Prakash JB Rana, the owner of Imperial Furniture Private Ltd in Baluwatar, Kathmandu, has been involved in the furniture business for the past 25 years. In his exclusive tete-a-tete with ceotab.com, he urges youths to acquire training and stay in the country instead of seeking a job abroad. Excerpts:
How did you get the idea of introducing furniture of Victorian-era in Nepal?
It was our forefather Jung Bahadur Rana who had introduced such type of furniture in Nepal. During his visit to Britain, Queen Victoria was the monarch there. So, he thought of introducing such furniture in Nepal and gave it the name Victorian-era.
What did inspire you to adopt this concept? Can we say that you were inspired by the family’s legacy that you belong to?
Earlier, I took it as a hobby. Moreover, I did not take any formal course in interior design. But, I enjoyed designing furniture for my family and friends. While talking about inspiration, this concept is very new in the Nepalese context and is, of course, challenging as well. And my brother Bikash JB Rana also inspired me to introduce this new concept to the market. So, I could fulfil my hobby as well as I could give some unique things to society. We have been giving continuation to the same designs that were used during the Victorian-era.
What are the major sources for the products (as you do not compromise in quality)? Where do you get raw materials from? Are all materials available in local markets?
We use woods from the local forests of Nepal, while, we import fabrics from India. However, depending on the demand of our valuable customers, we use fabrics imported from third countries as well, particularly, from European countries. It takes time to manufacture the product but we do not compromise in quality. We, generally, use Sheesham and teakwood to manufacture furniture which is easily available across the country.
The brighter side of this concept is that the model of the product never gets phased out. And the re-sale values of these products are never depreciated. Materials used in furniture are long-lasting and original. Furniture could be maintained for years with regular service.
What are the challenges that you have been facing to the date?
Well, it’s not challenging but it is really difficult for us to find skilled manpower in the market. As we work with very unique and exclusive designs, we need experts. There are only handful numbers of skillful manpower in the country who can work in this field.
And your manpower, how have you been managing to enhance and upgrade their skills and to maintain the quality of exclusive products?
We take orders on a contract basis as it is more feasible for us to monitor the product manufacturing process. At the moment, we have some 150 skilled human resources with us just for manufacturing the furniture.
As most of your target customers are from the upper-class society, do you have any mid-point to attract “one-time buyers”?
We have different types of customers and it depends on their choice and also on the quality of the products. For instance, we have brought products for the middle class who would like to buy the same products that a buyer from the upper class. People go more for quality rather than the price. The quality, the materials used, and their quality determine the value of the products that vary in price. And buying a product is not everything. The ambiance and the placement also play a role. Just placing the furniture in one corner does not exhibit its design and quality. The right placement of the furniture enhances its quality and feature. We do customize furniture as per the needs and demands of buyers. Moreover, we mainly focus on the classic design even as we also manufacture modern designing equally. However, most of the time, people opt for classic design over the modern one.
What are the strategies that you have been focusing on to promote your products?
There are no specific strategies that we are focused on to promote our products. Our satisfied valuable customers have been helping us to promote our products. Whatever demand that we have been receiving is due to positive feedback and trust that our customers have in us. Besides this, we had participated in few exhibitions a few years ago. At the end of the day, it is our customers who have been promoting our work among their family and friends circles. We have published ads in few magazines as well. However, we are receiving enough orders even if we cannot go in extended promotion either at the moment. We have been trying for branding of our products.
Are you trading only in local markets or you are exporting them abroad as well?
Yes, we are even exporting them. But it depends on demand instead of volume-based. As it is a very hardworking and focused job, we are supplying orders just based on personal relations instead.
What could be your contribution to society?
For me, I think we have been opening up some kind of opportunities for youths, who in general, seek a better life in foreign countries. Instead, they can acquire some skill full training within the country and earn good money over here.
Do you have any plans to collaborate with the local entrepreneurs to expand the business?
For the moment, we don’t have any plan to collaborate with any other entrepreneurs. We are more focused on branding the product. Most people are largely concerned with the quality of the products rather than the price. And I can say, we can provide such quality regardless of the price.