Joshi’s collective store Dhuku: provides a platform for showcasing artistic products crafted by women entrepreneurs.
“I raise my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back,” Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist once said. Niti Joshi, founder of the concept store Dhuku: resonates with those words. Joshi also believes that it is important to empower other women together with oneself.
Born to famous artist Ramananda Joshi, she grew up in a very artistic environment. Seeing her father paint had created a kind of interest and attraction towards art in her. “My father used to say ‘Life is incomplete without art’,” she recalls remembering her late father. “Growing up in an artistic environment, I have always wanted to study and work in the field of art,” she states. But despite her interest in the field of art, she could not study what she wanted. However, that did not stop her from supporting the sector.
Although she did not want to enter the business fraternity, the home environment and situation led her toward establishing her own business. After her father passed away, when she was only 16 years old, the responsibility of the family came on the two sisters. To sustain the family, her elder sister started managing Park Gallery which was started by their father. Likewise, after a couple of years, in 1998, Joshi started Park Shop from where she and her younger sister started an art and framing business. Moreover, continuing her love for art, she founded Frame World in 2007 which has now three branches in Kathmandu valley.
She says that by framing, people understand only as putting a frame and a glass. But she says there are various aspects such as designing, size, colour combination and proportion in framing as well. “It is also a kind of art,” expresses Joshi.
The Story of Dhuku
Joshi’s journey to establish Dhuku: started after her affiliation with different women associations and organisations and the involvements have proven beneficial for her. “I have been able to explore many new things after I have become a member of the organisation,” she evokes, “I have got opportunity to participate in different entrepreneurship programs and training, national as well as international trade fairs and exhibitions through the organisation.”
Joshi had her businesses and they were running quite well, but she felt that she also needs to do something from her side to empower other women entrepreneurs. “I found the idea of concept store abroad where products from various entrepreneurs were showcased in one place. I found it lacking in Kathmandu,” she says. Joshi then realised that she could open Dhuku, a concept store in Kathmandu where she could display artistic products made by women entrepreneurs. This way she felt that she could contribute to women empowerment as well as promote art and craft. Hence, she started the store in August 2019.
Joshi has given priority to those women entrepreneurs who have just started their business, have unique products but need a physical store. Besides, she being an art enthusiast, she has products in her store that reflects art. “Not only handicraft, I feel every product should represent art, be it jewellery, scarfs, accessories, bags or any ceramic product,” she says. For instance, she explains that there are scarfs that are hand-painted and reflect the ethnic culture, jewellery and accessories also have artistic designs and embroidery. “So you can see art in every product,” she adds.
Being involved in different organisations related to women entrepreneurship and advocacy, Joshi has been able to connect with women entrepreneurs. At present, she has a total of 10 different major brands and five supporting brands. Products that are made by burn survivors and those women who cannot afford the rent for stores have been categorised as supporting brands.
As of now, she has women entrepreneurs from the valley only but she says that she will slowly connect with women out of the valley. However, she has put products made from natural fibre by rural women.
Every Challenge is an Opportunity
The lockdown to control the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every sector. Women entrepreneurs who are mostly in small and medium enterprises are badly affected. While common challenges such as finance, being able to sustain, manpower etc. were already there, the lockdown has added to the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. Regardless of that Joshi feels that patience is the key to overcoming any hurdle.
“Working smarter, not harder is the way at present,” she expresses. Furthermore, she believes that this lockdown has allowed for upgrading and changing. She states that prior to the lockdown, she did not pay sufficient attention to marketing, but now that the situation has drastically changed, she has started focusing on online marketing and started door to door delivery system. Before that, word of mouth was the only marketing tool she had used. This lockdown has given her a clear vision on how to move her business forward. She has been able to participate in different online programs where they discuss ways of coping with the situation as of now. “I feel the situation at present is challenging but it gives more opportunity,” she clears.
Her products, being non-essential and luxury items are not in high demand in the current situation. However, she is optimistic and hopeful that she can do better and resume her business smoothly. Slow and steady is her motto.
Insufficient Government Aid
According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, Nepali women’s contribution in GDP is 36 percent. “The report clearly shows that Nepali women are very much forward in entrepreneurship. This is good for the upliftment of nation and society,” she explains. So, she says, the government should also create an encouraging environment for the women entrepreneurs. She states that at a time when entrepreneurs have zero income, have larger expenses, the government should have brought different subsidies to mitigate panic in entrepreneurs. “The budget is also not satisfactory. Many things were already prevalent, among which, many lacks implementation,” she states.
A mother of two, Joshi believes that maintaining a balance between professional and personal life depends on the individuals themselves. “It’s all in your hand on how to manage business and family. I have seen so many young girls who lag by not being able to manage these two,” she expresses. She believes family support is necessary but it depends on how much one person is dedicated towards their work. “If a person is keen, dedicated and hardworking, then one can do it. It is more challenging but it’s really up to you how to handle it,” she adds.
Although a workaholic by nature, Joshi is a trekking enthusiast who loves hiking.
For the convenience of her customers, Joshi is soon opening an outlet of Dhuku: in Patan. After many customers expressed inconvenience due to the distant location, she has decided to open one at Lalitpur. Likewise, she is also planning to tie up with local as well as international e-commerce platforms. “We need to tie up with other online companies so that our products can find recognition in the international market. I have already contacted a few companies,” she informs.