Suraj Shrestha: Bigger picture with social venture : Anthropose.
Photo: Bibhas Maharjan Suwal
Compiled By: Samyukta Dawadi
For those who are lucky, cataracts happen to you late in life; you go through a minor surgery and wear an eye patch till that heals. However, an appalling number of people end up losing their eye sight due to cataracts. According to the statistics, of the 95, 765 blind people in Nepal, 62.2% account cataracts as the cause (as of 2011).
Taking into consideration this fact and the shaming irony of the availability of world class services in ophthalmology in Nepal, Anthropose could not have come into existence any later.
Anthropose is Nepal’s first for-profit social-good sunglass company. For every 10 pairs sold of their product, they will provide a free cataract surgery to a person in need. Their association with Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology and Dr. Sanduk Ruit ensures the quality of the services that are provided.
“We believe only donating is not the end to the process. We, in complete collaboration with Tilganga conduct Outreach Eye-Surgery camps in rural Nepal. We plan to make our buyers a part of the camp, so that we can create change throughawareness and also maintain transparency through direct participation of the end buyer.”
Suraj Shrestha, CEO and founder of Anthropose, shares his thoughts and tells us more about this one of a kind for-profit-social-good company.
1.Tell us about your team.
Our core team comprises of 5 people me, Amun Thapa, Prakiran Shrestha, Sodhan Manandhar and Subal Chitrakar. Nirmal Sharma Chaulagain looks after the supply chain, and then we have Ramesh Sharma Chaulagain as our Senior Procurement Manager and Abhijit Mool as our Marketing Officer. we are just a focused, fun and change-driven group of friends who happen to be working together.
2.Where does the production take place? How is it done and who designs it?
Our current product line were manufactured in China using high quality acetates, stainless steel and CR- 39 lenses which are polarized, UVA and UVB protectant, anti-scratch and anti-reflective. Our products are FDA and CE approved. Currently, we work with our manufacturer’s design unit to come up with our sunglass ranges. However, we are hopeful about establishing a design unit here in Nepal in the near future.
3.Will you be coming out with new models?
Yes, definitely. Our new product line is already on the design table.
An appalling number of people end up losing their eye sight due to cataracts. It often made me think, how sad it was for me to have to use a reference of two other countries to introduce my own.
4.What inspired you to get this venture started?
Wow! I could go on and on talking about this. Haha. During my graduate studies abroad, I realized quite a few things about how Nepalese youth viewed “opportunities” in Nepal. To keep it simple, some thought Nepal didn’t have enough opportunities that matched their caliber and some were pretty happy with their lifestyle abroad, all the while when youth labor force were departing the country to middle-eastern countries for the same reason. The point being “Opportunity” in Nepal. I am an optimist, I believe. I saw opportunities, but if the youths didn’t act on creating opportunities, one-day opportunities would definitely be a rare commodity.
Its needless to state the fact that Nepal has always had many other social problems (including youth-emigration) that needed to be addressed.
Also, our identity as a nation.
During my graduate studies, whenever I introduced myself, it was obvious that they ask me where was I from? Naturally my response would be “Nepal”. It wasn’t a commonplace for people to know where Nepal was. So, as clichéd as this response may be, I’d reply “The country where Mt. Everest is” or if not “ The country where Lord Buddha was born.” Often times, people still seem confused. Then, I would have to refer to India and China. It often made me think, how sad it was for me to have to use a reference of two other countries to introduce my own.
There was a dire need of a solution that all the while solving existing social problem, created opportunities to grow & advance and was sustainable & scalable to create an identity. Hence, ANTHROPOSE.
5.While planning this out, was the social aspect the main component or was the business aspect that came in first and the social aspect a business strategy?
Well, we believe nothing works in isolation. Everything is a part of an eco-system. We saw a balanced relationship between the “social” aspect and the “business” aspect of the model. They cannot be viewed as separate entities but two aspects sharing a symbiotic relationship instead.
6.As a new business, what obstacles have you faced?
Although, Anthropose is relatively new, after co-founding and running SastoDeal for almost 3 years now, we’ve found our way to overcome primary obstacle that any new start up would have faced. However, since the idea of a “for-profit social enterprise” is still a new phenomenon worldwide, people are inquisitive about our business model, but that isn’t exactly an obstacle.
7.What is the most challenging aspect of running a social business and what’s the most fun and rewarding?
In Nepal, I’d have to say the disturbed attention of government towards social issues and regulations that deter any private sector organization to work with a social motive has to be the most challenging aspect of running a social business. The government should promote, facilitate and encourage an environment with proper regulations in place where not only social enterprise but also youth empowerment could bloom. The “CHANGE” that it brings along is the most fun and rewarding. The joy of overcoming a problem while working with like-minded and fun people is always a bonus.
8.What were the toughest decisions you had to make regarding this venture?
Probably, selecting our manufacturing partner was the toughest decisions we had to make while executing this venture because like we partnered with the best to execute our surgical camps we wanted the same to be true for our products as well.
9.We know you guys have an awesome team. What is an average workday like for you in the office?
On an average workday, you’d see us gathered in the office the very first thing in the morning. Discuss our agendas for the day over some black, sugar-less coffee. And, after that, the action begins. Haha! At the moment, we are busy with our promotion and awareness campaigns. So you’d probably see us meeting a lot of people, a lot.
10.What was the best piece of advice you ever got and what was the worst?
Once Dr. Sanduk Ruit, while I was in conversation with him, told me “It’s a good thing that you are doing, babu. Keep it up”. So probably, “Keep it up” is the best piece of advice I’ve gotten so far. As for the worst one, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten one.
11.Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I really like what Artlab is trying to do with and in the art-scene. Their vision towards art really impresses me. While I am talking about art, I think Fuzz Factory Productions too are marking a niche for themselves.
12.Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something you’re born with or is it something thatcan be learned?
I believe, if you really want something, it can be learned and nurtured.
13.What would you advise entrepreneurs starting out today?
I once read, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michel Angelo
14.What’s next for Anthropose?
Well, Nepal surely has its fair-share of social problems that needs to be addressed. And, we have our eyes set on couple of them. We will definitely let you know when the right time comes.