Two young women started ARA Nepal after seeing a space to penetrate into the footwear market and grow.
--BY PEMA YANGZOM SHERPA
“Believe in something so much that you dare to start your brand”. Two young entrepreneurs Vishakha Rana and Ashamsha Thapa - the founders of footwear brand ARA - are firm believers of this saying. Though most young adults in Nepal choose to work abroad, these two youths have challenged this trend and started a startup on their own.
Established in 2021, ARA Nepal is a company that produces trendy handmade shoes and sells them at reasonable prices. It sells stylish footwear products - mostly flats and heels for ladies - that are attractive and sustainable. “Our plan is to become people’s first choice for footwear,” Rana, a cofounder of ARA Nepal, shared with New Business Age.
The two entrepreneurs wanted to offer people the products manufactured completely in Nepal. Though an increasing number of Nepali consumers are buying footwear from foreign brands, the number of those liking local brands is rising gradually. Seeing the opportunity, the duo decided to start their own brand. The other factor that inspired the two youths to start their own brand was the jobs that their venture would create. “We believe in creating employment opportunities and catering footwear products at prices affordable to all, especially the youth,” Rana said.
The USP of ARA Nepal
Every startup has a unique selling proposition (USP) that helps them stand out and grow in the crowded market. Promoters of ARA Nepal say the company’s objectives, vision, and features make them unique.
While studying the Nepali footwear market before starting their startup, Thapa and Rana realised that there were few to no Nepali brands manufacturing and selling slippers and heels, which are completely handmade from non-leather materials, for women. They saw the space to penetrate into the market and grow. In addition to this, a wide range of slippers with different colours also adds up to its uniqueness.
The Nepali footwear market is vast with new factories and companies opening new outlets or expanding their franchises. Despite the dominance of foreign brands, local footwear producers are also doing well in the market and are coming up with fantastic products for their customers.
According to the founders of ARA Nepal, there is a great opportunity in the footwear industry. When ARA Nepal was taking its first footsteps, they keenly observed the domestic footwear market. While observing the market, they found out that there was a lack of support from the government.
“There is a huge opportunity in the market. The only thing we need is proper facilitation by the government and needful training for the workers,” say the founders of ARA Nepal. When asked how customers have reacted to their products, they shared with New Business Age that people are still sceptical of using Nepali brands. This is because they trust the quality of international brands more than the Nepali brands,” Thapa shared.
Thapa and Rana established ARA Nepal with the core values of creating sustainability of the products at a reasonable price. In the beginning, they faced difficulties in convincing and building trust with the craftsmen and manufacturers. Craftsmen and manufacturers are the key part of this business and convincing them to give their best on the work was a great task. Eventually, as the orders started to come, the craftsmen and manufacturers began to trust them which made their work easier. “They are the backbone of our business. Now, we all work as a team, delivering the finest product to our customers,” said Rana.
The other hurdle faced by the founders of ARA Nepal was gaining the trust of customers. Starting as a new brand is a hurdle on its own. From marketing the product to building a good customer-based service, this startup did it all. “Initially, people were sceptical about the shoes and were hesitant to try them out,” Thapa said. However, the brand started growing thanks to the word of mouth publicity. They received good feedback from customers and their business started expanding gradually.
Many would agree that many businesses and startups would have thrived in Nepal had the government been more supportive. According to the founders of ARA Nepal, many more young entrepreneurs would come up if the government provides cheaper loans for startups and considers reducing taxes.
Another way the government can help startups, according to them, is by providing training and workshops targeting budding entrepreneurs. By doing so, many innovative ideas could be discussed and further encouraged to execute them, they added. For now, ARA Nepal is working on its current line of footwear. They have got plans ready to expand their business in the days to come.