What is 21st century relevant leadership for Nepal?

“What is 21st century relevant leadership for Nepal?”

(नेपालीमा पढ्नुहोस् )

In the past few months, there has been a lively discussion in the national media. All about an acute need for an alternative ‘political’ force in Nepal. I am encouraged by this intellectual discourse which surely will help build 21st century relevant leaders for Nepal. Thank you everyone who have consistently kept this important agenda into the limelight.

Here are my 2 years of fresh experiences building a political force in Nepal that would be relevant for the 21st century.

2 years ago, Nepal was going through a tumultuous period. A syndicate of incompetent political parties who had little will or vision were taking turns ruling Nepal. Bitter political wranglings topped by acute corruption was rapidly dismantling any good governance we had left. All of a sudden, Nepal’s constitution building body was abruptly dissolved, leaving behind a power vaccum with a deeply divided society.

This created much hatred towards the country’s political forces. Every Nepali then, had only one question in their minds, “ (Oh god!) What Next?”

At such crucial times, many Nepalese from different professions and backgrounds came together and started searching for an answer to this “What Next?” We publicly brainstormed for 22 continuous weeks taking feedbacks from more than a 1,000 concerned Nepalese from all walks of life. Students ,house-wives, CEOs, teachers, social workers, businesswomen, everyone had one consistent advice for us. “Only a 21st century relevant leadership carrying political force would end this ever-growing crisis and help bring about lasting positive transformation for Nepal. This laid the foundation for “BibekSheel Nepali” party.

“So what is 21st century relevant leadership for Nepal?” For the last 2 years, we have built Bibeksheel Nepali from ground-up by answering this pertinent question. We identified 12 key 21st century leadership values/traits a political force should have to lead us to a prosperous Nepal within a generation.

  1. Results oriented & pragmatic: A political force has to be simply results-oriented, with an evolving, pragmatic philosophy to help meet that. It’s foundation would rest on at least these eight 21st century basic values; responsibility, accountability, prosperity, empowerment, freedom, diversity, servant government and pragmatism.
  2. Follow the middle path (balance): This progressive force follows a middle path whereby on one hand, it inspires citizens to be responsible while simultaneously builds systems to hold leaders accountable. It plays a delicate balancing act by enabling citizens to become the agents of prosperity while also building a servant government system that guarantees public welfare for those in need.
  3. Moderate views: This moderate force has a leadership that prescribes balanced, pragmatic solutions to keep this country united and progressive.
  4. Equitable prosperity: It doggedly drives the country towards ‘equitable prosperity’, concentrating politics on an economy that provides opportunity for every citizen to prosper.
  5. Systemized: In Nepal, the crux of the problem lies not in an person but in their system (culture). Hence this political force will rely upon a effective system and not on individual charismatic leaders.  It’s structure is made of 3 parallel ‘check and balance’ systems; the legislature, executive and judiciary. Just like an effective 21st century democratic government. The legislature is made of politicians who want to get in to government to rule (like any traditional political party). The executive has managers and experts who professionally manage the organization efficiently and transparently. The judiciary has those whose primary goal is to keep up discipline, protect the values (culture) and the constitution of the organization at all costs. These 3 wings independently and inter dependently work with each other to check and balance each other. This ‘check and balance’ system makes this political force run accountably, transparently and effectively.
  6. Self reliant members: The primary reason Nepal’s current political forces are corrupt and thus inept is because their members (cadres) are often reliant upon others for their daily livelihood. This problem has to be tackled at its roots. That is why any 21st century relevant political force has to make sure its members become self-reliant by being entrepreneurial or self-employed, or simply employed. This way, the party members do not have to compromise on their ideals and values because of their family’s livelihood concerns!
  7. Values based: A political force will still survive even if there are sharply differing views, policies or working styles between its members. But it shall self-destruct if its members don’t carry within themselves the same values of the institution! In order to always stay on the right path, this power has to provoke its members to live up to its core values.
  8. Meritocratic leadership building system: It consistently trains and produces leaders who not only know how to get elected but also how to consistently deliver once they are in the government. The leaders produced will be skilled at creating win-win environments. Their contributions are calculated on the basis of their merits and judged using scientific performance measurement systems.
  9. Transparent: It will be a model of transparency for others. From fund-collection to expenses to decisions, it will inject transparency into every level of its system.
  10. Regular leadership change (regular power fluidity): In the end, absolute power and position corrupts absolutely. That is why an alternate political force has to build a system that regularly and consistently filters its leadership.
  11. Youth centric: Youths will make the bulk of this political force. And thus it will be led by youthful leadership who will enthusiastically spread its core values to all corners.
  12. Marathon runners:  It does not run like a hundred meter sprinter, but more so as a relay marathon runner in any agenda it takes up. In Nepal, only such power will win which is not overtly opportunisitic but actually spends more time to persistently builds enough stamina to outlast everyone else in the work it handles.

