Dhan Schroeter is one of the inspiring youths who has embraced the responsibility to contribute to the motherland despite living in a foreign land. With his startup, Dhanschroeter Cashmere (now UNIC Cashmere), he not only connects the local Nepali producers of cashmere to the customers in Europe but also donates 10% of each sale to his aid organization “Carisimo eV” that supports people in Nepal. Currently, the startup provides job opportunities for 60 employees in Nepal and Germany.
The Establishment with a Cause
As a young child, Schroeter grew up in Bal Mandir, an orphanage in Kathmandu. In 2003, he was adopted by a German couple and went to live in Germany with them. During their stay in Nepal, they had built a school for Dalit children and an orphanage. They had also worked on water projects and had a hand in establishing few women cooperatives. These projects employed 20 Nepali people. Schroeter was always a part of these projects and down the line, these projects became a part of his life.
“I have a strong connection with the people living here, especially with the kids of the orphanage who consider me as their elder brother. Therefore, I made sure to visit Nepal at least once a year to look after them, the project and its impact. Whenever I visited them, I used to bring them sports uniforms, shoes and footballs.
Later, with an aim to scale up my contribution towards their happiness, I established Dhanschroeter Cashmere in 2017. Now, 10 % of the profit of UNIC Cashmere is allocated to provide scholarships to the underprivileged children to fund their vocational training and buy school uniforms and books.”
‘Pashmina- The White Gold’ and the hustle behind its trading
The high-quality Cashmere (Pashmina) products hold a special place in Europe. Such Cashmere is considered as ‘The White Gold’ because in general, the pure cashmere costs about 15 times more than the price of normal wool in the global market. Such fibre has exceptional quality as it has the speciality to store heat, is water-repellent, dries quickly and rarely absorbs any odour.
When it comes to the business, there is a lot of work to be done in the backend from producing high-quality products in Nepal and transporting them safely to Germany for timely delivery to the customers. According to Schroeter, the main issue is to maintain quality because there are times when his startup gets the Cashmere products that are mixed with cheaper wool and colour. To combat this, he has to spend on frequent labour tests. The late delivery of goods due to such technical issues is a huge challenge.
Research to fit
According to research done by CBInsights, 42% of the startups fail because of the unfit market demand. Addressing this fact, Schroeter shares, “Contemporary business is all about market research. You need to place the right product in the right market which is only possible through in-depth research. Germany has always been a popular hub for cashmere trading. However, I needed to have some uniqueness in my product to stand out. Therefore, prior to starting the business, I gave some sample pieces of pashminas to my close friends for free and asked them to provide me with honest feedback about the designs and quality of the product.”
He continued explaining how he spent his majority of time doing the intensive research on the latest and trending designs with the help of Nepali and German designers. After the rigorous R&D process, Schroeter finally invested around 4,000 Euro, that he had saved from his part time job as a student, to start the business.
International Market: Opportunity or threat?
The latest available country-specific data reveals that countries like Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom are some of the largest importers of Nepali Pashminas. Despite the duty-free/ quota-free system granted by these countries, there are challenges to disrupt the trading of Nepali pashmina products in the international market. Due to the rapid change in fashion and preferences by the current young generation, there is only a small group of people like hippies and the elder generation who opt for traditional Nepali products.
“The huge part of the younger generation from Europe don’t buy traditional clothes or jewellery anymore. They like the combination of both traditional and modern. They look for ‘cheaper and better’ alternatives. Hence, instead of taking these issues as threats, I prefer to say that there is a huge market and opportunities if we invest more time and creativity to come up with the customer’s changing preferences.” shares Schroeter.
With a hope that the passionate youths will be able to grab the opportunities in Nepal, he shares, “It’s not about the presence, but the actual work that counts your loyalty to the nation. So, work hard and it is definitely going to pay off. Remember, sharing makes you happier than having it all. So initiate with a vision to give others similar opportunities.”