Thumbnail history of HI.

Joined
Mar 5, 1999
Messages
34,096
I was going to post this as a reply in the "Is this an HI?" thread but decided it was worth a thread of its own. There's a lot of newbies who really don't know why and how HI got started so here's the story in a nutshell. Better get it down and done while the getting is good.
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When we started trying to sell khukuris in 1988 nothing was HI and nothing was marked except for Kancha Kamis' khukuris and a few village khukuris marked with a sign or initial of the maker. We bought from anybody who had a good, solid, nice looking khukuri they wanted to sell. Pala was the main buyer but had help from relatives who understood what to look for in a khukuri. Probably Jeevan, Pala's oldest son, was next best and busiest buyer. Jeevan was the one who discovered shop 1 and he and Pala made the deal with them to manufacture khukuris to our specifications. I remember the owner, T. B., simply couldn't believe we were willing to pay the price we did for top notch khukuris. And, if the khukuris were expedited and delivered ahead of schedule and met specs we paid a 10% bonus. It was the talk of SE Nepal.

We got a lot of village khukuris then and to tell you the truth I miss them. Old Kancha Kami made maybe 20 khukuris for us before he got too old and sick to work. And we used to make deals with Newari shops right in Kathmandu who made junk khukuris for tourist consumption. We told them what we wanted and paid a price high enough to get what we wanted. They were a far cry from the tourist junkers and the Newaris thought we were nuts but they made them anyway. Money talks, especially when speaking to Newaris. No product line, every khukuri different, with the only common denominator being they were damned good khukuris and were guaranteed for life.

As I've mentioned, the biggest problem was getting the khukuris in front of potential buyers. I advertised in Knives Illustrated, Fighting Knives, and Blade on a regular basis and would run an occasional ad in some sporting and hunting mags when I could afford it. Ads were running around $300 each so on a month when all mags were hitting the shelves our ad cost would be about a thousand bucks. And in those early years sales might run maybe 15 or 20 thousand -- 8 or 10 thousand bucks in ads to generate 15 or 20 thousand sales. I hated like hell to charge $200 for a knife I could sell for $75 if I had no ad costs but it was either charge the price or quit and although it wasn't much we were pumping a little money into the Nepal economy and it was going to folks who needed it most so I couldn't quit.

The second biggest problem we had was overcoming the poor reputation of the khukuri. Others ahead of me had sold junk khukuris from India as "the real thing" which, of course, they were not. Even supplied papers with the khukuris which showed the khukuris were "the real thing." But the papers didn't keep the handles from falling off, the blades from folding, the scabbards from falling apart. They were junkers made by the thousands by Windlass Steel down in Dehra Dun, India and sold for maybe three bucks and all the papers in the world would not change that. At first a lot of people thought this is what we were selling but slowly the word got around that we were selling a horse of a different color -- or perhaps better put a khukuri of different steel. It took a good while, maybe 3 or 4 years, but finally we developed a reputation for selling the best khukuris in the world which were rated by experts who know as a world class knife.

I'd gone to Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1980 -- $75 per month -- for two reasons. Most important reason was to study and to participate in Buddhism first hand. Second reason was to try to do something to help the poor of Nepal in return for getting the knowledge I needed and wanted. A failing kidney ended my contract with the Peace Corps and I had to return to the US for surgery but when I left I vowed that I'd return and complete what I started and I did. If you haven't observed by now I'm a real hardhead.

I learned and particapted in Buddhism and converted to the faith. In trying to repay Nepal for what it had done for me I tried to sell products here in the US that were made in Nepal -- I think I tried to sell every art and craft they had available and nothing was working. Then I ran that first khukuri ad in Knives Illustrated and sold one khukuri -- just enough to pay for the ad. Ran it again and sold two khukuris. Then Greg Walker who was editor of Fighting Knives saw my ad, ordered and paid for a khukuri, and was impressed enough with it to do an article on them. That article sold enough khukuris to allow me to buy ads in Fighting Knives and Blade. And we were off and running.

