Berries of Opportunities

Nepal has always had an agricultural based economy; but though 88% of the population is involved in agriculture, it contributes to less than 30% of the GDP. Nepal cannot compete with other countries when it comes to mass production of agricultural products, but  it can compete in niche markets. With its aim on providing “naturally delicious, high quality, strawberry at fair price”, Indradevi Strawberry Farm could be a step forward for such niche markets.

Indradevi Strawberry Farm’s location could not be more ideal than Kakani. According to Balram Pathak the Director/ CEO of Indradevi Strawberry Farm,  “Kakani’s  altitude, temperature and the annual rainfall makes it’s the ideal location for particular variety of strawberries that is grown in Nepal. In fact the Japanese International Cooperation, had stated that the best quality of strawberry that can be found in Nepal, can be grown in Kakani.” Indradevi Strawberry Farm is a successful business, but when it was launched in 2011, Balram Pathak and his partners Madhusudan Lamichane ( Chairman) and Purna Lama (Director) did not just want to build up a business.  What they wanted was to have an “exemplary product” and also to “help the underprivileged indigenous people (the Tamangs)” who live locally in Kakani. And, within the six years of their launch they have been successful is achieving both. Indradevi Strawberry Farm has given employment to at least one family member of 50 households in the vicinity of their farm. They mostly employ housewives, who would otherwise be financially dependent on others, to pluck the strawberries and do other farm work. Through the Rockstart Impact Program they want to be able to continue to help and employ the locals near their 87 Ropani ( 10.93 Acers) farm, so that the underprivileged people in their region will not only have “a stable job but also gain a skills and build up their confidence.  Which will go a long way in changing their lifestyle for the better, “shared Balram Pathak.

Although come November to February, you can hardly any vegetable or fruit shop without encountering these sweet morsels of goodness. According to Balram Pathak the demand of the high quality strawberries domestically cannot be met by the production of strawberries in Nepal. “There is a huge scope in this sector, and we have hardly touched a lot of the (strawberry) market. Furthermore, we are not planning to limit ourselves to Kathmandu as our sole platform to sell strawberries” explained Balram Pathak. Currently, they are selling their strawberries under the name of Indradevi Strawberry in all Bhat Bhateni department stores. But he revealed that they are planning on expanding to Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Birathnagar; and instead of just limiting to department stores to sell their products they want to target high end party palaces, and  business houses to name a few. Apart from domestic expansions, they intend to also export the strawberries to India (New Delhi, Bombay and Kolkata) and China (Kuming and Guangzhou).  The need of the hour according to Balram Pathak is “quality and consistency of the product, good packaging and branding as well as timely deliveries.” Which incidentally are the key factors that they are focusing on.

Indradevi Strawberry Farm is already a successful business, but with the help of Rockstart Impact program they want to reach new heights and “broaden our (their) horizon.” During our talk, Balram Pathak shared that the program has already helped them. It has made them realize, that do not have to limit themselves to department stores to sell their products. Other viable customers for them could be airlines, international hotel chains, and the expat community in Nepal. And they have already included this factor in their expansion plans. Additionally, they also want the underprivileged community near their farm to also benefit from their growth. Through the partnership with Rockstart Impact they also hope to become an “exemplary company in Nepal for food/ fruit safety and security.”