An American businessman and founder of McDonald’s franchise business Ray Kroc once said, “The more I help others to succeed, the more I succeed.” Utpala Tuladhar, proprietor of Sur Chemicals resonates with those words. Tuladhar also believes that a person should not only keep their knowledge to themselves but spread them to others so that they can also succeed in life.
“I believe that we should teach others what we know. We should not limit that knowledge to ourselves. This way we can help others along with ourselves to do something of their own,” she says, “Some of my friends even scolded me how can I shoot myself in the foot. However, I do what I believe in.” Following what she believed, she spent years on providing skill training to women as well as men to make soaps, mushroom farming, making pickles, briquettes and many more.
Born in Kalimpong, she was only a couple of years old when her parents returned back to Kathmandu, Nepal. Her father used to import goods from China and sell here in Nepal. Growing up in a business environment, she was interested in doing business from a young age. She recalls that she regularly used to go to her father’s shop at Ason as soon as her school was over. “I did my homework at the shop and see how my father did business. I was certain that I wanted to do a business of my own,” she says. However, she was not sure which business she wanted to do. After completing Bachelors of Arts in Home Science from Padma Kanya Campus, she worked as a teacher for two years to gain experience. She also worked in different non-governmental organisations and projects.
Prior to starting her own business, she was involved in Kathmandu Lady Jaycees where she could learn a lot of things through different trainings they provided. With what she had learned from the trainings, she went to different rural villages and gave training to other people. Tuladhar says that she was happy and satisfied to visit different places and provide training to people.
In 2058 BS one of her sisters from the organisation suggested her to start her own business. It was then that her passive interest of doing a business, revived. “I was always interested in starting something of my own but it was lingering because of other works. Her suggestion fueled my interest,” she expresses. Then she decided to start her own company Sur Chemicals. According to her, all kinds of daily cleaning products such as liquid soap, hand wash, laundry detergents, floor cleaning and sanitisers are produced.
With around Rs 50,000 from her savings, she started the company. She says that her friends helped her in the registration process. She rented a room and started production by hiring two staffs. Initially, she made liquid soap around 100 liters and packed it in coke plastic bottles. Now she had to convince people to buy her product. She visited every shop, hotels, and departmental stores and gave them a bottle of liquid soap as a sample. Convincing people was most difficult at the initial stage, she says. According to Tuladhar, people did not have trust in Nepali products then. She states that people were also cynical on what she was doing. However, after using the product, they were interested to buy her product.
As she did not have machineries while she started, she recalls that she had to use stick to mix the chemicals. Everything had to be done manually, but now, she has added machineries which has made the work a lot easier and faster.
She used to pack the liquid soap in the bottles that were made in Nepal. There were times when the nozzle of the bottles leaked while she used to carry her products in vehicle. Later she improvised the bottles and brought some bottles from India as well. Bringing bottles and some chemicals from India made her production costly. However, she did not compromise in the quality of the product and keep providing quality products. The ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies honored her with the Best Women Entrepreneur award in 2069 for producing qualitative products.
As demand started increasing, the rented room was not sufficient for her. She then made a shed from galvanized sheet at her home at Dallu and set up an office and small production area. Today, she has her factory at Balaju Industrial Estate where she produces liquid soap in a large scale and has employed 10 staffs. Now she produces around 10,000 to 12,000 liters of liquid soap every month. Earlier, she used to make a single type of liquid soap but at the moment, she has separated different categories and is making separate liquid for hand wash, detergent, and floor cleaning purpose.
She believes in empowering others along with oneself. So she contacted taxi drivers from her area and gave them the work of delivering the products. The company that started more than a decade ago with a capital of Rs 50,000 is now worth Rs 1.5 million.
A jar of 5 liter liquid soap of Sur Chemical costs Rs 350. Her products are available at Muncha House, Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (FWEAN) office, Daraz and Thulo.com. She also sells them to the hospitals and hotels. Moreover, she has also started home delivery service. Besides domestic market, the bathing soap that she produces are also exported to Japan and European countries.
Although women entrepreneurs are mostly small scale, Tuladhar believes that they create a lot of employment opportunities in the country and contribute to the nation’s gross domestic product. She expressed that the government should support such small scale businesses and bring entrepreneur-friendly policies which will help such businesses survive even during the crisis.
Apart from her business, she is also a member of Women Entrepreneur Association of Nepal (WEAN), WEAN cooperative and FWEAN.
An entrepreneur who has been into business for around two decades now, she says that the scenario has changed a lot. While the society used to have negative perspective towards working women at her time, she says that today, the one staying idle are considered so. Also the organisations such as FWEAN and WEAN are helping women entrepreneurs to uplift their businesses. “Organisations today are providing different trainings related to marketing, production, packaging and public relations, which makes entrepreneurs a lot easier,” she expresses. Being involved in the federation and different social organisations for a long year, she says that such organisations are beneficial for both personal as well as professional growth.
Out of her decade long experience, she says that strong dedication, perseverance and hardiness are some of the qualities an entrepreneur should have. She affirms that there are times when people feel like giving up but, one must not lose hope and should continue working hard. “An entrepreneur should not be shy to market oneself and the product,” she says, adding, “I still gift my own product to people on many occasions so that people know my product.”
A workaholic by nature, she like to spend her time gardening and with her parents whenever she is free.
She plans to expand her service range and supply her products out of the valley and focus more on export as well.