OpenVillage House Kathmandu

Namaste

I am Anu Pokharel from Nepal. It has almost been a month since I joined Edgeryders. It is wonderful to discuss and connect with like-minded people who together want to make the world a better place to live. I am very much optimistic that we can make a difference and create positive activities.

Does your work define you? Mine was not. I was trapped inside four office walls along with my frustration and no matter what I did, it was never good enough. I gathered all my courage and decided to quit. Sure, it could have created trouble as courage does not pay my bills, but my family supported me to the most. I also consider myself lucky to be born in a not so economically troubled family. I have met many people who hate their job but have no option than to tolerate it.

Developing countries like Nepal have so many distinct problems. The three problems which I want to address the most are: lack of resources, lack of trust in the potential of the young and lack of alternative thinking. Nepal somehow never tried to utilize its local resources and always relied on what it doesn’t have. It’s always about the grass being greener on the other side. Trust in young minds is rare, even big organizations seek only big names but not big ideas. According to their own assumptions, “young people lack commitment”.

But as they say, “crisis creates opportunity”. Coffee Arabica can be grown in most hilly parts of Nepal. Nepal is an agricultural country which has always followed traditional farming. I was born and raised in Kathmandu but my dad is from Arghakachi (a small rural village with very good potential for coffee farming). The land in Arghakachi is mostly used to cultivate rice and barley. I would like to introduce coffee farming to the farmers of this village. Coffee farming tends to require less effort and earn more profit. Due to lack of awareness, farmers just don’t know about the possibilities of harvesting coffee.

It is very hard to find fresh Nepalese coffee in a local market. There are a few brands but it is very expensive for local people to buy it because of unfair trade. Farmers don’t get an appropriate price either, which discourages them from coffee farming. It is a necessity to create a market for the farmers where they can get a fair price.

Project Idea “OpenVillage House Kathmandu”

I really liked the concept of “OpenVillage Houses” as it will bring people together. Most of the young people of Kathmandu lack connection with the outer world. I went to Vietnam in July where I decided to stay at hostel rather than a hotel, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The hostel offers a bed and breakfast service, along with their own coffee shop where they sell local Vietnamese coffee, like Coffee Saigon.

The hostel offers long term stay both for foreign and Vietnamese students on a shared kitchen basis. I really liked the concept of it, as this way Vietnamese people can get connected to foreign people and together they can learn and share their knowledge inclusively and enjoy cultural diversity. I think this is a very practical way of learning.

OpenVillage House Kathmandu will be a co-working and co-housing space along with a coffee shop and an own coffee manufactory. The idea is also to create a connection hub where people from different backgrounds and culture can connect over ideas and build a network for the greater good.

How it will operate

I want to initiate an idea which incorporates both a co-housing / co-working space along with a coffee roastery and a coffee shop.

  • Co-Housing
  • Co-Working
  • Coffee Shop
  • Coffee Roastery

Co-Housing

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal. Lots of students come to Kathmandu to continue their further studies. As rent in the city area with adequate facilities is expensive, students have a hard time finding a reasonable place to stay for the long term. In Nepal, lots of colleges don’t have student dormitories or hostels. Students have a very hard time finding a space to rent. Nepal is an interesting country to travel if you are an adventurous person. Most tourists are here for trekking to Everest Base Camp, but Nepal also welcomes lots of foreign students from abroad for short / long term research or volunteer purposes. In my own experience, the foreign students also have a hard time finding appropriate housing to stay for the long term. Both problems can be addressed and solved with the OpenVillage House. We could accommodate both types of students by providing a proper place to stay with a shared kitchen. We can charge an appropriate rent along with utility costs for Internet, electricity and drinking water, in an exciting environment. This will help local students build networks with students from all over the world and share their local knowledge.

Co-Working

Co-working spaces are very new to Nepal. In Kathmandu, there are only a couple co-working spaces. Since start-ups don’t have their own office, co-working spaces are popular among young people. The co-working space can also be ideal for students, and a hub to meet and discuss ideas.

Coffee Shop

The Open House will have its own coffee shop which will serve freshly roasted coffee at an affordable price to local people. Coffee culture is getting famous in Nepal. The coffee shop will also be creative about utilizing local food items as snacks alongside the coffee. This can help to market Nepalese coffee that is roasted on-site. Also, the coffee shop can employ local people.

