side jobs such as painting houses. “We started our business from scratch, basically with the materials that were already available at our home. Since we worked around foreigners, we knew their cuisines and food.”
Building a brand from scratch can take years to achieve. The rise in online businesses and other options like farmer's markets helped get more attention. Char adds, “Social media has been a big help in promoting our business and we also keep stalls at farmers markets at Le Sherpa, Utpala Cafe, and Labim Mall every Saturday where we can directly interact with customers. We try to fulfill our customers' demands and the exact taste they are looking for to stay ahead of our competitors. To maintain taste you need to focus on everything you are doing and that’s really hard. One single mistake can waste a lot of food.”
Char states that the road to success was not always easy. “Honestly, we never expected to grow this big. When we started this business my dad had doubts about continuing it, because when we went to the market, we only sold one packet of pasta.” They realised that people usually don’t trust Nepali vendors when it comes to products like this. It took quite some time and the help of expatriate friends who helped in the marketing to get their company get registered and become a business success.
She shared her thoughts on being an entrepreneur in Nepal, “Nobody really wants to work under others. Being an entrepreneur means being your own boss and that feeling is above everything. No matter how tired you feel, how stressed you are, at the end of the day all that matters is you being happy with your work when you are doing it for yourself and for your family knowing that you are an owner of a business which is your own and not someone else's,” she shares.
However, running a business is really all about hard work. People really don’t realize the hard work that goes into it. Local businesses and home businesses will still have to struggle to make their mark as many customers opt for known brands rather than giving local and small businesses an opportunity.
“The most satisfying moments are when customers love our products. You know when a customer comes to buy your product with a smile on their face, that's when you know that you are doing really great. And when they say that they love our products, that is the motivation for us,” she says.