This new brand is already making its presence felt with premium quality metal products.
--BY MANISHA BALAMI
Rising e-waste has been a big problem around the world. Electronic items mostly end up in landfills due to lack of proper disposal mechanisms, creating adverse impact on the environment as well as human health. But some young entrepreneurs have found ways to turn such wastes into wealth, promoting the circular economy movement which is helping to prevent rapid environmental degradation. One of such entrepreneurs is Nidhi Todi whose company Dhaatu Nepal works to upcycle e-wastes.
Nidhi claims that Dhaatu is Nepal’s first premium copperware brand to follow the circular economy model. “We believe in converting ‘waste to wellness’, and aspire to preserve the traditional Nepali metal craft as well,” she says.
Copperware has been used for various purposes in Nepal since ages for religious, cultural and health related reasons. As copper is considered ‘pure’, Hindus and Buddhists use items made up of this metal to perform religious rites. Many people also use copperware for perceived health benefits such as improving vitality and to give boost to immunity.
Before starting Dhaatu Nepal, Nidhi worked at a jewelry company in India. She came to Nepal after her marriage and looked for opportunities to utilise her experience in metalcraft. Her in-laws were in the business of metal recycling, and production of utensils and handicraft items. “We were producing general types of products and there was no innovation. Only the recycling of e-scraps was something different,” says Nidhi. After working for some time in the family-run business, she thought of utilising her experience. Before creating the brand, she did some market research to find out the viability of designer copperware.
The Production Process
The first step in producing Dhaatu products involves collecting e-scraps from junkyards of Kathmandu. Then copper is recovered from such scraps. The copper scraps are melted and finally turned into a thin sheet. Eventually, the sheets are beaten manually and given shapes of items like copper jugs, water glasses and bottles.
According to Nidhi, the production is carried out at their factory in Birgunj. “The scraps are collected in Kathmandu and are taken to Birgunj where the final product is made,” she informs.
Nidhi claims that unlike other copper utensils, Dhaatu Nepal’s products do not get smudged or lose colour overtime. “We perform a special Germany-made treatment to make them last long,” she says.
The company has launched copper drinkware in the first phase. Nidhi says she has noticed that many people in Nepal like to drink water and beverages from copper utensils because of perceived health benefits. This interest among people gave her a reason to launch Dhaatu.
The products of the company are available from Rs 900 to a maximum of Rs 2,000. According to Nidhi, Dhaatu products are only Rs 100-200 expensive than unbranded copper products available in the market.
The company is working to launch its second collection of decorative brass items like candle stands, flower vases, incense holders and kitchen utensils, like salad servers, cheese knives, serving spoons and platter, soon. After that, the company plans to launch bronze items.
The target group of Dhaatu Nepal is health and environment conscious people, especially youths, who are aware about healthy living, and are into spirituality, yoga and Ayurveda, according to Nidhi. “We have noticed that the demand for Dhaatu products is high among people aged 20–35 years. These are the people who are into sports, adventure and yoga, and want to avoid using plastic items.”
Lately, the demand for the company’s products is also growing among Nepali diaspora.
Dhaatu Nepal commenced operation during last year’s lockdown. At that time, Nidhi had no option but to sell the goods online. She then focused on online marketing and started selling products through all major e-commerce platforms including Daraz, SastoDeal and Gyapu. “Currently, our products can be bought from around 25 e-commerce platforms,” she says. Similarly, the company is also active in social media, such as Facebook and Instagram.
Dhaatu Nepal has also collaborated with Himalayan Java Coffee to sell its products. Currently, its products are available only at Himalayan Java, Durbarmarg, but there are plans to expand the presence to other franchises of the coffee chain. Of late, some souvenir shops in Kathmandu are also selling products of Dhaatu.
The company has also focused on direct marketing, especially targeting corporate clients, and is gradually getting orders through word-of-mouth publicity. In the coming days, Nidhi plans to reach out to hotels and restaurants.
According to Nidhi, the company’s current focus is on brand building as the production and sales have been obstructed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recently, Dhaatu Nepal also started to export its products to Japan and Taiwan. Plans are also afoot to export products to the United States. According to Nidhi, preparations have been made and the company has already sent samples.
“We want to take Dhaatu Nepal to the international market and let the world know that Nepal also produces premium quality metalcraft,” she says, adding, “But to expand global footprint we must give a modern touch to traditional crafts of Nepal.”