Tweaking the Family Trade
A young entrepreneur in remote Palpa unwittingly sets an example by breaking an age-old tradition and leads a resilient venture.
A horde of women cram into at a small shack in a village in Palpa, their indistinct murmur amidst the clink of metal is barely audible. In the monsoon downpour, they are waiting for metalsmith Shiva BK to prepare a dozen sickles. Working on hours at end on a small stove, Shiva, 20, toils tirelessly. Two things have brought the ladies here: first, BK is the only metalsmith in Palpa’s Chilangdi Village. Second, his products are superior in quality and cheaper than those sold in Tansen Bazaar — a no-brainer why his sickles sell like hotcakes.
BK, who comes from an unlikely background for an entrepreneur, has gained wide acclaim in the village. A Bachelor’s level student, BK is the owner of Biswakarma Krishi Aujaar Nirman Tatha Metal Udhyog .
Not only has he given hope to the youth to toil in their homeland instead of migrating abroad, but Shiva has also worked actively to revive a dying trade.
“I belong to a Dalit family, and almost my entire life I’ve seen my family struggle financially,” shares the young entrepreneur. “The profession of metalsmith was passed on to us by our forefathers. But we never did it systematically. We used our spare time from the fields to produce metal products, and we sold them from door to door. We had neither the resources nor the idea to sell them in the market.”
BK remembers how people in the village used to look down upon his family — not just because of its caste, but also because of its profession. “They used to call us hasiya and khurpa, as though we had neither names nor identity.”
Unlike his passive family members, BK was ready to take chances to navigate his folks out of rough waters, right from school days. “I felt sorry for my family as it was always financially embattled. This always bothered me and also motivated me at the same time to do well in school. I topped my class every year,” says an emotional Shiva.
But fed up with discrimination and insults, BK decided to make his family profession more systematic and shared the idea with this father. “He was really excited about it and his wholehearted support was certainly the defining moment of my entrepreneurial journey.”
Nonetheless, Shiva was aware that skills were more valuable than short-term monetary goals. So unlike his classmates who rushed abroad for work after SLC, Shiva decided to get enrolled in a metalworks training organized by the Agricultural Engineering Directorate in 2011. There he went on to win a grant of just over a lakh worth of machineries, which was crucial in starting up his venture later that year.
Innovative techniques as well as advanced machinery he acquired helped create products without having to travel to the town, and that too at a much lower cost. Shiva adds, “Now the entire production process can be handled right here. Work has been simplified and we’re able to produce more in lesser amount of time.”
“Previously, we had no business targets. I used to do metal work when I had no farm work to do,” says BK. “We did not have a strategy. But now, we work with targets in mind and do our best to achieve them.”
BK’s sales average used to be around Rs.500 per month until a couple of years ago. Today he makes sales of up to Rs. 1,500 a day. As the business grew every month, he hired two more people to help him and his family members.
Pointing out some setbacks, BK says, “Though we could certainly do with more capital, we haven’t the let lack of capital stop our growth. Our biggest challenge right now has been meeting the demand. Our products have gained market, but, we’re still struggling to meet the demand even as we work overtime. .”
“Coal, a vital item for the trade, is not very expensive but it is still difficult to get it locally. We have to go to Butwal to buy coal. For more sales, we need a setup a showroom for our products and the workshop needs reworking too. It’s currently a make-shift shaft.”
BK earns enough from the business to sustain his family — in fact it is doing better than ever before. “I’m really glad I chose entrepreneurship over going abroad for work. I hope this inspires other youths to follow suit,” shares BK.
In addition to running his workshop, BK actively contributes to the community by conducting training courses for youth in metalworks in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture in Palpa.
As BK puts finishing touches on the sickles, he already has more customers lined up at the workshop. In all his rights, BK has proven that despite social discrimination and financial challenges, one can create value, earn respect and live a decent life with the right determination, attitude and out-of-the-box vision.
Indeed, the hardship he has endured and the mind he has put in his passion has molded him into a promising young entrepreneur.