According to Nepal’s Department of Foreign Employment, more than 3.5 million Nepalese have moved abroad over the past decade for employment opportunities. Where these human resources fly over with a dream to achieve a better life in a foreign land despite the hardship, very few gather the insights and courage to return with a vision to take hold of the opportunities in the homeland itself. Today, we are sharing one of those unsung stories of Nirmal Dahal, who left a well paying job in Kuwait and returned to Nepal to establish Sagarmatha Pencil Udhyog which produces eco-friendly pencils by recycling the paper wastes.
Recalling the past, Mr Dahal shares,
I used to work in one of the prestigious banks of Kuwait under the stationery department where I was astonished by the intensive use of the pencils made up of recycled paper. Bankers there were, in fact, more conscious and pleased to use these pencils not only because they were contributing to establish an eco-friendly business environment, but also because of the uncompromised quality that these recycled pencils carried.
After the precise observation and study of feasibility through the internet research, the idea of his start-up to produce pencils using recycled waste popped up and in 2017, Mr Dahal returned to Damak, Jhapa and established Sagarmatha Pencil Udhyog.
“ What could be the better name than ‘Sagarmatha’ to represent my motherland in my work,”says Mr Dahal to Udhyami Nepali
Mr Dhal invested around 33 lakhs from his personal savings and the bank loan for the startup. The beginning was challenging itself when the machine he imported from Kuwait got misplaced. The fear of whether the machine worth such high investment will reach Kolkata or not along with the issue of the elevating interest rate on the bank loan increased the stress for this new entrepreneur. However, after all the ups and downs, he finally received the machine and the real production begun. To assure the high quality, Mr Dahal mentions,
“ Initially, around 40 thousand pencils used to be wasted to meet the benchmark of the quality and it was a big deal for a small-scale industry like mine. In the present, I am glad that we are able to produce around 3000 high-quality 2B pencils daily, each priced for Rs 10. It’s a milestone for our business to be able to develop a consistent capability to recycle 30 tonnes of waste paper monthly”
Survival in the competition
Despite using the machine for the production process, the Sagarmatha Pencils still use 40 per cent of labour intensity which ultimately has increased the cost of production.
“ Indian brands are having a huge market share in Nepal because of which it is really hard for the local businesses to penetrate. However, Sagarmatha pencil’s USP of being an eco-friendly alternative has made it possible to have a good survival nowadays. “
he signs off highlighting the increment of consumer’s consciousness to switch for the products that are less harmful to the environment. The startup is now successfully supplying its eco-friendly pencils to more than 300 stores in the nation with the most consumption in the Eastern Districts.
Impact and future plans
Gradually, Sagarmatha Pencil Udhyog has been able to grab the attention of many stakeholders. Till date, around 30 schools with more than 700 students have visited their production place.
“ It’s overwhelming to see the future generation getting inspired by my works and it keeps me motivated. “ claims the Founder.
claims the Founder.
Mr Dahal shares his vision to build the potentiality to recycle around 60 tons of paper monthly in future. He says,
“ Right now, we are able to use only polythene for the outer cover of the pencils but I am researching to replace it with recycled wrappers of biscuits and noodles. I am also looking forward to making pencils with recycled A4 sheets paper.”
Winding up the interview, he concludes, “ The nation will never progress until and unless we encourage the domestic producers. So please do buy products with the tag of ‘Made in Nepal’ especially if it’s an eco-friendly good. It takes the mutual respect of both the producers and consumers to switch local commodities and uplift the national economy.”