Woman’s world in Woodcraft: The story of struggle

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Woman’s world in Woodcraft: The story of struggle

 While individuals are following their own passion in today’s world, entrepreneurship in family business has become a different tale. The slated roads around the valley lead to numerous artisans who operate their ancestral, skill-based family businesses. ‘Nepalese Woodcraft Child Craft’ is one of them.

Woodcraft in Nepal is par excellence a Newari art, and it has been running in this Tamrakar family for decades. Traditionally operated by men, Mrs Manohari Tamrakar defied all odds when she stepped in her late husband’s shoes to run the family woodcraft business. In the narrow alleys of Patan, her eldest daughter Manisha walked through the story of how the business has sustained through the years.

 

Pioneers in Nepali woodcraft

Manisha’s father and uncle learned the skill from her grandfather, and established their own ventures based on it. Woodcraft has always been in the Tamrakar family since the time of their ancestors. Her father, Mr Kishor Nanda Tamrakar, went to the UK and travelled to other parts of Europe to polish his woodcraft skills back in the 1980’s. After returning to Nepal, he focused his venture’s production on wooden educational toys, while his elder brother chose to stick with producing furniture.

But Mr Tamrakar’s innovation was not welcomed by the Nepali market. Manisha recalls, “Dad used to tell us stories of his struggles with the Ministry of Education to aware people of the need and importance of using educational toys in the system. He had learned this on his trip to Europe and he wanted to introduce it in Nepal too.” 

He persisted and worked hard to make it happen, and as a result, Nepali kids began to learn their alphabets using wooden toys. The major buyers then were NGOs and INGOs. They popularized the use of educational toys for children in the market by using them in their trainings and projects. The toys were also exported to many parts of Europe. Gradually, wooden toys started getting recognition in the local market. 

Under her father’s leadership, the business won many national level cottage industry awards from the Cottage and Small Industry Development Board Nepal.

 

Finding purpose in tragedy 

When the business was booming, the family faced a tragic incident. Manisha lost her father to an accident 17 years ago. Her mother, who was 37 at the time, was left with a choice to either continue the business while raising her three young daughters or close down the business. Having received support and motivation from her brothers, Mrs Manohari Tamrakar (Manisha’s mother) decided to step up and continue running her late husband’s initiation.

 

Problems along the way 

A young uneducated widow thriving to run her late husband’s business, Manohari had to walk an arduous journey. Her late husband had expanded the business to both local and international markets, along with 40 full time workers in the factory. With the absence of a male figure, the number decreased from 40 to 5. The few who remained were loyal to Tamrakar family, but even they doubted the business’s survival because nothing was certain. “Mummy had no idea of how a business should be run. She used to work in the factory with dad, so she knew few things about woodcraft,” says Manisha, “Everything was new to her. She had never dealt with a supplier or delivered orders. But she was determined to take father’s legacy ahead and that’s what kept her going.”

 

Mummy had no idea of how a business should be run. She used to work in the factory with dad, so she knew few things about woodcraft,” says Manisha, “Everything was new to her. She had never dealt with a supplier or delivered orders. But she was determined to take father’s legacy ahead and that’s what kept her going.

The society was not supportive at all. Every step was criticized and fingers were always pointed at Manohari, just because she was a widow with three daughters and no male figure in the family.

But she did not let any of it get to her. She remained honest to her work and never left a place for anyone to question her actions. 

She did have support of her family though and that made it possible to run the business. She had to struggle to gain the support of stakeholders. “The suppliers would not provide the raw materials when mother went to purchase them just because she was a female handling the business. She was not educated, and so they thought she wouldn’t be able to handle finances and other business operations,” says Manisha, “This is where her three brothers helped; one would look after the finance, other would deliver the orders and third would look after the factory. With their help, she overcame hurdles, learned the business tactics and evolved as a businesswoman.”

 

Following mother’s steps 

Manisha’s step into the business was not by complete choice either. In her early 50’s, Manohari was visiting the hospital more often than she was working in the factory. While helping her mother through the doctor’s visits and lab tests, Manisha knew she had to assist her mother in the business as well. “This business has been in the family for ages. Growing up, I had witnessed my mother leaving no stones unturned to keep the business running. I could not have let all of that go in vain now that the factory was running so well,” express Manisha. 

I had witnessed my mother leaving no stones unturned to keep the business running. I could not have let all of that go in vain now that the factory was running so well. 

She joined the business five years ago. She currently looks after most of the business while her mother plays the role of decision maker. The business employs 15 workers at present, and participation in fairs and exports to Europe leads to sales of around Rs. 15 lakhs, even during off-season.

 

Taking the business further

In today’s world of gadgets and technology, Manisha wants to keep the culture of learning with wooden toys alive. She has been working with Bihani Social Venture, under the mentorship of Ms Santoshi Rana, and as a member of the youth group in the Federation of Business and Professional Women Nepal, to foster the business operations. She has introduced household materials in addition to educational toys in the business and wants to offer a variety of products to their customers.  

 

Manisha wants to establish the business as a social venture rather than a profit making venture by employing locals and physically impaired earthquake survivors. She believes that when skilled jobs are locally available, brain drain will decline and the quality of people’s lives will improve along with the development in the country’s economy. 

 

Manisha has had her fair share of struggles in the business as well. With increase in competition she is still learning the skills required to bring in business. “I am a heart patient and I don’t know how to be tough like a man. Also, there have been instances where potential clients go to other woodcraft manufacturers because I am not able to use the business tactics as they do. I could not continue my studies after +2 due to my health condition but the passion to keep this family business up and running has kept me going. I believe that it is important to have a passion to drive your actions, and if you are honest in what you do success is inevitable.”

 

I could not continue my studies after +2 due to my health condition but the passion to keep this family business up and running has kept me going. I believe that it is important to have a passion to drive your actions, and if you are honest in what you do success is inevitable.

 

 

Comments

  • Guest
    Uddav k. Friday, 10 June 2016

    Very heart touching.Thanks for sharing .

  • Guest
    Manish Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Can i get the business contact number as i am looking to procure a few wooden items

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Guest Wednesday, 20 June 2018