You might ask, would such a political force succeed? Using these ideals, we ran in Nepal’s 2nd constitution assembly elections in the November of 2013, in 4 tough test areas in Kathmandu The constitutencies 1, 4,5 and 8 where we ran were one of the toughest because we were up against political heavyweights of Nepal. In only a month-long shoestring campaign, We took the symbol of a “dog” securing a respectable 5th place out of 26 or more political parties in 2  test areas ( 6th and 7th in the other 2). In these test areas, we managed to prove ourselves as a force to be reckoned. Going forward, we have already reached more than 100,000 Nepalese from 73 districts out of 74 in Nepal and created an informal network in 25 different countries.

Because of these 21st century relevant leadership values we have incorporated in the past 2 years, we are now confident of this. The only forces that will lead this country in the future are going to be the ones that consistently create a win-win environment.

In conclusion, the end goal of any political force who wants to stay relevant in 21st century Nepal should be to build a peaceful, prosperous Nepal within our life-time. And the only ones to make sure this are those stacked with 21st century relevant leaders.

How to find, build and retain customers?

Followup to the part 1 of the article: How to build a strong team: (by Prasanna Dhungel and Ujwal Thapa)

Part 2: How to find, build and retain customers?

Lets say you have built a strong team, the next logical question is how to find or build customers?
First list out your potential customers . Look from all angles.

 Lets take an example of an online travel booking provider for local motels in the trekking routes of Nepal.

Your potential customers could be:

Customer 1: Local Hotel / Motel owners: (whose place you book)

Customer 2: Guides / Porters (affiliates who guide customers to you)

Customer 3: Travel Agencies (Affiliate and customer both)

Customer 4: Trekkers/ Travelers (direct customer)

Customer 5: Banks ? financial transaction carrying institutions ? (a good ally to process online transaction and serve as a trusted ally to convince your local motel owners)

Now how do you build customers ?

Here are some challenges to answer that question:

Who do you target first ?

The hotel owner because if they don’t use our service, we cannot book the place.  Then maybe trekkers. Travel agencies could use your service while being a competitor by driving hard bargains or figure out their own systems of booking (through mobiles)

Know who influences your customer?

politics/ society/ guides/porters/ online reviewers/ past experiences

How do you build trust among the community ?

word of mouth, a guarantee for travelers, a safety net for hotel owners that money will be duly and surely transferred, safety, security and positive fear that if they don’t use your service they will lose money, status etc.

What kind of product to build?

Smooth Booking to your hotel from online Travel Booking Software,

secure and safe, and with a guarantee.

How do you get feedback and what to do with it ?  

Get feedbacks from each motel in time. Feedbacks can be social media/ online/email too. How you use this to build a better product is the pivotal question. Your customers love you for a product that gets them what they want. And your product improves as you know inside out what your customers want. It is also your responsibility to predict intuitively what your customers would love.

How do you turn each of your customer into a revenue generating mechanism?

