With a keen interest in metals and crafts, Nidhi Todi, Founder of Dhaatu Nepal, an entity of MC Group, studied jewellery designing at the Gemmological Institute of America to hone her skills in the art she loves. Working with metals such as gold, silver and brass is her forte and she continued this passion for over eight years until she got married. “In between getting married and starting Dhaatu I also was involved with designing and exporting felt toys to stores but I knew my calling was always with crafts and metals,” Todi mentions.
Regarding her felt business Todi says, “I was collaborating with artisans, teaching and training them and then making products for export but I felt the need to set up my own factory if I wanted to fully realise my dream.”
Why metals? After a lot of research and in-depth study of the market in Nepal, Todi learned that the metal craft industry is a heritage industry with a lot of scope. “During my research I visited many metal clusters in India and discovered that metalware has an international appeal and great export potential, but it was a dying craft in Nepal. I felt a sense of purpose and thus the birth of Dhaatu Nepal,” she states.
Dhaatu was founded in November 2020. “It was easier for me to establish a copperware business as my family already owns Nepal’s largest metal recycling plant, Hanuman Metals, from where we can source our copper sheets and I would always get the raw materials at the cheapest price,” she shares. It was not only the availability of the raw materials but also the health benefits that copper has which impelled her to start Dhaatu. The other reason for setting up Dhaatu, elaborates Todi, is also to have a positive impact on the community by reducing e-waste and upcycling them to make meaningful products. She adds, “I also wanted to revive an industry that was dying and provide employment to artisans to create better livelihood for them.”
Dhaatu creates products that are modern and in sync with the current demands of the market. Todi refers to Dhaatu as a ‘waste to wellness’ brand as products are made through upcycling. The company extracts copper from electronic wastes such as mobile phones and electronic goods and also from local scrap dealers in Nepal and then crafts them into high utility household products. According to her, “The beauty of copper is that you can recycle it infinite number of times without losing its value and quality which means recycled copper is as good as it was the first time.”
She shares the company uses copper extracted from e-waste making it environment friendly. She says, “The e-waste problem is going to be a major problem in the future so Dhaatu is contributing to the environment by recycling metal waste which would take close to 80 years to decompose.”
Since copper utensils are considered to have many health benefits, Dhaatu is more focused on producing products such as water jugs, glasses and bottles. “Water which has been stored in copper utensils makes the water alkaline and such water has anti-ageing properties and hydration, skin health, and other detoxifying properties,” she explains. “It also helps lose weight and supports the immune system.” Talking more about the health benefits, she adds copper and ayurveda have a very close affinity. “As per ayurveda, water stored in copper bottles overnight is called ‘tamrajal’ which is considered to be the purest and most beneficial water to drink.”
Dhaatu at present is mostly targeting people who are health and environment conscious and has also been taking orders from corporate houses for customised products with logos of the respective companies etched on them, says Todi. She shares that in recent days the demand for Dhaatu products has considerably risen among fitness and wellness enthusiasts, mostly between the ages of 20 and 45.
As customers are very price conscious these days, she says, the company has been offering products that range between Rs 900 and Rs 2,000. “Our products are available online too,” she adds.
The response to Dhaatu’s products has been really good and within a year of its establishment the company has been exporting to Japan and South Korea too. “We are one of the first Nepali brands in those countries and we have also sent our samples to the US,” Todi says, adding that the next step for the company will be to manufacture brass gifting products which is being launched for Dashain this year.