While people have piles of clothes stacked up preposterously in their cupboards, others, due to financial and geographical hardships, face acute deprivation of basic necessities like clothes. Our society is starkly unequal, but an ideal and a workable mechanism can redistribute resources to bring excess demand and supply into an equilibrium!
Nana Project is one such concept that seeks to upcycle and recycle old clothing to make clothing accessible and affordable to people in acute need.
In conversation with Aarati Jha and Sagun Thapa Magar, two young and passionate social entrepreneurs, who share about Nana Project to Team Blincventures.
1. Tell me about your journey of starting your venture? When did it start?
Clothes are our basic necessities, but there are many people who can’t afford to meet this basic need. My team and I wanted to work with something that had a positive impact on society. The idea of Nana Project came from Sagun’s sister who told us how we can redesign old clothes. It reminded me of my sister who used to revamp and redesign my old t-shirts into new attire. So many of us have old clothes piled up in the cupboards that we never wear. So we collectively decided to work on redesigning and upcycling these used clothes.
After deciding on the idea, we had to decide where our target market would be. After researching, we found that people in Southern Lalitpur are in need of clothes. So we started to refine our ideas and began developing our business plan.
2. What social problem are you trying to solve, and what social changes do you see your products can bring in society?
I am a trekking guide and when you travel to remote places of Nepal, you realize how people are deprived of very basic needs of food and clothing. In one of my treks, I have seen children using their school uniforms as their only pair of clothing. In some places, the condition is so extreme that people do not have clothing to survive during the winter. So, our focus is on those areas and people.
While researching, we also found that in some neglected areas of Lalitpur, people have no clothes to wear, and they have no source of getting clothes.
Nana project has a social cause, but it also has an economic and environmental cause. We address environmental issues, by collecting old clothes that will minimize the wastage that is disposed of in landfills. Likewise, the economic cause will be through the creation of employment opportunities. We are planning to focus on women for this.
3. What stage is the company in? What is your current staff strength?
Nana is in the idea implementation phase. We are working to prepare a detailed business plan.
Currently, three of us are working on this idea. Aruma Adhirakri, Aarati Jha and I. My sister is also helping us with this project by looking at redesigning the old clothes.
4. How did you raise funds to start your company?
We have self-invested but all three of us are students, so we have very limited finance. So for now, we are using our own clothes and human resources.
We are hoping to win the Social Business Challenge that could help us with the financing and would also help us attract the investors and obtain other resources and knowledge.
5. What challenges did you face while starting the company and what challenges are you facing right now?
The main challenge was in the area of implementation. We had an idea but we were not sure how do we successfully implement it- so there was a fear factor which was a huge challenge to overcome.
Another challenge is regarding funding; we are not sure how to raise funds for this particular project.
We also faced challenges in the technical aspect. A designer needs to brainstorm a lot, needs a lot of resources to draft, cut, research and so on before coming up with a design. So creating such a work environment where designers feel comfortable was a challenge. Also, getting and generating old clothes was a problem.
6. How did you overcome your challenges?
To get the old clothes, we came up with the idea of small dispose of where for 1kg of clothes, you get Rs.100 or Rs.200.
After getting clothes in bulk, we separate the collected clothes on the basis of usability and then process and design clothes. The ones that cannot be redesigned can be used to make pouches, wallets, shoes, and accessories like headbands.
7. Who are your target customers?
Initially, we are planning to target girls within the age group of 20 to 25 because they are the first ones to respond and have more fashion sense. After our company takes off and captures a market segment, we’ll also be focussing on boys and adults.
8. How many customers do you plan to get on a monthly basis?
We are planning to have a minimum of ten to twenty thousand customers on a monthly basis, mostly college students. Moreover, we are planning to go for a small number and then gradually expand our customer base.
9. Is the business model based on self-sufficiency or profit-making?
We are planning to collaborate with interested organizations like NGOs but we don’t plan to depend on them. We will work with them for donation to rural areas. Basically, we will sell our products at a marginal profit and the profit will be used to fund donations to rural areas of Nepal.
10. What are the key needs of your company? What is the future plan with your company?
The major needs will be human resources, finance, and marketing for our product and brand.
We plan to reach and expand our business across Nepal. In addition to this, in the long term, we are planning to reach out to the remote places of Nepal as donors rather than as sellers.
Along with this, we plan to own the machines and equipment that will be used in the process of upcycling, recycling and redesigning old clothes.
Initially, we plan on outsourcing the production facility but in the future, we plan on having in-house production.
11. How will you measure the impact of your product/service? If not what are your thoughts about impact measurement?
One of the key elements is waste control. Through Nana Project, we want to bring the waste number down and this will be a factor by which we will measure impact. In addition to this, we will be tracking the website visitors plus the rate at which our customer base is growing.
12. Do you consider yourself as a Social Entrepreneur? Any other information that you would like to share?
We aren’t social entrepreneurs yet but we are trying to be one. We are a work in progress. We are really grateful for events like Social Business Challenge. This kind of program will definitely give rise to many entrepreneurs that Nepal needs. If Nana Project comes into implementation, I would like to request you to love, accept and support it. We want people to have an open mind, I want them to stop thinking of old and recycled clothes as bad. The world is changing and we want you to be part of our social change.
For more information about this company, contact Arati Jha at Aaratijha104@gmail.com.
Transcribed by Trishna Shakya and edited by Shambhavi Singh