Upcycling, which is the process of reusing or transforming waste materials into something useful and of greater quality, is currently a big trend around the world. With awareness increasing regarding environment protection and sustainability, more people are supporting and promoting upcycling trends. The trend of upcycling is growing in Nepal as well. With the increasing urbanisation, solid waste has been gradually increasing which is harming both the people and environment. However, companies like Samsara Creation work to escalate the concept of upcycling and educate people about the importance of recycling and upcycling.
Samsara Creation is a Kathmandu based social enterprise that manufactures eco-friendly products from recycled and naturally available resources. Collaborating with local artisans, they recycle the discarded plastic and textile waste into value-added consumer products and make accessories like bags, hats and home decors.
The story of Samsara Creation started back in 2019. A group of six university graduate students from Kathmandu University started a prototype project called ‘Waste to Art’ as a college assignment. After finding like-minded people, who had an interest in reuse and recycling, they decided to level up their college project and look at it from a business perspective.
At present, the team comprises CEO of the company Kushal Achhami, creative head Tanoshi Rai, project lead Ajit Bhatta and prospect research lead Bijay KC. Apart from the core team, they have two co-founding angel investors Varsha Pradhan and Chadani Mahat who have been providing angel investment and organisational advice to Samsara.
“Improper solid waste management practices and waste generation inside Kathmandu Valley were two of our identified problems that gave us an insight into the idea of ‘Waste to Art’ where solid waste could be turned into artistic products,” says Ajit Bhatta, one of the co-founders of the company.
Now two years later, the team believes that they are not just a team of six but of dozens of people working towards the common solution of waste management and establishing the culture of responsible consumption. Bhatta says that their enterprise helps in reducing the amount of solid waste ending up in the landfills of Kathmandu.
Product and Services
Initially, they collected the waste from their own houses and took them to production. Now, they make their products out of the waste they collect from landfill sites.
Samsara Creation offers a range of exceptional consumer products ranging from different kinds of bags such as tote bags, waist bags, round bags and bucket bags, hats, ties and scarves made from upcycled jeans. They also manufacture lifestyle products like storage baskets. Apart from this, they have also collaborated with local artisans and make handmade products through knitting and sewing.
Bhatta claims that most of their products are either upcycled or made from naturally available resources. They use natural fabrics such as hemp and dhaka and make various travel bags as well as masks.
With prices ranging from Rs 150 to Rs 1,500, customers can directly contact them through their website and social media handle on Instagram and Facebook.
The young graduates decided to start the business after their college project received a positive response. However, turning an idea into a reality was a challenge. They found the market outside their college campus to be a totally different concept compared to the paper they had presented at their university.
The company presented their products in the market after an initial period of trial and error. However, convincing and getting customer trust was a strenuous task for the team. “Starting a startup business in Nepal that focuses on social and environment-related issues was itself a challenge because it was linked with multiple concerns like scalability, financial stability, product-market fit, market demand and so on,” expresses Bhatta. He adds that a lot of people in Nepal are still not aware of responsible consumption and the importance of eco-friendly products. Selling the upcycled products in the Nepali market was easier said than done.
Meanwhile, they participated in different campaigns and programmes where they could directly interact with customers. They also held discussions and consultations with organisations and stakeholders associated in their field. This encouraged the team to work on building up awareness about their product. “We then focused on promotion and awareness about sustainable and eco-friendly products in the urban market of Nepal so that a larger urban population would be aware of the importance of these kinds of products.”
According to Bhatta, the domination of fast-fashion culture resulting in the availability of non-eco-friendly and cheaper alternatives makes it harder for businesses such as theirs to thrive in the market. However, he says that they see a lot of potential and opportunities in the country’s urban market. They believe that increasing the awareness about the eco-products and their production process to the wider community can create wider interest in people in the coming days.
Investment and Revenue Model
The company was established with a seed capital of Rs 100,000. While their sales contribute to their revenue, Bhatta adds that their major source of revenue is from project-related activities. “Besides manufacturing, we also implement various projects related to sustainability and literacy by partnering with development organisations,” he asserts.
Along with this, he states that they have secured crowdfunding investment from international platforms like The Bridge International. In addition, they have also received investments from their angel partners with whom they have been working closely for the last two and a half years.
Since they work on upcycled products, Bhatta informs that their target customers are mostly younger people who are environmentally conscious and those who prefer responsible consumption rather than fast fashion culture.
As most of their products are made by local artisans, Bhatta claims that buying their products means contributing to uplifting the living standard of local artisans of Kathmandu. “Most importantly, buying our products makes our customers socially and environmentally responsible as our products are made from either recycled materials or naturally available resources,” he says.
Samsara Creation also provides services to B2B partners such as corporate houses, NGOs and hospitality businesses.
In the age of technology, Samsara Creation also focuses on digital marketing and promotes their product digitally. “Having said so,” he informs, “We have also been showcasing our products in farmer’s markets of Kathmandu on a weekly and bi-weekly basis.”
Bhatta informs that they want to establish the first Nepali online community of environment conscious groups of people who practice sustainable living and responsible consumption in their daily lives by buying eco-friendly products. “This would be our initial step towards our mission of transforming urban consumers of Nepal into ethical and responsible buyers,” he adds.
In the next 10 years, they expect Nepali society to be made up of people who realise the importance of responsible consumption and a sharing community. “We believe Samsara itself will be at the forefront of Nepali society in influencing the consumers towards responsible and sustainable living,” he concludes.