Coffee Roastery

The coffee beans will be collected from villages (Palpa, Gulmi) including Arghakachi, using direct trade connections. We will use hulling and sorting machines to process the coffee into clean green beans, which allows us to buy even from very small-scale farmers who can’t process it on their own, and relieves other farmers from the work-intensive and low-wage activity of sorting the beans. Afterwards, the coffee beans will be roasted and both sold locally and made export ready on site (Packing, Labeling so on).

Exporting roasted coffee is not usually done, but works due to the special circumstances in Nepal: amounts smaller than a full container load can only be transported by air cargo to Europe, which is expensive, but happens to be fast enough for roasted coffee to arrive fresh at consumers (namely, in about a week).

The coffee will also be exported to European Union countries, utilizing the “fair and direct” marketing scheme and the experience @matthias collected about that (see here). This needs innovative solutions for marketing and logistics – because to ensure that, for fairness, more than half of the final sales price goes to the coffee farmers, marketing can’t happen in Europe with European wages. Instead, we will experiment with ways to have the marketing activities and nearly all of the packaging and handling done inside Nepal. Our first bright idea for this is to market to cafés in European countries. This has several advantages: they value quality over price, they accept commercial communication in English, they need amounts that make national parcel shipment (after air cargo) feasible, and they have a good use for the unique story of fair and direct trade that the coffee comes with. We would include leaflets and info material with the coffee that they can show to their guests, this way acting as a free marketing hub as guests might also start to order the same coffee.

For logistics, an innovative idea to reduce the price markup is that we will prepare the coffee inside Nepal for national parcel shipment inside Europe – basically, order, pay and print parcel labels over Internet. This way, the only activity needed by partners in Europe is to pay customs, unpack the air cargo shipment and hand the contained parcels to a national parcel carrier.

Finally, because of the direct trade connection without intermediaries, it will also be possible to sell this Nepali coffee in the attached coffee shop for a price that is affordable for locals in Nepal (ca. 900 NPR/kg instead of 1700-2000 NPR/kg). This should help to quickly become a well-known name here in Kathmandu.

Any Suggestions? :slight_smile:

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It sounds like a good plan. Of these areas of activity, which comes first? The sorting, hulling and roasting comes first…?

Hi Johncoate

Yes, The roastery comes first :slight_smile:

I too have been thinking for a while about the ideas similar to co-housing and co-working. First, co-housing can be done in outskirts of the valley which will have advantages like cheaper accommodation and food facilities. Places like Taarakeshwar, Tokha,etc. can be ideal places for that. Second, I have conceptualized co-working as " innovators’ hub" where youths meet to share ideas. Some groups have already initiated these with hour-basis rental service. we can think of something like that and more. let’s meet and develop these ideas. @anu

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Hello @sabin. You are right, we probably should open it somewhere in outskirt of Kathmandu but as co-housing is offered to students. Don’t you think transportation will be an issue? I mean sure we can go step by step but I am thinking about it a while. The rent in city area is expensive but in outskirt students may have transport problem. The co-housing will have shared kitchen with very affordable rent and adequate facility which will be great for students. What do you think about transport problem?

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yeah that is the major drawback… if we opt for suburbs, we are bound to lose at least 3 hours to and fro our work/college … and the transportation facility is not that adequate as required… but there are several advantages than challenges… we should probably brainstorm probable challenges like these and hopefully we can develop some solutions.

Hello @anu, we have not really had much time to talk before. This looks like a super solid idea, congratulations. In fact, I think we should more or less replicate it here in Brussels, for the next iteration of The Reef (May 2018).

There are differences, of course. The student market is not as important: there are two important universities here, but they are already well served. I think in Brussels we should go more for young professionals (while staying open to not-so-young ones): this is the European Union’s capital city, and many people from all over Europe and beyond move here to take up jobs, both in the “Euro-bubble” surrounding the European institutions, but also in the private sector. Our new housemate at The Reef, David, is a good example: he is an engineer from Jakarta, Indonesia, and works at Toyota. Professionals have a calmer lifestyle, better suited to how we want our own to be; are more distributed around the city instead of concentrated close to the campuses; and can pay slightly higher rents.

Also, Brussels is a relaxed, hedonistic city. We have many great cafés, roasteries and concept cafés. So, lots of competition! This also means that the market is large, so it’s not necessarily a problem. But the viability of a café + roastery depends a lot on where the space is. Ideally you want to be in the middle of the business tourism traffic, but that’s also where spaces are most expensive. But if we find the right place (and a partner to run it – we have a friend in the business who would be perfect), it would be great combination.

