Tag Archives: business tips

The business cost of avoiding confrontation

The business cost of avoiding confrontation in Nepal

A friend from the US living part-time and doing business in Nepal expressed frustration over our (Nepali) strong cultural desire to avoid confrontation in a professional relationship. Specifically, the steep business cost of this in-action. We discussed for some reasons behind this.

The graciousness of Nepalis is a double-edged sword. The Nepali hospitality is world-renowned but this can be problematic in international business culture. This is rooted in a Nepali tradition of treating visitors as ‘gods.’ People here go out of their way to make sure that a visitor’s experience is a good one. Nepali people don’t like to disappoint. It’s personal pride. But in business, if you don’t let me know that you are going to ‘disappoint’ me – i.e not delivering on time, not delivering on the quality i seek – then I will make promises that I can’t keep, losing face and disappointing others. This creates a domino effect on all my professional relationships. In business, brutal honesty of your short comings saves a lot of pain later on. In a lot of cultures, this is expected of you in business.

But a Nepali may not understand the true business cost of disappointing others. In other words, things not getting done correctly (with quality) or on time is not a big deal among Nepalis but is a BIG deal in the U.S. So why are we so afraid to avoid confrontation, and to avoid conflict?

Is it because of our culture that worships authority, hierarchy, and guests. This culture that taboos ‘questioning authority or displeasing guests’ leading to complications when trying to keep your professional commitments. While we  stress on the culture of “guests as god” relations, we unknowingly end up belittling our professional commitments. Do we have a conflict between our cultural and professional commitments. Many times I have come across this situation. We deny outright that there is a problem and we lie casually with reassurances to avoid the inevitable confrontation. This is our chaotic contradictory way to avoid confrontations.

To a foreigner wanting a professional relationship in Nepal, this is a contradiction.  On the one hand working with a Nepali earns you genuine care and respect, thus earning great personal relationship. On the other hand, their apparent dishonesty with you in terms of keeping up their professional commitments costs you your professional (and later personal) relationship with others,

Is it, that to preserve this status qua of our fabled “respect your authority and guests” philosophy, we may become a generation of conflict averse professionals who cannot keep up with our professional commitments. Do we really understand the business cost of disappointing others? In this flat world, we need to figure out a way to solve this sooner than later.

on a side-note : why “do Nepalis turn our heads sideways (as if we disagree) when agreeing completely with them! (it makes any foreigner go crazy).

would love to hear your opinions on whynepal.com

tips from Karna Sakya, a locally established entrepreneur and author.

During a recent interaction with entrepreneurs for nepal group which i established and co-run, got some good tips from Karna Sakya of Kathmandu Guest house fame.

Here are a few.

  1. Experience is critical for an entrepreneur, more than the academic qualification as its it’s the experience that teaches you better on how to manage time, motivate people towards your vision, develop your human resources, get the loan approved, deal with unions etc etc. Nepali entrepreneurs have to learn more from the context of Nepal rather than from international books on entrepreneurship. He cites examples such as, Laxmi Sharma, who has been to a school for not more than three days but became the first woman “Tempo Driver” of Nepal and has then created an internationally sprawling business of handicraft, and is now known as “the button queen on Nepal” for her unique designs of buttons made from animal bones.
  2. “Saraswati ra pasina sittaima bechnu hundaina” (Knowledge and sweat should never be sold for free) and believes that there isn’t anything called free lunch. He adds, “Selfishness is not wrong, if it does not harm others”. Selfishness is a virtue until it hurts others. He believes self-interest makes people work towards helping others to earn profit in return. Self-interest is an inevitable aspect of entrepreneurship.
  3. “An entrepreneur must never be scared of competition, Competition is good thing as it helps you develop your business. Competition shouldn’t be treated as a threat but as a necessity. Competition makes you more efficient and fitter for survival. Don’t think of finding success alone. ”
  4. Drive for success, not the wealth, makes a person successful. Silver spoon is a slow poison, not an advantage if you are seeking success in life. The abundance of wealth dilutes the drive to succeed which is the most vital component for success. Many once successful business houses driven to oblivion as the first generation fails to transmit this entrepreneurial drive to the following generation.
  5. Nepal doesn’t need any more political leaders. For every one politician produced, one hundred people become unemployed in the name of political workers. They are a burden to our society. On the other hand, we need much more entrepreneurs who are generating wealth and creating jobs for tens and hundreds of people.
  6. “If you are serious about being a millionaire, you need to save every paisa possible by utilizing your money,” Shakya reflects back on the difficulties he faced while he was building his first hotel. “I used to make sure every lump of cement was used efficiently. I used to wake up early every morning to water the roof myself,” says Shakya. He believes being a millionaire is the tougher part of the journey in being a multi-millionaire.
  7. “But the same resource-utilization strategy of efficient conservation doesn’t work on making you a multi-millionaire though”, opines Shakya. After being a millionaire, Time becomes your most valuable resource rather than the money and an entrepreneur needs to think and act accordingly. Now your goal has to be the be finding the most efficient use of your time and your networks. “
  8. His suggestions to aspiring entrepreneurs? Evaluate yourself. You need to be passionate to about your work, you must think about your venture 24 hours a day. A true entrepreneur needs to build his character and have the courage to be different and the enthusiasm to be consistent. A person needs to think, seek more knowledge and implement his ideas. A person must love his work to be successful. Without love for your work, you can be an employee but never an entrepreneur. Love for your work generates passion. An entrepreneur must love and get lost in his work. Entrepreneurship is similar to riding a bicycle or swimming. You won’t learn them by reading books about them. You need to experience them yourself, commit some mistakes and learn from these mistakes.

