Text by Avant Shrestha Even when Shovit Raj Upadhaya was pursuing his Bachelors degree, first in the UK and then in Bangalore, he always wanted to come back home and start a business he could call his own. He explains, “In that span of time, I did what I had to gain knowledge: I studied Business Management; I struggled and persevered; and then I came back to Nepal.” He also knew that as the country was progressing and developing, Nepal would consequently be the best place to do business in.
Initially, he dabbled with a lot of business ideas but never pursued those options. He eventually joined Kings College for an MBA degree in Entrepreneurship, and that’s when he started his primary research on his business idea. He explains, “This idea came to me when I was doing an assignment about the clothing industry during my MBA. But establishing a clothing brand was not something I was interested in,” he continues. He wanted to create and cater to a niche market. Bikram Sambat Clothing is a brand that works only with denim. “Since we are only working with denim, we aim to give the highest quality of denim at a reasonable price. For example, the high quality foreign brands are a bit over priced for most Nepalis. We try to fill that gap with high quality denim at a reasonable price,” explains Upadhaya.
Today, denim products are easily acquirable in the market. How then is Bikram Sambat different? As Upadhaya conducted his research, his findings illustrated that the price of jeans available in the market contradicts the quality of the product. Additionally, branded jeans were just too expensive. Plus, there was a huge issue with wholesale and counterfeiting culture.
Upadhaya saw this as an opportunity. He just needed to make products that people want and create the awareness of how a Nepali brand could deliver better than imported but often low quality goods circulating in the market.
Naming a company that resonates with the brand identity is a daunting task. Upadhaya recalls, “When I was sure that I wanted to work with denim, I wanted a name that mirrors denim well.” During the brainstorming session, he had more than 50 names on the list. The names were eventually shortlisted to five with ‘Alligator’ being the prefered option since it gives the denim brand a tough feel. However, he was not satisfied. Eventually, like most great ideas, the name of his brand was coined in a teashop amidst friends. One of his friends suggested ‘Bikram Sambat’. Upadhaya was hesitant at first but the name stuck with him. “I wanted to give the brand a Nepali name,” Upadhaya explains adding, “It was recouping and emotional; it had heavy meaning to it and it sounded different. It was different from all the Nepali associated names we have heard of. The name is classic and has a timeless feel to it.”
Bikram Sambat mostly imports the fabric from Pakistan and India through suppliers who work with only 100% cotton denim. But it comes with its own set of challenges. “For a Nepali brand there are always problems with imports because almost every aspect of the finished product, from buttons to zippers, needs to be imported. There is always problem with quantity,” states Upadhaya. He continues, “Most suppliers are used to supplying large quantities of products to major international brands and for a startup company like us, it takes some convincing for them to send us materials.”
Bikram Sambat’s attention to detail and emphasis on quality has garnered them praise. It has satisfied close to 500 customers. Popular singer Neetesh Jung Kunwar is the company’s Brand Ambassador and they have recently partnered with Nepgasm as wardrobe partner. Shovit Upadhaya claims that it is within their strategic plans to build connections and partnerships. He says, “The response from the market is very positive right now. One of the major factors has been the ‘Made in Nepal’ tagline. Today people have slowly started to trust local brands.”
Currently, the company operates from their outlet in Jhamsikhel and has established a strong online presence via their website and social media pages. The decision is not to go into the mass market and sell products through retailers. Upadhaya explains, “I do not want to sell my products through retailers because I believe the market in terms of brand recognition is not good. There is a general thinking in the market that most of the products that we consume come directly from China or India and that aspect is something that I do not want my brand to collide with. Moreover, if I had to go to retail, I would have to work based on quantity which basically means compromising on quality,” he adds.
“When I started, I had a vision to make this brand international. But for the immediate future, we are looking to open an outlet in a prime location to begin with”, concludes Upadhaya.