by Sukkum Chemjong Limbu

Food grown in the beautiful villages of Mustang conjure up images of majestic isolated mountains and clear blue skies, and now find their way hundreds of miles away in a concrete building of Kathmandu where an online based store called Thasang Bari sells kiwis, walnuts, apples, buckwheat flour and more.

Diksha Gauchan, the keeper of Thasang Bari, has a precious relationship with her hometown in Mustang. Travelling back to the country after eight years in Florida, United States, Diksha started Thasang Bari just a little over a year ago. In this segment of WOW, we talk about her venture.

What does Thasang Bari mean and what led you to initiate it?

Thasang is a rural municipality in Mustang with clustered villages and Bari means our kitchen garden. So that’s how it connects Thasang and Bari. 

 I never intended to start this project at first as I was busy focusing on completing my Master’s degree online. My father is a pioneer in starting the very first kiwi farm in Mustang. People were not aware of the possibilities of kiwi farming but the region is the best place to grow kiwi because of the altitude and cold weather. It was during the lockdown, when my father had lots of the fruit left in stock at the farm, that I told him to send some over so that I could distribute it among friends and relatives. I was expecting 2-3 boxes of kiwis, but to my surprise there was a lot, and that’s how the idea of Thasang Bari came about to sell kiwis that would have otherwise gone to waste.

What makes Thasang Bari different?

It makes a difference when you know where exactly your food is coming from, how it is grown and the absence of chemicals in it. For instance, if you taste the kiwis in the market, it has a tart taste and these are imported from India, Iran and other countries. The fault of their fruit is that they harvest it before maturity. However, the kiwis of Thasang Bari is picked when it is ready and mature, when the seeds have turned black and sugar content has risen. That’s what makes it taste different from the commercial kiwi.

We are also working with other naturally grown foods from the region. And now our buckwheat flour brownie is doing really well. We are making kiwi jam, flavoured nuts. We use sustainable and detail-oriented packaging for the brand.

Who are the people behind your products?

Thasang Bari is a direct host of the farmers from Mustang and my father’s Kiwi Farm. Thankfully, there are no middle men which makes it more cost effective for our customers compared to the Mustang products in the market.

How challenging is it to supply the products from Mustang to our kitchens?

Challenges are always there. I have to admit about the transportation barriers but besides that, finding resources for our packaging which are environmentally friendly has been a hassle.  

we have found out what really works and what doesn’t. So rather than innovating and creating constantly, we are going to focus on products that really work for us.

What is the market like?

Mustang products have a niche market. We have a limited market. However, the current market demands require not only quality products but also good visual presentation of the product including packaging. 

Is it difficult to do business just for a niche market?

The first-year has been totally dedicated to research on how the market responds to our products and we are fully aware about the pros and cons, challenges and opportunities of this market. Everything takes time and effort, the brand is paving its way and I am happy where it’s leading to. Talking about the sustainability of the project, it doesn’t always have to lead to Thasang Bari as a business but also contribute to different research projects in the future. It also might be a stepping stone towards another diverse project. The brand doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to promoting a particular region but also work as a platform to inform other farmers and businesses of the possibilities of agro biodiversity of Nepal.

What’s next from Thasang Bari?

At this point, we have found out what really works and what doesn’t. So rather than innovating and creating constantly, we are going to focus on products that really work for us. Because when you are promoting your product and a team you have a certain responsibility towards them to make it work. Experiment as much as you want, but when you have got the right products that are actually working, you should stick to it to make it better.

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