One fateful day, optimistic Ishan tells his friend, realistic Smriti that he has entered her name as his business partner in the Idea Studio Challenge; the challenge is an initiation by Idea Studio a non-profit organization working to channel creative ideas by young entrepreneurial hopefuls and help them turn it into socially conscious enterprise. Confused; Smriti agrees to be a part of the challenge unware that just months later they would go on to win it and eventually be introducing Nepal’s first customizable Home-made chocolates called Swiffles. This was essentially how the partnership of Smriti Tuladhar and Ishan Pandey began, the two business students from Kathmandu University School of Management and friends embarked on their rather delicious journey. True entrepreneurs do not let technicalities get in the way of their dreams and hence the duo despite of having no prior knowledge in chocolate making or to run a business took it upon themselves to learn on the job through mentors, programs like bootstrap and YouTube.
Nepal annually imports chocolates worth approximately Rs 2.1 billion in a year alone. Seems fitting since chocolate is perhaps the most used and gifted item of food there is. Realizing this very market potential and demand for chocolates Ishan and Smriti created their brand Swiffles in the hopes of competing with leading chocolate brand in the industry in an unconventional manner.
Swiffles creators do not consider the company to be a brand that sells chocolates but instead feelings, “It is not just a chocolate brand, we want Swiffles to make you feel special and be a part of a celebration” adds Smriti, perhaps that is why instead of going with the traditional form of placement and trying to compete with chocolate giants like Cadbury in confectionary stores, Swiffles decided to differentiate their product through customization and product placements. Today Swiffles, a brand that wants to help you create memories is sold in numerous outlets of hotels, cafes and online stores, showing its availability while still maintaining its exclusivity. It has also emerged as the go to for meaningful gifts used especially in corporate houses for their employees.
However, all this success did not come easy, Swiffles started its operation in the midst of the fuel crisis and blockage, with crunching raw materials and electricity shortage “the season of exploding transmitters” as Smriti recalls, the two partners worked rigorously to make the most of the situation at hand, working whenever there was electricity irrespective of the time. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Ishan adds, “for an entrepreneur every obstacle presents an opportunity to find a new way of executing something”. The passion driven duo give of a strong impression when you talk to them, their drive to master their work and their ‘can do’ attitude sets them apart from people who end up planning their dreams but never actually executing it. The two also faced issues while entering the industry because of the redundancy in information about chocolate making, although eager to learn during the research the two were bewildered by the lack of technical skills and knowledge professionals had about chocolate making in Nepal. Hence, the self-reliant pair then turned to themselves and their selected mentors for help and tried to make do with the resources available to them.
Our brand has always focused on personalization like little notes and messages on the boxes, and in the future we hope to start printing company logos in the chocolates as well. However, since making mould is so expensive, I used my own interest and past education in engineering to design them, It was hard work because initially I only had basic knowledge, but after many tries we were successful at making it; I learnt a new skill and the company saved a lot of money, which is always good! As business owners you will always face challenges, but that definitely does not mean there are no solutions for those challenges, it is always around.“ says Ishan. Additionally, Swiffles is also the very first company in Nepal to use 3-D printers, in order to create moulds for their chocolates.
Furthermore, in addition to getting the job done, the company has been working towards their social objective as well; by provide training and employment to unskilled work force. Aware of the high number of unskilled workforce in Nepal, Swiffles decided to delegate part of the chocolate making to part-time staffers who are household helpers from discriminatory backgrounds. This initiation has led to the women gaining skill and extra income to support themselves, “The women are added value to the company, since we are full time students and need to manage time effectively it gives us joy that during our absence our work is giving them an opportunity to learn and grow” the co-creators state. The company that was initially started by two BBA students has employed 8 interns from the very university they study in. Their simple yet unique business has definitely given swiffles deserved attention, as of now they cater to big corporations such as Mega bank and supply 500,000 pieces of chocolates per transaction. The student turned entrepreneurs have a total of 15 employees and additional part-timers for the festive months.
Lastly, Swiffles is a perfect example of what can be achieved if you follow through with your passion and work hard. The two co- owners debunk many misconceptions people have about working in a start-up and have been consistent in using their skills, abilities “and YouTube tutorials” Ishan adds and successfully became the pioneers in customizable Home-made chocolates in the country. “Many people think for a start up, you need to have ideas, investment and environment. But, in actuality the most important thing you need is passion. If you are passionate about what you are doing the other things eventually follow.” Ishan interjects, he also stresses on the importance of acting instantly, starting small and building your brand. As for Smriti she adds “I do not believe in trying, for me that just means you are making excuses, if you have an idea go ahead with it, it does not have to be perfect, there is much more you learn from actually doing the work then simply planning”.
With both the owners’ values in business strongly congruent, Swiffles indeed is a great example of complementary business partnership, innovation and entrepreneurship in Nepal.
Swiffles chocolates are available in online stores like dealsmandu and restaurants like Victory lounge and Himalayan Java.