When the world starts copying what you have and what you brought, what is it that you can do to change the game one more time?
It’s not often that one takes the time to understand an entrepreneurs’ vision for his business. For Pemba Gurung, owner of Masala Beads, the story is all too familiar. It’s incredibly easy for a customer to dismiss the displayed accessories as mere handicraft but what few tend to grasp is the innovation that has been going on behind the scenes.
The bohemian, earthy appeal of Masala Beads has been around for some 13 years now. Situated in a well-suited corner of Thamel next to Kilroys’, the outlet saw a immens turnout in the years following its inception, as it was one of the most unique accessory stores around. From Native American dream catchers, feather earrings, to turquoise skull bracelets, the customers were in awe of this little shop and the items it housed. “The numbers were plentiful before. There were a lot more customers for sure, ” reflects Gurung. But gradually through the years, duplication stemming from the beads’ popularity brought down those figures. Gurung mentions how this once unique store had its clientele divided because of other similar shops opening. Still, they soldiered on and opened another outlet in Thamel.
But that’s not where this story ends. The assortment of goods on display at Masala Beads come from all around the South and South East Asian belt; and it is quite the collection. The end product, however, differs from those imported. “We have a workshop above our showroom that people hardly ever ask about. It is natural though, as most of them are just interested in the products on display. But in the workshop, we look to create new products out of the ones we have and incorporate elements found here in Nepal in them,” elaborates Gurung. In the showroom opposite the main shop, putting together these products along with his staff, sits Pemba himself. He shows me a beautiful bejeweled bracelet and explains, “The stones around the string come from Bangkok and the medallion in the middle is from here in Nepal.” This novel concept has been encouraged by retail sales and Gurung is buoyed to take this further.
Perhaps it’s just another way of staying ahead of the curve, as he did at the turn of the millennium with the introduction of Masala Beads. After the saturation in the market, Pemba Gurung is looking to take another step towards a new advent. While others are content with just importing what they can find from around the world, Masala Beads is adding its own twist to the accessory market. Although the varied collection of imports still outnumber the originals in his shop, Gurung looks to change that ratio with his own unique brand. All over again.