Dhukuti: An eccentric store full of unique traditional handmade crafts. A wonderland for all the craft lovers, Dhukuti has in store products that go with the aesthetic trend of today. A non-profit organization that is truly based on uplifting women and promoting Nepali tradition and culture reflected in their products. In a country where there is significant level of domination of women and high influence of Western culture due to which people are forgetting the authentic Nepalese styles, Dhukuti, through its products, is trying to eliminate these issues.
The Dhukuti business started with the sole purpose of providing services in design, technology, marketing, and managerial skills to the low income primary women craft producers of Nepal. The executive director of Association for Craft Producers, Meera Bhattarai, is running the firm with the much needed ethics like quality payment/services to the producers, not exploiting child labor, transparency, and good working conditions.
When you enter Dhukuti, you can see products that you don’t see in every other interior design shop; every product is very different and interesting from other same type of products in the market. Ms. Bhattarai said, “We always focus on the market trend. The type of color, design, theme, and textures that are popular among the people is studied by our marketing and design team, and keeping all that in mind we launch our products.” Dhukuti develops its unique products working along with the design interns and senior level designers.
With high level of competition in the interior design market, it is difficult for firms like Dhukuti to compete in the established international market. Ms. Bhattarai says, “We are surviving in the midst of constraints; we work with imported raw materials, which tend to be expensive. We do not have the required raw materials, being a landlocked country, and Dhukuti being the best wage payer in any South Asian country, all those costs add up, which makes it difficult to work at times.” She gave the example of how they import the raw material (wool) from New Zealand and send them the finish product, “The situation is poor,” she said. However, regardless of the setbacks, Dhukuti focuses on the quality and design of their products, putting more effort on them.
The products offered by Dhukuti are based on the Nepali theme with a hint of contemporary in them. They live by the tag line, “Contemporary yet Authentic”, for the manufacturing process involves approximately 800-1000 employees, some of whom are seasonal workers, and among those 90% are women. Ms. Bhattarai further explained, “We provide many facilities to the women working here, their children’s’ education, paid pregnancy leave, festival bonus, and emergency funds for the workers. So, with all of this, we are loyal to our producers and the producers are loyal to us.”
In today’s time, we can see a lot of Western influence in the interior design market, people prefer modern contemporary designs. With that, it is difficult for the local business to compete in the market. Ms. Bhattarai says, “It is problematic. Healthy competition is okay, but sadly there are some people who come here just to look at the design and make it their own. They steal our designs and sell them at cheaper prices, with low quality raw materials, and without proper patent rights we cannot do anything about it.”
Dhukuti, with their brand name, helps uplift the local workers. Ms. Bhattarai says, “We teach the local workers design, technology, and managerial skills. The typical classroom situation is not possible; they don’t even know how to write. Giving them on-the-job training, we teach them all the necessary things required while producing products, like costing, managing time, selling, etc.”
Dhukuti has come a long way, with proper market research and trendy designs, they try upgrading their products every year. Good business ethics and adapting to the trendy aesthetics, Dhukuti has had an amazing journey, Ms. Bhattarai stated, “This whole journey has been very encouraging and rewarding. Every year, we try to technically upgrade ourselves; we did technical upgrading on our textile department in 2006. Likewise, in 2013 and 2015, we upgraded our ceramics department, and for now, we are planning to bring in a filter press machine to produce better quality products.”
Dhukuti is known for paying their workers well. All the workers are equally involved, from the basic level of developing raw materials to design orientation to building the final product. Ms. Bhattarai said, “Our goal is to provide the best for our workers, paying them enough to smoothly run their household.”
As the market is flooded with imported craft, where the traditional décor are being over shadowed with the modern contemporary trend, Dhukuti is trying to keep the traditional skills alive through their products. One can see the traditional Nepalese taste in all their products, She says, “With such huge imports we make from other countries, I always have the fear of our traditional products slowly disappearing from the market. So, to stop that from happening, we have a vision to have a museum concept of product display.” Dhukuti has also introduced the concept of glass fabrication, taking some of the Western skills and ideas, the firm tries to create something authentic.
She says, “We are a socially oriented, commercially viable enterprise. Following our ground rule ethics of no child exploitation, fair wage, providing good working environment, and producing quality products, we constantly evolve with time.”
Dhukuti is the leading organization serving as the premier women craft association of Nepal. The first one to introduce diversification in cloth printing, starting from the basic products, Dhukuti has established itself as a brand and has more unique products to be launched in the near future. With almost 60% of the products being exported to other countries, Dhukuti welcomes a fair amount of foreigners to their store. So, with the pure motive of uplifting the economic standards of local workers and to preserve the authentic traditional Nepalese designs, Dhukuti is doing the best with its aesthetic products that are liked by majority of people who visit them.