The story of Sukha Balami is the one of rag to riches. In 1999, Sukha Balami, a regular 16-year-old, having completed his SLC, moved to Kathmandu from Makawanpur in search of a greener pasture. Despite being penniless he brought with him a dream and vision to make a successful living. Mr Balami along with his brother operated a tea shop for eight years, to make ends meet. Meanwhile, his younger brother started working in a bag factory and learned the tricks of the trade. Sukha Balami knew that a tea stall would not help in achieving his dream and in a true entrepreneurial spirit he gathered all his savings and loans from his family members, to establish Durga Bags in 2007.
What started as a small factory with two employees is now a full-fledged factory in Chamati; Swayambhu; currently employing 35 employees, with a capacity to manufacture 320 bags per day. Durga Bag manufactures wide varieties of bags ranging from school bags, laptop bags, trekking bags and ladies’ bags. Of late, they have also started making bags under its own brand; “Kobieu”. The word ‘kobieu’ means ‘to carry’ in Newari. Durga Bag’s focus on quality and affordability has helped it to capture the domestic market and most recently they have also started exporting their products to India and Qatar.
The good streak of Durga Bags was abrupted by the global pandemic forcing them to completely shut their factory. Even when the lockdown lifted, they faced a sharp decline in demand as their key clientele were school children and trekkers. Despite this, Mr Balami persisted and eventually the business started to pick up. Despite the prohibitory orders, the company was able to secure an order from Qatar to supply school bags.
Durga Bags is one of the beneficiaries of the COVID-19 MSME Fund Nepal, supported by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC and FMO – Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank, and managed by One to Watch (OTW). With the help of the fund, Durga Bags was able to receive an interest-free and collateral-free loan from NMB Bank which was mainly utilized to purchase raw materials and pay back the creditors. OTW also aims to provide tailored business development services to Durga Bags. Because of the pandemic, there has been a rise in the digitized businesses and ecommerce platforms. OTW will help Durga Bags to tap into the ecommerce markets and also support in establishing their ‘Kobieu’ brand