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Pravin Chitrakar, the founder and Managing Director of Yala Mandala Pvt Ltd, is a renowned name in the handicraft sector of Nepal. I had an opportunity to interact with him during Breakfast @ Biruwa (an experience sharing session at Biruwa Ventures). It was interesting to hear about his entrepreneurial journey, some of which I have tried to summarize.

Born into a Newari family of artists, he had a passion towards art and design from an early age. While he attended the Visvesvaraya Regional College of Engineering in India to pursue Civil Engineering, he used to devote most of his time in the architectural department.

He was very passionate to learn about the art and crafts, and would grab any opportunity to attend handicraft trainings (foreign and local). He says he is still learning the craft of business. After completing his education and returning to Nepal, he directly stepped into the handicraft sector without any business plan, significant capital fund, and guidance. Being the youngest member of his family, he received full support from them to pursue his dream.

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During the interaction, Pravin grew nostalgic of his early days – when his first customer visited his store. With twinkling eyes he recalled, “I was sitting in a tea shop nearby, when I saw a tourist heading towards my store. I sprang up and ran through a shortcut and acted busy at work”.

The major challenge he faced during his initial phase was to convince crafts persons to move out of their houses and work in his courtyard (now known as “Artisan at Work”). Pravin was the first person to establish a fixed price shop in Nepal, a trend which was totally un-thought of at that time.

Pravin is concerned that Nepal has not yet capitalized on the numerous opportunities available in the handicrafts sector. The few players of the sector seem reluctant in being creative and innovative in their craft with even less concern towards marketing and customer satisfaction. “Until and unless we dignify the hardworking artistic hands of the country, craftsmen will continue to belong in the lower rungs of the society”.

Today, Pravin is trying to establish a brand Yala (range of diversified handicraft products) to export and promote varieties of Nepalese handicraft products globally. His store’s ambience creates a positive “word of mouth” among tourists entering Patan. While building the Yala brand, he is also trying to materialize his long term vision of creating “The Artisan Village” to attract tourists from all over the world.