Banking on creativity

3 min read
12 Feb 2018
3 min read
1112 words
We feature two promising companies that were featured in the last StartupsValley segment of Next Venture Corp's Growth Conclave


Three years ago, a group of out-of-the-box thinkers founded the educational initiative Karkhana, hoping to fill the gaps in our education system that were obstructing originality, creativity, and innovation in students. The team--comprising Sakar Pudasaini, Dipeshwor Man Shrestha, Sunoj Shrestha, Pavitra Gautam and Suresh Ghimire--wanted to create an environment where students would be able to reap the benefits of 'The Four C's'--critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. And thus was born Karkhana Innovators' Club, an afterschool project-based programme for middle-schoolers. In order to reach a wider audience, Karkhana started partnering with schools and forked into a new educational programme called BeeCreative. BeeCreative, one of Karkhanaís two core initiatives, is a holistic co-curricular programme that makes use of hands-on learning to impart education to Nepali students.
There is no better substitute for learning than classes that require students to use not just their minds, but also their hands. Extracurricular activities allow students to pursue interests outside of academics, but oftentimes, these programmes depart so radically from the curriculum that they no longer contribute to the studentís academic growth. Most schools focus on developing an intensive extracurricular profile, but in their pursuit to provide the best extracurricular activities, co-curricular activities are neglected. This is where BeeCreative comes in. Rather than focusing on the usual add-on extracurricular activities, they focus on activities that can be integrated in the curriculum itself.
BeeCreative launched its prototype in 2014, when it collaborated with Triyog School to teach middle-schoolers simple concepts in STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths) through tactile learning. When the team received encouraging feedback from teachers and students alike, they officially launched BeeCreative and started partnering with schools across the Valley. In three years, BeeCreative has matured from partnering with a single school to teaching thousands of students in 22 schools. BeeCreative does not replace the school's already-set curriculum; instead, they seek to come up with hands-on activities that will help students understand what they have learned already in the curriculum. The BeeCreative Educators visit schools once a week and introduce students to different materials that help them understand a wide range of concepts from how colours work to Newton's Law of Motion. They make use of everything from cars powered by balloons to innovative storytelling exercises to communicate ideas--essentially, a BeeCreative classroom is open to a whole host of teaching and learning ideas.For almost four years now, Karkhana has been the frontrunner in reimagining education in Nepal, and with initiatives like BeeCreative, it is making a huge difference for young learners. Hands-on learning and the emphasis on 'The Four C's' represents a notable departure from our traditional rote-learning methodology. The BeeCreative team understands that grades alone are not indicative of a well-rounded education. Near-perfect scores are not going to prepare us for jobs that are yet to exist and technology that is yet to be developed. The BeeCreative team believes that the ideal way to prepare students for the future is to turn them into creative individuals armed with skills that can be transferred to the real world.

Today's Telegram

Tucked away in a narrow bylane in Damkal, Pulchowk, is a tiny store that passersby might not notice at first glance. The store, Today's Telegram (ToTe), was set up as a leather goods outlet on April 25, 2017, the date that marked the two-year anniversary of the 2015 Earthquake.
The idea for the store came to founder Arsalan Akhter when he was travelling in Rajasthan, where he came across dealers who exported vintage Rajasthani bags around the world. Deriving inspiration from these encounters, he founded Today's Telegram, which seeks to explore the world of Nepali leather and artisanal craftsmanship. Getting into the sector was not extremely difficult because Akhter's family was already operating a leather manufacturing and exporting business under the name United Tanneries in eastern Nepal, and his family's links proved exceedingly helpful for sourcing raw materials for his products.
"Finding a space in such a prime location in Lalitpur is difficult for anyone looking to open an outlet,"says Akhter. "For us, it was more than a stroke of luck, because not only did we find a proper location, but we also happened to find a place right across a premises named Tasneem, which is also my mother's name. We regarded that fortuity as a sign of fortune and decided to open the store there right away."
ToTe's product line consists of sleek and usable accessories that complement people's lifestyles. Every item in the line--designed by the ToTe team--is made from buffalo and goat leather, all sourced from within Nepal. They have designer bags, jackets, portable laptables and even leather beanbags and punching bags. Although bags dominate ToTe's product line, the customer-favourite is definitely the ToTe Handmade Laptables. The lightweight laptable comes with a built-in cushion, which works great for students and writers who are always on the move. Each laptable can be customised to the customer's preference, but the store also sells premade laptables, all of which come with unique taglines and writings printed on them. ToTe's products offer a unique mix of efficiency and craftsmanship. That's why many public figures have taken to carrying and using ToTe products--even some US senators (ToTe products are also exported to the US). ToTe opted to export to that land of opportunity because the country has a zero percent import-duty provision for LDCs (Least Developed Countries).ToTe is steadily growing into a global brand, but their tagline #FromtheHimalayas goes to show how they are still rooted in Nepal: They want their users to know that their products come from Nepal. ToTe has big dreams for the future: Once they fully capture the local market, they want to open outlets in major cities in Asia and Europe, with New York being the ultimate locale.