The production of bricks causes a lot of environmental and air pollution in Nepal. Entrepreneur and engineer Bikram Prajapati developed a brick that is not only stronger and cheaper than the traditional brick, but there is still air pollution going on too.
In Nepal the brickmaking industry creates many environmental problems, especially air pollution. Bikram Prajapati, both engineer and entrepreneur, has developed a brick which is not only more durable and much cheaper than the traditional brick but also reduces air pollution. Now aged 33, Bikram can well remember Bhaktapur as a child. The town in which he grew up, just to the east of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, was known for its fertile soil. “There were farms everywhere,” says Bikram, “it’s all different now. The soil is used to make bricks and Bhaktapur is chock-full of brick factories.”
Apart from the transformation of the landscape, the brickmaking industry has had a disastrous effect on the quality of the air. Brickmaking causes a great deal of dust and releases harmful fumes. While he was studying mechanical engineering, Bikram developed a filter for brick factory chimneys but factory owners were not interested and refused to buy; they saw the filter only as another costly item.
Bikram put his idea on hold and after he graduated went to work for a Honda dealer including two and a half years in Japan. But his desire to transform the brickmaking industry in his home town never completely disappeared. In November 2014, he sank all his savings and a loan he got out of the bank – putting up his family home as collateral - into a “new style” factory. Instead of quarrying clay and burning bricks, he bought industrial waste from the stone industry, primarily grit: mix with cement and water …… compress well …. allow to dry and…. Bingo!
“You end up with a brick that’s not only 40% more durable but also 20% cheaper. What’s more you don’t have to burn it so you don’t cause air pollution. We even reduce air pollution because the grit we buy would otherwise disappear into the air.”
He started production in July 2015 but had little working capital so growth was slow. “I only had machines. I didn’t have money for stock or a factory, let alone a marketing budget or an office.” In 2015 Bikram took part in the Rockstart Impact programme and since then his company has taken off at top speed. “Thanks to Rockstart I dare to live my dreams. I’m convinced I can now set up factories all over Nepal. And thanks to One to Watch I’ve got an investment pledge from NIIC. We are going to use it to set up a second factory, get together a professional team and build a brand. My network has also grown enormously. For instance, “Cotton Mill” that has also found an investor through Rockstart, wants to build a new factory with our bricks.”
“In Nepal the demand for bricks is enormous. Nepal is a developing country. At the moment,60% of the population does not live in a brick-built home, making demand greater than supply.“ Bricks manufactured by Bajra Bricks & Tiles are of better quality than those of other producers, but for the time being Bikram is selling them at a lower price. “We want to convince people to buy our bricks. When feedback is positive and customers are convinced, we can always play with the price.”
The company’s business potential is enormous. Due to lack of capital – and stock - the first factory could only produce at a 50% capacity - and still make a profit. “And wehaven’t done anything yet about marketing. As soon as we get the Dutch investment, things will really take off.”