Mala Thapa Magar: himalayan allo udhyog (Natural Fabric Producer)
Opening a business and running it smoothly usually requires years of experience and perseverance. While the latter is true in any case, the former has somehow managed to change over the years.
Opening a business and running it smoothly usually requires years of experience and perseverance. While the latter is true in any case, the former has somehow managed to change over the years. We have more young entrepreneurs in the world today than ever before and a bright example in Nepal is raising quite a few eyebrows.
Mala Thapa Magar, the owner of Himalayan Allo Udhyog is just past her partying age and is running a business that employs around 20 employees and is worth Rs. 3 million. How long did it take to get here? Four short years.
“I didn’t know I would be running a business. I always wanted to be a social worker. I studied sociology and was volunteering in a school for orphans when I came in contact with someone who knew about fabrics. His idea intrigued me and he inspired me to start something of my own. Looking back at it, that transition was the turning point in my life,” shares Mala.
How is it like owning a business here?
“Owning a business is rewarding but it requires hard work. The biggest problem we have is trust. People do not trust young entrepreneurs. They are reluctant to believe I can run this business effectively. Over the years though, people have changed their perception toward me. Especially due to the recognition Himalayan Allo Udhyo is gaining here and around the world,” says Mala.
What is Himalayan Allo Udhyog?
“We basically work with allo or nettle fiber which is found abundantly in Nepal. We harvest and process the plant to create three kinds of products. Carpet industries usually want very fine allo fiber. We also make longer and thicker fiber which is used in manufacturing clothes. Finally we use the third kind of fiber to make our own allo-based product. We sell allo in all three forms.”
Representing Nepal’s Far West
Raw allo is first obtained from the farmers. Himalayan Allo Udhyog is in touch with farmers from Bajhang, Bajura and Dolpa in Nepal’s far west. The allo lokta or raw allo is then cooked in caustic soda, processed and left?to dry. The strands are then changed according to their purpose. The fibers needed in the carpet industry can be different from the one used for clothes. “While raw allo could cost Rs. 150/kg, once processed, the fine allo could cost upto Rs. 900,” shares Mala.
“No one in my family is in this business. I have a regular Nepali family. My interest in this business was accidental,” says Mala. She made deliberate choices and learned more about allo and became an expert on it. She wasn’t born with the ability to handle a business but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that she paved her own path to success.
Her own tag line. “I want Himalayan Allo Udyog to have a brand name. So far we have made clothes in bulk. They have not been designed into t-shirts or other products. I want to start doing that soon. That way we could have our own showroom and develop this company into a brand name that is successfully distributed throughout the country and around the world,” shares Mala.
Himalayan Allo Udyog has managed to gain a promising international market. Korea is their biggest buyer. Their products reach Thamel and Kupondole’s showrooms where many international buyers buy them. “Even now we have a big order that we are trying to work on,” says Mala with a smile.
With great power comes great responsibility
The business is thriving and Mala’s efforts are commendable. But with a growing business, there are challenges that need to be addressed every day. “We have new challenges but we also have expertise. I knew little about it when I started off. But today I know this is what I want to do; allo is what I know. With assistance from my team, I am sure it will work out for the best,” says Mala.