Have you ever imagined that while you are busy choosing trendy and fashionable sunglasses, someone out there is struggling for vision? When you are paying for branded eyewear, someone is suffering to pay for simple Cataract surgery and cannot see this beautiful world?
“Multiplying resources is the beauty of business” according to 29-year-old Suraj Shrestha, CEO and Founder of Anthropose, who found a solution to the demand for branded eyewear and at the same time the need to support people in rural areas of Nepal who suffer from cataract.
Bikas Udhyami sat down with Suraj to learn more about his social business.
What is Anthropose and what does it do ?
Anthropose is a Nepali Brand of trendy sunglasses established in 2014. It has introduced a line of sunglasses as a means to solve deep rooted problem of cataract in Nepal. It gives protection, comfort and style to the user by crafting high quality sunglasses. In the mean time it also creates a platform for communities to unite, to resolve; the neglected problem of cataract by the government and give the often ignored an opportunity to get their sight restored. Collaborating with Tilganga Eye Hospital, we are providing Cataract service.
How did the initiative start?
While studying business in the US, I came across a campaign by TOMS shoes. The for-profit company based in California donates a pair of shoes for a child in need for every pair it sells. So bringing the same business model to the Nepalese context, I came up with the idea of selling sunglasses while giving vision to people.
How is your business creating social impact?
We have brought vision to those who were sightless. Those people who cannot afford the cataract surgery are getting sight. Till date we have organized 2 cataract surgery campaigns and have successfully provided 48 surgeries and 1500 vision tests. It has brought happiness in the family and the society as a whole.
How your business is different to others?
There are other businesses that are totally profit oriented. We are doing business differently. Our core competency is the social value we provide to the customer. Our customer not only uses our product, but also at the same time contributes to helping cataract patients. As I already said, "multiplying resources is the beauty of business”. Likewise, we multiply the value and satisfaction that the customer gets from our products.
What are your future plans?
Our niche market is the luxury, quality and brand aware customer. And we have segmented our market accordingly. However, we are aiming to expand our business to the price sensitive customer too.
Also in terms of Cataract surgery, we are currently organizing only one campaign a year. However, we are changing the model to providing cataract services on an continuous basis. We are targeting to conduct 600 surgeries this year and hopefully this number will grow further in the coming years.
What was the most memorable point of time being in this work?
My most memorable point was when the first surgery was completed successfully and the old lady who had undergone surgery exclaimed " Now I Can see the Heaven" . It was the point when I realized that this is going to work.
How do you see the business environment in Nepal?
Yes, the environment is frustrating. There are challenges, but Nepal is in a transition phase and in such phase there is always havoc. There is a paradigm shift occurring. With technology and internet, a lot of people are being proactive and they are globally aware. Where there is a will there is a way. There are challenges and as an entrepreneur it is your responsibility to figure out how you will solve the challenges.
What recommendations do you have for other aspiring young Nepali entrepreneurs?
Until and unless you are going to take the risk you cannot achieve something in Life. First identify the problem and be prepared for the challenges. You really need to be sure if you really want to do it. Until and unless you are ready you cannot. The system does not provide support . Hence, you must be prepared. And you must have a good team and be able to work in a team. It is your team, who will make you successful. Develop your relationship skills, because technical things can be learned but these personal relations, team work and willpower will enable you to achieve what you set out to achieve.