“START SMALL, REALLY SMALL. TEST YOUR BUSINESS MODEL BEFORE YOU REACH OUT TO THE MASS."
investors impact KATHMANDU: Amun Thapa, 27, owner/co-owner of five companies combined suggests that he is an ‘entrepreneur juggler’. When asked what it means, he states, “Someone who is constantly juggling between several ventures. At present, I manage Sasto Deal, Sasto Book, Irish Pub, Chhahari Production and Anthropose. A few other interesting projects are in the pipeline.” Before asking him how he manages to look after all of these, I was curious to know where he started. Amun, I discovered, sees things in black and white without much grey areas. “For any problem, there are two approaches — to complain or to seek for solutions. I have always taken the latter approach. I never intended to become an entrepreneur. But the problems I personally faced in Nepal and elsewhere got me to come up with solutions, and hence the businesses I am involved with,” he shares. He says that getting where he is today was not an easy task. In his own words, “The first and foremost hurdle, when starting a business, is to understand the local legal and tax systems. Nepali entrepreneurs still do not have a clear understanding of how they should go about when it comes to taxation. It is a shame but also a reality that most businesses operate without proper registration and billings. This makes it difficult for other businesses to work. Also, finding the right employees is another major challenge here, apart from building culture.” Amun shares that getting investment for a start-up in Nepal was a daunting task. He blames the regulations set by the Central Bank for Foreign Direct Investment and suggests that the easiest route is to seek for investment among friends and family. With profit margins depending on the venture/start-up, Amun says that the first year of the start-up, he did not care much about the profit margin but diverted their efforts in generating brand awareness. He shares, “This is when the advertisement costs are at their maximum. But to put it in numbers, a venture must seek at least 10 per cent to 40 per cent profit margin for it to be sustainable and scalable.” On employees he says, “The smartest thing to do is ignore the resume because it tells nothing about an employee. We hire them on the basis of their performance during their internship period (which usually lasts for two months). Most of them come through referrals. We also have performance incentives to encourage employees to work at their level best. As for salaries, I believe everyone deserves to be paid well, like the saying goes — if you look after your employees, they will look after your clients." He opines that he would definitely focus more on technology if he had the chance to start over again. “Over the past four years I have witnessed consumers adapting to changes in technology. People have taken to Facebook and Viber for communication, apps are replacing websites, and such. I was talking to a hotel owner in Pokhara yesterday and he told me, one of the first things people ask for after checking-in is the WiFi password.” When asked about the Nepal’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Amun says diversification is the key. “Nepal is now not only relying on tourism and hydropower and banking industries as income generating businesses but there are a lot more new industries that were introduced to the market in the past several years. Therefore, we are definitely on the right track.” His words of wisdom for the ones starting out are, “Start small, really small. Test your business model before you reach out to the mass. Focus on building systems because this comes in handy when you are scaling your businesses. And always give priority to your brand because revenues can go up and down but your brand is what keeps you going.”
The author is a Project Leader at WriteWeavers, a specialised content planning and development company. She can be reached at lamichhane.nivida@gmail.com