An Inspiring Story of Leaf Plus- Environmental Entrepreneurship in Nepal

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Introduction to Leaf Plus

Leaf Plus is an entirely new and impressive venture which has been producing disposable areca leaf plates which are biodegradable, chemical-free and leakage proof. They are microwavable as well. Registered in the year 2017, the venture is gaining pace in the Nepalese market as we get to see these products across the nation – from Daraz Online Store to streets among Taplejung.

This venture was established by three friends. Kobit Singh Baniya is a graduate of Electronics and Communication Engineering with expertise in the development of rural telecommunications. Swaviman Acharya is a mechanical engineer from Pulchowk Engineering Campus who has experience in various development works and socioeconomic moves. Bidhan Pokharel, on the other hand, is a graduate of Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Kathmandu University. He has also been working as chairman of the Golden Gate Alumni Association. Hari Dahal later joined the team who is secretary of Agro Crops Business Promotion Center Nepal. They have their motto – Transforming Cultural Evolution to the Environmental Revolution.

Beginning of Leaf Plus

After being inside momo stall, where they were having momos in taparis which was made out of sal leaves, they realized that this could be further improved. Hence, the idea got the space into the mind to start a properly built leaves based utensils. It all began considering the drawback of those momos serving taparis.

The team then went to gather information about suppliers who made those sal based leaves across the streets of Asan. They also reached Danda, of Nawalparasi and found out the major drawbacks – they could not hold the liquids and their question of reusability. They then began looking for solutions across the internet and found that some firms in Tamilnadu were producing plates through areca (supari) leaves. This could be a healthier means – they further found out. Thereby, they went to Jhapa where they found out a large proportion of such leaves goes into waste, from where they found out that there would not be any shortage of raw materials.

The team then reached Tamilnadu to learn techniques of producing plates from areca leaves and to purchase a machine. It was then, they set up a factory in Hetauda at a cost of around 8 lakhs and started their production.

Struggle Stories in Initial Days

Belonging to entierly a different field, it was their mutual ideology – that they had to work for the social impact which made the entire journey possible. It certainly was difficult for the team in the initial days. Gathering 1.5 lakhs for Tamilnadu visit, meeting up the demand had been difficult things. They were scared about maintaining the supply chain in the initial days and limited production capacity had been a tough journey for them. Young and energetic, they certainly had to face several hurdles in their initial days – from purchasing a machine to bringing it across the customs. Getting out of the comfort zone, where they used to get regular salary itself was a huge risk oriented task. The decision to take and bear the risk proved them in the long run.

Opportunities and Challenges of Leaf Plus

With 19 employees, Leaf Plus has been making an impressive move in the Nepalese market. They participated in Enterprise Business Acceleration Programme in 2019. The annual turnover stood at Rs 800,000 in the first fiscal year and their sales seem to be booming. They have been gaining impressive attention in B2B sales – Bhatbhateni Supermarket to Soaltee hotel. Meanwhile, the demand that Prime Minister K.P. Oli made for thousand pieces of the plate made them further strong. Leaf Plus has signed a contract with BuyEcoGreen, Australia based company to send their products and have been dealing with other companies as well.

At the time, when the concern across the globe is about Green Environment, eco-friendly products; they certainly have huge prospects. Political stability within the nation, economic support through every policy – monetary and fiscal policies makes them further capable and strong. There has been equal support from society in their eco-friendly campaign as well. With all the recent technologies, they have proved themselves liable and capable of the operation in the meantime and then.

Challenges are part of any ventures – be that new or well established. Leaf Plus is not away from challenges at any space. The primary challenge that they have been facing is meeting up the competition with plastic products. While plastics have been offering price as less as half of theirs, it has made it difficult to grab out in the competition. There are legal obstacles as well, as they had to undergo troubles for certification ensuring that the products are safe enough. Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology had explained that there was no reference based on which their products could be certified.

Meanwhile, they are having a tough time in shipping as the price is very high with no access to seas or oceans on a direct basis. Hence, they could not compete with Indian products who would offer a relatively low price.

Popularity

Apart from their product’s popularity, Leaf Plus has been into several exposure platforms. The Kathmandu Post, Online Khabar, and New Business Age made a featured story about them. Several Online News Portal has presented their story including Setopati. They have also been part of several conferences with their ideas

Future of Leaf Plus

The future is uncertain. But, the move that Leaf Plus is taking is impressive. With support from the Government and the people – they do have huge potential. At the time when there is subsidy being offered for an eco-friendly vehicle, these products are likely to be under the same category. Establishing a formal channel can export these products to the international market as well. Biodegradable has bene one primary agenda in today’s era. Apart, there has been an introduction to policies, amendments that have been promoting startups regularly. Take, the fiscal policy of this year itself. The young and strong entrepreneurs certainly do have a bright future in upcoming days. The popularity that their product has been gradually receiving indicates it all.

Takeaways

Not always, your academic line reflects your business move. Entrepreneurship has to come from within. Apart, a strong team spirit is a must for any business ventures. There are downfalls, but a sustainable vision always works. It is equally important for any venture to undergo through brief study. Research and development is an important aspect that any business firm needs to cope up with. Leaf Plus did not jump without going through studies – following their intuition. Hence, it all counts for the successful move.

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