15-21 May 2015 #758

Getting back on track

Encouraged by employees, factory owner decides to open workshop few days after the earthquake.
Sahina Shrestha

SHOP OPEN: Seamstresses work on sweater designs at the Everest Pashmina Warehouse two weeks after the the earthquake on 25 April. Photo: Gopen Rai

It was Saturday and Kali Bahadur Pahari (pic) was at his home in Badikhel when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Central Nepal. The first floor of his two-storey house was badly damaged. Luckily, his family escaped unhurt.

A long time employee of Everest Pashmina Knitting and Weaving Industry in Jharuwabasi, Pahari came back to work a few days after the earthquake. Like him, there were other employees eager to get back to work even though the back wall of the building where the sewing stations were located had collapsed and the main office and warehouse were damaged.

Fifty employees worked together to clean up the mess and get the factory up and running. An engineer was called who assessed the buildings and supervised the reconstruction of the back wall. Three weeks after the earthquake half of the 300 employees are back at work, producing handcrafted pashmina products.

Reopening the factory so soon wasn’t an easy decision for Santosh Gurung, owner of the small family-owned business in the south-west corner of the Valley. One-third of the workers had damaged homes and a seamstress lost her life. But seeing that his employees were eager to be back at work, he decided to go ahead with the production.

“Opening the factory was important not only for employees who depend on us for livelihood but also because we owe it to our customers to deliver the products on time,” says Gurung. “It is also the best way to begin the recovery process.”

Fifty employees including Kali Bahadur Pahari worked together to clean up the mess and get the factory up and running.

Products made at Everest Pashmina are exclusively exported to countries like Spain and Luxemburg. “It will still take a few weeks to go into full production but at least we have started work for now,” says Gurung, who is currently busy rectifying the buildings. “Come end of the year the buildings will have been rectified to withstand earthquakes up to 9 magnitude,” he adds.

He is also collecting funds to help employees whose homes have been damaged to rebuild. “My customers have extended their help and for that I am forever grateful,” he says.

Robin Boustead, a customer of Everest Pashmina for nearly two years has launched a campaign in Indiegogo, a crowdfunding and fundraising website, to collect relief funds for earthquake victims in Nepal. His brand Mirror in the Sky caters to large multinational companies to small boutiques and will be donating 10 per cent of all sales to disaster relief programs in Nepal.

Boustead believes that combining emergency aid with long-term business partnership is the best combination of immediate assistance and helping people to rebuild their lives.

“We had planned to launch our Indiegogo campaign for our Signature Designs, but then the earthquake happened and really it became an opportunity to provide relief funds and highlight the need for business partners to stick by Nepal,” says Boustead. “The situation will deteriorate further if the overseas communities desert Nepal and we want to make a very vocal point about loyalty and support.”

Read also:

Shaken but strong, Jan Møller Hansen

Bright lights on a dark day, Mark Zimmerman

Rising from the rubble, Anurag Acharya

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