Convulsion to creative indulgence: Laying bricks on the rural housing dream

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Convulsion to creative indulgence: Laying bricks on the rural housing dream

We face so many problems in life that shake our reality and push us to find solutions. The story of Creative Services starts from the same plot. On April 2015, the shake wasn’t metaphorical. The 7.8 Richter earthquake shook Nepal and reduced 150,000 houses to rubble. Very soon after the earthquake, reconstruction efforts and temporary settlement options were implemented at great pace. Meanwhile, a team of engineers from Institute of Engineering (IoE) were trying to find the cheapest and the best solution for temporary settlement and became a part of the reconstruction efforts happening across nation. They tried their hands on a model bamboo house and constructed four schools at three different districts that they found were the most rural and largely affected by earthquake. Heavy rainfalls didn’t stop them, the headlights of motorbikes helped them to work through dark night. At some places they got good social participation. At others, they did everything on their own. But they continued with their efforts and succeeded.

On the other side, however, they knew this was all temporary. So they volunteered to take the responsibility to find sustainable housing solution that is accessible and safe for the rural household.

The earthquake had threatened people living in mud houses. A concrete, safe, permanent structure is still a far-fetched dream in rural areas since most of them can’t afford it. However, the group of engineers believed they could find the solution to turn rural aspirations of a safe housing into a reality. The journey of convulsion to creative indulgence began here on.

 

Creative geniuses

From the group of individuals who participated in the reconstruction efforts, only six of them continued with the journey to find sustainable housing solution. That included four engineers: Yagya Prasad Gaire (also the Managing Director), Anil Nepal, Arun Sapkota and Pratik Pokharel, a Chartered Accountant:  Sandesh Paudel, and local partner: Gokarna Neupane.

Each of them invested Rs.6 lakhs initially and running the business was in everyone’s part. “We perform the most routine duties to administrative to decision making duties of top level management. So right now, rather than being guided by specific demarcations and hierarchical structure, we all are working on everything that needs our attention,” says Yagya.

They named themselves ‘Creative Services’.

 

Finding the creative solution

Having invested on finding ways for building low cost permanent structure housing, they came across the concept of Interlocking Soil-Cement Brick technology. The technology was first introduced in 1960 in Thailand as a low cost alternative to permanent housing solution, and they wanted to implement it here. So they started to research on how the technology works and if others in Nepal are implementing it; companies like Inotech and Ecotech had already been doing it. With much hope, they proposed Intotech for partnership, where Creative Services would look into the implementation of the projects outside the valley and Inotech would look into the administrations. But that didn’t work out. “Maybe they didn’t believe us. I think they assumed we were too young for such responsibility,” says Yagya.

They had to build the company from scratch and the knowledge they had gained over internet didn’t seem to be enough. What they needed was first-hand experience of the technology before they started. The team collected Rs.2 lakhs and sent Pratik to Bangkok for training. Only upon his return, they officially registered on December 16, 2015.

They arranged required resources, location and made individual commitments to begin with. By then, Ecotech had also started its operations at a massive scale, but couldn’t remain in business for long. So, Creative Services bought machineries from them and decided to start operations from Nuwakot. Four of the engineers started working from Nuwakot and Sandesh monitored the initiation from the valley itself. Gokarna, who lives in Nuwakot, assists and advises the team on issues that require knowledge on local concerns.

 

Creativity isn’t easy

Though they started the business, the government didn’t have any policies and guidelines that permitted construction of houses with the interlocking soil-cement brick technology in Nepal, but they were positively optimistic that they would get the permit. When asked if they ever felt like this would be a big risk, “We only had a lot of hope,” Yagya said. Their hope was guided by their efforts to approve the technology from the government and reasoning behind why the implementation of the technology is necessary. “If we look from the point of view of the country’s economy, the kind of alternatives brought into effect post-earthquake such as Prefab houses, whose construction materials are not only expensive, but also requires heavy imports aren’t wise options for massive reconstructions the country requires  at present. It needed a cheaper alternative, and interlocking bricks is a technology massively used by India, Thailand and other countries as a cheap alternative that uses locally available raw materials and requires cheap manufacturing,” says Yagya, “If such countries have endorsed this technology, we found no reason why our government wouldn’t. Further, we are also writing a letter to Institute of Engineering for research on the technology, to certify through it that the construction will be safe with the use of this technology.” After a little tussle, they acquired confirmation from the Government of Nepal.

 

Creative Services infrastructure

Creative Services has built a flexible infrastructure which can also be expanded if needed. The factory based in Kasitar, Nuwakot currently produces over 1000 bricks every day. The raw materials used are stone-dust, local clay and cement. They have a semi automation machine and one hand pressed machine. They have also collaborated with international organisations that manufactures these machines, and it enables them to expand their infrastructure capacity in a very short span if they find big opportunities along the way. Currently, the factory employs seven workers working on a salary of Rs.15,000 and a supervisor working on a salary of Rs. 17,000.   

They are currently working on building a school in Nuwakot, a project worth Rs. 56,66,000.

 

Creative Services isn’t just a business, it’s an impact

Creative Services today isn’t just about building affordable, stable, sustainable alternative to brick and mortar houses at a price almost over 50% lesser; it isn’t just about laying bricks on the rural housing dreams. They are trying to create a social impact by radically improving rural lifestyle and bringing social integration. They believe a house has a big role to play in human development and the solution to its completeness is what they have to offer. They are looking forward to provide livestock and kitchen garden training, pest control and storage related trainings so that rural household can find a better living within their affordable limits. Moreover, they are providing employment and training on the manufacturing of interlocking bricks to encourage entrepreneurship in the rural sector. When asked if they ever thought this strategy could work against their business, “Our impact is more important,” said Sandesh.     

Creative Services is a business that came as an answer to a question that nagged these six individuals in the aftermath of theearthquake: How can rural household live more safely inside their homes? Now they are finding answers to how every aspect of a rural household can be re-invented so they can lead a better lifestyle.

 

 

Comments

  • Guest
    paul Sunday, 11 December 2016

    Thanks for this story - I have made some inquiries already :)

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Guest Friday, 23 June 2017

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