Along the increasingly gentrified streets of Naxal lies a paradise for tailor-made decorative items.
--BY NIKEETA GAUTAM
With the home décor market flooded with readymade goods, it has become quite difficult for buyers to find customised household and decorative items. However, a startup has come up with tailor-made solutions for people who are looking for such types of items. Founded by two sisters, Priyanka Basnet and Prasanna Basnet, Cotton Mill is getting fast recognition among customers who want to buy products with a personal touch.
The Basnet sisters with their zeal for business turned their thoughts into action by establishing their custom design store in 2011. Brought up in Biratnagar, one of the major industrial areas of the country, the siblings naturally absorbed the concept of manufacturing from an early age. Priyanka did her bachelors in International Management and Prasanna did her masters in Public Policy from Germany. After returning to Nepal in 2006, both ladies started working in their respective fields. But it didn’t take them long to realise their dream to do something of their own. “Our jobs were quite fun but we wanted to start our own venture,” says Prasanna. Their initial idea was to start a coffee plantation and later they shifted to importing household fabrics from China. After starting the business, they saw the potential of home furnishing textiles in Nepal. This led them into the textile business.
Cotton Mill manufactures all kinds of screen printed household textiles. “It will be not wrong to say that we are the only company of its kind which focuses on providing customised products to customers,” says Priyanka. The colours of all the products found in the Cotton Mill store are usually light. “Light colours are happy colours. So, when we decorate our homes with light coloured fabrics, the rooms look bright,” mentions Prasanna. Cotton Mill located at Naxal, offers all kinds of home furnishing items such as quilts, cushions, cushion covers, bed sheets, pillows, baby mustard pillows, and baby throws for infants. The cotton products are produced in the factory at Jorpati by a staff of 20 women. They use raw materials bought domestically and the products are purely homemade.
“When we started production, most Nepali products looked similar. So we decided to produce products atypical and domestic at the same time,” recalls Priyanka. They were neither from a family with a business background nor did they learn business while at university. “When we began, we had no idea about screen printing. Youtube helped us develop our creativity and we trained our staff on new ways of production. The initial phase was solely about learning, investing and, basically, doing. The initial investment was small and all we added capital frequently with our monthly remuneration from our jobs,” says Priyanka.
“The start was full of bitter experiences. We worked from someone else’s factory due to which we had to wait for a long time to get the designs printed for a single product. Being amateurs, we also made mistakes,” she shares.
In the course of doing business, the Basnet sisters say that they have never lost their sense of professionalism. “One time, some of the fabrics bought by some customers lost their colour. We took back all the products and gave them new ones,” informs Prasanna. This kind of professional behaviour has helped Cotton Mill to gain the trust of its customers.
Many boutique hotels and restaurants buy from Cotton Mill. Regular local customers, expats and Nepalis staying abroad also order customised products from them. Always ambitious, the sisters aim to open five franchise stores in Kathmandu and one in Pokhara. They also plan to export their products abroad within five years. “Nowadays, people don’t just only wear fashionable clothes but they are also conscious about adding unique decorative products in their homes. This kind of trend is encouraging us to produce more atypical products,” shares Priyanka.
The two founders have been boosting their business acumen by taking part in different entrepreneur workshops organised by FNCCI. They recently completed a 100 day entrepreneurship course from a business accelerator. When asked about the effectiveness of such mentorship, Priyanka shares that after joining the programme she felt the need to do more in order to stand out in the highly competitive market. “Having good knowledge about profit margins, effective marketing and the legal aspects of finance is important in every business. So, I strongly sense the need for such effective mentorship programmes for all kinds of SME’s,” opines Priyanka. “Organisations like FNCCI, CNI and NCC should also be proactive in order to develop all kinds of businesses in Nepal. Getting regular workshops and getting opportunities to network with business people can help us increase our potential in this field,” she adds.