How to use your satisfied customers as affiliates, providing respect, thanks, and deals to them to use the service again is extremely important. Repeat customers are best customers.

What value added service can you add to your core -booking system to help your customers?

Maybe turn from booking to even other transactions (buying local goods etc) somehow. A some form of emergency services option also built in ? say if client needs that service and s/he doesn’t have enough cash, s/he can use our service as a guarantee ?

Remember travelers don’t always carry enough money on treks or run out of it.

How to retain customers ?

By doing the things mentioned above consistently.

Do read part 1 of the article: How to build a strong team:

Women and Nepali society

3 years ago a ‘ECS living’ magazine reporter interviewed me on a woman’s role in a modern (21st century) Nepali society. I had all forgotten about it when I recently found its transcript. I found it good enough to share with you. I have edited it for clarity and now am posting it here :)

  • Women are perceived as someone’s daughter, wife or mother in our society. Do you think it is necessary for women to have a separate identity of her own besides being a wife or a mother?

Yes. Women have to forge their unique identity in the world today. Mother/wife/daughter are secondary roles. Any of you can have those. So start following your own path and become that change you seek in the world today.

  • Does religion reinforce the traditional roles of women? How?

Yes and No. If you follow religion to the scriptures (word by word), you might be misguided into accepting traditional rules which is not its intent. If you follow the essence of any religion (what it implies), then you would understand that religion actually provokes women to change the rules of the game, to be proactive and change agent in this world.

  • The patriarchy categorizes certain dos and don’ts for both men and women. For instance, men are the breadwinners in the family and it is women’s responsibility to look after her household chores and her children. Now that even women have become job holders, how does this patriarchal ideology constrict both men and women?

Patriarchal ideology is going to be less and less relevant in Nepal soon. The roles of men and women in a family will be inter-changeable like in many developed countries. The new ideology is inter-changeable, inter-dependence and mutual-responsibility.

  • How does the glamorized avatar of women either benefit or harm her individual identity?

Glamor hurts. Personality rocks !  Glamor is short-lived. Personality is long-lived. Glamor causes jealousy. Personality attracts genuinely. Therefore build your (unique) personality…

  • Women have been objectified since time immemorial. They have been perceived as a housemaid, a sanctuary for legalized sexual satisfaction, an object to conceive and reproduce babies and so on. In the present context, what are the ways women have been often exploited and how can women refute these patriarchal domination.

Build your self-confidence and you will not be played with. In-fact if women only realized and accepted how powerful they actually are, they would find that this society would have no choice but to respect them instead of trying to exploit them.

  • What are the strengths of women in the present context?

In Nepal today, If a man can do it, so can a woman.

  • How can women overcome the prejudices of patriarchy?

Focus on building your unique identity by improving your personality and reputation, other than being a mother /wife/daughter. Be involved in nation-building tasks. Follow your vision, not your fears. Follow your heart and mind, not the societal mob. Remember, your family may not understand you or would reject you at first, but in time, they will ALWAYS come to accept and love you for who you are.

  • How is the system of reservation either benefiting or undermining the capabilities of women?

I don’t believe in a system that creates division in any way, whether it favors or discriminates women. Equality in strictest sense has to be followed by educating people’s moral sense without discriminating based on sex . Yet by instituting quota systems giving women special priorities just because they are a woman will brings strong resentment from men who feels discriminated in turn. I do believe in  providing special incentives to help train women who need to upgrade their skills  so that they can compete fairly.

  • Even job holder married women go to their homes and single handedly perform all the household chores. That is the ideal wife according to the patriarchy in the modern times. How can this concept be changed?

Frankly let men do their dishes. I do it. If I can do it. so can others. In modern Nepal, traditional roles are no longer fixed, they are starting to change to mutually interchangeable roles . As women play  more powerful roles in public, this ideal wife concept of the past will fade away.

  • Women inherit nothing but castes, first from their fathers and later from their husbands. Does this tendency conceal a woman’s identity?

