The hall roared in applause as an American model dressed in gunyu choli and traditional Nepali jewellery took the stage as part of an event in Washington D.C. showcasing Nepali products. Organisers Office Abroad and the Nepali Embassy in the US seemed satisfied with the response and the turnout on
October 28, which inaugurated the Voyage to Shangri-La (V2S) campaign.
"The American government has stopped levying customs charges on 14 Nepali products, but our government hasn't been able to cash in on this opportunity. So we decided to do something on our own," says Rajendra Shrestha, owner of Office Abroad. Shrestha feels that one cannot sell Nepali products in the US without strong marketing. "There is a large market here if we can package our products attractively and convince American consumers of the quality. Instead of selling products like hawkers, we should draw in buyers by demonstrating how Nepali handicrafts can be used to decorate homes or how Nepali clothes and ornaments can be worn."
Nepali tea, coffee, honey and silver ornaments, among others, are now exempt from duties. With the right marketing, "these products can earn us millions in export money," says Shrestha. But hurdles remain. "The government does not do enough marketing, but when the private sector makes the effort, the disorder in the country does not allow products to be delivered on time." Office Abroad provides event management services, and Shrestha has registered another company for his export-import business. He hasn't been able to get it going due to this very problem – late delivery.
"Now we're planning V2S II in New York in November 2011, to which we will invite the CEOs of multinational companies doing business in Nepal like FEDEX, DHL, and General Motors," says Shrestha. Former American ambassadors to Nepal, bureaucrats and local politicians are also expected to attend and there will be a great deal of publicity to encourage public participation at the event, which may be telecast live. Shrestha is deservedly proud of his team's efforts: "The way we organised the event, with much promotion and fanfare, resulted in a great deal of interest on the part of American people and we are very hopeful."