Nature provides abundant business opportunities
Sitting down with one of the 10 companies from the third batch of Rockstart Impact, National Organics, founder Hari Chandra Poudyal generates employment and multiplies the social impact he has to offer by making use of a natural resource that is found in abundant in Nepal- Rittha (soapberries).
Hari shares, ‘When I was still enrolled as a student, I heard about soapberries being exported in large containers to India which took me by surprise. ‘What would people do with these soapberries?’ I thought to myself, ‘If there was natural resources found in abundance in my country, why not venture into the same line of business and export the soap berries all over the world?’ After spending time on research, online marketing, and networking with people across the globe that are involved in cosmetics and toiletries, I established National Organics with Rs. 120 in my pocket. And today, I can state with pride that I am leading Nepal when it comes to exporting soapberries in the overseas market.’
Soapberries grow on the Sapindus Mukorrosi tree, native to the Himalayas. These berries produce a soap called saponin, which operates as a natural surfactant. There are many benefits to using soapberries in your laundry, dishes and shampoo, or to clean surfaces. They are completely natural and biodegradable, and as insects are naturally repulsed by saponin, no pesticides are used in their cultivation. They are also antimicrobial, safe for septic systems and gentle enough for use on sensitive skin, as well as baby clothing. The berries themselves have a pineapple-like fragrance, but when they are used in the wash, they leave no fragrance behind.
Hari objectifies, ‘Due to lack of knowledge in regards to soapberries in Nepal, I was heavily dependent on the internet for the basics of running my business. Along with that, it was impossible for me to find the perfect route for shipping the berries to the rest of the world. But with time and perseverance, I learned the ABCs of doing business with the rest of the world in spite of being based in a land-locked country. The reason I started this line of business was mostly jumping onto a good opportunity but today, I feel strongly about replacing the chemical based detergents with organic detergents and supporting the community through fair trade and creating social impact. The product we provide is 100% waste free, certified organic, hypoallergenic, vegan, and compostable which helps the world environmentally as well.’
The biggest competition National Organics currently has is the Indian market that is currently exporting soapberries worldwide but the quality of the soap nuts available in Nepal is far better than the ones available in India. Hari shares with pride, ‘Till date, the only industrial countries that I have not exported my product to are Africa, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam, and over the years I have learned that a good network is key to helping a company prosper. The biggest challenges that I have faced from running this business for over 10 years is keeping a track of the quality control, running a proper warehouse for packaging and the political instability that is persistent in Nepal.’ National Organics is currently expanding our markets in East Asian countries apart from the existing clientele in the West so that they can process and supply more, which in turn will help them generate employment opportunities in Nepal.
First published in The Himalayan Times, 05.02.2017