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Hello Alberto

I know about you quite much from your articles hehe yes it is true we have not got time to talk before . Thank-you so much for liking the idea. In Kathmandu, lots of students are struggling to fine adequate hostels or place to stay. Colleges here don’t have student dormitory. This idea will work in context of Nepal. I really liked about involving young professionals. Do you see possibilities of it regarding sustainability?

@Yosser Anu is working on a Coffee Roastery too you can know more about the supply chain of a coffee Roastery :slight_smile:

Hey @anu
that sounds good, also fitting in the wider openvillage vision, and having a house in a 3rd continent is quite appealing specially that each region has its own character, challenges, and potential.

on the fair trade issue, conflict food start up in Berlin is trying to do something but mainly in conflict areas, but we can learn from eachother. when we are developing a scheme, we can have a call together I can do the coordination.

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https://igx.4sqi.net/img/general/600x600/35709_bXI9I512sk503A_4qqWQp1gfPBVs8sDwgSPueEfMKzA.jpg

This is a pic - not a great pic, but you get the idea - of a coffee roastery not far from here (Marin County California) where I like to go. The roaster is there on the right, next to the bags of beans. They seem to do their roasting in the off hours. This is a very comfortable place to hang out and the coffee is superb.

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Hello @hazem

Thankyou so much for appreciating the idea. [conflict food] (http://conflictfood.com) , Hands down! What an amazing initiation. World come together with such innovative ideas. It would be great if Nepal can be part of it. Yes, After the roastery start and we have products to sell, We can definitely connect. World need global collaboration :slight_smile:

I was thinking to make roastery in ground floor and coffee shop at Roof top but this looks interesting as well. This looks very edgy and I hope gives different coffee vibe :slight_smile:

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A potpourri of ideas that could integrate with the concept you outlined above:

Live-in business hatchery. The young professionals mentioned by Alberto, or rather young entrepreneurs, might also suit as a second (minor) target group. Because there will be quite some young entrepreneurs tired of living with their parents, and looking for a nice but very affordable home. If that happens to be a live-in startup incubator, all the better.

Pick to pay. There is a social issue in Kathmandu in that coffee is considered a “high class” beverage, quite unaffordable for ordinary people. So, a nice opportunity to deconstruct that. Idea: have 1-2 special tables in the café where people come to chill / hang out and get coffee and seats for free, as much as they want, if they sort a bowl of coffee beans that comes along with every cup of coffee. The desks would be clean bright desks suited for sorting, with bright lamps, giving a reason why not everyone in the café can take part in this scheme. There is not a hygiene problem at all, since all germs will die when roasting at ≥170 °C.

Coffee picking as a service. Potentially, the “pick to pay” concept even makes business sense, and can be commercialized by offering Kathmandu’s coffee traders and exporters to sort their coffee for a fee. Coffee has to be sorted to become high quality or even speciality quality coffee, and there is probably not a single optical sorter machine in Nepal for that. So the only option is hand sorting, as for 80% of the world’s coffee. (Until our open source optical sorter is developed and built, that is.)

Align with a makerspace. A good proposal could be to find a space close to an existing makerspace / hackerspace, like Communitere Nepal. So people get the best from both worlds: nice coffee and good Internet in the co-working space, accommodation in the co-living space, but also a workshop with tools etc…

Hosting international volunteers. A good secondary target group for the accommodation, because they mingle well with students, are international volunteers (for example from AIESEC). They have usually less of a problem than students to afford room rent, so can cross-finance others’ space rent a bit.

Get the co-working space for free. As we calculated when looking at the FOAM candidate space in Brussels, it is possible to get the co-working area “free”, covered by the rent of people in the co-living space. This relieves it of the pressure to make a profit on its own, which can greatly enhance user experience by being much less commercialized. And from that relaxed, enjoyable setting, a lot of popularity and other options to make a profit may come, who knows.

Don’t waste the coffee smell :slight_smile: Coffee smell is precious and almost universally loved. After roasting, the coffee has to cool down, and cure. That can be done in such a way that the smell goes into the guestroom. Maybe that’s the reason for the bean bags in John’s photo above …

Offer students to pay in kind. Another social entrepreneurship option, which will be well received among students who come to Kathmandu from the villages, can be to offer them to pay with their own services for accommodation, not in money. That’s quite simple here, as it’s not just a rental space but a business that can offer paid work. Managing all the components of this symbiotic business cluster needs some low to medium skill manual labor, and people living on-site are the most natural candidates for that. They can work, for (say) 8 hours a week as barista, janitor, coffee roaster, coffee packaging, IT admin, cook, kitchen help, or guard. Pitfalls to avoid are (1) it must not result in a two-tier “class hierarchy” of those who can pay and those who must serve, (2) it has to be manage legally safe and sound (no “black labor”) while avoiding or automating away the bureaucracy involved for hiring people.

