Tika, Tikuli, Chura (bangles) and Pote are highly essential fashion accessories for Nepali women, and their import last fiscal year that ended in mid-July 2021 increased by 34 percent compared to a year before.
These items are not merely fashion items. They are called Saubhagya (auspicious) ornaments, in the sense that 'those who wear these items are not widows'. Pote is a beaded necklace that all Nepali married women wear. Tika and Tikuli are marks worn on the forehead by all Nepali women, married or yet to marry. Thus, these items have huge demand.
Despite such importance, Nepal is fully reliant on imports to meet the demand for these products. India is the major source country followed by Japan, China and the Czech Republic. India constitutes a 71 percent share in Nepal's total import of such articles. According to the data published by the Department of Customs, the import of such articles has reached Rs 640 million in FY 2020/21 which is a 34 percent increase in value compared to the previous fiscal year. The import of such articles is increasing with an average annual growth of 12.56 percent over the last 13 years.
The import trend and figures both indicate a potential industry to invest in, for Nepali investors in general and women entrepreneurs in particular. Saubhagya jewellery industry has a market within the country as well for exports to the countries with a large Nepali diaspora.
Potential also exists to increase the export of such items from Nepal targeting also the non-Nepali origin women. This can be done by proper branding and promotion as unique traditional handicraft material. Though this is also being exported, the potential in exports is still not being fully exploited.
(Bajgain is a Senior Officer at TEPC.)