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Anjana Malla: A staunch supporter of sustainability

Deego Nepal, like any other homegrown business, has had its share of ups and downs but they have also received a fair share of accolades. People who have used their products have appreciated the craftsmanship and unique ideas

Anjana Malla: A staunch supporter of sustainability

Anjana Malla, 28, is the founder of Deego Nepal which was registered in 2021. Malla was working for an INGO and had what people consider a ‘good job’. But she was constantly overwhelmed by the desire to do something to protect the environment. So, she quit her job and started her own company that offers eco-friendly alternatives for many everyday items. Today, Deego Nepal is an award-winning women-led sustainable brand.

Malla says working in places at different I/NGOs armed her with the knowledge and confidence to do something of her own. By the time she launched Deego Nepal, she knew she could run a successful business while staying true to her core principles. So, in 2020, she co-founded the company with two of her colleagues. 

“We knew we wanted to replace as many plastic products as possible, with sustainable alternatives like bamboo, straw, and wood,” she says. The Covid-19 lockdowns were spent doing research. Malla says they wanted to have a clear idea about the concept and line of products Deego Nepal would promote. 

Through Deego-Nepal, they have been supporting women, local artisans, farmers, and marginalized communities by creating wage-based job opportunities. Currently, about 75 women from different parts of Nepal, including Bardia, Dhading, Chitwan, Dang, and Kathmandu, work on sustainable products for Deego-Nepal.

Malla was born and brought up in Bardiya, in the Lumbini Province in midwestern Nepal. She saw Tharu locals weave bamboo products like ‘nanglo’, ‘doko’ and ‘dalo’. She found it fascinating to watch. She realized it had left a lasting impression on her young mind when years later she found herself sharing similar ideas with her colleagues. Crafting daily-use items through generational practices is now the mantra of Deego Nepal.  

Malla, as the CEO of Deego Nepal, is meticulous about ensuring everything is in order. She makes sure there aren’t any unnecessary issues with the company’s employees and customers. Focused on sustainability, Malla designs and promotes goods that are modern adaptations of indigenous practices. Deego Nepal’s products like tote bags, storage boxes, laundry baskets, wooden combs, loofahs, soaps, and scrubbers are easy to compost and biodegradable. 

Besides promoting sustainable alternatives, Malla also wants to spread awareness about the importance of an eco-friendly lifestyle. She has participated in numerous programs and workshops for the same. She is also constantly creating and posting videos and tips on the ways people can be kinder to the planet. She lives by the motto of Refuse, Reduce, and Recycle (3Rs) and wishes other people would practice it too. 

But it isn’t easy, she says. People have a warped idea of sustainability. Many think it’s just a trend and look down upon it. Some also think it’s expensive to live a sustainable lifestyle when it’s not. “You don’t have to throw away things and buy sustainable products, which is what most people believe. You can reuse and repurpose what you have,” says Malla. When you have to replace something, then you choose a sustainable alternative.

Malla says initially she struggled to make her parents understand what she was doing and why she was doing it. Though they now support her sustainable plant-based weaving business by helping her come up with ideas as well as source materials, they too had to be educated about the need to use fewer resources and live as eco-friendly lifestyles as possible. 

“People need to change their mindsets. It’s not about changing what you use. It’s about how you think and what you do with what you already have,” says Malla, adding using what you have for a long time is also a part of sustainable living. 

Deego Nepal, like any other homegrown business, has had its share of ups and downs but they have also received a fair share of accolades. People who have used their products have appreciated the craftsmanship and unique ideas. The company was the winner of the Greenovation segment in the Idea Studio Program Season 5. It also received the ‘Green Start-Up Award’ at CYINEF startup Fest 2022.

“At first, it was difficult to prove to people that eco-friendly products aren’t always pricier than plastic. One sustainable item might cost the same as three cheap plastic ones but it will last longer too,” says Malla. She expects people to make smart choices and adopt a sustainable mindset instead of just following trends. The good thing, she says, is that over time people have become more conscious about the need for sustainable living. 

Malla’s team aims to offer top-notch sustainable products and services as well as create a positive impact on society. Though the company doesn’t have a solid marketing strategy, it’s getting a good rap through its participation in farmer markets, programs, and product reviews. Social media has also been a boon, says Malla. “It has widened our reach.”

However, Malla doesn’t want to limit herself to Deego Nepal in her quest to promote sustainable living. She doesn’t like it when people litter on the streets, especially when they are hiking and going for other adventure sports. In a bid to raise awareness about its ill effects, she organizes hiking events where connection with nature is emphasized. 

Deego Nepal also collaborates with several organizations for awareness programs. Recently, they collaborated with Chakraviu Nepal, a non-profit organization that works to improve carefree quality education. They worked on a project to recycle old jeans into school bags for underprivileged students.

Malla strongly believes in helping local projects and resources and she wants to inspire the young generation to opt for eco-friendly practices. “Engaging young people in sustainable practices can help bring new ideas and perspectives. It will also build a strong foundation for entrepreneurship for a sustainable future as well,” she says.