With the desire to do something in Nepal for Nepalis, Suraj Shrestha established Anthropose in 2015. It is a company that produces eyewear with detailed and stylish designs for locals but with plans to eventually go global. Talking to Living, Shrestha looks back on Anthropose’s journey and what the future holds for the company.
- What led to the birth of Anthropose?
When I was studying in the US, there was this constant feeling of annoyance among students that Nepal had nothing to offer us. I understood why people felt that way given the situation Nepal was in at the time. Frustrated and angered by this, when I finished my studies and came back, I decided to do something in Nepal, for Nepal. So we started Sasto Deal. We had always planned to start Anthropose but there were various factors that needed to be taken care of first. We needed resources and basically that means money. So eventually, by implementing a business model similar to that of TOMS (US Shoe Company), Anthropose came into existence.
2.What does Anthropose mean?
Anthropose is a combination of two words. “Anthropos” is a Greek word which means Human Being. The “e” in the end signifies the going beyond the human being realm. We wanted to become more than just a human being and do something more. That’s why we came up with the name “Anthropose”.
3.Your products feature very local names for your eyewear? What is the story behind it?
When we first started, our collection had foreign names. We had this mindset that even though it is a Nepali brand, Anthropose should have a global appeal. We later came up with the local names from a Nepali book. I was gifted one written by Siddhicharan Shrestha and I read a poem called Kranti. Frankly speaking, Nepali literature has no exposure whatsoever, so we decided to honor the writer with a tribute. Hence, we started out with “Lekh” honoring Lekhnath Paudel and then slowly expanded our collection to various other Nepali literary figures.
4.You do not have a physical presence and everything is done online? How is e-commerce evolving in the Nepali market?
We do not have a flagship store but we do have authorized dealers. At this moment of time we are an e-retailer, meaning most of our business is done online. E-commerce is not something new here. 64% of Nepali people currently have internet access. It is only a matter of choice for the businesses on how they reach their customers and via what method. But today, having an e-commerce business is sustainable in Nepal. Three or four years ago this method was in the trail phase but now it can be turned into a sustainable and profitable business.
5.How did you implement your business model in the Nepali market?
The market was quite ready but there were many aspects that needed work. Implementing the business model was not difficult but while implementing, there is strategic or tactical know how that is difficult to implement. Coming from a business family, having been exposed to various business models, I was accustomed to implementing them but like I said in the tactical level, we had some upsets. Getting things done on time without the use of external sources was definitely a challenge.
6.What is the biggest change you have seen in e-commerce then and now?
First, there was no proper infrastructure to begin with. Second, the e-commerce sector was a brand new concept. There were two websites, Muncha.com and Thamel.com, who were considered as e-commerce websites but their primary business was exporting whereas our primary target is the locals. Before it was more about educating people rather than selling and getting them on-board but now with the onset of social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook, etc. the market has grown way more than we anticipated. Because of the media consumption over the internet, e-commerce has seen drastic changes.
7.What are some challenges you faced as a young entrepreneur?
This holds true for any business but the biggest challenge was to get investors on board. We needed financial backing. That was the first hurdle. After that, as a young business, our leadership needed refinement and we needed to retain our team/human resources. Past that, we set our ground work and now we’re at the stage where we need to grow. But to do that we need more funds and the venture capitalist scene in Nepal is growing, so we are optimistic about our future. Another challenge is regulation. There is no proper regulation; there is no clarity in terms of taxation and raising funds. That is where there is a bottle neck situation for the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.
8.Where do you see Anthropose in five to ten years?
We are a local eyewear company and that is our priority. Eventually what we want to become is a one-stop local eyewear brand, an organization from a third-world country with a global reach.
9.What message do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Just get started. Once you get started, you will have a broader perspective about the idea. Also, you need to be very clear about what you actually want to do.