EXECUTIVE CHAIRPERSON, TAVISI
“Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, complaints around shopping were about a lack of products, lack of quality, and a scattered marketplace; post-Covid the conversation quickly turned into confusion about the authenticity and legitimacy of products with the rise of online shopping and Instagram shops,” says Palas Joshi, Executive Chairperson of Tavisi.
She says that the more women and girls they talked to, it became more evident that here was a space for business. As a result, Tavisi was born. Palas launched tavisinepal.com in November last year as a collaborative and inclusive e-commerce platform and digital magazine company determined to transform the online retail and media space in Nepal.
Tavisi is co-founded by Palas Joshi as its Executive Chairperson and Sahara Joshi as the Director. What’s different is that it integrates an e-commerce website ‘Tav the Shop’ with a digital magazine ‘Tav the Story’. Palas says, “Tav the Shop is a one-stop shop for women enhancing ease of access to curated quality products and authentic information helping customers to make an informed decision. Providing products ranging from beauty, fashion, mom and baby to health and wellness, home and décor and gifting items, the website is an intentional and conscious effort to ease the busy lives of women by making their shopping experience more informed, convenient and hassle-free.”
Palas and her co-founder are striving to make Tavisi a company that integrates their own personal values and beliefs. “With Tavisi, our intention is to weave a story and build a community,” shares Palas, adding, “Our brand philosophy, packaging and community is an effort to reflect this and we sincerely hope that all our potential customers see this too.”
In this edition of Business 360, we trace their journey from inception to where it is headed.
Bridging the market gap
Tavisi is an outcome of unending conversations held over coffee dates, shopping sprees and dinner tables. The brand is a result of the tireless complaints of a majority of women who view shopping in Nepal as taxing and uninformed, rather than therapeutic. More specifically, the idea was conceptualised during the Covid lockdown when life came to a standstill and people were confined to their homes. With an increasing amount of time spent on social media and the burgeoning online stores, shopping became even more confusing and time-consuming with people getting angry over what was shown and what was delivered. Questions started to grow in the consumer’s mind: Were the products genuine? Why were the same products priced differently in different places? Was the seller trustworthy? Could the quality be trusted?
In all this confusion, Palas and Sahara thought: Why not create a one-stop online shopping website, especially for women where they could easily and efficiently find all the products they want and need without having to worry about quality or authenticity. They also decided that the products they sold would come with all the necessary information such as complete product description and competitive pricing. Tavisi was the result of a gap that its founders saw in the market and decided to fix.
The name: Tavisi
Tavisi is a Sanskrit word that denotes strength, power and courage; as a brand, this is what the founders strive to embody. Tavisi aims to promote honest, candid, open and compelling conversations and build a community of like-minded individuals – one purchase, one story at a time.
Palas says, “Tavisi or Tav, as we like to call it, is a tug at the heart, a reminder for women across castes, cultures, ages and horizons to practice self-love, to prioritise themselves first, and to embrace their own unique, quirky and imperfect versions wholeheartedly.”
Tavisi has three major USP’s; first, as an e-commerce marketplace, Tavisi is a one-stop-shop for women enhancing ease of access to curated quality products and authentic information. Second, Tavisi has made a conscious and intentional effort to embrace sustainable packaging for their brand. Every customer delivery is made in gunny bags which they have been urging customers to return for reuse. However, customers can purchase the gunny bags to reuse themselves at a price of Rs 260. Third, Tavisi promotes causes that work for women empowerment and social change. Every customer delivery comes with a personalised card made by a student from one of the organisations that they are collaborating with. The intention is to spread the word and provide greater visibility to organisations that are committed to working for greater good of society.
Sustainability and Survival
“The global economy and consequently, Nepal’s economy has taken a severe downturn,” shares Palas, saying that this has especially taken a toll on recently launched SMEs and startups, including theirs. Palas says, “It is critical for a small business like ours to make sales and generate revenue for survival. Taking into account that the e-commerce industry requires substantial investment, generating enough sales and revenue has become all the more pertinent. With the financial and economic instability that we have all been facing, it is definitely a trying time for us, and the growth of the company has been much slower than anticipated.”
Among the challenges they have had to face in their startup journey, she considers three to be significant. One is building a small and effective team. Palas shares, “There is an evident gap in the job market when it comes to employer requirements, work ethics and expectations versus employee expectations, job commitment and skill sets. This has led to the hiring process becoming a very lengthy and difficult”.
Second is digital literacy. Teaching potential customers is a continuous challenge especially, explaining to customers that they are a website and not an app. While e-commerce is growing, Palas says that there is still a huge digital literacy gap and much room for improvement when it comes to encouraging customers to make purchases online, to actively engage with online content, to make proper use of all the information that is freely and readily available on the internet, and to be an active and informed part of the digital economy.
The third is financial and resource constraints. She says, “Competition is undoubtedly tough in the Nepali e-commerce industry with successful companies like Daraz and Jeevee that have already made their mark, as well as new sites launching every month. Building our brand and gaining consumer trust in the market is something that we are working towards every day. And, while the road may be difficult, we aspire that Tavisi will create its own niche.”
While adding more brands to the website so users can get a wider variety of options to enrich their shopping experience is a consistent part of weekly goals, Tavisi is also currently exploring tapping into the NRN community abroad who might potentially want to buy gifts for their friends and family living in Nepal.
Tavisi is also currently only delivering inside the valley but plan to their operations across the nation.
To establish an offline presence to build consumer trust, Tavisi has been participating in numerous markets, fairs and events and will continue to do so while also strengthening their brand recall.
Startup culture in Nepal
Palas says, “Entrepreneurship is a difficult journey, and in a developing nation such as Nepal with limited information, resources and access to finance, the path to success becomes all the more challenging. What should an individual starting their own venture do? Where should they go to find accurate information and advice? What are the financial and legal procedures to be implemented? There seems to be a dearth of proper data, research and information that is readily and easily available – both online and offline, when it comes to the entrepreneurial and startup sector in Nepal.” She adds, “This leads to those beginning their startup journey to often feel lost and overwhelmed. While we must acknowledge the fact that there has been significant growth in Nepal’s entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem over the last few years, there is still substantial room for learning and improvement.”