Urban Rains: What Nepali Women on Wheels Are Missing.

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Urban Rains: What Nepali Women on Wheels Are Missing.

We are very used to getting imports for everything – be it your daily use clothes or fancy electronics. Blockade of 2015 was an eye opener for how excruciatingly dependent we are on imports and how ill-conceived products are the only choices for the consumers in Nepal.  

During the blockade, Sumana Shrestha started the page called “Carpool Kathmandu”. For those of you who did not hear of it back then, it is a page where riders and drivers post their traveling route to look for anyone in need of a lift. She did her part in solving the problem of getting a lift for the whole valley while solving it for herself too.

Later, when Shrestha got her own scooter and Kathmandu got a new name for itself, ‘Dustmandu’, she felt another problem. The problem was, the only defense that women on wheels had against dust, and rain were rain ponchos or two piece rain suits. Taxi was the only alternative available to them if they are to go to some event where they cannot look ill prepared with wet or dusty outfits. Ponchos can neither shield the legs against rain nor against dust and two piece rain suits would ruin the outfit anyway. Well it would look kind of weird to wear a poncho in the dust anyways.Contextualized product development is only slowly picking up in Nepal .” claims Shrestha. “The existing market for rain gear is very much male oriented in terms of design and I could not find anything convenient for the dust, rain or for short skirts.” Headed back from the US with tons of dresses and skirts, she was finding it hard to maneuver those outfit in her scooter. “So, I decided to go ahead design something for myself.” This is how she came up with the concept of Urban Rains – a product line that is fashionable and geared towards Nepal and Nepali context.

Yet, she and most riders were already comfortable with jackets that worked well against wind, dust and rain for the top so she focused her efforts for the product waist below. She sought out  designers and developed her first prototype in early 2016 with a step in skirt with a Velcro strap. While it served the purpose, it was not practical. Design was flawed! The velcro that she could get her hands on were not very durable. Stepping in and stepping out, in public, was not exactly a hassle-free thing to do. Apparently, many times people thought she was stripping in public! Her own mother called her item – “oh.. it is like a petticoat that you wear inside sari”. But she kept trying undeterred.

She tried out various permutation of designs over the next year – straight sarong type wrap, step in but with a bigger Velcro, a longer wrap dress and the list seems to go on long. Finally, she landed on a wrap skirt design of one size that fits all. She used a waterproof fabric and added a pocket, being thoughtful of people wanting easy access to their phones or keys. She even demonstrated how water resistant the fabric was.  They have been delivering these rain skirts for 2 months and have already garnered a 5 star rating on their Facebook page, which is where they collect their orders from. Soon it will be available at the Local Project store in Jhamsikhel as well and in other online retailers.

 

By identifying a precise gap in our import dominated market, Sumana Shrestha has not only proved herself an aspiring entrepreneur but also reminded us of the possibilities for producing in and for Nepal. Products that are contextual and products that actually fill our needs! “It is high time we realize we should do product development in Nepal” says Shrestha. Check her product line out at Urban Rains.

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Guest Saturday, 18 November 2017