who brought news to your doorsteps?
This year Kashthamandap Distributors marks its twenty years of supplying magazines to its readers.Considered as a pioneer of paper distribution in Nepal, the company’s story mirrors the ever-evolving paper distribution industry of Nepal.
The time is 4am. Roosters are warping their necks to give a loud shout of cock-a-doodle-doo to awaken the neighborhood. But before they could fire their high-pitched crow, Kapil Shrestha reaches his office to greet his dispatch team who are ready to embark on their daily tasks.
Located in Jochhe, Shrestha’s office is filled with magazines of all sorts. In fact, the piles of packaged and stacked magazines on the ground floor will greet anyone who will take their steps diligently on the stairs that lead to his desk on the first floor. His work, rightfully, is to ensure the delivery of the magazines and count the money collected to type the details on his excel file in his laptop. This was precisely his state when I entered his office for the first time.
“I was offered a job to sell Indian magazines by Surendra Prakash Manandhar of Gorkhapatra. That’s how my career in delivery started,” says Shrestha, which according to him made him Rs. 800 and a 1% commission a month. It didn’t take the new Indian magazines to find popularity in Kathmandu. However, the times were different back then. Similar to Shrestha, other magazine seller had to come to a junction at New Road – near the Peepal tree – to collect the magazines. The magazines were getting popular but the system of working was not convenient. Facing the problem, at the age of 21, Shrestha decided to establish his own distribution company – possibly the first paper delivery company in Nepal – that would deliver magazines to individual shops.
As time went by, his business started to thrive. Then in 2004, his company started to deliver magazines to each individual’s preferred locations or households. His initial hubs for business were Kalanki Chabahill and numerous areas in Lalitpur. And soon Kasthamandap tied up with Bhrikuti Publication(Samaya and Saptahik), and started to include buyer’s copy scheme that endorsed home delivery system. As computers came into the picture, so did new standards for working; computerized accounting system and digital database were introduced in the business.
By using serial numbers and authenticated stickers on the magazines, the company keeps track of all its sales. At present, his company has business ties with reputed magazines that are prominent in the market. The present delivery locations of Kasthamadap are based in prime locations inside the valley.
Despite the upgrades, the company and the industry have its own share of challenges. “Sometimes the location is quite difficult to find, hence a map of some sort is needed,” says Kapil. Using maps in street-name-less streets is still a challenge. The efficiency of the system is hugely dependent the delivery person. However, as most of the dispatchers are part timers, staff retention is not one of the perks of the trade.
Furthermore, to ensure that their job is done accordingly, the dispatchers have to show their proof of delivery at the office. It includes relevant data of the clients along with their signature after receiving the magazines.
Apart from these systemic challenges, there is also a looming risk posed by the Internet. When asked about the shifting trend in the business, Shrestha presents a two-sided picture: “Due to the ever-growing use of smart phones and the Internet, the physical sales of magazines have slightly gone down these days. However, I also believe that the growing literate population should be able to ensure the viability of the trade in the years to come.” And with these challenges and opportunities it isn’t likely that the evolution of Kashthamandap Distributors will be stalling anytime soon.