5-11 July 2013 #663

The fibres of success

In four short years Himalayan Allo Udhyog has become one of the top suppliers of nettle fabric in Nepal
Sahina Shrestha

ONE STRAND AT A TIME: Tulsi Thapa (centre) cooks allo lokta in water and caustic soda, which is then washed, processed, and left to dry.
Starting with a modest investment of Rs 500,000, Mala Thapa Magar has managed to turn her small allo business into a profitable company worth Rs 3 million in just four years. Magar and a family friend first set up Himalayan Allo Udhyog in Balaju in 2009, today it produces five to six tons of allo - Himalayan nettle - fibre every month and provides employment to over 20 locals at three factories in Budhanilkantha, Basundhara, and Boudha.

The 24-year-old sociology graduate initially wanted to become a social worker and volunteered at a school for orphans. But after she saw that it was possible to run a business that looked beyond immediate profit and worked for the larger good of the community, she took the risk. “In the beginning it was hard. Not many people trusted me due to my age. But now I have loyal clients who have complete faith in our product,” she explains. “I couldn’t have done all this on my own, I have a very supportive team.” Shree Lal Bogati, who has been involved in the textile industry for more than 30 years, helps Magar buy raw material and sell the fibre, while Khadak Bogati has been managing the factories for the past year.

Managing director and owner Mala Thapa Magar inspects the dried yarns.

Himalayan buys raw allo known as allo lokta from farmers in rural Darchula, Bajhang, Mugu, and Manang. The factory in Budhanilkantha is almost completely staffed by local women who are paid Rs 6,000 a month on average. Twenty two-year-old Tulsi Thapa who is originally from Okhaldhunga has been working here for three months and says the numerous skills she has acquired in a short time will make it easier to find employment in the future.

Ganga Chaudary, 31, from Narayanthan worked at a school for eight years before joining the company a few months ago. “Although the work here is a little difficult than at the school, the environment is good and my co-workers are very friendly,” she explains. Housewife Sumitra Shrestha, 46, too is thrilled to be earning a good income and learning new skills. She says: “It is better to work than to sit idle at home.”

Sumitra Shrestha rolls the yarn into balls.

Himalayan Allo does not have a retail shop or an online outlet at the moment, most of the business is carried out by word of mouth. While carpet makers are the company’s biggest clients, handicraft shops including Sana Hasthakala in Kupondol and Blue Diamond, Thamel are also regular customers. With monthly sales averaging Rs 800,000, Himalayan’s products reach as far as Korea and there are plans of expanding to Japan.

In the next few months the factories in Basundhara and Boudha will be closed down and the entire production will move to Budhanilkantha as Magar and her team look to broaden their identity. “Right now we are just manufacturing fibre and fabrics which other companies use to make finished products. We want to start making our own clothes and accessories with the Himalayan Allo Udhyog tag so that we become an instantly recognisable brand,” says a beaming Magar.


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