Then I got on the internet and we started BirGorkha and everything changed and has evolved into what you see today. Prices went down, quality went up, and things got pretty much where I wanted them. And now that Yangdu has got up to speed or pretty much up to speed on the computer and net HI is here to stay for awhile -- unless Bura decides to start making counterfeit handles for all the khukuris!

And that's the story.
 
Joined
Jul 10, 2003
Messages
1,601
Bill,

If I may, you forgot the most important part.

The way you have treated all of us, your customers.

The Best knife in the world will sell one to a customer.

The Best Service in the world sells the best knives to a customer several times over.

I'm shutting up now.
 
Joined
Mar 5, 1999
Messages
34,096
You're right 45. Over 80% of our sales are repeat orders going to satisfied customers. I'm proud of that.
 
Joined
Jul 10, 2003
Messages
1,601
I was going to ask that one day. 80% is an astounding number.

Do you have any idea how many khuks the average repeat customer has UB?

Just so's I know if I'm outstanding, or an underachiever like Bruise... :p
 
Joined
Mar 5, 1999
Messages
34,096
Off the top of my head I'd guess 5 or 6. Someone just posted they had over 50 khukuris made by Bura. LCS has maybe 75. Apothecary probably has 50. I just got a call from one of my oldest customers who has been buying from me for 15 years. He claims he has over 120 of our khukuris. Only one customer in five buys only one khukuri.
 
Joined
Sep 7, 2001
Messages
5,946
I have umm... 3 if you count the HI tomahawk and an extra chakma somewhere... :rolleyes: ;) :D

I really doubt I could sharpen stuff if I didn't start buying khukuries. Buying presharpened knives has no incentive to learn the art. Not that I can sharpen well yet...
 
Joined
May 12, 2004
Messages
909
Hi Bill
who has the most in the South Pacific??
12 HI products + 1 GK penknife :D
Couldn't be happier.
Phil :)
 

frogfish

Gold Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2002
Messages
4,123
Just checked I have 32 in a little under a year and a half.. but I don't have a problem :eek: :eek:
 
Joined
Sep 22, 2003
Messages
13,180
So Uncle Bill: Did the internet lower your ad costs and increase your sales?

What is really great about your operation in my opinion is that what you are importing is not really something that is produced here in the US so it's not like you are taking any US jobs, and at the same time since it almost like a direct marketing thing the consumer gets a great price and the people making them get a larger share of the profit too.

So it's like Global Trade that instead of taking somebodies job and exploiting the third world, it's like turning all these people on to this really neat functional tool and at the same time the workers are making out better. Good karma on both ends of the thing :D

I would have loved to see all the difft. khukuris you rounded up in the beginning. Some of the village models on your site look great. I'm glad to be around now for the really excellent wood handles phase with all this sandalwood and osage. :D
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2002
Messages
1,037
I just counted on my inventory list. 112 have come from HI directly or indirectly. I didn't count the KK's , I think 12 given away as gifts plus many of the other models
given as gifts, presents.

I sent UB a pic a few months back of one of my storage places. A gun cab chock full, hangers on the inside and outside wall, also. A storage box under my bed to keep the dust bunnies happy, some in the garage to keep the mice at bay and a couple in my truck for whatever is needed. :)
You are probably right Uncle, about 75 on hand. I didn't try to separate one from the other, just the total.

Doing my part to assist the Kamis and Sarkis and all of BirGorka
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2002
Messages
1,102
As a business analyst guy, my advice is to

listen to what kind of khukuries customers want, shifts in consumer demand is important. if they want no cho creep, do it. if the want non habaki bolster, do it. these things don't even raise costs.

keep a close eye on your competitors. don't underestimate 'em. if they are succeeding, research and find out why the hell they are succeeding.

understand the strengths of your organization. quality, variety, customer service. a very unique strength of HI is that, when you buy a khukuri, you transform from being a customer to a member of the family. this forum is HI's most powerful marketing tool.

remain vigilent, ever watchful.

this is just a brief sample of my analysis of HI. My advice is to get new fangled, university business theory advice from Dave Hahn in exchange for khukuries ;) ;) ;)

:D :D :D
 

Daniel Koster

www.kosterknives.com
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 18, 2001
Messages
20,978
Thanks for the write-up Bill. I didn't know about the ads in Fighting Knives....

