Imagine going on a backpack trip and coming back with a brilliant idea of launching a brand. This is how Arsalan Akhter founded Today’s Telegram, a made in Nepal leather and fabric brand. It all started from an idea that struck him when he was on a two-month-long backpacking trip across the sand dunes of Rajasthan. During the trip, he realised the importance of a bag and how it has become a must-have commodity for every person.
Noticing that almost everyone carried bags, Akhter started gathering more information about them. Furthermore, he closely observed and experienced how the Rajasthani bags were a core culture of the region. He returned from the trip, excited and prepared, to convert his father’s over 40-year long expertise in finished leather into leather goods and creative end products that are crafted in Nepal.
The name, ‘Today’s Telegram’, itself has a very interesting story. One day, while going through the Indian newspaper ‘Hindustan Times’, where Akhter was a contributing writer, he came across a headline ‘163-year-old Telegram is Dead’. After being one of the oldest and fastest means of communication at one point in time, telegram had become outdated and its services were discontinued. That was the precise moment when the idea of naming his brand Today’s Telegram struck him.
Akhter mentions that whatever a person carries in their bag, be it their laptop, diary, charger or office folder, these are the forms of modern day telegram. “The name I believe serves, retains and syncs with our core value,” he adds.
Today’s Telegram was launched on April 25, 2017, with a dark-room photo exhibition of ‘Nepal in 60s’ and has since been able to carve a niche for itself. Akhter mentions they have been lucky to showcase and sell their products to US senators too.
Over the last three years, Today’s Telegram has evolved and transformed itself as a young lifestyle brand doing anything with leather, eco-friendly fabrics and creative end-products. It essentially remains a writing product from the Himalayas, ‘You Think, We Ink’. It has added three more displays within Kathmandu and has been planning to launch in two new cities by early 2022. Akhter has also envisioned to make it a global brand in the coming years.
Though there are many existing competitors for leather brands that are made in Nepal, one of the unique selling propositions that the brand has achieved in the past three years is they have worked on many economically fledged product segments and creative versatile designs. They have successfully created 101 different product segments within the brand. In 2018, it also began manufacturing pure leather bean bags for the first time in Nepal. “Creating products that stand the test of time is key to our sustainable thinking at Today’s Telegram,” says Akhter.
Leather is one of the most premium and playful natural fabrics to craft and create a durable product, shares Akhter, adding, “No two leather skins are alike, each hide showcases natural markings, blemishes and a heterogeneous grain. So, the exclusivity of leather and its designs are key to the identity of a vintage product.”
He further states that primarily, selection of the right leather is most critical. “After the identification of the right leather for the right design, this must then be entwined with the skill of the craftsperson to meticulously cut, stitch and finish the work of art.”
Akhter philosophically adds, “When love meets craft, creativity meets design, and product meets spark – something timeless is born.”
Some of the most popular and best-selling products of Today’s Telegram are, ToTe laptables, leather bags, wallets, artisan pen rolls, sleeve bags, jackets and punching bags. The target group of this brand is usually established by the concept of each given product design. Its variety of product categories serve everyone from teenagers to the elderly, depending on their utilitarian choices. The brand also highly emphasises on unisex products and focuses on the young working crowd as its primary customer base.
Since its inception, Today’s Telegram has been able to develop a strong and loyal customer base as Akhter states that 70% of his customers are either repeat clients or have been referred to by previous buyers. He firmly believes that each leather brand and craftwork has a different appeal. As a brand looking to expand globally, the sentiment of ’Made in Nepal’ is very well recognised and sellable in the international market, so it is a great opportunity not just for leather products but other brands and products from Nepal to grab a foothold and showcase their products in the international arena, he mentions.
Talking about the entrepreneurial and startup culture in Nepal, Akhter shares, “It is nice to see the younger generation coming up with new innovative ideas. However, though starting can be easy, persistence is key. Before we actually open anything it is important to have a vision that can play, survive and thrive the whole journey.”