Maheshwar Shrestha, a respected business person (or commercially important person) from the Government of Nepal, is a renowned person in the field of Nepali handicraft industry. Awarded Best Entrepreneur of the Year 9/1, Shrestha is currently the CEO of Everest Fashion and Fair Craft from the Himalayas.
Everest Fashion has become the first company to get ISO certification in the Nepali handicraft industry and has successfully established itself as a model company. Similarly, it is also the first company to receive the renowned ‘Fair Trade Certification’ provided by the US. Although not distributing sales abroad, the company has been successfully exporting Nepalese handicrafts and felted materials to developed countries including Europe, Japan, and the United States.
The main purpose of this company, which has been acquired by the Federation of Nepalese Handicrafts, Felt Association of Nepal, and Lalitpur Industry Chamber of Commerce, is to familiarize traditional Nepali handicrafts to the world and help strengthen the country’s economy in export.
Tell us what your journey to excellence was like?
It is a business that started on a very small scale and started with a family. Hard work makes everything possible. This is an example of it. Before starting this business I did a variety of tasks. After working for a year at a company like this, I started to feel like I could do something. Without family and family’s support, nothing would have been possible. We have been doing business for 3 years now and seeing the progress of it makes me feel happy and proud.
You also export goods from Everest Fashion, what are the problems you encounter while exporting?
We have not faced many big problems. Sometimes there is a problem with the customs. Government officials and government agencies sometimes cause problems because they do not know much about goods and do not seem to learn or even try to find about them. There is not much problem abroad as it falls under the same category of luxury and is easily sold there. But it depends on their economy. Although not in our hands, we try assessing the state of their economy.
How do you monitor the culture of the exporting countries? And what cultural differences have you found?
After we study their culture, we realize that although our country is rich in culture, the same design does not always work. On top of that, we have very good Nepali creative skills and are very skilled at handicrafts. We also have good imitations skills and can mix in styles from other countries. However, if we make it in our own way, then it is hard to sell them. Thus, we need to work according to their culture sometimes.
Neglecting the cultural richness of our country, sometimes we should also follow their culture. There is a lot to learn from the Internet too. In many cases, our own customers give us designs on what they actually desire.
Goods that reflect our cultural heritage, except for few, do not go anywhere. Traditional Nepalese shops, cultural goods are spread abroad and we are thinking to do the same. But exports are also good for the company.
How are you managing the skilled manpower so far in such a big company?
We use the Trial and Error (or Trial and Error) method to provide a public resource. We move ahead doing it ourselves, learning for ourselves. In 25 years, we have been teaching every woman and sisters, except for 2-3 of them who worked elsewhere initially. We teach new employees as well. We also look at the qualifications of new employees as well as cultural origins.
What kind of promotional plans do you have for the company and the products the company makes?
When I started working I didn’t know some promotional strategies. We used to carry bags of products, open small stores in Thamel and sell them there. After that, we got foreign clients and we started doing international exhibitions. But now the recommendation is much more helpful than the exhibition itself. And overseas customers have also promoted our goods through the Internet. We do not use social networking or advertisements on our own.
What have been the positives and negatives of this business since you started?
Since there were no motorcycles, we used to carry bags and walk. Now there is good transportation management everywhere. Seventy percent of the goods are transported via truck containers to Calcutta, India, and are exported from there. The government has given us a two percent discount on exports, for incentives. Nothing more is given. Little things have to be fixed. It takes seven to eight months to renew a license, which is just two minutes’ work. Nothing is systematic but the bragging is sky-high.
What do you see as the role of social compliance in this area?
Social compliance is the behavior or way of people’s basic needs, desires, security, etc. The behavior of the office, natural disaster, company structure should all be taken into account. The company’s business is good if social compliance is achieved. In the world today, consumers are aware of the situation of the employees who make the goods and buy them. Improving quality also takes time and inspection as well causes problems so it’s the best thing to do, and this is exactly what our customers suggest.
But our government is not well aware of this and I want to teach everyone. There are many things I like to do about social compliance, and if the government asks me to teach in this matter, I am ready to teach, in detail, to everyone. We are covered by labor laws, but social compliance goes a step further. This is a thing to do. It’s fun. It is fun to practice.
What are your personal and business plans for the coming days?
I find it fun to work in Everest fashion, and it’s all I have. So, personal or business plans are both the same thing to me. Speaking of Everest fashions, if the government cooperates, it is intended to provide employment to 5,000 Nepalese. We believe that the future of us Nepalese is bright.
But not everything is in our hands. Government and government policies should be good because without government there can be no work. Although our potential is strong, further involvement of the government is important. The government should use more resources and study other successful exporting countries.