Yes to an extent. Women should never have to inherit identity from anyone else (neither should men). I recommend women not to change their identity (surname, castes), and husbands and others in the family not to insist on changing them. Just because it is an old tradition doesn’t mean it still holds credibility now. We have to be pragmatic. In the 21st century, identities are meant to be built. They aren’t meant to be inherited from someone else. Focus on building and shaping your unique identity :)

The government has no business doing ‘business’ in Nepal. (Nepal Telecom fiasco)

The government has no business doing ‘business’ in Nepal.

I am seriously thinking of switching from ‪Nepal‬‪ ‎Telecom‬ to an alternate. In the past 10 years, they have continuously let me down, despite my emotional attachment to Nepali owned company. Here are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Quality = Pathetic (my calls get cut, diverted, engaged randomly)
  2. Customer service = Unfriendly and unaccountable (to the point of sheer rudeness)
  3. Price = Not cheap any more (considering the amount of cut calls or low quality talks i have to put up with)

[One small context:  I cycled all the way from Kathmandu to Lumbini to highlight Lumbini and cycling and tourism in one of the hottest days of the year and I was using the internet to highlight our campaign. While Nepal Telecom’s competitor NCell had internet coverage in most of the stops we were at, Nepal Telecom had zero connectivity (even though it showed 3G connection as on ). How sad is it when you consistently over-promise and under-deliver?

A photographer friend had to send photos to various media using NCell in bhairahawa. This is embarrassing for a pioneer like Nepal Telecom to slowly go in the direction of Nepal’s other defunct government institutions (hint: Nepal airlines, Nepal Bank Limited, Nepal electricity corporation etc ).

So how do we turn around Nepal Telecom while bringing continuing innovation in the telecommunications industry in Nepal ?

  1. Sell government’s share of Nepal telecom to a Nepali private sector led consortium. Accountability to private shareholders will improve it.
  2. Consolidate all politically affiliated unions into one ‘welfare body’ that has management, employees, alumni and other stakeholders in one body. unions accountable to political parties have no place inside a business.
  3. Build “Customers as gods” policy and make sure  ‘Under-promise, Over-deliver’ remains the mantra of the institution!
  4. Use as Nepal Telecom’s mantra for service delivery.
  5. Implement ‘Hire and Fire’ and ‘no work, no pay’ policy. Nepal Telecom employees should not feel they are unaccountable government employees.

To improve Nepal Telecom we have also got to revamp the Telecom sector. This is a government’s primary role: to “check and balance”. Here are few of my ideas for the government to restructure the Telecom sector. :

  1. Empower the oversight body, Nepal telecommunication authority NTA with an independent board of managers (No political appointees) to make sure all telecommunication providers maintain quality, affordability and service.
  2. Penalize telecom providers for each cut calls and build an automatic refund system for each cut calls.
  3. Let customers track each mobile call records and internet usage records from their devices.
  4. Force telecommunication providers to share their infrastructure with other service providers for a valid fee. This ensures further competition and superior quality of service that comes with a competing market
  5. Fine any providers heavy if they resort to deceptive advertising practices. (Example: sometimes Ncell comes up with hard to understand schemes)
  6. Have a monthly ranking of all providers published in national media based on 3 criteria: Quality, Price & Customer service. Tie extra rewards for boards and management based on this index.
  7. Publicly acknowledge (and reward) best performing telecom engineers, customer service representatives and managers monthly.
  8. Direct telecom providers to collaborate with the banking sector to build secure platform and infrastructure for mobile banking.
  9. Limit Telecom providers to offer data and voice services. Have them open another company to offer other services so that there is no monopoly or unfair advantage over start-up companies.
  10. Ensure internet enabled education in the national policy and have government help bear expenses for this thus helping telecom companies have incentive to build costly next generational infrastructure in remote areas of Nepal.

I repeat, the government has no business doing business in Nepal. Either Nepal Telecom improves from today, or it goes down the drain like its other ‘government owned’ siblings !