Hope you enjoyed it. keep the feedbacks/comments rolling !

few ideas for kathmandu’s guerilla entrepreneurs…

Pain is Opportunity. This is how we entrepreneurs see things. We just look around, see where certain situations are causing discomfort (pain) to people, families, neighborhoods, towns and even the country. We find an opportunity, an idea to change lives, then offer the services people need. In the past five years, there has been an amazing growth in interest among the new generation of Nepalis to become entrepreneurs. Many young Nepalis are starting organizations, businesses and institutions in their 20’s and 30’s.

We all know Nepal is undergoing a lot of pain these days. But this is exactly when entrepreneurs should seize the opportunity. In a country with where one thousand Nepalis are leaving the country daily for jobs, providing dignified jobs here, is the best social service you would be providing.
For those of you who are just starting out, here are a few examples where pain is an opportunity here.

What if you…

  • Provide a open office space that could be prepaid and rented on a per use basis in the heart of Kathmandu and other urban centers. A great place for start up entrepreneurs to meet others. ‘Co-office’ or brainstorming space or ……
  • Come together and run  a “non stop Bus/micro service/ tempo” service that guaranteed timely service, pick and drop for a premium price ( but not as shocking or surprising as those taxis in Kathmandu now)
  • Build barber shops in Kathmandu which were cleaner and combine that with a professional massage therapy . (A lot of us in Kathmandu are willing to pay substantially more for this)
  • Open a public transportation service that only travels in the evenings  and “is reliable and on time”. (if you are thinking lack of security, maybe the vehicle has its own security guard :>))
  • Organize a ‘farmer’s market’ in different parts of Kathmandu, Where you leased stalls and where people come to buy and sell fresh produce, meat, food (hopefully some will be organic and locally produced). Like Kalimaati but smaller and agile.
  • Train yourself to be a “turn garbage into organic waste” trainer, and charged families, 200 rupees a session (for half an hour) to turn house waste into manure in their own gardens (and even buy surplus manure from them).
  • Started providing health care services to urban families at their own homes.With young Nepalis working elsewhere, Kathmandu and other urban centers are fast turning into Old people’s homes.
  • turn the former Royal Palace gardens into what is a fusion between “Garden of Dreams” and “Babar Mahal revisited”. This is something families look forward to taking in their children for a quiet (and hopefully fresh) time together.
  • Run a business that installs a rain harvesting service in each home for use in dry seasons. Isn’t Water the next gold? If you are a designer or architect or engineers, start thinking of building services and products to save or recycle water that is easy to install. Then sell them !
  • Provide technical trainings to “builders, electricians, engineers, architects’ who build new homes on how to integrate alternative energy source into houses
  • Open a micro-brewery. If one wants to enjoy beer, let it be home brewed  :) There is a healthy local market here.  I am sure with a marketing twist “Himalayan brewed” , quite popular among the tourists also. (Only catch is you have to convince our monopoly friendly government barrier in issuing affordable licences to small businesses to start this).
  • Lease and run Tundikhel into a weekend bazaar, that only operates on weekends (Saturday and Sunday). “Our own Haat bazaar”. (if you have been in Bangkok, Thailand, you will already have the visual idea)
  • Operate a public auction place in your city where various auctioning of items like antiques, used furniture’s, used appliances. Make this a weekend event. Will be pretty lively and entertaining to be in there!
  • Run a business running Motorcycle (scooter) taxis to get to your destination fast in Kathmandu’s traffic. Say bye bye to Micro-buses.
  • Open a “positive news only” media that focuses on progress, enthusiasm, dynamic Nepalis, hard working Nepalis and small successes in Nepal.  Aren’t we sick of watching those 3 old faces on media crying and fighting with each other all the time and other gloomy news of murder and mayhem to top that.
  • Build a giant storage house for perishable goods to be stored in the highest standards and rent them out space by space. A lot of entrepreneurs would come to buy these services from you.
  • And for the ones with deep pockets and daring, open an elaborate theme park here in the outskirts of Kathmandu. You have a healthy middle class who will afford your services (in fact Many that I talk to, are dying for a new form of entertainment in their lives. People are getting tired to go to movies, hauling their children along). We need some out doors fun rides and more. Even A giant water ride park somewhere near River Trisuli ?

