Despite cut-throat competition from imported and domestic footwear brands, Dochha has madeits strong foothold with its unique product in the market.
--BY PRATIKSHYA KANDEL
In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of young people starting their own businesses. It is not uncommon to hear about young individuals who, after completing their intermediate level education, believe that it is impossible to start and run a successful business in their home country and instead opt to go abroad. However, the story of Watsal Rajbhandari and his two co-founders who launched Dochaa serves as an inspiring example that entrepreneurship is indeed possible in Nepal.
Dochaa is an ethical footwear brand in Nepal that showcases the country's rich culture and heritage. Since its inception in 2017, Dochaa has carved out a unique identity for itself in the footwear industry, both in Nepal and abroad. What sets Dochaa apart is its unconventional style and its focus on cultural reflection, unlike the branded shoes that are commonplace. As a result, Dochaa has become a popular and distinguished brand in the field of Nepali footwear, making waves since its launch in 2017.
"When we founded Dochaa, ethical manufacturing practices were not very common in Nepal. All of our team members were volunteers who came together during the earthquake. As we travelled to different communities, we noticed the unique ways of life and cultures there," said Rajbhandari. "Our goal was to showcase the art and culture of these communities through Dochaa. In this modern age, our rich cultural traditions are at risk of being forgotten and replaced by technology. By incorporating these traditional elements into our products, we aim to preserve and promote our culture.” Since none of the co-founders come from manufacturing background, they spent two years conducting market analysis and industry research to prepare for the launch. “Our main goal remains ethical manufacturing and cultural preservation," he added.
Rajbhandari also mentioned that Dochaa was started with an investment of Rs 300,000. The business began with footwear and has since expanded into other products. According to Rajbhandari, Dochaa is now producing bags, masks, and purses as well, diversifying the company's product line.
“Dochaa is a product that embodies one's identity through a fusion of tradition, art, and modernity. It values the authenticity of our culture and indigenous heritage,” Rajbhandari said. “Wearing a Dochaa product reflects the true self of the culture and artisans behind it, allowing individuals to appreciate their unique identity.”
Currently, Dochaa is being exported to countries such as the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, among others. According to Rajbhandari, the majority of the raw materials needed for manufacturing are available in Nepal, with the exception of the soles. “Soles need to be imported from foreign countries due to the poor quality of locally available soles,” he said, adding that soles are imported from countries like China and India.
According to Rajbhandari, Dochaa shoes are particularly popular among the younger generation aged between 18 and 24, although they are also available for other age groups. He acknowledged that the shoes are relatively expensive compared to other shoes due to the handmade manufacturing process and the incorporation of Nepali culture which increases the cost. However, Rajbhandari observed that as customers are becoming more aware of Nepali products, the sale of Dochaa shoes within the country is also increasing. Dochaa offers a range of products including shoes, masks, bags, and purses. The masks are priced at a minimum of Rs 150, while shoes start from Rs 2,750.
Rajbhandari acknowledges that there is a lot of competition in the market, with many imported and other domestic footwear brands available at lower prices than Dochaa. “Initially, convincing customers to purchase Dochaa products was challenging, as the brand was relatively expensive. However, as customers began to recognize the value of supporting Nepali products that reflect the country's culture, the task of promoting Dochaa became easier,” he said. “Currently, the market is a bit slow, but the unisex design of Dochaa products makes them suitable for both boys and girls.”
Rajbhandari believes that Nepali products have become increasingly popular with customers in both the domestic and international markets. While there are many brands of footwear that have been established in Nepal, Dochaa differentiates itself by offering unique products that reflect the country's culture. This has enabled the brand to gain a strong foothold in the Nepali market, as well as to export products to foreign countries. Rajbhandari also noted that promoting Nepali products can help to reduce imports, which can in turn contribute to a reduction in the country’s trade deficit.
“Initially, we had a very limited product line, and we had to take orders through Google Forms. After three months, we developed a website, which helped to increase our credibility,” he said, adding: “For the first six months, I personally made the deliveries. We didn't have an office and were operating out of our own room.”
"Our main aim is to produce high-quality footwear in Nepal. We are constantly working on improving the quality of our raw materials to create a premium product for our customers,” said Rajbhandari. Although Dochaa products may be expensive compared to other brands in the market, he said the company’s focus on quality and cultural authenticity sets it apart. “We have plans to expand our business outside Kathmandu in the near future, and hope to export larger quantities of our products to other countries as well."