Opportunities for Nepal as Face Mask Exporter

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Opportunities for Nepal as Face Mask Exporter

--BY KRISHNA RAJ BAJGAIN

Market penetration is regarded as the most painstaking aspect in international marketing. If you can make good market penetration, you may be successful in that market. Credibility, connection and competency are the fundamental qualities required to achieve good market penetration. The good news is that Nepali entrepreneurs have proved that they possess all these qualities. There are several cases from history to prove this. And the most recent case is available in face mask exports from Nepal.

Interestingly, Nepali entrepreneurs have exported face masks to the United States and Japan, which are regarded as the most sophisticated and competitive markets.  Though the volume of face mask exports from Nepal is very small compared to the total face mask import of these countries, this experience proves that Nepal can increase exports provided the entrepreneurs are provided the necessary environment.

However, Japan and USA were just two of the markets. It is noteworthy to mention that Nepali exporters successfully introduced Nepal-made face masks in 10 countries across the world while the entire world was deeply suffering from the unprecedented crisis of the pandemic and struggling to maintain supply chains for essential goods and services and health items. International borders were closed, and health related issues were the most dominating factors   and strict lockdown provisions were imposed all over the world. During such a difficult period, importing raw materials, operating factories and fulfilling administrative procedures were difficult. Despite that, Nepali entrepreneurs were able to produce and export the face masks.

Export of face masks to developed countries during such a difficult time has also given a strong message to those at the policy making level who normally accuse the private sector as seekers of incentives and subsidies only. It has also illustrated the resilience of Nepali entrepreneurs. If the Nepali entrepreneurs are given a conducive environment and protection as their counterparts in the immediate neighborhood - India and China - the performance of our entrepreneurs would exceed that of the Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs.

Considering the example of face mask exports, Nepal should support startups. Due help should be provided to them for participating in international exhibitions. Financial support too should be provided such as subsidised loans and bearing the cost of market promotion trips. Higher rates of export incentives and subsidies especially during the incubation period would be very helpful.  Also required is a coordinative support from Nepali diplomatic missions abroad.   Though the share of Nepal in the total US mask import is negligible at present as compared to major suppliers like China, we can increase our share by supporting our exporters and persuading the US administration for lower tariff rates for Nepali products.  

Though the import figures for facemasks is alarming, this also indicates the huge potential in this industry so as to substitute the imports.  The resulting advantages of scale will yield multiple dividends.

(Bajgain is a Senior Officer at Trade and Export Promotion Center.)

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