What if……….

add your crazy ideas below (no need to register)
Also published in Myrepublica March 10 2011 

Better business writing, from George Orwell, with a little bit of help from me.

Some simple guidelines to help write english essays /blogs better.
I had to write this up quoting George Orwell’s guidelines which i just read.
I have given examples to help you out. Please print it out, if it helps.

Himalayan times, English Daily in Nepal is is often hilarious to read because of the way their editors write their english. It needs some serious rescuing!
this is the one of their headlines “Defence still a bone of contention.” or “snow flurry greets northern parts’ or “Uncommon grace”.

Here are simple rules on the way to writing better english.

i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

bad: I “stood shoulder to shoulder with” with tenzing.

better: I stood ‘with” tenzing.

bad: I would like to take the pleasure in announcing our refreshing redesign of Exoticbuddha and humbly look forward to your grateful feedback.

better: Check out the ‘refreshing” redesign of exoticbuddha. Send us your feedbacks!

bad: I would appreciate it if you could understand our concerns and pay us in due time.

better: Thank you for paying your bills on time.

ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

bad: Nepal is a beautiful place with lots of adventures, treks and cultural wonders; i.e such as……
good: Nepal is a beautiful place. It is full of adventures, treks and cultural wonders. Places like…..

iii.If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

bad: On the other hand, i think he might just be right.
better: I think he might just be right.

bad: I like him very much so.
better: I like him.

iv.Never use the passive where you can use the active.

passive (bad): Mount Everest was climbed by tenzing and hilary on 1953.
active (better): Tenzing and Hilary climbed Everest on 1953.

passive: the bill should be paid on time. Otherwise you will be kept in our black list.
active: Please pay the bill on time. Otherwise we will keep you in our black list.

passive: You will find a lot of restaurants are run by local people in sherpa villages.
active: Local people run most restaurants in sherpa villages.

v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday local language equivalent.

bad: The spring water in mustang tastes like “amrit”
bad: The “H2O”in mustang tastes……
bad: the spring water in mustang tastes like “virgin”

better: The spring water in mustang tastes like “nectars from paradise.”
better: The spring water in mustang is “heavenly”

vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

these rules don’t work always. if you feel, something’s not right when applying these rules… break them!

Top ten challenges with human resources in Nepal

so here are lists of challenges in managing associates while running Digital Max Solutions, a Website development company and an online branding firm.

1) People take the job as a training first – execution of their responsibilities second(they are less inclined to feel responsible for their jobs). So tell them bluntly about this distinction when you hire them.

2) Competent manpower hard to retain for more than a year. Expect short term. Build for mid term, hope for long term. Try calling employees —> associates. It may make all the difference.

3) Some people work hard to impress you during the early months of their career with you, and then once they win your trust, start slacking off noticeably (intentionally /unintentionally). So build regular incentive packages and compare their contribution with new people regularly (through statistics, earnings etc)

4) In Kathmandu you would have to invest most of your resources on infrastructure management, insurance and backup/security of the infrastructure, leaving not much resources for human resources trainings and career development. The only option here is build environment where they can learn from each other. (instead of costly outside trainings)

5)  The current brain drain is accelerating  the thinking that, “life is easy out in foreign countries” You can’t change that. Just deal with it. Don’t compete just on money. You will lose. Compete on “sentimental values”. Being close to family, exciting office environment, understanding management” etc.

6) Constant distractions in Kathmandu seem to affect an employee’s morale more negatively than on work. Young people are more disturbed by not being able to comprehend or able to find solutions to the complex reality of Nepal. Just let them feel, that once they are inside your workspace, they feel shut out from all these thoughts and problems. Make the office environment in such a way.

7) Not many people are interested in questioning themselves and their bosses about the career direction/chart. (blindly following whatever is given to them or wherever they are led). Very few are inspired enough to make a career path. My tip: reward those inspired ones that do. Pay them much more. You will need them ! they inspire others to do better.

8 ) Common sense (highly undervalued and extremely deficient amongst upcoming IT professionals in Nepal). Well, reward those with common sense. They work at least 2 or 3 times harder than those who don’t.

9) “The grass is greener on the other side” thought is ingrained, plastered, super-glued ! Well, tell them when they are in the other side, they will feel the same. (psychological warfare :) )

10) “Because of My family” is the primary excuse for all deal breaking, ties-breaking decisions, some of the associates make. I have rarely seen one own up to their responsibilities cleanly. Those that have owned up, i have only abundant respect for them. Look for hiring people with passion in their eyes, you won’t get such irrational excuses from such people !

Again, these are my experiences dealing with professionals i have met while running DMS and talking with other entrepreneurs in Nepal running companies in Kathmandu. So take it with a pinch of positive salt please !