Birth of a new business amid the pandemic
Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | October 8
While many people have lost their jobs during the pandemic, it has also induced a surge in creative business ventures on the other hand. As Kevizonuo Kuolie mulled over the idea of starting a new business, she encountered comments such as ‘are you crazy? Businesses are closing down’.
“The threat is always there but the lockdown was such an opportunity,” she says even as she went on to open a local store in Mission Compound, Kohima under the banner ‘A Ra Kezivi’ meaning ‘the beauty of my land.’ “When you buy local, you encourage a Naga artist, a writer, a craftsman, a planter. You support a family, you help build our economy.” It was with this very concept that A Ra Kezivi came into being.
Kuolie goes on to say that “the beauty of my land is not just its natural environment or just the distinctness of the people.
It is also the work people do, the arts they engage in, the crafts they weave and shape, the thoughts they express; the knowledge they share, the resilience to support themselves through their skills and living the definition of ‘dignity of labour.” Her whole intention in conceptualizing A Ra Kezivi was to “nurture our beautiful homeland” in every sense of the word.
Referring to the local books that the store houses, she articulates that “there are so many good things that young people can read but until and unless people bring it to them, they don’t read.” “When you bring it to them and also tell them the story behind it,” she impresses upon that they are even more interested. Towards this end, she strongly feels that ever entrepreneur has a story to tell, a story of trying and failing, and yet trying again.
This story, she further elucidates, is “of resilience and fortitude, of rising from a sea of criticism and negativity and creating an identity” while putting across that one must encourage and promote them, and support our Naga entrepreneurs by buying local. Reiterating that every entrepreneur has their own journey, she articulates that “it is not just the livelihood but also pursuing a dream.”
A Ra Kezivi currently houses local books from Heritage Publishing House, Ura Academy Publications and PenThrill Publication House as well as products of Nagaland Coffee and Cold Mountain. Besides these, there are baskets from a family of 5, who have been passionately engaged in weaving baskets as a main source of income.
Works of Regina Chakruno, a designer, are also a highlight of the store. Chakruno never thought of making mask but started making for herself and her family out of necessity from leftover fabrics of dresses she previously made.
Gradually, she started receiving orders for more masks even as she highlights that “some masks have my personal touch with painting and hand embroidery of Naga motifs, through which I also intend to promote our Naga ethnicity.” She describes this experience as a ‘wonderful journey’ with immense support from friends and well-wishers and now intends to upgrade her products with her own label soon. Chakruno is on Instagram as @regina_chakruno.
Meanwhile, meat has always been part of the Naga food culture and the way that it is prepared is also unique to our culture. ‘Vibu Meat Pickle’ another feature of the store is uniquely prepared, each packet made and packed with utmost care with the aim to bring our traditional food to the market and to further generate employment to more people.
In supporting local entrepreneurs, Kevizonuo Kuolie states that “it is a chain reaction” and ultimately, it goes on to generate more employment at the local level. She also believes that if there is a shop or an outlet, there is a consistent flow and is endeavouring to keep ‘quality’ products at A Ra Kezivi. “Safe and quality products so that not only Nagas but in the days to come, even when outsiders come to buy, they are assured of getting quality products,” Kuolie adds.