A business of collecting and supply of Rudraksha thrives and expands on the dedication of three generations.
--BY NEWBIZ TEAM
Rudrakshas, scientifically named as Elaeocarpus ganitrus, are prayer beads that are of great significance to Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. The market for Rudraksha is high not only in Nepal but also in various parts of the world. As Rudraksha grown in Nepal is considered the most superior in terms of quality and effectiveness, there is a high demand for these sacred beads in the international market. Nepa Rudraksha - a collector and supplier of Rudraksha - is not only collecting and selling high-quality and authentic Rudrakshya beads but is also providing consultation to its clients and guiding them in choosing the correct Rudraksha for them.
Started in 1973, Nepa Rudraksha is a family business run by Mukunda Khatiwada. The company boasts of one of the largest collections of Rudraksha beads in Nepal. It has been collecting genuine Rudraksha beads from different parts of Nepal and supplying them to the market. According to conservative estimates, the market of Rudraksha is worth around Rs 600-700 million. Rudraksha beads produced in Bhojpur and Sankhuwasabha are in high demand compared to other parts of the country. Mukunda, the CEO of Nepa Rudraksha, shared with New Business Age that Rudraksha beads come in various sizes, and that the demand and price vary depending on size. Recently, there has been a rise in the demand for these sacred beads which has opened a door of opportunity for many.
Continuing the Legacy
After providing Rudraksha-related services from a store in Pashupatinath Temple premises for over 72 years, Nepa Rudraksha has opened its outlet in the US as well. In 1950, Mukunda’s father Balaram, a priest in the Pashupatinath Temple, went to Varanasi, India, on a pilgrimage. During his visit, he saw stores selling Nepali Rudraksha on the narrow alleys of Varanasi. According to Khatiwada, the demand for Nepali Rudraksha in India’s holy place for Hindus prompted his father to initiate a business on Pashupati Temple premises. After returning back, he started a shop to sell flowers and offerings as well as Rudraksha and Saligrams - fossilised ammonite stones believed to be of religious significance - to the devotees visiting the Pashupatinath temple. The business soon picked up as the sacred Rudraksha beads became available to thousands of pilgrims - both Nepali and Indians - on the temple premises itself. In 1999, Mukunda stepped up to continue the business that his father started. “The competition has grown immensely these days compared to four or five stores on the Pashupatinath temple premises 50 years ago,” he added.
Taught by his father at the age of five, Mukunda gained knowledge on Rudraksha as well as techniques to select, use and gain maximum benefits out of a Rudraksha bead. After conquering the domestic market, the company now has global aspirations. As part of the global expansion plan, Mukunda has already opened a Nepa Rudraksha store in the US. His son has taken on the mantle of the business in the US.
“After my son completed his studies, he wanted to explore the markets in the US and see whether it’s good for our business,” said Mukunda. “But to his surprise, the store in the US is receiving overwhelming response. The growing Indian diaspora in the US as well as other parts of the world offers a great potential for Nepali Rudraksha products.” Rudraksha beads are regarded as a “prasad” by the Hindus and are considered holy. Mukunda shared with New Business Age that they have tried to use their business skills and knowledge of Rudraksha in the US. There is scope in other countries as well, but for now we are focused on the stores in Nepal and US, he added. According to Mukunda, the expertise and experience that they had built over three generations put Nepa Rudraksha in a unique position to collect premium quality and authentic Rudraksha and prescribe them to their clients.
Concerned with low-quality and fake Rudraksha supply through online marketplace, Mukunda launched Nepa Rudraksha as an online store to make sure that people looking for authentic Rudraksha beads get the authentic beads and to preserve the true practices of wearing, selecting and energising beads. He claims that about 90% of Nepali Rudraksha being exported out of the country is supplied by Nepa Rudraksha.
The history of Rudraksha dates back to 5,000 years ago. According to Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Rudraksha grew from tears dropped from Lord Shiva’s eyes. It is, therefore, believed that in order to please Lord Shiva and Parvati, one should wear Rudraksha beads and offer them to the gods and goddesses as well. According to Mukunda, there are many reasons why people purchase Rudraksha beads. Firstly, there are those who purchase these holy beads following the instructions of their spiritual teachers. There are various Rudrakshas with different faces that serve different purposes. For example, the 12-face Rudraksha is believed to instil in the wearer the qualities of sun: rule with brilliance, radiance and power in the wearer. Likewise, the 15-face Rudraksha is said to heal the heart of those who wear it and free them from loneliness, depression and other illnesses related to the heart.
Mukunda also gets a lot of inquiries from researchers and scholars who want to gain more knowledge about Rudraksha. “I like to guide them and discuss the Rudraksha in depth,” he added. He proudly says various spiritual gurus, political leaders and business tycoons are wearing Rudraksha beads distributed by Nepa Rudraksha. “Anyone who wants to bring a positive change in their life should wear Rudraksha for maximum effectiveness,” he added.
Competition and Challenges
In Nepal, there are different outlets that sell Rudraksha beads. But only a few of them are selling genuine products. Many have been found deceiving consumers which has downgraded the value of the holy beads in the market. “When a customer makes an inquiry about Rudraksha, the first question would always be whether the beads are original. This has become a common question that we hear as fake Rudraksha beads have been flooding the market in recent years,” said Mukunda. In his opinion, due to a lack of business ethics, the Rudraksha business risks facing trust issues in the future.
“The Nepali Rudraksha is the Rudraksha that is mentioned in ancient texts including the Shiva Purana and Upanishad, and it is most widely used by people across the world including spiritual practitioners and leaders,” the collector said. “However, due to extreme rarity and a premium price, vendors have started to look for cheaper alternatives to increase their profitability while sacrificing the effectiveness of Rudraksha.”
In recognition of its track record of implementing and maintaining a quality management system for collection and distribution of natural Rudraksha beads, Nepa Rudraksha has also acquired ISO 9001:2015 certification. All beads come with free X-Ray report, and Nepa Rudraksha is the only company in the entire industry to provide this service for free, he said. As Mukunda is running a business passed down by his father, he has his own suppliers who visit his home with the beads. Since there is a direct connection with the supplier, there are no compromises with the quality. Recently, Chinese traders have been distorting the market by selling the same Rudraksha at higher prices. This has not only affected prices, but is also causing an unhealthy competition in the market, according to Mukunda.
When asked whether the market of Rudraksha beads will be affected in the future as the younger generation is not much into spirituality, Mukunda says the attraction toward Rudraksha among younger generations is growing. “I have found the younger generation is more attracted toward astrology and other things which is pushing up the demand for Rudraksha beads,” he added.
From fruit to beads
There is a long process for the extraction of rudraksha beads from the fruit. The fruit should only be plucked when it is fully ripe. Next step would be to soak the fruit in water for a few days to soften the hard skin. After the skin softens, the beads can be extracted by peeling off the skin. The beads should be dried properly under the sun. The bead is then refined by cleaning and oil polishing. As Nepali Rudraksha has a natural hole, it is easier to make chains and necklaces. The shape and the face determines the quality, rarity and price of the Rudraksha bead, according to the seasoned collector.