It should be pointed out, before the story of Giftland, Lokta paper, or the generosity of my Nepalese hosts is mentioned, that some things are done differently in Nepal. We in the West could learn a thing or two from them.
My hosts, while I was in Nepal, are the owners of Giftland, a business making high quality gift paper, journals and other products, run out of Kathmandu. Prasen, one of the owners at Giftland, arranged accommodation for me, a guide, dinner, places to visit and the odd piece of entertainment.
Giftland makes, as the name suggests, gifts. Its fine paper products, some of the finest you’ll come across, are the cornerstone of their business and the Lokta plant, a plant that grows only above about 1,500 metres, is the raw material that goes into these paper products.
I wanted to see their factory, I wanted to see how the paper was made, to see how fibrous bark from a plant grown in the mountains ended up as fine gift paper that is exported to the United States, Australia and who knows where else. The process, which goes back decades, is a manual one, most decidedly a manual one. The bark is collected from the mountains, it’s dried in kilns, bleached, pulped, silk screened and dried in the sun.
The paper is then taken to another factory where the paper is dyed the various colours, and from there to yet another factory where the latest patterns are put through a silk screen process before being packaged up ready for export.
Because of the monsoon season, there is a window that must be taken advantage of, in that sense it’s no different from seasonal considerations in a country such as Australia. But where this operation is not like most Australian businesses, or for that matter, most businesses anywhere, is that whilst Giftland seeks to maximise it’s profit, so it’s no different in that respect, it will not maximise it’s profit at the expense of it’s employees. Giftland wants to make sure that it’s people, it’s staff, stay with the business even through periods when there is no work.
They will keep staff when there is no work for them not only because they want to keep those valuable employees but because at it’s core they actually do care about the livelihoods of their people. They recognise that for Nepal to grow it needs profitable businesses but it also needs families who are able to support each other.
Prasen talked to me about the importance of this to Giftland the company and to him as an individual. He recognises that part of his duty as a business owner is to support the people of Nepal through whatever hard times come. Have a look around when you visit the country, take the time to ask the questions. The people who are rebuilding Nepal, following the earthquake that devastated the country in April, are not the government, it’s not the United Nations, it’s the people of Nepal, with the help of the odd foreigner who sees the dignity within.
The process of manufacturing these products is so much more than merely finding the most efficient (read: cost effective) method of production. It’s a manual process because even though Giftland could adopt the latest labour saving devices at it’s disposal in order to maximise it’s profits, sometimes it just wants to make sure people have jobs. Imagine a Western business adopting this radical and foolhardy approach. The Giftland model certainly reveals business acumen but it equally reeks of humanity. We could learn a lot from this way of doing business.
More Related Stories
My final day of visiting people affected by the April 25th earthquake made for an uneasy embrace of what it means to be denied a Western middle class upbringing. I had one, these delightful children have an upbringing only in the sense that they are not living on the street.
The village of Barabesie, in the region of Sindapowlchuk, north east of the capital Kathmandu, was at the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake. The village was flattened, almost destroyed. It’s people are resilient, they are rebuilding.
Kailash is an artist. When you are introduced to him he will say “hello, my name is Kailash, I am an artist.” You are left in no doubt. An artist he most certainly is, in demeanour, in the passion with which he talks about teaching others, creating works that speak to people and about letting the world know that Art can help change it.
A medieval village popular with tourists flattened by the April 2015 earthquake.
The first thing that springs to mind when one sees devastation like this is how hopeless the task of rebuilding appears to be. It’s not just the homes and the temples, it’s the lives, particularly in light of the knowledge that there is no one to help, no insurance and a mere token of government assistance. It’s left to those around you, your neighbours, your relatives, your village folk. In other words, your community.
Jay Nepal, which means “Victory Nepal”, is a motley arrangement of Nepalis and foreign backpackers who have banded together to help rebuild, or more correctly, in the first instance anyway, demolish Nepal.