“Here, at Karkhana, work is fun and fun is work. Our main motive is to make learning fun through a very different teaching process.”
When a group of college graduates created space for tinkering and experimenting in 2013, no one knew it would turn into an educational company. Karkhana was a result of their decision to establish their work space as a product design company, after they started experimentation and designing of products (mostly electronics) and creating prototypes. Collaborating with companies like E-sewa and Ghaam Power, they first designed tech prototypes that could enhance their business, such as vending machines and solar heartbeat monitors. It was the time they realized that the ecosystem for designing prototypes was still not established in Nepal, because they could not get the materials, human resource, and knowledge required.
The founders believed that a company like Karkhana and the kind of vision it started with would come into existence after an estimated fifteen years only if they started preparing students and made necessary changes in the thinking and learning process now. That’s when they evolved as an educational company. They began working on undergraduate students, which made them realize that the students were focused on good grades in exams rather than actual learning. So, they switched from undergraduates to middle school students, as the mindset of a person is strongly based on how it is developed as a child. They then involved teachers and mentors for finding ways to make school students understand complex prototypes and product designs in simple terms through various workshops and school programs.
Today, Karkhana collaborates with 20 schools across Kathmandu and provides classes to make learning fun, particularly science, technology, engineering, art and design, and mathematics. We took a tour around with Syangden and Sonam (mentors of Karkhana) and had a little conversation about their extremely creative work space.
Where did the idea of the work space of Karkhana come from?
We used to hang out under the shade in the backyard of a building that belonged to one of the co-founders. The space was comfortable, because all the tools we used were arranged there. Later, we made a mural room inside to provide workshops, after which we spread our work space to the whole building. Our team can do their work in any area of the premises where they feel comfortable, even though we have rooms for different purposes like content generation, innovation, meeting, storytelling, reading, problem solving, and even relaxing.
How were these creative ideas of decorating the rooms generated?
From the beginning of Karkhana, we have a value that work should be fun. Back then, we were a small team and did not have specific desks for work. We simply slid in any place where we were comfortable, which would mostly be the table everyone gathered around, because it was easier for us to create something and show it to each other for quick feedback. And we do have another value, which is evoking emotions through our work, i.e. our work should not be just for utility, but should also hit certain emotions, which influences our work space, as well. Every part of our building has been inspired by individual needs and interests. It is not always the same, our work space changes with changing need of our team for comfort. We focus on what kind of table, rather than how many tables. For students who come here after a tiring day at school, we have couches instead of chairs, so they can rest and refill their energy to take our classes.
Can you tell us more about the office aesthetics?
Our workplace includes closets, tables, chairs, sofas, containers, sideboards, placards, noticeboards, and flowcharts. Every material required is within the office, so there is no barrier to complete any activity. Flowcharts and noticeboards disseminate the working process of Karkhana and information about progress in work. All the furniture is arranged as per the need and easy access of the team.
How did you invent the amazing hanging table in the teachers’ room?
It was the time of Dashain, when our team was looking for something interesting to do/create. During that season, people sell ropes for lingey ping, and we had an idea to use it for our table. We bought four ropes; there were some pieces of wood and our skills. We put it all together and created the hanging table, which has today become one of the most beautiful creations of Karkhana. We make very little use of nails, since our building is over one hundred years old, and that makes our work space more interesting.