Naga Entrepreneurs Forge New Paths At Asian Confluence - Eastern Mirror
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Naga entrepreneurs forge new paths at Asian Confluence

By Temshinaro Updated: Jun 17, 2024 12:37 am
Naga entrepreneurs
Lhuvevolü Rhakho and Tsuktirenla with other entrepreneurs from Northeast India at the confluence in Bangkok.

DIMAPUR — Naga entrepreneurs are challenging the traditional preference for government jobs, embracing the “work culture” of their forebears and building successful businesses.

This shift is evident in the recent selection of two Naga women to participate in the “Brahamaputra Meets Chao Phraya,” an entrepreneur exchange programme in Bangkok.

Representing the entrepreneurial spirit of Nagaland state, Lhuvevolü Rhakho, proprietor of Native Organics, and Tsuktirenla, proprietor of Hay Days Book Café, were selected to be part of the Asian Confluence, held from May 27 to the 30th in Bangkok in partnership with the Royal Thai Embassy in New Delhi.

Organic shiitake farming

During an electronic interview with Eastern Mirror, Lhuvevolü Rhakho said she started her agro-based business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. “I noticed that people were looking towards healthier lifestyles and food and many people were taking to gardening and growing their own food,” she said.

Though she focuses on the cultivation of organic shiitake mushrooms, the farm in Thuvopisu village, Phek district, offers a variety of shiitake mushroom products, including sundried, smoked, and powdered mushrooms, as well as oyster mushroom grow kits.

She will also be introducing ready-to-eat products such as shiitake chutney and shiitake sauces, crafted in collaboration with Chef Aketoli Zhimomi.

“This journey brought with it an important revelation; that the indiscriminate and abundant use of chemicals and pesticides is slowly but surely taking its toll on our health,” shared the proprietor.

At present, the business scenario as a whole has been improving, and people are more aware of shiitake and its health benefits, she said, adding that the company receives orders from across the country.

Further, she said that her personal need has now evolved into a much bigger mission—a mission to introduce more people to organic and naturally cultivated shiitake and other local herbs and vegetables.

On the challenges of setting up a business in a village, Rhakho said that because of short shelf life of mushrooms, issues like absence of a cold chain and distance from bigger markets are major hurdles. She also mentioned transportation and electricity issues as ongoing obstacles.

However, the ability to grow the mushrooms in completely exposed natural environments is a plus-point. Besides this, the ability to work closely with the village community, providing employment opportunities for the elderly, widowed, and unemployed youth, is what keeps her business going and contributes to the well-being of her community.

‘Guest is always right’

Tsuktirenla opened her Hay Days Book Café in 2023 with the intention of providing customers, particularly students, with a way to reconnect with physical books and enjoy nutritious food alongside them. The café is located near NIT in Chümoukedima.

According to the proprietor, the library, which houses a small collection of books from different genres, was set-up for free reading to revive the dying culture of reading physical books.

The menu, she said, has been specially curated to evoke a feeling of home, and the cafe also provides a corner for local entrepreneurs to display and sell their products.

Recalling her early years in the hospitality industry, Tsuktirenla recounted the long hours of standing in conference halls, working late into the night during events, and the physical labour of cleaning countless plates. These experiences initially made her question her career choice, she said.

However, with a master’s degree in Service Management from ITFT, Chandigarh, which she obtained through a state government-sponsored initiative, she decided to endure the challenges and see where her hard work would lead.

Her patience and dedication paid off, as after more than 20 years in the industry, she now owns Hay Days Café.

“I learned the golden rule in hospitality, which is, ‘the guest is always right (unless we are abused verbally or physically),” shared the proprietor, adding that this ideology taught her not to take things personally and maintain a strict personal-professional life.

‘Besides, interacting with fellow colleagues and guests from multi-cultural settings taught me invaluable life lessons,’ she said.

Tsuktirenla acknowledged that Naga youth working in the hospitality sector are highly regarded outside of Nagaland and known for their honesty, loyalty, and quick learning abilities. However, she observed a gap in customer service delivery within the state.

When asked about the frequent feedback of “good food, bad service” in Nagaland restaurants, she suggested that while excellent training centres have emerged, more emphasis needs to be placed on practical training in customer satisfaction and taking feedback from customers.

“These small but efficient steps will ensure an exceptional guest experience,” she maintained, adding that Nagas tend to be less expressive by nature, but hospitality is heavily reliant on service.

Asian Confluence: A platform for growth

On their experiences at the entrepreneur exchange programme, Rhakho, who had first taken part at the confluence in the year 2022, shared that this year’s Brahamaputra Meets Chao Phraya was hectic and tiring, but in a proactive and positive way.

“One of the standouts is that I was exposed to different modes of business and operation that are still not practiced in northeast due to lack of facilities,” she said, adding that the confluence helped her understand business management skills and expansion, business communication and marketing approaches, which she believes will take her company ahead.

Rhakho said she was excited about the knowledge she gained on food labelling during the confluence. “I’m eager to implement this in my business to ensure clear and transparent traceability of my products. Through this experience, I feel I am better informed to push my 100% natural products more confidently,” she added.

Further, she said that the confluence was a ‘win-win’ for Northeast India and Thailand, as it is a collaboration that can help both regions discover new markets or business partners and explore different ways of doing business.

A total of four youth from Northeast India were given the opportunity to participate in this prestigious event.

Tsuktirenla highlighted that the participants had the opportunity to network with 3,133 exhibitors from 131 countries, where they exchanged ideas and discussed future collaborations.

By Temshinaro Updated: Jun 17, 2024 12:37:54 am
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