Just into the second quarter of what would have normally been a marvelous business year, we were pulled aback by the once in a century natural disaster; massive earthquake of 7.8 magnitude that shook whole Nepal with its epicenter ranging no more than 100 KM from the capital city. Thousands of lives lost and billions in collateral damage; the growth of the country was backdated by ten years. Fortunately, none of our producers were fatally wounded; however, quite a few lost their homes. Many of them were in immediate need of shelter and food, which we have provided some during initial phases. In-house producers and staffs were given tents and foods as immediate relief.
Besides, we have contributed Rs. 50,000 in FTG Nepal EQ relief fund and initiated some relief missions in Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, Melamchi, Dhading and Sakhu areas. Buyers and well wishers have contributed to support the producers and staffs. Initial assessments were done to provide further support. With generous aids from our valued buyers and other organization, we were able to raise relief funds. We divided this into two broad phases: first phase mostly focused on the immediate relief supplies (food, clothing, shelter) and the second phase embraced financial assistance to help the affected producers rebuilt what was once their pride possession. We believe assistance is short term and therefore we plan on providing a long term solution by enhancing their capacity to a new level thus opening their options to a sustained livelihood.
Mahaguthi as an organization and as a team is resilient and we have proved it yet again, only a week after the disaster, we were back on our feet pushing to meet the orders; better revenue was the only way out from the aftermath of the devastation. Mahaguthi had seen a positive growth of over 30% in the year 2014 and had plans to give it a continued momentum in the year 2015 but were only able to grow by a mere 20%. The categorical sales pattern also has witnessed fluctuation due to various factors; such as buying behavior, trending designs, value addition, and so forth.
TRADE FAIR/ EXHIBITION/ IN HOUSE PROMOTIONS
First the natural destruction and then the border blockade restricted us from organizing open house (normally conducted twice a year to launch seasonal collection). Soft launch of Mahaguthi’s fashion, living, and giving brand Kalpa(November 20th): In the light of addressing the demand for quality handmade Nepali fashion wears, Kalpa was introduced. “Kalpa by Mahaguthi” is a fashion, living, and giving brand of Mahaguthi. It comprises fashion garments, fashion accessories, home décor, gift items and other fine products of Mahaguthi. Kalpa meaning long life reflects the journey of over 3 decades since the inception of Mahaguthi and intends to give it a sustained growth; thereby supporting the producers that are directly associated at every level of the supply chain. To study the market we first showcased men’s and women’s casual garments; and surprisingly it did well. In the days to come we plan on expanding the range to be offered. The event was organized at our Kupondole Outlet. All major FTOs, our valued customers, dignitaries from NGOs and INGOs, amongst others attended the soft launch.
CHRISTMAS TRADE FAIR (DEC 5TH)
Participated in FTG Christmas bazaar organized by Fair Trade Group Nepal in association with GIZ in December and collected a positive response. We displayed our new holiday packaging and it was highly admired by the guests. This annual event allows fair trade organizations like us to connect to individuals and buyers with proper understanding or at least the urge to better understand the essence of Fair trade and its working standards. The event was inaugurated by German ambassador to Nepal his Excellency Mr. Matthias Meyer. Sales team from Mahaguthi Kupondole outlet led by Mr. Sameer Chettri exhibited on the occasion. Two of the live demo artisans were producers of Mahaguthi; Dil Bahadur (ceramics), and Mithila Devi (Mithila Art).
AMBIENTE (FEB 2015):
Mahaguthi was fortunate enough to participate in one of the grand trade shows in Europe and the Western market; Ambiente. CEO Mr. Sunil Chitrakar and Procurement Manager Ms. Uttara Malakar represented Mahaguthi in the event. It was a splendid platform to get connected to value seeking buyers from all around the globe.
MILAN CONFERENCE/TRADE FAIR:
Alongside other FTOs, Mahaguthi took part in the Milan trade.
As Mahaguthi is female dominated organization, Teej celebration sits up high. This year’s teej was celebrated at our newly shifted production unit at Satungal.
RELOCATION OF PRODUCTION FACILITY INTO OUR OWN BUILDING:
In mid may, Mahaguthi shifted its production facility from Jwagal to its own facility at Satungal. With cleaner air to breathe, ample natural lighting, peaceful working environment, and scenic hills of Chandragiri, it is a perfect location for any production oriented organization. Connected via integrated networking, Head Office-production facility-lazimpat outlet, and Kupondol outlet can now share information at the speed of light. Mahaguthi offers shuttle services for its production related staffs and producers for hassle free commute to and from the workplace. Weaving, screen printing, dying, cutting, stitching, finishing/packaging, In-house design, are some of the activities carried out at Satungal. Taking the hygiene factor into consideration; Mahaguthi operates kitchen to serve fresh lunch (mid-day snack) free of cost to all of its staffs and producers at Satungal. As one of the 10 principles include “Environment friendly working conditions” Mahaguthi has installed rain water harvesting and water treatment system along with a boiler that runs on water heating system with close to zero emission. The water from screen print and other fabric wash that contains chemicals goes through 5 different filtration processes before it is finally sent back to ground.