Agile bedroom management. Since many students prefer low costs over high comfort, and because it offers additional capacity around events and high demand times, bedrooms should be more managed like a hotel. So, inhabitants and guests alike would not have their own permanent room, but get a free room when they come in. When they travel or sleep out, even if just for a night, they can (or have to?) clear the room, and in exchange don’t have to pay for that time. All of this can be managed with open source resource scheduling software. For added comfort, as a permanent place to store their belongings, everyone would get a special rollable shelf that can even go up and down stairs like a sack barrow. To store more, the less used items can go into a personal, lockable storage cabinet in a special storage room or in the corridor. To accommodate even more guests during brief “peak demand” times, there could be additional beds in store, so that people comfortable with each other can share rooms.

Crowd-funding with rewards. To have the funds for furnishing and equipping the space (in a small initial version) including coffee processing equipment, a crowdfunding campaign seems very realistic. It would target mostly travellers from abroad who love Nepal and come back often. They can easily afford investing 100-500 USD each, in return for a guestroom they can book for free when in Nepal. This is aligned to member benefits from the proposed network of OpenVillage houses. 50 people donating 150 USD on average would yield 7500 USD, which is enough to start a small version of this space in Nepal. It can then grow from reinvesting its profits, or utilize growing popularity for follow-up “round B, C, D” crowdfunding campaigns with the same principle.

Crowd-investing with rewards. Another way to distribute crowdfunding rewards is transform it into a crowd-investing model, with with capped profits rather than permanent shares. For that, you create PayCoupons coupons for the space, to be redeemed against all products and services of the space after a certain holding period. For investing 100 USD, funders would get a for example 200 USD or 250 USD of coupons, and could either redeem them by themselves when in Nepal, or exchange them on PayCoupons for other coupons they want.

Sharing equipment. A good part of what makes co-living a low-cost alternative is sharing space. Similarly, by sharing equipment the rest of life can also cost less. For a co-living arrangement in Kathmandu, that would mostly be bicycles, electric bicycles, motorcycles / scooters, a small workshop with tools, perhaps a gym pass.

Own energy, own water, own food. A good part of the OpenVillage vision is self-supply, to lower costs of living. In Kathmandu, this is quite possible: (1) have a rainwater collection and filtering system, as that can provide enough water throughout the year, (2) add photovoltaics panels to the roof and have a 24 V DC system with batteries, for lighting and computers, (3) use self-built electrical bicycles and electrical scooters for transport, charged at home from photovoltaics power, (4) collect organic trash from the neighborhood and create biogas for cooking (and for roasting the coffee), using a 1-4 biogas digesters on the roof, (5) create compost from biogas digestate and other organic trash, (6) partially grow own food by rooftop and courtyard gardening. Neighbours could be persuaded to provide their rooftops for free if these gardens are nice to look at and to relax in the shadow of the plants. The equipment for all this technology should be mobile, prepared to move places without much effort. It would be standardized, resulting from a shared development effort among multiple OpenVillage houses.

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All of those ideas are great @matthias . I am working on developing a proper plan :slight_smile:

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@matthias, you are on fire. Let’s do a spreadsheet session soon.

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pick to pay
excellent idea.

smell the coffee
The bags give ambience but like you say, the smell of fresh coffee is so good. Plus many people spent much if not most of their lives drinking lousy coffee. That fresh roasted smell is a kind of revelation.

The ideas around live/work are interesting and somewhat reminiscent of the hostel network.
It does look like it would need very sound management to succeed over time.

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What kind of problem are you expecting, @johncoate?

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Things that need management more than just informal crowd sourcing or a signup sheet:

  • Roasting operation
  • the cafe itself
  • the pick to pay and coffee picking operations
  • students paying in kind
  • bedroom management for guests
  • following through on the results of the crowdfunding
  • the PayCoupon exchange
  • money-handling, “check signing” person(s)

Things that can be managed ok by group consensus:

  • longer term bedroom assignment
  • kitchen and housekeeping duties
  • maintenance and repair
  • “straw boss” assignments of workspaces
  • use of equipment
  • decisions on certain money issues
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@Sohayeb here is the project I told you about what do you think is it feasible in our Tunisian context ?

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