Lessons from a pandemic

K’toso provisional store located at Jail Colony, Kohima. (Photo Courtesy: Weku Kapfo)
K’toso provisional store located at Jail Colony, Kohima. (Photo Courtesy: Weku Kapfo)

How Naga entrepreneurs coped with COVID-19

Kanili Kiho
Dimapur | March 25

COVID-19 may have given rise to new challenges and uncertainties all over the world. However, the pandemic has also yielded some valuable lessons. Choosing to look on the brighter side of life, emerging Naga entrepreneurs from different fields shared their experiences and learning that they will carry forward through the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

For K’toso, a provisional store which was launched in 2018, the nation-wide lockdown proved to be a boon. When lockdown was first imposed in the month of March 2020, the demand for groceries increased, said Weku Kapfo, proprietor of the store. 

Taking the e-commerce platform to his advantage, Kapfo registered with Freshpack application, a local restaurant, grocery aggregator and food delivery start-up founded in 2018.

For almost two months, a lot of grocery orders were met through the online delivery app, Kapfo shared. With this development, the provision store garnered the much needed attention around the city.

Situated at Jail Colony in Kohima, K’toso which means ‘provision’ from Chakhesang language offers a wide range of bakery items and daily consumer needs.

Kapfo maintained that while other businesses have suffered tremendous loss during this one year of lockdown, for businesses like his, it was sort of a boost. “Because the demand was high, while the supply was low, even dead stocks went effortlessly,” he added.

For Kapfo, a takeaway from this crisis is to stock up on extra goods any day so that the store would not be found wanting. He also chose to look on the brighter side of life any day.

‘Potential lies within our state’
Through the lens of e-commerce, Mhasheto, co-founder of Freshpack application, the lockdown has been an eye opener and has opened a whole new opportunity “to transition our lifestyle and also boost our local products and production.”

Freshpack application is under Online Express that offers delivery service. The crisis has made the young entrepreneur realize that the “potential and the opportunities lies within our State.”

When it comes to online sales and delivery, “we never thought we would purchase our grocery and vegetables online,” he remarked. 

As soon as the government gave its nod for essential delivery services, they resumed their task, albeit with some challenges.

Limiting themselves to work under strict safety protocols was a big challenge, recounted Mhasheto, while adding, “because the demand on essential goods were huge and the people depended solely on us.”

The overwhelming pressure from family and the landlords during the peak of the pandemic also made most of their employees quit their jobs. With limited work force, he shared that they made deliveries even as late as 11 pm during the lockdown.

‘Self-discovery and perseverance’
For General Manager, Global Network Group, Tokato Yeptho who runs Herbs and Spices Restaurant in Dimapur, during this time wrap, “we learned so much as a team.”

He recounted that the business had its own challenges from venturing into food delivery system to frequently adding new recipe ideas with minimal training and limited stock in the market and the high rise in price.

A major highlight for their business was shifting to digital marketing and home delivery service, connecting with their customers daily through social media. While it is hard to run a business on half the sales of the previous year, Yeptho said that they have evolved themselves into new marketing strategies.

Like any fine dining restaurant, cleanliness and personal hygiene has always being their top-priority. However, Yeptho shared that this pandemic has pushed them to be “more vigilant on personal hygiene and surroundings, always maintaining COVID-19 protocols and learn to adapt to the new normal.”

For Wepretsho Lasuh, a budding entrepreneur who crafts and designs furniture and home decor under the brand Lasuh Design, it has been an “interesting journey filled with learning, self-discovery and perseverance.”

While expressing that his brand has only just began at the end of 2019 out of sheer passion, the civil engineering graduate said that the lockdown has “taught us to amend our business as well as to reinforce strategies.”

The duo-team of father and son is making the most of the ongoing situation with relatives and well-wishers being their prime customers.

Akhriezo Kire, proprietor of Amaris Restaurant located in the State capital Kohima shared that his personal journey through this pandemic has been no different than any.

The restaurant joined hands with various online based local start ups ranging from websites to apps and other online platforms to make ends meet. “From catering to walk-in customers, we ventured into home deliveries and packaged meals,” he shared.

Hospitality being one of the worst affected sectors, Kire said that they are yet to figure out how to go about this change and that each day; they are still adapting and putting in as much effort as they can so that “customers would feel safer, be safer and enjoy the experience that we provide.”

With the situation now limping back to normalcy, he expressed hope for a new way of life and acknowledged everyone who supported them.

The lessons he will definitely carry forward are the strength of turning difficulties and struggles into opportunities and to ‘value our community.’ Because without their support and blessings, “we cannot put our thoughts and efforts into action,” he added.