Mahaguthi is grateful towards its buyers for all the support provided thus far and expects more of it in the future. Most of our buyers visited our new production facility in Satungal and praised the switch. Total of 11 buyers; existing and new, visited us and it opened up many never before explored avenues for Mahaguthi to grow in the years to come. With guidance from one of our buyers we were able to draft and implement a close to full proof Quality Control System. Now, we practice the same for all our foreign buyers, as maintaining good quality is one of our main concerns.
CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT/ TRAINING:
1. On 12th of April, some 20 female participants attended the workshop on “Training on Fair Trade, Gender Equity and Occupational Health and Safety for Women Producers” Facilitated by Ms. Maya Lohani, the two day workshop brought about positive changes in the participants (both staffs and producers). They all expressed their similar feedback of being able to learn so much about the issues that may have occurred in or outside of the work environment and ways to tackle them. Similar workshops were conducted later with more participants.
2. Also on 12th of April, Mahaguthi in collaboration with “Leo and Lotus, Australia” handed out 50 sewing machines to the graduates of year long sewing training from “Nepal Charkha Pracharak Gandhi Tulsi Smarak Mahaguthi (NCPGTSM)”. The graduates were all females from different regions of Nepal who were housed for a year and trained alongside various disciplinary values.
3. Earthquake Awareness Training by Shaplaneer. On Dec 16th officials from Shaplaneer including Ms. Shreejana Shrestha conducted inhouse training on earthquake related issues at our production facility in Satungal.
4. Digital Marketing and photography workshop (Nov 18-19) Participants, namely Mr. Mohit Maharjan (Head of Operation) and Ms. Devina Shakya (Communication officer) attended the workshop. It was facilitated by Ronnie and Diana from Fair Trade Connection.
5. Training on Applied Taxation (Dec 18&20) Accounts Manager Mr. Bijay Pd. Thakur represented Mahaguthi in this workshop. It was jointly organized by Fair Trade Group Nepal and Department of Internal Revenue Services.
6. CBI Workshop: CEO of Mahaguthi attended the initial of brainstorming workshop in The Netherlands in mid August. Following which couple of associates from CBI visited Nepal and some FTOs, including Mahaguthi. Ms. Devina Shakya and Ms. Uttara Malakar attended the workshop in late December. The workshop shed lights on the upcoming trends of European market and ways in which the FTOs could benefit. Mahaguthi on behalf of Fair Trade Group Nepal would like to extend its deepest regards to the CBI team for such honorable consideration. World Fair Trade Organization Guarantee System: Self Assessment Reports (SARs), reports that WFTO requires us FTOs to oblige to in order carry their association, was completed and accepted in mid 2015. Mahaguthi in the first half of 2015 had appointed Consultant Mr. Dilip Khanal as its internal social auditor. And towards the end of the year, WFTO itself appointed Consultant Dr. Uttam Kunwar as external auditor for Fair Trade Organizations (FTOs) in Nepal. We conducted and finished our social audit at the end of December. We are hopeful to hearing positive results from WFTO and permission to carry their logo in our brand from here on after. Monitor and evaluation of guidelines of WFTO, practice of general fair trade principles, were some of the subject of observation during the report. World Fair Trade Day) Every year world fair trade day is celebrated with a social message. Fair Trade Group Nepal organized and participated in a national event of “Bagmati Cleanup” to celebrate Fair Trade Day and also the 100th week of “Bagmati Cleanup” campaign. This is an effort to preserve the holy river Bagmati which has been environmentally compromised with growing population and its adversities. It was a half day event where all the FTOs were involved.
FTG FUTSAL TOURNAMENT:
Mahaguthi took part in annual sports event organized by FTG-Nepal. From left to right-sitting (Sunil Chitrakar, Samir Chhetri, Raj Bhusal) standing (Mohan Thapa, Naresh Gurmachan, Sunny Barahi, Sanjay, Mangal Chaudhary, Suresh Shahi). It was a fun event where almost 8 FTOs participated. Association of Craft Producers (ACP) bagged the tittle for 2015.
Fair trade Connection- Ronnie Hermosa and Diana from Fair Trade Connection came to Fair Trade Nepal as photography missionaries of Ten Thousand Villages Canada. Mahaguthi had 4 days with them as part of the program so we took them to our producers for photo stories and daily diaries. They also helped FTOs and Nepal to get the word out on then current situation of border blockade and the rough everyday lives of fair trade producers by making an appeal video and sharing it on YouTube. We are honored to share a picture of our soap producer Mrs. Durga KC, who has been awarded with best women entrepreneur from her district. She has taken the journey from helplessness and social stigma to independent entrepreneur inspiring many other women. We have been supporting her since 2006 in improving quality of soap, technology transfer and training in Japan. She proved it worthy by working hard to achieve the excellence. Thank you Durga ji and Congratulations!!! One of our producers being awarded is no different than Mahaguthi itself being honored.
In collaboration with FTG and a local travel agent, we operate a tour for interested foreigners every year; as part of creating awareness and providing exposure to Fair Trade Producers. This year in October some 12 British Nationals visited Mahaguthi’s production facility and our outlet. Besides Mahaguthi, they were also given tour of Get Paper Industry (GPI), Women’s Skill Development Organization (WSDO) and Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS).