The production of paper started during the second century BC when T’sai Lun invented papermaking in China. Later, the knowledge of paper production reached High Himalayas via Tibet. Then in 12th century AD, Lokta handmade paper production started and since has been inherent to the Nepalis culture.
According to FHAN (Federation of Handicraft Association Nepal) 2006, handmade products are the fifth largest export products in the handicraft category. The Nepali companies general adapt an export strategy to represent themselves in the international market. But before any company of this industry ventures into the foreign market, they must reassess and redesign their whole strategic framework to ensure success.
Nepalis handmade paper industries now need to prospect countries for export than relying on existing ones for growth prospects. India can be a very good market for Nepal made handmade paper with the population standing at 1.21 billion (Census 2011), a growing economy and significant proportion of people having high purchasing power, it is a huge market to cater to. The geographical proximity and pegged exchange rate are just added advantages. Nepal has always been close to India through its similarities in culture, taste and preference, increasing the probability of Nepalis handmade paper being accepted in India. To facilitate the trade with India, there are various bilateral trade relations between the two governments. However, India being world’s leading exporter of handicrafts employing more than 6 million artisans and craftsmen, Nepalis handicrafts will face tough competition.
For the export in the Indian market the primary aspect would be increasing the awareness level of the Indians about the product. Even though India is our neighboring country, the inhabitants are largely unaware about the Lokta paper that is unique.
Marketing strategy brings to mind the 4P’s approach, setting the product, price, place and promotion strategy of the product. The products have to be customized according to the taste of the inhabitants with a touch of Nepali feel to it. Pricing should be done on a very transparent basis with proper listing of all the breakdown pricing. Agreements with the local buyers can also be done to keep a low margin for the products to be available at a lower cost. As this product is pricy, targeting places with affluent urban citizens from metropolitan towns and tourist destinations could be a better option. For the promotion setting up temporary stalls in the malls around cities of India is a viable option also. Social media mediums like Facebook, Twitter, which is the most cost-effective medium in this information age could be put to use too.
Over the years, Nepali made handmade paper and paper products have gained recognition in the international market but there seems to be a requirement of government support for sustainability and growth. Companies want the government to join hands with them for economic progression.
It is understood that there is less support from government but companies can try from their end to promote their products themselves. There is high reliance on the promotions gained only through participation in fairs and seminars organized by WFTO (World Free Trade Organization) which is a laidback approach.
The capacity of skilled manpower can be expanded by giving trainings to locals, which can help companies fulfill larger orders. Strategic alliance with companies or federation of handicrafts abroad can add value in marketing and expansion of Nepalis handmade paper product.
Lokta paper has many special characteristics which the firms should flaunt to the world for it to become an exclusive product and the companies should look for alternative capacity expansion and rigorous market exploration to meet the international demand.
The writer is an MBA student at KUSOM and the article is based on the research done by Vuelo Unida group.