The internet is great for sales, though.....just about everybody that sells online is able to decrease costs. But you have to have a strong legacy of trust with your customers (who can't "come in and browse").

And you've certainly got it...!
 

Rusty

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Mar 8, 1999
Messages
8,911
Quick search found 32 HI products. Figure a minimum of 16 more stashed away I overlooked, and a dozen or more given away or traded. Five dozen maybe.

I saw one of the ads Uncle placed, sent him $5 bucks or so and got some polaroids I kept but never ordered anything from him. Some years later I was trying to learn to use Windows 95 and found HI on the old KnifeForums about 98 or 99.

Amazingly I found the old photos, and there were only about 3000 posts there then. Spent most of a week reading every last one of them before posting for the first time. Back then, Uncle replied to every post someone made. He felt that if someone posted, they deserved a response. I eventually placed an order on a Monday, got it in my mailbox Tusday afternoon and, loved it, called in another order wednesday morning and had 3 khuks in hand by Thursday afternoon.

We moved from KnifeForums to Bladeforums sometime maybe a year later. Uncle had been working every day for going on 3 years without a day off. By then we'd got to know each other and he and Yangdu left the forum in my hands and returned to Nepal. He got back and all hell broke loose. He had a heart attack, a bypass done, and I kept plugging away til he was able to come back online.

That was back in the days we he and I both knew every member of the HI forum, and what was going on with them. A lot of them are still here.

It's been a very rewarding and satisfying five years (?) to me. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to help with the ongoing venture.
 
Joined
Oct 28, 2000
Messages
1,077
As for Uncle Bill estimating I have about 50 or so - sounds about right, but then I keep pulling out khukuris from the most unlikely places in my abode. :eek:
 
Joined
Jan 28, 2002
Messages
285
I'm sorry to say, I've only got three Khuks. I do plan on getting more, but you can't rush into these things... :D
 

empty5853

Gold Member
Joined
May 19, 2004
Messages
2,288
45-70 said:
Bill,

If I may, you forgot the most important part.

The way you have treated all of us, your customers.

The Best knife in the world will sell one to a customer.

The Best Service in the world sells the best knives to a customer several times over.

I'm shutting up now.

I agree with 45-70.
I've only been a member here for a couple of months but I have 5. and I know I'll continue to "accumulate" them :D .

I remember when I got the first one. I got on here, saw a blem and sent an email to UB. As I was new and didn't know how it worked ( I know I should of read the sticky thread :rolleyes: ). I expected to get an email telling me how to pay. Nothing came. Then a few days later. Here's the now familiar triangular shaped box in my mailbox. I opened it up and WOW!! what a beauty. but I think what impressed me more was that UB would trust me, a complete stranger, with his product before I paid for it. I even posted an email saying how great that was.
I showed my friend the khukuri and related how great HI is , especially UB. He joined the cantina and I think he's up to 6 khukuris now.

Now thats it's been awhile and I've been on here and read the emails.I've learned the good things that UB and all of the others here do. I'm just glad I found this place. It's a good place to be.

Mark T.
 

Nasty

Chief Cook & Bottle Wash
Joined
Nov 11, 2003
Messages
5,924
I've somewhere around 50, mostly direct from Bill and few others from Cantinistas. a dozen or so I've given away to Brothers, and that one weird one I got to test to destruction. That's in less than a year in the Cantina...I do NOT have a problem...;)
 
Joined
Jul 1, 2004
Messages
118
Well,

only two khukuris so far. Have been here from June 04. I am going to buy more as a christmas presents for my nephews.

I was very impressed when Yangdu sent me the second knife without getting money from me first. I had to send the cash in envelope because I do not have access to PayPal. I would like to know how this trust in customers work out. Are there any losses?

I am definitely the happy repeatitive customer.

And this place is great.

cosco
 
Joined
Dec 24, 2003
Messages
1,390
Thanks for the details, Uncle Bill. There's a renaissance of sorts for quality made khukuris due to your efforts, and you're helping out lots of folks in Nepal too. Mission accomplished! :)
 
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