Bhutanese refugee siblings in Nepal invest on diverse business ideas while supporting and inspiring each other

Article | 14 December 2023
Arjun Pradhan, 19 years old, is a Bhutanese refugee living in Beldangi camp in Damak, Nepal. He is the youngest (and only man) among 4 siblings. While the two older sisters help their parents at home and with cow-keeping activities (mainly for subsistence), Arjun and his sister Matrika Pradhan, 21 years old, had the opportunity to start their business and diversify the family’s sources of livelihood.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, Arjun created a shop to sell meat, eggs, among other products. The shop is an annex to the house where his family lives in Beldangi camp. More recently, Arjun also started helping his sister Matrika with her business idea, a “courier” service to export Bhutanese products, mainly traditional clothes, to Bhutanese refugees living abroad, mainly in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Between 2007 and 2016, around 90,000 Bhutanese refugees who were living in Nepal were resettled to third countries, and therefore Arjun and Matrika have family, acquaintances, and other contacts in these countries.

In August 2023, Arjun and Matrika had the opportunity to participate in an IYB training organized in the context of the ILO-UNHCR project “Building Inclusive Markets for Refugees and Host Communities in Nepal”. According to the two siblings, the training was a turning point for their business mindset.

Arjun and Matrika with their mom in front of the shop in Beldangi camp

After the training, Matrika started using social media to promote her products to personal contacts. Now she wants to set up a business account on social media. She is also planning to improve the storage conditions of her service because she doesn’t want people to have the impression that the clothes are dirty or have been stored in bad conditions. Among the adaptations that Arjun made in his business was decreasing the price of some key products sold in the shop. For instance, he adopted a strategy of selling the meat for a cheaper price than his competitors in the camp.

My business is not on the main road, so I need to find other ways to attract clients. Most shops are selling the meat for 420 Rupees the kilo. I have decreased the price of my product to 400 Rupees. This has been attracting more people to buy from my shop. It decreases the profit I get from selling meat, but the new clients end up buying other products from my shop together with the meat, which is good for the business’s overall profitability."

Arjun Pradhan

Additionally, Arjun started negotiating prices with suppliers from the community. Now he manages to buy products from suppliers for a lower cost, which helps the profitability of his business. One of the lessons that Arjun learnt in the IYB training is to not advertise the products of his supplier, because this is detrimental for his own business. In terms of marketing his products, Arjun has added a signboard on the main road indicating the location of his business. The next step he wants to take is opening a shop on the main road, which is the best place to attract more clients. To improve the overall buying experience of his shop’s buyers, Arjun realized the importance of adapting his behavior to build trust with and keep the loyalty of his costumers.

It is all about trust. Connections and conversations are crucial for the prosperity of the business."

Arjun Pradhan

He acknowledges that the quality and diversity of the shop’s offer is also important. For this reason, Arjun has bought a new fridge to keep the meat fresh and is always bringing new products to his clients, according their needs.