Magnificent seven: Thriving agro business cemented by friendship
KATHMANDU, Aug 1: Though they came from different villages in Kaski District, the six young men didn’t know each other until they met in Qatar. The men, who had come to Qatar to earn their living, became good friends, and when they returned to Nepal one year ago, their friendship transformed into a collective agriculture business.
Returning to Nepal after seven to 18 years of life in Qatar, the group of young men from Kaski is fully involved in their partnership. With the intention of doing something when they came back home, the friends had formed plans to start an agriculture business while still in Qatar and accordingly, they initiated the Seven Group Star Suppliers.
While there were seven members originally, now Hanshraj Dhakal Chettri, Khim Bahadur Karki, Prakash BK, Kedar Kunwar, Ram Chandra Thapa, and Aash Bahadur Gurung are involved in the business. Though Hanshraj and Aash Bahadur are still in Qatar, they are financially supporting the rest who are running the partnership.
Kedar Kunwar says, “We’ve started this collective agriculture business according to the discussions we had in Qatar. While we were discussing ideas, we settled upon this one, and within a few months of each other, we returned to start our business.” He joined the business in mid May.
The members, whose income varied from Rs 50,000 to 75,000 per month in Qatar, aren’t only involved in their agriculture business but are also planning to start livestock and vegetable cultivation business .
Their daily routine consists of buying seasonal and non-seasonal vegetables from nearby villages in Pokhara and selling them in various parts of the city. They take their vehicle while moving from one village to another, buying and selling their vegetables.
Kunwar says, “There’s a different pleasure in selling vegetables in your own country. My stay in a foreign land has taught me that money isn’t everything. The value of earning Rs 20,000 in your own country is greater than earning Rs 50,000 abroad. That’s my experience of seven years’ stay in another country. We think that going abroad means a lot of money for us, but we can earn more here in our own country. We shouldn’t jump at the opportunity to go abroad.”
Like others sell their vegetables in carts, the youths, who are graduates, use their vehicle to sell their vegetables in the market.
Kunwar explains, “It’s our routine to sell vegetables from 4:30 to 10 o’clock in the morning and again from 4 to 7 pm. We’ve understood that if we work hard, we can also earn quite well in our own country.”
Separating themselves into groups, some of the four members go to buy the vegetables while the rest sell them at different market areas in Pokhara. Their main market is the tourist hub of Lakeside, and some hotels and college hostels are now their regular customers. Apart from that, they also retail their vegetables.
Since they buy vegetables straight from farmers, consumers don’t have to pay extra money for them. Kunwar says, “As we buy the vegetables from the farms and take them straight to the market, the consumers don’t have to bear any extra costs. The farmers also get good prices as we deal straight with them.” The prices at other businesses are higher as the sellers have to go through contractors and middlemen at different levels.
They visit villages like Hemja and Bharat Pokhari near Pokhara to buy their vegetables. Now they sell more than Rs 50,000 worth of vegetables in a day. Kunwar says, “We do business worth Rs 20 lakhs in a month, and our business also fluctuates according to the season.”
The young men are also getting ready to expand their business to include livestock and organic farming. For that, they have leased nearly eight ropanis of land at Prasyang in Pokhara. Paying Rs 100,000 annually for 10 years of lease, they have marked two and a half ropanis of land for livestock and the rest for cultivating vegetables.
They are preparing troughs and sheds for their cattle, and will soon buy buffalos and start planting vegetables. They plan to buy 10 buffalos for now, and plant seasonal as well as non-seasonal vegetables.
Around Rs 2.5 million has been invested by them till now. The six members have invested equally in the business, and if more investment is needed, they will put in equal amounts of money.
“Our desire is to be known as model vegetable businessmen. Our efforts should motivate many young people who are trying to go abroad to earn money to do something in their own country and those who are already there to return,” says Prakash BK.
He further said that though there’s more money working in Qatar compared to selling vegetables here, one doesn’t have any satisfaction there. Returning home after nine years, he says, “There’s a different satisfaction working in your own country, and at least we’re able to stay with our families here. We’ve seen Nepali workers in a lot of pain there and as we couldn’t control our own pain, we decided to return and start an agriculture business in partnership.”
Though there were a lot of options, they decided on agriculture as they come from agricultural families. They also chose this business when they saw that farmers didn’t get proper prices for their produce.