Staying in Nepal to create jobsDil Bahadur Gurung is glad he turned down an offer to go abroad to start his own handicraft business
Dil Bahadur Gurung was 13 when he left his isolated home village of Orang in Dolakha district to get a better education in Kathmandu. He was used to hard work, and was prepared to face any hardship to pay his way through school. He worked as domestic servant for a family in exchange for food and shelter.
The teenager had to wake up at 4AM and finish all household chores to able to join morning classes at 6am and return to finish the rest of his work. At night, after all the cleaning and washing he would do his ‘homework’. In three years, he graduated from high school and joined a college, while working at a cargo company to pay for his studies.
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“It wasn’t an easy life, but I was so determined to study. My self-confidence and motivation prepared me for this life, and later on in my business,” says Dil, now 47.
He started working in a shop in Thamel and took technical training in hand-crafted products at the Department of Cottage and Small Industries. He had some savings by then, and with help from an uncle he invested it in his own company, ‘Handcraft’ in Kapan to produce lamp shades, notebooks, boxes, greeting cards from Nepali lokta paper.
But competition was stiff, he had few customers and he did not have access to raw materials. He struggled to keep his business afloat. His parents insisted that he close down the shop, and migrate to the Gulf for a more stable salary, like many of his peers.
“Everyone was asking me to close down my company, but that just increased my determination to keep going. I believed that I could make the business of paper handicrafts a success,” recalls Dil.
So, he headed back to his village in Dolakha to collect wild lichen, pipal leaves, and lokta pulp to create handmade greeting cards. Back in Kathmandu, he went door to door, from one shop to the next, walking and cycling all over Kathmandu with his products. Even after being rudely rejected often, he did not lose heart and gradually managed to find loyal customers.
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He slowly diversified his products and started making lamp shades, small boxes, pouches – all made from lokta. Before long, the original designs started bringing in orders from wholesalers, hotels, restaurants, schools. He started a small outlet in Dhobighat which became popular. As business picked up, he hired 16 fulltime staff and also involved another 150 painters, flower and other suppliers.
Today, Dil Bahadur Gurung’s company is valued at Rs10 million, and he has an annual turnover of Rs4 million. He is also encouraging his 20-year old son to finish his studies and join the business so he does not have to move abroad.
“I am so glad that I didn’t migrate abroad to work as a labourer, and I want to encourage other Nepalis to stay in the country because this place is full of opportunities for those who are willing to work hard starting small businesses,” says Dil. “Working abroad is not a solution. We Nepalis have to tap our abilities to start our own ventures and create jobs for other Nepalis at home.”
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Instead of the Nepal government working on deals with foreign countries to send labourers, it can do just the opposite by bringing in more foreign investment to create jobs right here in the country, he says, adding: “We cannot afford to lose any of our younger generation by migrating abroad and working in dirty and dangerous jobs.”
Journalist-turned-farmer Naresh Newar presents this multimedia column, Made in Nepal, in Nepali Times every fortnight profiling stories of successful small entrepreneurs.